30 of the best weight loss hacks for busy mums
Too busy to lose weight? These 30 clever hacks will help you shed those annoying extra kilos in no time.
1. Put your health first
It’s common for busy mums to put themselves last on the to-do list, but prioritising your own health and wellbeing is essential. “The truth is if you can’t make the time to maintain your health, eventually you will have to make the time for illness,” says weight-loss mindset coach Kylie Ryan. “If you want healthy, happy kids, you must be healthy and happy.”
2. Slow and steady wins the race
Fact: most people who try fad diets end up regaining any weight lost – and often more. “The harmful effects of weight-loss diets also increase the risk of developing an eating disorder,” says Dr Rick Kausman, author ofIf Not Dieting, Then What?
Steer clear of quick fixes and opt instead for steady, sustainable weight loss through healthy eating and exercise.
3. Be honest with yourself
What’s really stopping you from shedding those unwanted kilos? “Write a list of things that are getting in the way – both internal and external excuses, within and outside of your control,” advises celebrity trainer Michelle Bridges, founder of the 12 Week Body Transformation program. “This will help you realise what’s holding you back, and which barriers you can tackle.”
4. Get organised
Plan your family’s meals a week or even a month ahead. “This will save you money, and better still, you’ll only have to think ‘what’s for dinner?’ once a week,” says Clare Collins, a professor in nutrition and dietetics at the University of Newcastle. “Simple meals can be easy to prepare, fast to cook and taste great.”
5. Find a cheer squad
Support is essential in any weight-loss plan. “Surround yourself with people who want to achieve the same goals as you. Instead of meeting friends for a coffee, go for a power walk or run, or do a yoga class together,” says personal trainer and mum-of-three Mireille Ryan.
6. Slow down
Eating slowly gives your brain time to register that you’re full. Put extra effort into the preparation and presentation of your meals and really savour every mouthful. Switch the TV off, too. “People eat up to 44 percent more when they’re glued to the TV as they’re too distracted to notice how much they’ve eaten,” says clinical hypnotherapist Lisa Jackson, author of Adore Yourself Slim (Simon & Schuster).
7. Remember that food is just food
“Labelling food as ‘bad’ or ‘junk’ often causes us to feel bad about ourselves and guilty about what we’ve eaten,” Dr Kausman explains. “Do your best to think about ‘everyday’ foods like fruit, vegetables, and cereals, and ‘sometimes’ foods such as chocolate and chips.”
8. Don’t try to be a Masterchef
Cook one healthy evening meal for the whole family instead of catering for multiple tastes. “Children gradually accept new tastes by repeated exposure to them. Rather than heading to the kitchen to cook another dish, praise them for trying something new,” Professor Collins says.
9. Become a morning person
We all know mornings can be chaotic, but try to make exercising first thing a habit. “As the day goes on, there are more and more chances that life is going to get in the way, so become a morning exerciser and get the monkey off your back,” says Michelle Bridges.
10. Check in with your appetite
Before you reach for that sugary snack, stop and ask yourself, ‘Am I really hungry?’
“It’s normal to do some non-hungry eating, but when we do too much, it can tip our eating out of balance,” Dr Kausman says.
11. Declare your intentions
Make sure the entire household knows that you’re serious about losing weight. Print out a monthly calendar and schedule in your workouts. “Put it up on the fridge so everyone knows that’s Mum’s special time. Tick off each workout when you’ve completed it,” says Kylie.
12. Avoid temptation
If you struggle to resist the lure of the supermarket lolly and chip aisles, avoid them all together. “Consider ordering your groceries online. This can also be a time-saver, particularly if you usually shop at peak times,” Michelle suggests.
13. Schedule exercise around the kids
“Look at what your kids are up to during the week and plan your exercise around their timetable,” says Mireille. “When my daughter has swimming lessons, I go for a 30-minute run. I also take my kids to the park and run while they chase me on their bikes.”
14. Just breathe
Try this quick self-hypnosis trick to reprogram yourself to make the right decisions. “Breathe in for four counts and then out for eight counts. Repeat the mantra ‘I am in control’ 20 times – and watch your self-belief skyrocket,” Lisa says.
15. Don’t pick at leftovers
Eating the kids’ leftovers can add up to the equivalent of an extra meal. “Serve up small portions to start with and then let the kids ask for more if they’re still hungry,” says Professor Collins.
16. Eat regular, healthy snacks
As mums, it’s easy to get so busy that we ignore our body’s hungry signals – and it’s much harder to eat slowly when we’re ravenous. “It can be helpful to have some snacks with us just in case we start to get too hungry,” says Dr Kausman.
17. Embrace incidental exercise
Make a game of squeezing extra exercise into your day, says Kylie. “Do push-ups on the kitchen bench while you wait for the kettle to boil; 10 squats after going to the toilet quickly adds up to a tight butt,” she says.
18. Get the kids involved
Little ones love to help out in the kitchen. “Learn a new healthy recipe every week with the kids. It’s a great way to get them excited about food – that isn’t a hot dog – and will help them start to build their own basic skills,” Michelle explains.
19. Write an activity cheat sheet
Struggling to get psyched about exercise? Make a list of active things that help you feel good, from gardening to dancing, and refer to it whenever you’re lacking motivation. “Try to do these things as often as possible,” Dr Kausman says. “Taking care of ourselves is essential.”
20. Get Appy
People who self-monitor their food, weight and physical activity are more likely to lose weight and keep it off than those who ‘guestimate’, says Professor Collins.
“Use an app to record your food intake for a few days, or longer, until you get the hang of how many kilojoules (kJs) are in the foods and drinks you usually consume,” she advises.
21. Ditch the gym
Don’t like the gym? Don’t go to the gym! “Taking up a fun activity that involves moving your body, such as dance, social tennis or yoga, can be enjoyable ways of working your muscles,” Dr Kausman says.
22. Set specific goals
Vague goals like ‘lose weight’ or ‘get fit’ have no finish line. You’re more likely to succeed with goals that are SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely.
“Set a goal like running in the Mother’s Day Classic, so you have something to work towards,” says Michelle.
23. Focus on feeling good, not just looking good
“When you feel good you are naturally attractive and fun to be around and you are much more likely to cope well with any situations that might otherwise get you down,” Dr Kausman says.
24. Have ‘cheat days’
You won’t feel guilty about ‘slip-ups’ if you factor them into your weight-loss plan from the start. “On weekdays, I make sure I eat and drink the things that support living a healthy life, then on the weekend I relax a bit,” Mireille says. “If I choose to go out and eat fish and chips or ice cream with my family, I don’t feel guilty at all. It’s about living a balanced lifestyle.”
25. Pack a lunchbox
Follow your kids’ lead by packing your daily lunch and snacks in a lunch box the night before – even if you’re staying home. “A salad sandwich, some fruit, a tub of yoghurt and a frozen water bottle will get you through a busy day and save you queuing up to buy food that’s laden with fat, sugar, and salt,” says Professor Collins.
26. Create healthier versions of your favourite meals
Losing weight needn’t mean depriving yourself of your favourite foods – just make adjustments to the meals you love. “Instead of pasta, for example, try using spaghetti squash or zucchini ribbons with your favourite pasta sauces,” says Kylie. “Try healthy desserts using chia seeds, cacao and coconut cream and berries.”
27. Keep a stash of sensible treats
Sometimes no amount of willpower can quash the desire for a sweet something. That’s fine – just make your treats as healthy as possible. “Try keeping some diet drinking chocolate in the cupboard to stave off the cravings,” Professor Collins suggests.
28. Cook in bulk
Decide which day of your week is least manic and do a bulk cook up, suggests Michelle.
“Preparing healthy dinners and snacks in one hit will save you a heap of time, and stop you from reaching for less nutritious options when it gets crazy. Snacks like muffins, banana bread or mini quiches, or meals like casseroles, meat loaf and soups can be made in bulk, then frozen.”
29. Be grateful for the less-than-perfect days
Don’t beat yourself up the next time you overindulge – use it to your advantage. “Spend a minute analysing how that ‘toxic treat’ was far from the memorable must-have you thought it would be. Hone in on how bloated it made you feel, how oily it tasted or how unsatisfying it was at banishing your hunger pangs,” Lisa says. “The next time you face temptation you’ll have a far stronger case for just saying no.”
30. Exercise at home
Most mums are time-poor, but that’s no excuse not to exercise. Michelle recommends turning your living room into your own gym. “Try a workout plan or video that you can do at home. This means you can get stuck in quicker, and saves time commuting to and from a gym,” she says.
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This article was written for our sister site kidspot.com.au and has been adpated for kidspot.co.nz