We know that losing weight can be a battle, but it’s good to frequently remind yourself that the changes you make on a day to day basis – no matter how small – are the ones that will contribute to your overall weight loss success. Not only that, but those small habit changes are the ones that will help you keep the weight off in the long term! Here are 10 habits that help lead to successful weight loss:
1. Find your motivation
People who successfully lose weight and maintain it are very clear about their motivation. Why do you want to lose weight? If your reason isn’t strong, you’ll find it hard to keep your healthy habits going. Whether it’s for medical reasons, to be fit enough to keep up with your kids, to help improve your self-esteem, to generally feel healthier, to look and feel great for a specific event, or to make yourself a series of mini challenges to train towards. Focus on your motivation and when training and/or eating healthy feels difficult, remind yourself why you’re going to all the effort.
2. Think long term
If you’re one of those people who is constantly on some kind of a diet, it’s time to change your outlook on eating. Going on an extreme diet may shed the kilos faster, but it’s not healthy and the majority of it will likely be waterweight which means you’ll probably put it all back on (and then some) as soon as you go back to eating normally. Make small changes to your eating habits and aim to develop a healthier everything-in-moderation diet that won’t leave you feeling guilty, deprived or hungry.
3. Set realistic goals
If you have 10 kilos to lose, don’t give yourself three weeks to do it! Would you run a marathon in a week’s time if you had never been running before? Setting unrealistic goals will only prove to be disappointing and leave you feeling like a failure when/if you don’t reach them. Don’t set yourself up for failure from the beginning; do your research, ask professionals for help, and set realistic goals that you’re likely to achieve. If you have a really big goal, break it down into smaller ones so that you will be motivated along the way.
4. Get help and support
If you’re eating salads at the dinner table and your family is chowing down on pizza and garlic bread, it’s going to make eating healthy a lot more difficult for you! Get the support of your friends, family and/or partner so they know what you’re trying to do and why. If you don’t know what you’re doing when it comes to healthy food and exercise, get help from a gym instructor, nutritionist, personal trainer or dietician.
5. Find healthy foods you love
Eating healthy doesn’t mean you have to eat foods you don’t like. Almost everyone has a few types of veges they can’t stand! Experiment with your cooking and food preparation to find healthy foods you will enjoy and want to eat. A good place to start is thinking of the ‘normal’ foods you love and doing a bit of research (internet or cookbooks) on how to make a healthier version of it. If you don’t like the recipe, next time try another until you discover one that you do like.
6. Create an exercise and nutrition plan
Planning ahead can save you a lot of time and effort in the long run. Develop an exercise and nutrition plan so you never have to leave things to chance. For example, get an exercise professional to help you draw up a programme to follow. Have an emergency plan so you have something to cook for dinner if you’re short on time and only have 10 minutes. List your healthy meal and snack options so you have a pre-made shopping list every week.
7. Develop a routine
Even better than just creating plans on their own, try and develop a routine. We humans tend to be creatures of habit, so try to make your meal times and exercise times at the same time each day to get your body used to a new healthier routine. Studies have shown if you can stick to something for at least six weeks, it becomes ingrained in your day-to-day life and you’ll come to barely notice it as being extra effort.
8. Monitor your progress
It’s easy to forget how far we’ve come sometimes. Especially during those first six weeks of eating healthy and exercising, you’ll be losing fat and putting on muscle which may show little – if any – change on the scales and this can be discouraging. By setting the mini goals we mentioned earlier, keeping them in one place (like a notebook) means you can refer back to them later and see what you’ve actually achieved. Get yourself a tape measure to keep track of how your body changes in ways other than the kilos, write down how many pushups you can do and push yourself to do at least one extra rep each time you train. As you work out, you’ll be getting fitter and stronger. By monitoring a range of things, you’re more likely to see changes happening; even if the scales don’t show it.
9. Troubleshoot when necessary
If you fall off the bandwagon, don’t treat it as a reason to give up. People who successfully lose weight acknowledge that sometimes you may have a cheeseburger for lunch, but it’s not the end of the world and that one burger on its own won’t put much of a dent in your normal healthy routine. However, if you use it as an excuse to write the rest of the day off by chasing it with a chocolate bar for your snack, fried fish and chips for dinner and sitting on the couch to watch TV rather than going to the gym, THAT is when you’re going to start undoing all your good work.
If your weight has reached a plateau and nothing’s changing, go back to basics and look at what you can change. Have you had a programme update in the last six weeks? Have you upped your weights or reps, or the time you spend exercising? Is your nutrition as good as it could be? If you’re stumped, ask a fitness or nutrition expert for help.
10. Reward your success
No matter how small, any success is still an improvement and a step closer to achieving your goals. Make sure you reward your success when you do achieve something, just try not to use food as a treat. Examples include going out to the movies, a massage/manicure/pedicure, buying new workout clothing etc.
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