Concerns over our health and weight can be triggered in many ways – a personal medical diagnosis, the diagnosis of a family member or friend, or perhaps it’s simply vanity (and there’s nothing wrong with that!). These realizations are often followed by a lengthy to-do list, panic diet, and gym membership – all of which fall apart quickly. Whether you find yourself needing to shed a few pounds or more, emotionally it feels the same. And with so much conflicting and confusing weight loss information out there, sometimes it feels easier to ignore it all and do nothing. But what most of us don’t realize is weight loss can begin with a few simple steps.

Often, I see clients who haven’t given their steady weight gain a second thought until the onset of symptoms or distress: diabetic symptoms, chronic fatigue, joint pain, poor sleep or insomnia, depression, IBS or gut issues, brain fog, exhaustion, emotional distress, and a multitude of other issues. Others have yo-yoed for years and can’t reach their wellness goal on their own or maintain the success they’ve had.

Men’s health often takes a backseat when it comes to prevention and early detection. It is often the diagnosis of a condition or an adverse side effect to medication before they act. The most common health conditions men suffer from are not only preventable but reversible, including Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity. Stress is also a huge concern and stress management is often overlooked. Stress is the crux of many health issues and, if left unchecked, it can be a nasty multiplier.

Women have unique challenges as caregivers and nurturers and tend to master everyone else’s needs before our own. Although women are typically the answer behind “what’s for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?” in the household, that job doesn’t come with a playbook on how to prepare fantastic meals to prevent disease and maintain a healthy weight. Mom is doing the best she can while wearing a dozen different hats. Adding wellness expert or bikini competitor isn’t on the docket!

Change is hard. Our primal brain loves to keep us where we are happy, safe, and comfortable. The primal brain has a long memory and identifies happiness as things like comfort foods, sugar, tobacco, diet soda, and alcohol and prefers safe and comfortable places and activities that we are familiar with like the couch and Netflix.

In order to change habits, we must tap into the part of our brain that sets intention and executes action. We must take a small step out of our comfort zone and shake things up a little, changing how we think in order to change action or inaction to arrive at our desired result. So, let’s talk solutions!

A few key steps over the summer months can help you steadily begin to shed pounds and put you on the path to long-term success.

Simplify Your To-do List. Burn the long and lofty ‘healthy new you to-do list’. Instead, choose one or two simple things at a time that are feasible and execute them daily. For instance, take a 30-45 minute walk each morning.

Simplify Your Food. Eliminate foods with complicated ingredients! Simplify what you eat by eating whole foods like steak, chicken, fish, fruits, and veggies … things that walked, flew, swam, or grew from the earth. In the words of Michael Pollan, “If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.” Get in the kitchen, chef status not required, and make simple, delicious food. Aim to cook and eat at home 80% each week. This will take intention and planning.

Simplify Your Time! When you say ‘yes’ to one thing or task, you are saying ‘no’ to something else. You can’t be two places at once or do two things at once.

Spoiler: Multitasking is not real <gasp!>. Yeah, I said it. You are not the multitasking master you think you are. Your brain must constantly shift between the text message you’re typing and “listening” to whoever may be competing for your attention. Be a bit ruthless with your time by blocking out what is most important to you first — put it on your calendar (like fitness, stress relief or meditation, meal planning, family time, date night, and nurturing relationships). Truly focus that time block on what it is intended for.

Simplify Your Routine. What are you committing your time, effort, and energy to that can be delegated, eliminated, or reduced? Too much time on social media, TV, unhealthy activities, or overextending yourself? Get rid of the excess commitments and activities and streamline. Choose one volunteer position, limit social media to two 10-minute chunks each day (set a timer!), don’t be afraid to say ‘no’, and delegate chores.

Simplify Your Sleep! Sleep is the most underutilized weight loss tool, yet sleep is a foundational and very effective part of reaching and maintaining a healthy weight. Set a reverse alarm on your phone so you know when it is time to shut down things to prepare for sleep. About an hour before bedtime you should: get ready for bed, dim lights in the house, shut off electronics, turn on auto ‘night shift’ on your smartphone to dim the screen, then perhaps read a book. Removing the stimuli prepares your brain for sleep. If you find it difficult to sleep, it may be due to your current evening routine.

Construct your foundation by using the compound effect of simple micro-steps and consistency. Micro-steps are small incremental changes. If you compile micro-steps (a.k.a. healthier habits), they will gain momentum and multiply like compound interest. Soon you’ll find yourself feeling and looking better! Force out poor habits by adding healthier ones, one simple step at a time.

Carrie Zamora

Carrie Zamora has been in the health/nutrition coaching and consulting industry for 10 years and she is the co-founder and Director of Wellness Programs at UpLevel Healthy Lifestyles LLC. Her community leadership includes Allen ISD School Health Advisory Council (Chair), Texas School Health Advisory Council (member), and Allen ISD Council of PTAs.