Ten Habits of People Who Lose Weight... and Keep It Off
Did you know we as North Americans are THE MOST successful at losing weight... so then why is obesity a growing problem and becoming a literal epidemic?
See, we're the best at losing weight, but also the WORST at keeping it off! It's estimated approximately 3 out of 4 of individuals who begin a diet will regain 50% of the lost weight in the first year after losing it. Of the remaining 1 out of 4 individuals, 70-80% of them will regain the weight lost in the following three years... that means only approximately 5-8% of dieting attempts are successful long term! But why?
Most people inherently know that keeping a healthy weight boils down to three things: eating healthy, controlling calories, and being active. Butttt actually doing that can be a different story...
Did you know we psychologically make almost 200 food choices a day, and most of these appear to be automatic or habitual? What this means is most of us unconscionably eat without reflection, deliberation or any sense of awareness of what or how much food we select and consume. Without even realizing it, habitual, subconscious behaviours override our best intentions! This is why I constantly reinstall behaviours that will lead to success with my clients, vs simply giving them a meal plan, with no thought or consideration for the future!
In 2018 a study found that the key to staying a healthy weight is to reinforce healthy habits.
What the Study Found:
Imagine each time a person goes home in the evening, they eat a snack. When they first eat the snack, a mental link is formed between the context (getting home) and their response to that context (eating a snack). Every time they subsequently snack in response to getting home, this link strengthens and the groove gets greased, to the point that getting home prompts them to eat a snack automatically. This is the basics of how a habit forms!
The study found weight-loss interventions that are founded on habit-change, (aka forming new habits &/or breaking old ones) may be effective at helping people lose weight and keep it off.
The study recruited 75 volunteers from the community, aged 18-75, with excess weight or obesity and randomized them into three groups:
Group 1: Program promoted breaking old habits
Group 2: Program promoted forming new habits, and
Group 3: was a control (no intervention).
The habit-breaking group (group 1) was sent a text message with a different task to perform every day. These tasks were focused on breaking usual routines and included things such as “drive a different way to work today”, “listen to a new genre of music” or “write a short story”.
The habit-forming group (group 2) was asked to follow a program that focused on forming habits centred around healthy lifestyle changes. The group was encouraged to incorporate ten healthy tips into their daily routine, so they became second-nature.
Unlike usual weight-loss programs, these interventions did NOT prescribe specific diet plans or exercise regimes, they simply aimed to change small daily habits.
After 12 weeks, the habit-forming and habit-breaking participants had lost an average of 3.1kg. More importantly, after 12 months of no intervention and no contact, they had lost another 2.1kg on average.
Some 67 percent of participants reduced their total body weight by over 5 percent, decreasing their overall risk for developing type two diabetes and heart disease... without ever implementing a specific diet or training regime! As well as losing weight, most participants also increased their fruit and vegetable intake and improved their mental health!
Changing habits, and focusing on what and why we do what we do is so incredibly important for long term fat loss. Unlike following an aggressive black and white diet or workout plan that isn't sustainable long term, by focusing on what our triggers are to heal them and break old habits, coupled with implementing new habits, this is what has the potential to change how we think about weight management and, importantly, how we behave in terms of diet and exercise.
Ten Healthy Habits You Should Form TODAY To Be Successful Long Term:
Keep to a meal routine: eat at roughly the same times each day. People who have long term weight loss success tend to have a regular meal rhythm (avoidance of snacking and nibbling). A consistent diet regimen across the week and year also predicts subsequent long term weight loss maintenance
Prioritize protein: choose to eat approx 20-35g of protein at each meal/ snack (approx the size of your palm) from lean meats like chicken & turkey, fish like salmon & tillapia, dairy like low fat cottage cheese or plain Greek yogurt (flavour with splenda/ crystal lite to make it taste like regular yogurt without all the sugar!), eggs & egg whites, & protein powders.
Walk off the weight: aim for 10,000 steps a day. Take the stairs and get off one tram stop earlier to ensure you’re getting your heart rate up every day
Pack healthy snacks when you go out: swap potato chips and cookies for fresh fruit & veggies, while prioritizing proteins (turkey pepperoni sticks with veggies & hummus, or a protein shake blended with frozen fruits is my favourite!)
Always look at the labels: check the fat, sugar and salt content on food labels, and find foods that are higher in fibre and protein.
Caution with your portions: use smaller plates, and drink a glass of water and wait five minutes then check in with your hunger before going back for seconds OR use a food tracking app like My Fitness Pal to be mindful of consumption.
Break up sitting time: decreasing sedentary time and increasing activity is linked to substantial health benefits aside from weight loss. Time spent sedentary is related to excess weight and obesity, independent of physical activity level.
Think about your drinks: choose water and flavour with lemon or crystal lite. Limit fruit juice to one small glass per day (just because its fruit, doesn't mean its any better for you than pop!), and avoid high sugar drinks like pop.
Focus on your food: slow down and eat while sitting at the table, not on the go. Internal cues regulating food intake (hunger/fullness signals) may not be as effective while distracted
Always aim for 8 servings of vegetables a day & 2 servings of fruit, whether fresh, frozen or canned: fruit and vegetables have high nutritional quality and are typically lower in calories for the volume you eat. Eating the recommended amount produces health benefits, including reduced risk of cancer and coronary heart disease.