07/11/2012 03:43 pm ET | Updated Sep 10, 2012

7 Ways to Pick Up the Pace of Weight Loss

According to the Mayo Clinic, after some initial weight loss, most of us will hit a plateau unless we change a few behaviors -- for instance, by eating less and exercising more. This is because our metabolism -- the process of burning calories for energy -- slows as we lose muscle. We burn fewer calories than we did at our heavier weight even doing the same activities. Our weight-loss efforts result in a new equilibrium with our now-slower metabolism.

Here are seven changes you can make to your routine that will help you pick up the pace of weight loss so you can reach your long-term goal more quickly.

Push yourself a little bit harder.

Up the length or intensity of your favorite exercise by a sizable enough chunk that your body knows it has done something special. To help you boost intensity, have fun with gadgets that monitor your progress and give you an accurate read on how hard and fast you're working. Heart-rate monitors, pedometers, watches that calculate stride and distance -- these are all great ways to view your progress and help you push yourself just a little bit harder.

Be kind to your mind.

More studies are coming out about the power of our thoughts to shape health outcomes. Pick one limiting thought you frequently tell yourself. ("I've already blown it today so I might as well have another drink/cookie.") Every time you catch yourself thinking along this line, stop for a minute and replace it with a positive thought. ("I can stop right now and do better tomorrow.") Make that shift over and over until you begin to see more time pass between negative thoughts.

Boost your odds of success.

Before your workweek starts, think about when you'll have the most time, energy, and ability to do your daily exercise. Whenever is best for you, make that the committed time for your training, and schedule it on your calendar. Planning your workouts at a time that has the highest probability that you will actually do them is one of the best ways to keep your weight loss consistent.

Dial up your frequency.

Add in one extra workout per week for the next six weeks. By doing this, you will burn more calories each week and see a measurable uptick in your progress. If you normally work out three times a week, adding a fourth weekly session of equal duration and intensity can burn a whopping 33 percent more calories per week. Over time this will have a noticeable effect.

Get some solar energy.

Take at least one moment every day to charge up your soul outside, in nature. An easy way to do this is to swap an indoor workout session with an outdoor one. Instead of going to the gym one day, do a hike or enjoy a bike ride. Scientists are learning a lot about the power of sunlight, greenery, and fresh air to stimulate our moods and manage stress. Let the earth replenish your spirit and your weight loss goals will be easier to accomplish, because you'll feel more relaxed, more positive, and more energetic.

Make one small food change.

Cut out one food that you know stands in the way of your desired changes. Keep it out of the house and your life for six weeks. Like adding a workout, eliminating one food can make an enormous difference over time. For example, let's say every day you have bread -- either on a sandwich, or as toast, or with dinner. By eliminating two slices of bread, or 200 calories, every day, that's 8,400 calories in six weeks, or nearly 2.5 pounds lost!

Laugh and have fun.

The Huichols say laughter breaks down self-importance. When we laugh with others or at ourselves, it can take the pressure off that feeling that something is wrong unless everything is perfect. And with that, you open your heart to gratitude. What better short-term goal is there than to feel gratitude along the way to trimming down and getting healthier?

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