Build long-term habits with practical lifestyle changes for weight loss success
It’s challenging to eat a healthy diet when living in a drive-thru, ultra-processed food world. Food temptations seem to be everywhere. And forget gimmicky, fad diets when trying to reach a healthier body weight. Just like buying a pair of shoes, there’s no one size fits all when it comes to weight loss.
The latest stats show that more than 70 percent of Americans are overweight to obese. This is especially troubling during the current SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Several studies have shown a direct association of obesity as a major risk factor for developing more severe illness, hospitalization, and death if infected with this virus.
When it comes to weight loss, scientific, evidence-based guidance is a more appropriate direction to follow. It’s well-documented that two major components for weight loss success are choosing healthier foods while reducing calories and increasing physical activity. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Not really. We’re human and sometimes our best laid-out plans may fail for various reasons.
But there’s a third component that is just as crucial as the first two. This third component often makes or breaks your success in not only meeting weight loss goals, but preventing you from slipping and gaining back weight you previously had lost.
What is this third component? It’s called behavior modification. Think of it as little tricks of the trade when it comes to weight loss. Behavior modification boils down to focusing on healthy behaviors. If you lead with these behaviors, the weight loss will usually follow. By prioritizing this third component, you’ve armed yourself with essential weight loss tools getting you focused as you start your journey in reaching a healthy body weight.
Below are various behavior modification tools helping you pick and choose which ones you need to work on the most:
- Eliminate inappropriate eating cues
- Don’t buy tempting, problem foods – out of sight, out of mind
- Designate only one room you eat in
- Shop when not hungry
- Replace large plates, cups, and utensils with smaller ones – eat off a plate no more than 9 inches in diameter
- Avoid vending machines, fast-food restaurants, and convenience stores as much as possible
- When eating a meal or snack, make it a rule that no electronic devices – cell phones, tablets, laptops – are allowed at the table to prevent mindless eating.
2. Suppress the cues you cannot eliminate
- Serve individual plates; don’t serve “family style”
- Measure your portions; avoid large servings or packages of food
- Remove food from the table after eating a meal – excess food sitting around will only trigger overeating
- Create obstacles to consuming problem foods – wrap them and freeze them, making them less quickly accessible
- Control deprivation; plan and eat regular meals
- Limit sedentary activities as much as possible, such as watching TV or using an electronic device
- Get up and move for at least 5 minutes (preferably more) every hour
3. Strengthen cues to appropriate eating and exercise
- Store healthy foods in see-thru containers towards the front of the refrigerator and keep a bowl of fresh fruit on your kitchen countertop
- Learn appropriate portion sizes
- Plan higher-protein, high-fiber meals helping control hunger and appetite
- Plan healthy satisfying snacks
- Have a fruit and/or vegetable at every meal
- Keep sports equipment and/or your tennis shoes by the door ready to be used at any time
4. Repeat the desired eating and exercise behaviors
- Slow down eating- put down utensils between bites
- Only eat to the point of feeling full but not stuffed
- Move more – find ways to incorporate more physical activity in your life
- Join groups of active people and participate – maybe a hiking club, yoga class or water aerobics
- When setting weight loss goals, instead of saying, “lose two pounds a week,” replace it with specific mini-goals, like “eat 1 cup of veggies at dinner,” or “walk 20 minutes a day.” This helps you focus on a specific, sustainable habit pointing you in the right direction.
5. Reward yourself for meeting health goals
- Buy tickets to sports events, movies, concerts, other nonfood entertainment
- Indulge in a small purchase
- Get a massage, buy some flowers
- Take a hot bath; read a good book
- Treat yourself to a lesson in a new active pursuit such as horseback riding, handball, or tennis
- Praise yourself; visit friends
- Take a nap; relax
Take home message
Your health is a lifelong journey. Just like a garden, in order to thrive, it needs consistent watering, weeding, and fertilizing. Consistency is key. By adopting and consistently following lifestyle changes of behavior modification, you’re more apt to reach weight loss goals but also other health goals in general. The more these habits are practiced, the more they become a part of your lifestyle.
And that’s when you’ve set in motion a lifetime of feeling good about yourself, your choices, and your health.