As someone who has lost 65 pounds and spent 18 years working to help thousands of other people lose weight, I know how frustrating the process can be. Often, our society simplifies weight loss to “calories in versus calories out” and willpower—but this oversimplification doesn’t capture nearly the full picture.
If weight loss is your New Year’s resolution, or something you’ve been struggling with for years, I’m here to shed light on the strategies that really work. These are seven steps I’ve found to be absolutely critical for successful long-term weight loss.
1. Think Habits Instead Of Calories
You know to choose the apple over the candy bar. However, if you want to be able to consistently make that choice, you have to unravel the habits that make you grab the candy bar over the apple in the first place.
Identify three habits that could help you make healthier eating choices, like bringing lunch to work, not eating in front of the TV, or drinking more water.
At first, use alarms or appointments on your phone to help these healthy behaviors become habit. From there, the benefits you’ll see and feel will motivate you.
Once your first three habits feel natural, focus on three more.
2. Examine Your Morning And Evening Routines
Most of my clients have pretty awful morning routines. Often, they get up late, rush around, and start their day with stress and anxiety. Their evening routines aren’t much better, with late nights that involve multiple “one last” inbox checks.
Lack of proper sleep and stress related to poor morning and evening routines affect our hormones, make us hungrier and less in control of our food choices, and practically guarantee we hold onto excess weight.
Look at your morning and evening routines. How could you smooth and de-stress them? Do you need to wake up a few minutes earlier? Make kids’ lunches the night before? Turn off the TV earlier?
These tiny shifts in how we start and end our days are critical for long-term weight-loss success. Consider including self-care practices, like meditation, to the start or end of your days.
3. Pull Back On Food Tracking
Frankly, food tracking makes most people crazy. They get stressed, forget to do it, and feel overwhelmed, anxious, and guilty about the numbers they see.
Instead, outline five healthy breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks on a piece of paper. Keep them simple and healthy and easy-to-grab.
For breakfast, for example, you might jot down:
- plain oatmeal with slivered almonds and a tablespoon of almond butter
- two hard-boiled eggs with some melon
By writing your own meal plan, you have a go-to resource of meals you like. This way, you always have healthy options to turn to when running to the supermarket or out for a quick bite.
4. Let Go Of Guilt And Shame
Recent research has uncovered that feelings of guilt and shame actually activate the brain’s reward center. This explains why we often find ourselves eating everything in sight after “messing up” on our diet (a concept itself rooted in shame).
Be mindful of any guilt or shame that swells up when you make a less-then-stellar food choice. In these moments, instead of focusing on the food, think of something you’re grateful for. Research suggests doing so boosts your production of serotonin, the happiness hormone.
In just a minute or two, you’ll have bypassed that guilty desire to overeat and feel much better—and ready to continue making healthy choices instead of throwing in the towel.
5. Move Your Furniture
Our home environments can be strong triggers for unhealthy habits—but with a few simple shifts to our physical environment, we can shake loose old habits and create new awareness.
For example, I once had a client who struggled with late-night eating in front of the television. We moved the side table (where she usually put her snacks) into another room. With nowhere to put her snacks the next night, she became aware of her habit.
Take a look at your physical space at home. What small changes could cue you to make healthier habits? Should you get the TV out of the bedroom? Do you need to clear the mail and paperwork off the dining room table so that you can eat there instead of on the couch? Pick one or two and make a change.
6. Use Technologies That Make Healthy Living Simpler
Many modern technologies today can support your weight loss in a big way.
Sign up for grocery delivery online to avoid wandering through the snack aisle hungry. Or, try out a meal delivery service like Blue Apron, which can deliver customized, healthy, ready-to-cook meals directly to your door. You can also sign up for Auto Delivery at The Vitamin Shoppe to make sure you’re always stocked on protein bars and healthy snacks.
Though these services may take some time to set up and adjust to, they’ll save you time (and thought!) in the long run. They do the difficult work of grabbing the ingredients you need; all you have to do is put everything together.
7. Refuse To Get Bored
Boredom is the number one thing I see derail people’s weight-loss efforts. Sick of eating the same thing over and over, or doing the same workout, they eventually get bored and quit.
To combat this, I challenge you to find at least one new recipe and/or workout to try each week.
Motivation is not something that comes to you; it is something you have to make for yourself. Browse Pinterest or Reddit for inspiration, new workout ideas, and fun recipes. This process won’t always feel fun and inspiring, but with a little effort, consistency, and patience, you can keep it interesting.
Liz Josefsberg is a weight loss and wellness expert with over 15 years in the industry, as well as a member of The Vitamin Shoppe’s Wellness Council. A mom, author, fitness enthusiast, and weight loss success story herself (65 pounds lost!), Liz consults all over the world. She loves testing every diet, exercise regimen, device, and piece of gear she can get her hands on.
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