Starting a new “diet” actually means adopting a dozen or so new healthy weight loss habits. Whatever “diet” you’re going to start, you should realize that sticking to it will require adopting a dozen or so new habits. In other words, sticking to a diet really just means changing and starting new habits. Thinking of it in this way is much more helpful than telling yourself that you’re going to “really do it this time”.
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Success Requires New Healthy Weight Loss Habits, Not Just a New “Diet”
Every January the gyms fill up and shopping carts are filled with healthy food, and by March everything is back to normal. Maybe you’ve done this yourself (hasn’t everyone?): you’ve jumped into a new diet & exercise plan as part of a new year’s resolution, and it fizzles out within a few weeks.
Wherever you’re at in life, the things you do or don’t do on a daily basis are governed by your habits. Humans are “creatures of habit”, as they say. What people don’t realize, is that when you say you’re “starting a diet” or “getting back on the plan”… that requires an all-new set of daily habits, which of course is much easier said than done. In other words, to go from the status quo – or whatever it is you do on a daily basis currently – to sticking to a new diet and exercise plan… that requires that you fundamentally change in a dozen or more ways… overnight. When you look at it this way, it’s obvious why “going on a diet” and new year’s resolutions are so fleeting.
Healthy Weight Loss Habits Example
Here’s an example: Let’s say that you’re going to start a diet and only at 1800 calories a day. Simple enough, right? Let’s think this through: What new habits is that going to require?
First, it will obviously require that you track all your food in some way, so that you know you’re only eating 1800 calories. Do you currently track all your food? Probably not, so that’s a new habit you’ll need to develop. Not only that – do you know how to accurately track your food and calories? Do you have time to track all your food? Second, do you know how to shop for, prepare and/or cook meals that are healthy, satisfying AND fit under 1800 calories in a day? Do you have the time to carefully plan out meals & recipes that fit within your calorie goals?
Do you get up early enough to pack up your healthy meals and snacks for the day? Do you get to bed early enough to make that possible? When you do go to bed, do you scroll on your phone or watch Netflix for two more hours before you actually fall asleep?
Do you currently workout on a consistent basis? When will you have time to make sure you get your workouts in?
You can see how a simple goal of “I’m starting a diet next week” really means changing dozens of aspects about your daily habits.
Recognizing that the “new you” is going to require new habits, goes a long way towards understanding what lifelong change is really going to require. It IS a lot harder than saying you’re starting a new diet next Monday, but it’s also the first step towards a sustainable, long-term change in lifestyle.
Stack Multiple Healthy Weight Loss Habits for Fast Results
As we pointed out in the example above, successfully starting and sticking with a new diet will require that you change and adopt multiple new habits. I’m pointing this out to be realistic, but it’s also exciting. When you understand what new habits will be required to accomplish your goal, taking the steps to achieving your goal becomes a lot more simple. You know what you have to do each day to hit your goals.
Once you learn how to track your calories… once your learn how to make meals that are healthy AND taste good… once you get in the habit of going to bed on time and getting enough sleep… once you get in the habit of getting your workouts done each week… once you have multiple good habits all going at one time, the results start to happen fast. Seeing the results from your hard work is addicting… and it makes you more motivated to keep going. At some point you feel in control of yourself and your habits, and that is what this all is really about.
You Can’t Hate Your Body Into Losing Weight
Study after study has shown that wanting to get in shape because of how you’ll look isn’t enough motivation to stick with it long-term. Even worse is hating yourself or negative self-talk about your weight or appearance. Self-shame and criticism also literally affect your body’s hormones and cause more damage by activating the threat and stress responses in your body.
Trying to implement a lifelong focus on health and wellbeing should be about taking care of yourself and the body you have, not about how your body looks. It can be very satisfying and motivating to look and feel better as you develop healthier habits, but the primary focus and reason behind it should always come from a place of self-care, your health and vitality, and wanting to improve yourself inside and out.
Calories In vs Calories Out = 95% of Your Weight Loss Efforts
This is simply a reality… calories in vs calories out: it’s science, math, a formula… whatever you want to call it, this is what governs whether your body is storing fat, maintaining its weight, or burning fat.
When you see those articles about someone who has lost 50lbs eating certain foods and they “didn’t even count calories,” that can be true… but whatever they were doing diet-wise resulted in them eating less calories than their body required each day, or else they wouldn’t have lost any weight, period. At some point, your new healthy weight loss habits need to intersect with making sure you know how many calories you’re consuming.
Have Some Way of Measuring What You Eat
This rule is crucial if you’re just starting a weight loss plan. As explained above, if you’re not eating less calories than your body burns, you will not lose weight. The most precise way of doing this is of course to track all your calories. There are many food-tracking apps out there, such as MyFitnessPal. Yes, it requires extra time to log your food at each meal, but if you’re committed to seeing results from your efforts, it’s a small price to pay.
Another way of doing this is to set a certain structure for your meals each day, and then setting a calorie amount per meal. Then it’s just a matter of totaling each meal, and you don’t necessarily need to put it all into an app. For example, if want to stick to 2,000 calories a day, you can break that into 4 meals of 500 calories each. Or, two meals of 700 calories each (1,400) and then two snacks of 300 calories each (700+700+300+300=2,000). Then you can use a combination of nutrition labels, a food scale, and even restaurant menus to stick to your per-meal limits. On a day-to-day basis it’s fairly simple to keep a mental tally of your calories: “I had 400 calories at breakfast and then lunch at the restaurant was 800 calories, so I have 800 left for dinner”… you get the idea.
If you have tried to simply “eat healthy” again and again, with no form of measuring or tracking what you eat, you’ve probably realized that you consistently lose weight that way.
It is possible to reach a new “baseline” for your body weight where you don’t really need to track your food anymore. But there’s really two phases to that: 1) Getting to your goal weight in the first place which will likely require tracking your food at some point, and then 2) eating at maintenance so that you maintain that weight for a few months until you body full accepts that new weight as its baseline.
Avoid Eating Out of Packages
Simply by keeping this in mind and opting for real, whole foods more often than not can make an incredible difference in what’s going into your body on a daily basis. This is one of the healthy weight loss habits that can make a huge difference. Packaged foods are filled with salt, sugar, chemicals, and preservatives. Even something as basic as a bag of nuts vs buying unsalted nuts in bulk at the grocery store: A single serving of salted peanuts contains 10% of the recommended sodium intake, vs 0% for unsalted peanuts from the grocery store. Or, pack a baggie of carrot and celery sticks for your afternoon snack instead of a bag of chips. This trades out 300+ calories and fat & junk carbs for healthy vitamins, minerals, and fiber… and almost no calories. You’ll feel much better too.
This isn’t just limited to snack-type foods: even packaged ingredients of otherwise “healthy” recipes that you make at home can sneak more fat and sugar into your meals than you realize.
Everything Affects Everything
Nobody lives life “perfectly”, but this is a very helpful idea to keep in mind. When you’re trying to adopt new healthy weight loss habits, everything gets easier when you set yourself up to succeed. Keeping junk food in the house while you’re trying to avoid eating junk food unnecessarily tests and stretches your self-control… probably until you give in. If you stay up until 2am binge watching shows and then get up for work the next morning, you’ll feel terrible and have cravings for junk food by 10am. On the other hand, when you track what you’re eating, fill your fridge full of healthy, whole foods, and get your workouts in… you feel good about yourself and your motivation to stay on track increases.
Eat Mindfully and Slow Down
This is probably the easiest weight loss tip to follow but it’s powerful. When you’re eating, slow down… give your body a chance to do its job. It takes a while for your mind to make the connection that you’re eating and that you’re full. Especially when you’re eating whole foods, you will feel satisfied on much less calories than when you’re eating junk.
Try taking a bite and then actually setting your utensils down in between bites. Take the time to taste the flavors in your mouth, and think about how the food you’re eating is providing health and energy to your body, and how the long-term effects of eating healthy, whole foods is so valuable compared to the damaging effects of eating junk.