You know the basics of losing weight: eat nutritious foods, exercise regularly, and consume fewer calories than you use. It seems so simple. Yet for most people losing weight (and keeping it off) is a struggle.
Fortunately, various strategies, tools, and techniques are available to help you reach your weight and health goals. That said, identifying strategies to help you reach your goals and then incorporating these consistently can feel overwhelming and challenging.
Losing weight and becoming healthier takes time, effort, and consistency. It’s a journey, not a one-time race. Therefore, developing healthy habits that become routines can help you:
- Focus on critical skills that move you closer to your goals
- Reduce or eliminate feeling overwhelmed or like you don’t know what to do next
- Establish healthy routines that will help you maintain your weight loss and create a lasting healthy lifestyle
3 Simple Habits to Help You Lose Weight
Whether you’re actively working on losing weight or getting started, developing a core set of habits that will become routines can help. By establishing healthy routines, those behaviors become automatic—you do the action without thinking about it. This process makes it easier to maintain those healthy routines, which then become an automatic part of your healthy lifestyle.
You can turn any habit into a routine with time and consistency, so they are as automatic as brushing your teeth before bed. However, when you’re early in the process of losing weight or developing healthy habits, it can be hard to determine what to focus on at that time. Here are three simple, healthy habits that can become routines to help you lose weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
1. Visualize Your Reasons Why You Want to Get Healthier
When you first started your weight loss journey, you likely wrote down why you wanted to lose weight. You may have felt a rush of motivation and conviction at that time that helped you get started on your journey. Yet how often do you revisit your reasons for losing weight?
When your motivation wanes or you’re faced with temptations like food cravings, it can help to remind yourself of why you’re making these healthy changes. However, unless you’re used to doing this, it can be hard to remember your reasons why at that moment. Fortunately, you can solve this problem by:
1. Picking a time in your schedule that you’ll spend at least five minutes thinking about why you’re getting healthier every day.
Make it the same time every day. For instance, after you brush your teeth in the morning, you’ll sit at the kitchen table and review your ‘Why.’ You can select any time to do this. What matters is that you make it a time that you can do every day, including weekends.
2. Visualizing your reasons why.
While you think about your reasons for changing, try to imagine what it will feel like when you accomplish your goals. Mental imagery, or visualization, can help strengthen your motivation by making the result feel more real. It also can be used to anticipate obstacles or brainstorm solutions to barriers when you’re trying to lose weight or maintain weight loss.
When visualizing your reasons, try to incorporate your senses. For instance, if you’re losing weight so you can play tag with your child, visualize what this will look like for you. Where will you be playing tag—a field, the backyard, a playground? What will you be doing? What will it feel like as you run and laugh with your child? Feel the sunshine and air against your skin, and hear the sound of laughter from you and your child. See their smile of delight and feel your own smile.
3. Taking a few moments to anticipate potential obstacles and come up with a solution.
Before you stop, take a moment to think about your day or the next day if you do this the night before. Do you anticipate anything happening that will make it hard for you to stick to your weight-loss behaviors? Perhaps you’re attending a party, planning to go out to eat with coworkers, or it’s raining, and you had planned to go on a bike ride.
Think about how you can handle these potential problems. Doing this will make it easier in the moment, so you don’t feel on the spot. Perhaps you’ll be going to your favorite restaurant later at lunch, and you’ll want to order dessert. You can do that without feeling like you’ve made a set back on your goals by planning for this. You can make sure the rest of your meals on this day are healthy, avoid any other treats, and perhaps ask a friend if they’d like to share the dessert, so you don’t eat as much.
By intentionally anticipating barriers, you’ll be more likely to do this in moments when you didn’t expect a problem. As a result, you’ll feel more in control of your weight loss and health journey.
2. Focus on What You’re Adding to Your Life
When people go on a diet, try to lose weight, or get healthier, it’s common to focus on what you can’t do or have. Becoming healthy is often associated with feeling deprived of the things we enjoy.
However, it doesn’t have to be this way. Think about what you can have and can add to your life due to your new healthy lifestyle instead of focusing on what you can’t have.
Write down a list of what is being added to your life. For example, you may be enjoying learning new ways to cook, discovering new delicious foods, or reconnecting with a sport or activity you used to love.
Take a moment every day to remind yourself of how these actions are helping you create a healthier future. Additionally, when you find yourself feeling deprived, acknowledge the feelings, but then remind yourself what these new behaviors are helping you achieve. Focusing on what you have or what you’re adding to your life becomes easier with practice. You may also find that you’ll naturally focus more on the positives than any perceived negatives.
3. Link Exercise with an Established Habit
Increasing how much you exercise is a common goal when losing weight or focusing on becoming healthier. However, finding time to exercise consistently can be challenging.
One strategy that can help turn exercise into a routine is pairing it with something you already regularly do. James Clear discusses this as habit stacking in his book, Atomic Habits. Habit stacking allows you to pair a new behavior, exercise in this case, with an established habit, which will increase the likelihood of the new behavior happening.
Let’s say your goal is to go walking for 15 minutes every morning. You’ve tried fitting it in sometime before you leave for work, but it’s hard to stay consistent since things crop up that interfere with you going for your walk. However, you always prepare coffee first thing in the morning. It’s an established routine. In this case, you can decide: “After I click the button to start the coffee pot, I’ll put on my exercise clothes and shoes and go for a walk.”
When stacking habits, you want to be specific and clear about the trigger behavior (what occurs right before you do the new behavior) and your new action. A habit stack like, “On my lunch break, I’ll walk on the stairs.” isn’t as specific as, “Before I walk into the office kitchenette to get my lunch, I will walk up and down the stairs five times.” You’ll be more likely to set up the new behavior as a habit and eventual routine by being specific.
You can use habit stacking with any behavior you want to start doing, not just exercise. You may want to start small initially and add in only one new behavior. Once it starts to become a habit, then you can add in other behaviors.
Establishing Healthy Habits and Routines Will Help You Achieve Your Goals
Losing weight and getting healthier can help you live longer and enjoy your life. But these actions take time, effort, and consistency. Taking the time now to establish healthy habits that turn into routines will help ensure that these healthy new behaviors last, so you can maintain your health gains.