Losing weight isn’t easy, but it’s one of the most commonly cited health and fitness goals. A survey found 51% of Americans hope to lose weight in 2021. But between balancing work, family, kids’ schedules and social obligations with a real need for rest, it can be difficult to lose weight, let alone keep it off.
“It seems like no matter where or when, we all get busy, and when that happens, often our weight-loss goals fall from number 1 to off the list entirely,” says Kimberly Gomer, director of nutrition at the Pritikin Longevity Center. But there are strategies to keep your eating and exercise on track.
“I think one of the critical points is to not make other things and people a priority over self-care,” adds Gomer. Recognize your health is paramount to all facets of your life, and know you will be better at your job and relationships when you feel your best. Below, Gomer shares helpful tips to keep your health on track when your schedule is out of whack.
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1. MAKE A PLAN
Start by making a plan for food, suggests Gomer. Go to the grocery store (or get grocery delivery to save time) and do some meal prep when you can, whether it’s over the weekend or on one dedicated night per week. That way, you’re prepared for meals even when your schedule is super busy, and you won’t be left feeling overwhelmed.
2. DON’T SKIP MEALS
“Don’t skip meals or wait too long to eat when you are hungry,” says Gomer. “It will make you overeat when you finally do make the time for your meal.”
3. MAKE FRIENDS WITH VEGGIES
Focus on vegetables. Prepare fresh produce ahead of time, so you have veggies ready for quick salads, stir-fries, soups, sides and omelets. “Make vegetables the largest component of your meal; they will always be a win for weight loss,” says Gomer.
4. KEEP AN EYE ON NUTRITIONAL STATS
Avoid calorie-laden pitfalls like the high-fat salad dressing that might come with your quick desk lunch. And remember that snacking on nuts, seeds and avocado can be healthy, but their calories add up in a hurry. By all means, add these foods to your diet, just watch your total calorie count throughout the day.
5. STOCK YOUR FREEZER
Keep your freezer stocked with simple meal backups. Dishes like lentil soup, vegetable soup and bean chili freeze well and can be useful when you don’t have time to cook.
6. READ MENUS
Have a go-to healthy restaurant option, suggests Gomer. Know ahead of time where you’ll order from and what you’ll get to save time and prevent hunger-induced bad decisions. For example, swing by a salad place where you can customize your salad. The restaurant already did all the prep work — all you have to do is enjoy it.
7. KEEP ON MOVING
Don’t neglect exercise. Gomer says your healthy eating will be even more impactful when paired with regular exercise, so create a plan for fitness. “Make your workout a priority and have it scheduled into your day,” she says. “When you work out, it relieves stress and makes you want to eat healthy.”
Several factors are vital for effective weight loss, and any of them can be derailed by a busy schedule. If you want to lose weight, set yourself up for success by planning your meals and exercise ahead of time. And remember: “Don’t beat yourself up if your day of eating and exercise isn’t perfect,” says Gomer. There’s always tomorrow.
Originally published September 2021, updated August 2022
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