"Set goals that are SMART -- specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound," says Brett Hoebel, a personal trainer in New York. Take it slow and steady -- aim for just 2 pounds a week. Or, shift your focus so it's not just about the numbers. If you work toward a specific achievement, like running a 5k, you'll become stronger and more confident, and the weight you lose in the process will feel like any added bonus. For incentive, mark completed workout days with shiny star stickers, and pick one day each month to treat yourself to a new book or pair of earrings.
Start a fitness program with your bridesmaids or mother. Since you're all preparing for the same event, your goals -- getting toned up in time for wedding photos -- are already aligned. Even if you can't work out together, help each other stay motivated with frequent phone calls, texts, or e-mails. And to keep up with your workouts, set dates and write them down on your calendar.
No time to get to the gym? Try dancing while getting dressed and ready in the morning (really!). You can burn an extra 50 to 100 calories in the time it takes you to get ready just by adding a little two-step or the twist. "Or, for quick toning while you're sitting at your desk or standing in line, alternate between contracting your abs and glutes for 60 seconds, then release," says Jay Cardiello, a certified fitness trainer and strength and conditioning coach in New York City. To get a workout in on the fly, throw on sneakers for a day of wedding planning. Whether you're off to the mall or meeting with the florist, the more you stay on your feet, the more calories you'll burn.
About 80 percent of your fitness success stems from your diet, which means that exercise is only part of the equation. In order to lose weight, you also have to reduce your caloric intake. "By consuming 500 fewer calories a day, you can drop a pound in a week without even exercising," says Cardiello.
"In order to lose weight, it's important to get enough sleep," says Jim Karas, a weight-loss and fitness expert in Chicago. When you're not well rested, leptin and ghrelin, two hormones that regulate how full you feel, become unbalanced and tell you that you're hungry. To keep those levels in check, aim for seven to eight hours of undisrupted sleep each night.
Don't worry -- you don't have to sit down with it every day. Instead, take a few minutes to jot down how you're feeling on the day that you're finding it the most difficult to get to the gym or resist that nagging sugar craving (Monday, anyone?). Expressing those feelings of frustration will help you move past them and get back on track. It you're trying to shed a few pounds, write down what you eat. Studies show people have more success with weight loss if they track their meals and snacks.
Cardiello says shorter workouts kick-start your metabolism and burn more fat than longer sessions do. In fact, you'll trim 30 percent more fat by doing three 10-minute spurts of high-intensity cardio like skipping, dancing, or speed walking throughout the day than one prolonged 30-minute run. For the greatest amount of fat loss, aim for 200 minutes total of cardio a week.
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