If you're just starting a long weight-loss journey, it can be tough to keep up your motivation week after week, much less month after month, or even year after year. We all know that slow and steady wins the weight-loss race, with "get thin quick" schemes often proving to be unsustainable or even downright dangerous. That said, acknowledging some small, short-term victories can help maintain your momentum along the way while setting you up for success, short-term goal by short-term goal.
Instead of feeling discouraged by the long road ahead, try shifting your focus to specific goals you can achieve in the next eight weeks. While you may have an ultimate goals in mind (lose 100 pounds, run a 5K, etc.), setting a few short- or medium-term goals is a motivational hack to keep you pushing toward a benchmark victory before you ultimately reach your finish line. These little victories along the way are not only great for your self-esteem and determination, but they'll also fill you with purpose and instill lifelong healthy habits. Start with these totally achievable targets, or substitute your own!
Ways to Be Great in 8 Weeks
1. Increase your water intake.
It's been proven that the body often mistakes thirst for hunger, which can easily lead to hundreds of unnecessary calories each day. Make it a goal to gradually boost your water intake up to eight cups per day. Over the course of eight weeks, you can strive to increase it by one cup per week.
Registered dietitian nutritionist Mandy Enright recommends easing into a more H20-friendly life by making minor daily changes, such as setting a timer to remind you to drink water throughout the day, keeping a refillable water bottle handy to monitor intake and using water-drinking apps. If plain water isn't your favorite beverage, try adding flavor by infusing it with fruit, herbs or essential oils.
"In addition to increasing intake of water, a bonus side effect can be decreasing intake of other beverages, most notably coffee or soda," says Enright. "If just one of these beverages can be swapped for water each day, that provides a decrease in caloric intake."
2. Get a stronger core.
Strengthening your core—the muscles that support your abdominals and back—not only gives you a flatter tummy, but also improves your posture and makes it easier to perform your workouts and daily activities.
Not a fan of crunches? You can build a stronger core in two months with this 8-week plank challenge from Runner's World magazine. If the idea of planks makes you quiver, don't fear—this challenge is geared toward beginners, starting out with short, 15-second planks and gradually extending the hold times each week. By the end of the challenge, you should be able to complete four 50-second planks and 10 back extensions.
3. Complete a 60-day workout streak.
It may sound daunting, but once you make it a regular habit, working out consistently every day will become a manageable goal, and maybe even a source of stress relief. Start now with just 10 minutes of exercise—whether it's walking, jogging, doing the elliptical or lifting light weights—and repeat that every day for the next seven-and-a-half weeks. Need ideas for how to get moving? Join our fun and supportive four-week Daily Exercise Streak Challenge for motivation.
4. Eat more whole grains.
While the recommended daily serving of whole grains is 25 to 38 grams, most people only consume around 13 grams. According to nutritionist Toby Amidor, adding more whole grains has a slew of health benefits, including reduced risk of diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. Plus, they can help you feel more satiated after eating meals—which means you'll be less likely to go hunting for snacks in an hour or two.
Amidor does caution against going from eating very few whole grains to an all-grain diet overnight, as it can cause digestive issues. Instead, she recommends adding more grains slowly. Each week, try switching one food to make it whole grain or add a whole grain. For example, if you like your peanut butter and jelly on white bread, switch to 100 percent whole-wheat bread. The second week, if you usually eat white rice, switch to quinoa or sorghum. "By slowly changing over to whole grains, after eight weeks you should be meeting the dietary guidelines recommendation of making at least half your grains whole," says Amidor.
5. Reduce your stress level.
Stress is blamed for a myriad of issues, from headaches and insomnia to irritability, heart disease, depression and weight gain. If you're among the one in four people dealing with significant stress, it is possible to regain control and achieve a more calm, centered mindset over an eight-week period.
In a study conducted by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital, those who participated in an eight-week meditation program actually experienced physical changes in brain structure. Specifically, there was a reduction of gray-matter density in the amygdala, which has been shown to influence stress and anxiety. Look for a meditation app online or commit to discovering a relaxation technique that works for you over the next eight weeks. To get started, start each new week by choosing one to two of these stress-relieving techniques used by Coach Jen. The next week, evaluate how they made you feel and mix and match another technique until you find the perfect combination that works for your hectic life.
6. Master a new fitness feat.
Set a goal to tackle a new fitness challenge, such as performing 100 pushups (or even just 10!), running or walking a mile, mastering a yoga pose or stepping outside of your comfort zone by completing a weekly exercise class. If you're stumped for ideas, visit our Challenge Central and pick a goal to tackle.
Any of these fitness feats can be conquered within an eight-week timeframe:
Over the next eight weeks, focus on upgrading the quality—not always the quantity—of your online communities. Strive to fill your screens only with content that inspires and motivates you to become a better version of yourself. Follow health-oriented people and companies who post positive, encouraging messages, and unfollow any individuals or groups that aren't conducive to your goals. Over the two-month period, you should start to notice a more constructive and motivating online environment.
8. Lose up to 16 pounds (about two pounds per week).
If losing weight is part of your health and wellness goals, you'll achieve more long-term, sustainable results by ditching the crash diets and shedding pounds slowly. The most effective strategy to lose two pounds per week is eating nutritious meals, tracking your food intake and exercising regularly.
What goals do you hope to accomplish in the next eight weeks? How will you make them happen?