Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of people successfully lose weight and keep it off. When people make the commitment to get healthy and lose excess pounds, they each go about it a little differently. However, there are certain habits that are consistent across people who are successful. If you are just starting your weight loss journey, then incorporating the below habits can help you meet your goal too!
- Keep a food journal. A food journal can take many forms. It can be as simple as writing down what you eat in notebook or on a piece of paper. Or you can track it on your computer or phone. Counting calories (or points) can definitely be helpful, but just the act of writing down what you eat can make you more aware of your “opportunities for improvement” and help you make better choices in the future. If you have a smartphone, there are several different applications that make it easy to track your food intake. On the iPhone, I personally like the “Lose It” application. It is free, easy to use, and also lets you track your exercise and specific nutrients (i.e fat, protein, fiber, etc). Online, there are several websites that allow you to keep a food journal, including Sparkpeople.com. Using a pencil and paper can have it’s advantages too! You can write comments down about how you felt during different times of the day. This can help you tackle problem areas. For example, if you are snacking like crazy right before dinner, it probably means you need a healthy mid-afternoon snack to keep you satisfied until dinner.
- Make exercise a priority. Aside from quitting smoking, exercising is the BEST thing you can do to improve your health. It burns calories, increases your metabolism, prevents disease, improves your mood, helps you sleep better, etc… I could go on and on! If you are serious about losing weight, you’ve got to find a way to fit in exercise. I’m not talking about spending an hour or more at the gym – a 30 minute workout in the morning works great. That, coupled with increasing your overall activity level every day can make a huge difference. Several Weigh 2 Go! members use pedometers and strive to reach 10,000 steps each day. I can tell you that those members who do reach their goal of 10,000 steps a day almost always lose weight! If you would like some suggestions about how to stay motivated to exercise, read this.
- Create a sustainable eating plan. We’ve all been there… you want to lose weight and so you cut WAY back on your calorie intake, or you eliminate ALL carbohydrates in your diet, or you deny yourself ANY treats or desserts. Making drastic changes to your eating plan that are not sustainable is a mistake that so many people make. Losing weight and keeping it off is a lifelong challenge. It’s not like you can make these overwhelmingly restrictive changes, lose weight, and then go back to how you were eating. You need to make changes that you can live with. Plus, cutting calories too much will slow down your metabolism AND make you miserable. Moderation is the key! Just cutting back on 200 calories a day and adding a 3 mile walk each day (which burns 300 calories) will allow you to lose 1 pound a week. And losing 1 pound a week will get you to your goal in no time.
- Create an environment that will help you be successful. Even those with great willpower will likely falter if you are surrounded by temptation all the time. So what does this mean exactly? Well, for starters you need to clean out your kitchen of food that isn’t good for you or anyone else in your family. Get rid of the chips, cookies, candy, etc. and load up on healthy items such as fresh fruit, veggies, nuts, yogurt, low-fat popcorn, and other nutrient-rich foods. Make sure veggies are cleaned, cut-up and stored at eye-level in your refrigerator. That way, when you are starving and want to reach for something easy (like chips or crackers), you have a healthy alternative ready to go! Besides your kitchen, you also need to think about your restaurant choices. Eating at home is almost always the healthier and cheaper option, so if you can minimize how much you eat out, you’ll be better off. When you DO eat out, however, choosing somewhere with healthy options that you actually enjoy is key. Going to a Mexican restaurant where you usually enjoy chips, queso, enchiladas, and margaritas… and then ordering a salad is enough to make anyone miserable! Don’t torture yourself like that. Instead, find a restaurant where you can make healthy choices and actually enjoy eating your meal.
- Incorporate accountability. Tackling weight loss on your own can be a daunting prospect. If you can enlist your spouse or some friends to do it with you, you’ll be much happier and better able to stick to your program. Better yet, being part of a weekly support group that provides encouragement and accountability can really help you stay on track. Knowing your friends will be there each week to see how you did can really motivate you to stick with your exercise and eating plan. Make sure to set goals that are reasonable and obtainable so you can be successful. Losing 5 pounds is a great place to start! And when you DO stick with your plan and are successful at losing weight, make sure to treat yourself to something special like a massage, new clothes, etc. For more ideas on rewards, read this.
There are many other healthy habits that can help you be successful too, such as eating breakfast, drinking water, getting enough sleep, etc. However, as you are starting out in your weight loss program, it is important to focus on a few things at a time vs. tackling everything all at once. If you can incorporate the above 5 habits into your lifestyle, you’ll be off to a great start!