A few months ago, I received an email from a woman named Catherine. Her wedding is in the beginning of April, and with her first dress fitting quickly approaching, she panicked about how she would look in her dress. She shared that she is hoping to lose weight and tone up before her big day. After a couple of emails back-and- forth, it became clear to me that Catherine wasn’t up for talking about her food intake, no matter what I suggested. She was certain that she only wanted personal training sessions, despite my recommendations.

Catherine and I started working together back in November, and met once a week for a personal training session. Every week, I would help her come up with an exercise schedule so she stayed active on the days we didn’t meet for a session. Catherine consistently stuck to her exercise schedule, but after 8 weeks of sessions, the scale hadn’t budged. Even though her workouts had doubled or tripled in intensity, why wasn’t she losing weight?!

In the beginning of January, I approached Catherine about discussing her eating habits. Since she wasn’t seeing the results she hoped for, she reluctantly agreed to let me help her with her nutrition, even though she was convinced she was eating healthy.

After checking her food journal, I noticed that Catherine had some good habits started, but there were definitely places for her to improve! She was eating fiber but almost no protein, while drinking very little water. We began changing her eating habits, one at a time, and guess what happened…

After just two weeks, she began to steadily lose weight. And the best part — it was not at all close to what she was initially avoiding (strict diets and feeling hungry all the time.)

Now I’m not saying that exercise isn’t important. However, women often believe that exercise alone will be the “quick fix” to their weight loss problems. I am here to tell you that your $100/hour personal training session WON’T help you lose weight if you don’t make some changes to your eating habits! And this is coming from someone who IS a $100/hour personal trainer!

It would be easy for you to dismiss these changes as “too easy,” or unimportant, but here’s the truth: you don’t need to give up carbs or spend hours making a Paleo meal to actually see the results you want!

1. Drink enough water.

Did you know that about 70% of our body is composed of water? Not only does water help your organs to function properly (your brain alone is at least 75% water), but water also helps your body flush out toxins and clear your skin. Simply drinking more water can actually help you lose weight by allowing your body to burn extra calories while suppressing your appetite. I’m sure we’ve all experienced a time we thought we were hungry, and then drank a glass of water, and realized we were actually thirsty. I know I have!

When it comes to losing weight, try to drink at least 80–100 ounces (minimum) every day! Yes, you’ll be running to the bathroom every 30 minutes until your body adapts, but notice how you feel when you’re properly hydrated. Not only will your skin look better, but also your digestive system will function even more efficiently, resulting in weight loss.

2. Eat lean protein at every meal.

This is one of the habits that Catherine struggled with at first, but it ended up being a game changer when it came to her weight loss; She noticed that when she began adding protein to every meal, she had more energy and stayed full for a longer period of time.

Every time you sit down to a meal, be sure there is some lean protein on your plate. Even though chicken and turkey were the first ones that came to Catherine’s mind, she used the Perfect Meal Planner I gave her to discover countless options of lean protein to add variety to her meals! Other options can include lean beef, pork, duck, shrimp, scallops, eggs, egg whites, cottage cheese, or Greek yogurt, to name a few. Of course, other foods have protein too; these are just the protein superstars.

If you’re struggling to add protein to a certain meal, start small. For example, if the idea of eating a chicken breast for breakfast grosses you out (because I’ll be honest, chicken breast does not sound appetizing to me for breakfast!), try to add Greek yogurt or natural nut butter to your breakfast.

3. Eat five servings of fruits and vegetables every day.

It’s interesting, Catherine thought she was eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, but once she did the math, we realized she was only eating about 2 to 3 servings a day of both fruits and veggies. The Perfect Meal Planner I gave Catherine contained over 15 vegetables to choose from, so she had countless options to add variety to her meals! Plus, it included exactly how to prepare the veggies so they taste great!

Not only do fruits and veggies contain vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, which are awesome nutrients your body needs that are only found in plants, but fruits and veggies help to bulk up your diet, so you stay fuller for a longer period of time.

An easy way to add fruit and veggies to your diet is to start every morning with a breakfast smoothie. Add ice, soy or almond milk, your favorite fruit, protein powder, and some leafy greens for a tasty, healthy way to kick start your day!

4. Don’t wait until you’re already full to stop eating.

Once Catherine and I dove into her feelings before and after meals, we immediately noticed that she used to eat lunch at work really quickly. Because she was stressed and running from meeting to meeting all day, she would end up overeating and felt stuffed (and ready for an afternoon nap) right after lunch.

Once Catherine started slowing down while eating, she was able to cue into how she felt as she ate. Because it can take your body 15 to 20 minutes to start digesting your food, I recommended to Catherine that she stopped eating when she felt about 80% full.

Once Catherine implemented this habit, she immediately noticed that she no longer felt an afternoon slump at work. She was able to manage her stress more effectively because she allowed herself a short break to enjoy eating her lunch. Plus, she was just more comfortable in the afternoons because she wasn’t overstuffed.

If you’re looking to slim down for good, start to pay attention to how you feel during and after your meals. If you can relate to Catherine, and you often feel over-stuffed and ready for a nap after eating, try to eat slower, and a little bit less food at each meal. It’s amazing when you let your food digest and actually understand what feeling FULL is… not still hungry, and not overstuffed, but satisfied.

5. Watch your alcohol intake.

When initially talking to Catherine about her alcohol intake, she mentioned that she enjoyed 1 to 3 drinks per week. However, once we sat down and looked at her food journal, we noticed that she actually ended up drinking about 7 to 8 drinks each week. She enjoyed having a nice glass of wine most evenings at the end of a long workday… She went out with her friends on Friday night and sipped a stiff cocktail… Saturday night was pizza and beer with her fiancé… You get the idea. She never had more than one or two drinks each night, but all of those calories add up.

When it comes to alcohol’s effect on your health and weight loss, the picture can be pretty confusing. I mean, haven’t you heard that drinking a glass of red wine every day can lower your risk for diabetes and coronary heart disease?!

Newsflash — there is no solid, concrete evidence that any amount alcohol is good for your health!

Don’t worry; I’m not here to tell you never to drink again! Most of the research on alcohol’s potential health benefits includes large studies that are done over many years. This type of research never actually proves anything. Rather than showing that one thing causes another, this type of research simply shows a correlation between the two.

When Catherine and I added up the calories she had consumed within one week, strictly from her alcohol intake, it was over 2000 calories!!! That’s more than one day’s worth of food in calories!

More importantly, we noticed that some of her drinking had an emotional attachment to it. She drank a couple nights during the week because she had a rough day at work. The cocktails she had with girlfriends on Friday night helped her take the edge off because she was feeling stressed about her upcoming wedding. When Catherine and I came up with another healthy way for her to deal with these emotions, she immediately began to drink less. Again, I’m not saying don’t ever drink! Just drink because you genuinely enjoy it, as opposed of a way to deal with your emotions.

As you can see, all of the changes that Catherine implemented in her nutrition plan were small and manageable, yet led to MASSIVE results. She didn’t have to starve herself, or count out her exact grams of protein, or exercise three hours a day to begin shedding the weight. If you find yourself spending too much time and money in the gym without seeing the results you desire, click here to grab a free copy of The Perfect Meal Planner that I use with Catherine. It’s amazing how quickly small, healthy habits can help you reach your goals!

Originally published at medium.com