For over 20 years, I have worked with people who want to lose weight and avoid weight regain. For the same number of years, I have heard the most baffling words from these same people: “I don’t know how.”
I can’t imagine anything being farther from the truth! We all know the things required to lose weight and to maintain weight loss. That does not, however, translate into a person’s willingness to do those same behaviors F-O-R-E-V-E-R.
That word “forever” somehow turns into thoughts like, “I can never have sugar again in my entire life?” “No ice cream ever again?” “A life without macaroni and cheese? FOREVER?” “No Thanksgiving dinner with stuffing and mashed potatoes? EVER again?” “No French fries, no potato chips, no fried chicken, no cake, no donuts, no pancakes?” NO THANKS!
That “all or nothing” thinking (a topic for another blog) is a considerable problem for chronic dieters. Repeat dieters are either “on” a diet, in which they rigidly and miserably adhere to ONLY THOSE FOODS THAT THE DIET OF THE DAY SAYS ARE ALLOWED, or they are “off” a diet and eat whatever they want whenever they want. This mentality never works to keep weight off because flipping a diet “on” or “off” is not a healthy way of life.
What works is following a set of healthy lifestyle habits MOST of the time!
Here’s a spoiler alert: YOU ALREADY KNOW WHAT TO DO to lose weight and keep it off. You may need help following through with completing healthy habits so you remain at a healthy weight and live a healthy lifestyle. Following through with healthy habits is also a topic for another blog… or series of books.
To make things simple, I will share eight HABITS to adopt to lose weight and keep it off. A habit is a behavior you repeat often enough that it becomes an automatic part of your life. Habit formation does not typically happen in 21 days, as is so often thought. Instead, it can take weeks, months, or years of practicing a behavior and using a lot of effort before it becomes a habit.
There is no “easy way” to establish a habit. There is only one way: EFFORT, on a repeated basis. That fact alone presents a problem for a lot of people. If you aren’t willing to put forth the effort, don’t expect you will ever develop healthy lifestyle habits.
So, here you go, 8 habits to lose weight and keep it off.
1. Make consistently healthy food choices.
Making healthy choices regularly makes it possible to occasionally have things like chips, pizza, cake, ice cream, and french fries. Consistently healthy food choices mean you eat mostly healthy foods every day. Some days you only eat healthy foods, and other days, you have something that may be on the “diet don’t” list.
2. Maintain portion control.
If you have been in any medically supervised diet or been through bariatric surgery pre-op nutrition classes, you know what healthy portion sizes are. If you haven’t learned this, take responsibility, make an appointment with a bariatric dietician, and learn what healthy portion sizes are, and stick to those.
3. Exercise on a regular basis.
This is not a surprise to anyone. If you want to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight, then exercise is a must. Plain and simple.
4. Drink plenty of water
Check with your dietitian to find out how much water is “plenty” for you. Then drink it.
5. Eat breakfast and all of your “meals.”
As a bariatric patient, “meals” always begin with protein and are roughly a cup of food. Make sure you are not skipping your regularly planned meals because this can lead to snacking and grazing, which we all know is a common culprit of those sneaky extra pounds.
6. Keep a food and exercise diary.
These are the most proven ways to stay on track with weight. And it’s not too difficult, as long as you accurately measure and report on everything you are consuming. Put forth the effort and benefit from the results.
7. Get enough sleep.
“Enough” needs to be at least six hours at a time… more than that is even better. A lack of sleep has been linked to weight gain as it not only affects your ability to make smart food choices but also plays a role in your leptin and ghrelin levels—two hormones that affect hunger.
8. Have a healthy support system.
A healthy support system consists of people who celebrate your successes and also love reminding you when your stated desire to live a healthy lifestyle does not match your actions. Find someone or a group of people you can lean on that will walk this weight loss journey with you.
Above are eight healthy habits you can start today to ensure you lose weight and keep it off long term. Now you know! So you never have to say, “I don’t know what to do” ever again when it comes to losing weight and preventing regain. As previously mentioned, you may need to get some help to turn these behaviors into consistent habits. It takes a lot of effort to develop habits. How badly do you want to live that healthy lifestyle you talk about?