10 Ways to Stay on Track With Your Weight-Loss Goals When Life Goes Crazy

10 Ways to Stay on Track With Your Weight-Loss Goals When Life Goes Crazy

By K. Aleisha Fetters | Article Featured on US News

When life goes according to plan, sticking with weight-friendly habits like good nutrition and exercise feels doable – if not altogether easy. “I’ve so got this,” we tell ourselves, as we post pictures of our avocado toast on Facebook.

But when life jumps the tracks, whether it’s with all-consuming hours at the office, family emergencies or a daily to-do list that you can in no way tackle in 24 hours, you’re playing a completely different weight-loss game.

Luckily, it’s still one that you can win. Here, psychologists, trainers and nutritionists share 10 simple tips to make health and weight loss fit into your life – no matter how crazy it is.

1. Consider the Oxygen Mask

You know how flight attendants explain that, in case of an emergency, you should put on your own oxygen mask before helping others? Well, when you’re on the ground, healthy eating and exercise is your oxygen mask, explains Barbara Walker, a sports psychologist with the Center for Human Performance in Cincinnati. In fact, according to research published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management, you’re automatically more productive on days in which you work out. Even a short exercise session improves mood, cognition, focus and energy levels.

2. Ask Yourself, ‘What’s the First Thing to Go?’

“Be aware of your excuses, even if they are legitimate,” recommends California-based certified strength and conditioning specialist Holly Perkins, author of “Lift to Get Lean.” “If you make the choice to not accept those excuses, it’s incredible what you can accomplish.” Plus, by flagging any stressors or time constraints that typically trip you up, you can be proactive about working around them, says Walker, who notes that, for most people, sleep and exercise are the first things to go during hectic times.

3. Think, ‘Unwise, Better, Best’

Most people have a pretty “all or nothing” mentality regarding diet and exercise, which makes it easy to completely abandon both when Plan A isn’t an option. That’s why Hilton Head Health’s weight-loss program has coined the phrase: “unwise, better, best.” Is a frozen low-cal meal the healthiest thing you can eat for lunch? No, but it’s likely better than what you’d get at the drive-thru. The same goes with exercise. While getting in your hourlong workout at the gym might be the best thing for your body, doing a 20-minute at-home workout is definitely better than forgoing movement entirely, Perkins says.

4. Refuse to Compromise on Sleep

“Lack of sleep dulls the decision-making part of the brain and lights up its reward centers, making it difficult to resist cravings and control impulses,” says obesity scientist Lisa M. Davis, chief nutrition officer of Terra’s Kitchen meal delivery service. In fact, 2016 research published in the journal Sleep found that getting 4.5 hours of sleep per night increases the brains levels of endocannabinoids, chemicals similar to THC in cannabis, by 33 percent tocause intense cravings. Plus, research from Northwestern University shows that sleep quality (and duration) is tightly linked with one’s exercise ability. Even when there don’t seem to be enough hours in the day, carve out seven to nine for sleep, and you’ll be better able to deal with stress and stick with your healthy habits.

5. Break Things Up

“Even if you don’t have time for a full 30-minute workout, chances are that you have three 10-minute blocks open throughout your day,” Perkins says. “They will add up.” And, possibly, to even more than your full-fledged workout would have. Case in point: In one 2015 European Journal of Applied Physiology study of young men, those who performed three 10-minute workouts throughout the day enjoyed better improvements in cardiovascular health compared to those who performed one full 30-minute workout each day. “Just do something whenever you can,” Walker says. “Hold walking meetings or do wall sits while taking calls.”

6. Focus on the Right Weight-Loss Goal

Your ability to stick with health and fitness is largely dependent on how motivating your goal is, explains Kansas City-based exercise physiologist Greg Justice, author of “Mind Over Fatter.” For that reason, no matter how calm or crazy life is right now, it’s important to identify your true goal. Sure, you want to lose 20 pounds, but why? So that you can be there in the future for your kids? Have more energy? Feel confident and comfortable in your body? These are the true “whys” that are going to keep you going. Write them down and keep them displayed in a place that you see daily, he says.

7. Ask for Help

Receiving support is important in helping you achieve any weight-loss goal, but it’s especially critical when you’re faced with hectic times. “Enlist the people around you to help so that managing all of the stress is not just an internal job,” Perkins says. That might mean asking a friend to shoot you daily encouragements via text message. Or, it could be asking your spouse to cover dinner one day so that you have time to make it to the gym.

8. Minimize Meal Prep

“Amid a chaotic work schedule and family busyness, healthy eating can be made simpler and easier through planning and preparation,” says Davis, who recommends devoting one day per week to prepping healthy meals and snacks in order to make the rest of the week’s meals grab-and-go. And, if you have trouble finding time to meal prep, there are several meal delivery services now that will do it for you, she says. While services such as Terra’s Kitchen and Blue Apron will send you pre-portioned and prepped ingredients that you can throw together into an easy meal, other companies like Fresh Diet that deliver freshly made meals to your door each morning can save you a ton of time in a pinch.

9. Keep Snacks on Hand

“During crazy times, you’re likely spending a lot of time at the office or in the car, so keep healthy snacks like nuts and fruit there,” Davis says. “Toss snacks in your glove compartment, your bag or keep them on your desk so you can reach for something healthy rather than use the vending machine.”

10. Don’t Multitask (While You Eat)

We aren’t as good at multitasking as we tend to think – especially when food is in the mix, as distracted eating inhibits the brain’s ability to effectively gauge how much you’ve eaten. That’s why 2015 research published in the Journal of Health Psychology found that simply walking while you eat causes us to eat significantly more later. Previous research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that eating in front of your computer screen has the same effect. “Try to slow down. Remember to take in a deep breath and check in with yourself before you start eating,” Davis says. Then, chew your food slowly and mindfully. It’ll take you a few minutes longer to eat your meal, sure, but you’ll have to take fewer snack breaks throughout the day.