Look, it doesn’t cost a dime to lose weight. Watch Survivor or go a few days without enough money to buy food and you’ll know that’s a fact! And you know what? You don’t need a computer to run a business either, but if you’re serious about success, you invest in the right tools … the tools that help you stay motivated and focused on your goals. So if you’ve got the coin or consider your health important enough to forgo a few non-essentials this month, these are your must-have weapons to win the war on weight loss!
1. Diet and Exercise Journal or App
I’m a big fan of anything that fits conveniently into the palm of your hand because convenience is key. The more convenient, the more likely we are to adopt habits, which in this case is the habit of accurate calorie and exercise journaling. Your Smartphone is really the way to go! However, some really great sites also provide free journaling tools and community accountability, such as Sparkpeople.com, Teambeachbody.com and Livestrong.com.
In terms of physically taking a pen to paper, I love the FitBook! It’s simple, inclusive, small and easy to use. I’ve listed journaling as the most important tool, but it’s only as effective as it’s honest record keeper. Um, and yes, those two last bites of pancakes need to be recorded. When in doubt, round up!
2. Personal Calorie Monitoring Device
You need to create a deficit of 3,500 calories to lose a pound. The problem is most people have no idea how many calories they have to burn to create that deficit unless they know how many calories they (with all their individual variables) burn per day.
Research has shown that the average person overestimates the calories they burn by 25 percent and underestimate the number they consume by 40 percent! Don’t be that person!
You can track your calories for free with varying degrees of accuracy using a number of free sites found by doing a simple Google search. However, if you are sick and tired of playing the guessing game, the cost of this “must have weapon” is small pittance. These devices are remarkable! Other than living in a lab, this is about the best way to know what’s going on with your personal metabolism, sleep patterns and caloric burn.
Keep in mind there’s a big difference between a digital calorie monitoring device and a heart rate monitor. The devices I’m talking about measure calorie output 24 hours a day. Think of it as a metabolism monitor and truth detector all in one!
When someone says to me, “Chalene, I’m doing everything right. I’ve reduced my calories, I’m exercising everyday, and I just can’t lose weight,” I strongly encourage them to get a calorie monitor. I’ve seen hundreds of men and women break long-lasting weight loss plateaus by “knowing their numbers.” When I started wearing one just a few years ago I was shocked by how much I was over-estimating my calorie burn in certain exercises and underestimating my daily activity rate. The information allowed me to restructure my workout schedule to get the most bang for my buck! Call me a gadget geek, but these things fascinate me! The ones I suggest are:
- FitBit ($99) It's simple, small, accurate and no subscription needed.
- Bodybugg ($199) "The Biggest Loser" contestants use this device, and it’s currently my top pick!
- GoWearFit ($179) Made by the same company as the bodybugg with a slightly different software and customer support system.
3. Portable Food Containers
When it comes to preparation, convenience is the key. And a neat and tidy stackable storage system helps, too. You can find brands like—my favorite—Smart Spin Storage at a variety of online retailers for between $9.95 and $19.95, but any brand will do. And you need the following sizes and quantities:
- Two ½-cup containers. This size is perfect for most quick concoctions in the recipe section
- Four 1-cup containers. These hold ½ cup of brown rice and 5 ounces of chicken
- Two ¼-cup containers. These work well for sauces and condiments
4. iPod and a Heart-Pounding Playlist
Music is a universal motivator. It boosts your spirits, puts a pep in your step and can dramatically increase your energy level. Music motivates us to do more and push harder. If you have a Smartphone like the Droid or iPhone, download a killer playlist. Nearly everyday someone sends me a message asking how to find the motivation to exercise, and this is undoubtedly my go-to answer.There are certain songs that no matter what you’re doing or how you’re feeling, you can’t help but get up and move. Make sure those are the songs on your list!
Chalene Johnson is the creator of TurboFire and TurboJam. Her new book, Push: 30 Days to Turbocharged Habits, a Bangin' Body, and the Life You Deserve (Rodale), is out this month.