Losing weight isn't as easy as pie--or even a piece of cake. We've all heard (and invented) plenty of reasons why slimming down just isn't possible right now. We're short on time to prep our own healthy meals, extra cash to spend on high-end "health foods," and besides, it's way too cold (or hot!) to work out. Sound familiar?
The reality is that healthy eating and regular exercise are not as labor-intensive--or wallet-busting--as we make them out to be. Here, six of the most common excuses that get you off track.
1. "I'm too busy."
You have work deadlines this week, sick kids, and your husband is out of town on business--you eat what's handy; you can barely bring home takeout, never mind gathering enough veggies for a decent salad, right?
Wrong. Sticking to healthy behaviors--like making time for meals and squeezing in exercise throughout the day, even when your life feels like it's going 100 miles a minute, is actually the key to long-term success, says Keri Glassman, RD, author of The O2 Diet. Try Glassman's eat-right strategies for when your day is crazed: Set an alarm to eat on your phone or computer so you don't forget and overindulge later; keep certain foods in your freezer for go-to makeshift meals, like a frozen turkey burger you can microwave or grill and frozen veggies; and try to always keep healthy food on hand, like apples and a good-for-you bar containing fruit and nuts such as Kind.
Devin Alexander, a health food expert and the author of I Can't Believe It's Not Fattening!: Over 150 Ridiculously Easy Recipes for the Super Busy, says that creating healthy meals when you're busy comes down to planning. Buy frozen lean meats so they don't spoil and make a habit of taking something out of the freezer each night for dinner the next day. Alexander recommends that as soon as you return from the grocery store, clean and chop veggies with a ceramic knife, which helps prevent oxidation, making food last longer. If you have all of the fixings for a fast, healthy meal at your fingertips--be it a stir-fry, veggie-topped pizza, or salad--you won't have to resort to greasy takeout.
We all have 24 hours to divide up, says fitness expert Chris Freytag, author of 2-Week Total Body Turnaround and Shortcuts to Big Weight Loss. Make exercise a priority--especially on your craziest days--and you'll be able to handle tasks and stress better. Treat your workout like you would any other appointment--it has to be planned, specific, written down, and communicated to your family. "Don't just say, 'I'm going to exercise today,'" says Freytag. "Be clear about what you're actually going to do, meet a friend, or sign up for a class."
"Don't just say, 'I'm going to exercise today. Be clear about what you're actually going to do, meet a friend, or sign up for a class."
- Chris Freytag, fitness expert
2. "Healthy food is too expensive."
Sure, it's often cheaper to purchase three items for lunch off the Dollar Menu at McDonald's than to buy a big salad with healthy add-ins, but new research shows that getting your daily recommended allowance of fruits and veggies may be less expensive than you think.
The Economic Research Service used 2008 Nielsen Homescan data and found that an adult on a 2,000-calorie diet could satisfy recommendations for vegetable and fruit consumption in the new 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans at an average price of $2 to $2.50 per day, or approximately 50 cents per cup equivalent. That's probably less than your afternoon skinny latte!
There are plenty of ways to make healthy food--and your budget--go further, says Glassman. Frozen vegetables and fruits are cheaper and just as healthy as fresh because they're picked at the peak of ripeness. She recommends buying seasonal produce from farmers' markets, purchasing whole grains in bulk, and not buying food in individual packages.
3. "Diets make me hungry."
If your diet is making you hungry, it's probably not a good diet--or sustainable in the long term. Cutting calories the healthy way--trimming portions from meals, skipping caloric beverages, and putting the brakes on mindless eating--should not leave your belly rumbling. Learn to listen to your body's hunger signals to determine if you really need to eat or are just bored, and eat approximately every three to four hours so you never become ravenous, says Glassman.
Alexander recommends stocking your fridge with low-calorie healthy foods--like celery and light dips--for when you just want to munch.
4. "I don't have time to cook."
"When people say they don't have time to cook, I tell them 'You don't have time not to cook,'" says Alexander. Twenty minutes of cooking healthy meals will save you excess calories you'd be taking in from oversized restaurant portions and time on the treadmill working that off.
Studies show that people who cook meals at home tend to eat more healthfully and weigh less than those who don't. Use these healthy packaged foods to cut down on kitchen time and arm yourself with the proper resources, such as a healthy cookbook for fast meals or easy recipes from your favorite Web site.
5. "Exercise makes me too tired."
No kidding--that's why they call it a workout! "Jokes aside, exercise generates energy. The more energy you have, the more you'll get done every day!" says Freytag.
"You recharge your body through food, sleep, and exercise. Movement creates energy. It gets your heart pumping, blood pumping, cleans out toxins, and gets your engine started. It also gets confidence levels up so you feel better about yourself," she adds.
Squeeze in movement wherever you can to get an energy boost. Even light stretching throughout the day will help your body feel more energized.
6. "I always gain back the weight."
Starting a new weight loss plan can be daunting when you've dieted before, only to gain back the weight. The reason your prior plan didn't work was because it wasn't a diet you could sustain and enjoy for life.
Only make the changes that you can stick with, says Alexander. "Really sit down and analyze your diet. Figure out, 'What are my cravings, what do I really love, what am I not willing to give up?'" Then build your meals around that and cut calories from other places--like skipping butter on your bread at dinner so you can have a 100-calorie treat that you truly want. "Even if you give up only 200 calories a day, you'll lose 20 pounds a year," says Alexander.
"Keep track of the habits that make you successful and kick your weaknesses up a notch," says Glassman. Be consistent with your strongest healthy habits, like always having a nutritious breakfast, and be prepared for your weaknesses, like having healthy foods at the ready for when you know you'll want to pick in the afternoon.