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How to form healthy habits for weight loss

You may be able to lose some weight by going on a diet or following a specific meal plan. The problem with diets is that they only work in the short term. Most women who lose weight on a diet gain it back. The answer to losing weight and keeping it off is not dieting, but forming healthy habits.

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If you have a poor diet, you don’t exercise, you don’t get enough sleep and you are chronically stressed out, then going on a diet is a bandaid solution. Diets are popular because you will usually see quick changes. These changes don’t usually last because you haven’t addressed unhealthy areas of your lifestyle.

You may think you are addressing poor eating habits by going on a diet, but most popular diets are popular because they promote rapid weight loss, not a healthy lifestyle.

So how do you make healthy lifestyle changes?

Now you may be thinking “OK, I’m going to go to the gym every day this week and eat my 1000 calorie a day diet and meditate for an hour every night and go to bed at 8 every night.” This is the wrong approach. You are just setting yourself up for failure.

On the other hand, you may have heard that you need to make small changes so you say “I’m going to start by adding a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar every morning.” This change doesn’t address any underlying problems.

Big rocks first

You may have seen the analogy shown in the pictures below. If you start by addressing the small stuff first (or by putting the big rocks in the jar first) you will not have time for the big stuff (or you won’t be able to fit the big rocks in the jar.

Having said that you may need to break the big rocks up so they are manageable. For example, if you rarely eat vegetables, then start by adding them to one meal a day.

small rocks firstbig rocks first

Make them SMART

It has been said that for goals to be achieved they should be SMART. There are a few variations on the SMART acronym, but I’ll use this one:
S - Specific “I will eat one serving of vegetables every day for two weeks.
M - Measurable - did you eat the vegetables every day
A - Action based - you are doing something, eating vegetables
R - Realistic - you are not going from eating no vegetables to becoming vegan
T - Time based - set a time limit that you are going to do this for and then reevaluate

So you see that now your goal becomes to eat a serving of vegetables every day. It is not about the weight loss. If you say your goal is to lose 4 lbs this week, thats great, but you haven’t addressed how you are doing it.

Goals shouldn’t be about the outcome

When goals are about the outcome, rather than the action they are harder to achieve. You may want to lose weight, but the number on the scale seems to be out of your control. What is in control is the actions that you take.

Not too much at once

This is one of the most important parts of forming healthy habits. Leo Babauta wrote a book about this topic called The Power of Less. He found that if he tried to make too many changes at once he almost always failed at every one of them. When he broke it down to one change at a time, he was usually successful. He found that making one change a month was manageable. Precision Nutrition, who I have studied with, uses a similar formula for their coaching program.

Try to keep changes positive

As much as possible, I like to keep changes positive. That means things like:

  • Eating more vegetables
  • Eating more whole foods
  • Getting more exercise
  • Adding meditation
  • Drinking more water

Sometimes a replacement becomes a good choice. Replace your 3 pm chocolate bar with a piece of fruit. Negative habits can be done as well (like eating less sugar), but positive habits can be easier because you don’t feel deprived. Often by adding a positive habit, you naturally reduce areas which are less desirable.

Lets review the key points for establishing healthy habits:

  • Tackle the big items by breaking them down into easier chunks
  • Make your goals SMART
  • One habit at a time

If you would like to try out some healthy habits try the free 5 Day Healthy Habit Challenge for menopausal women.

References:

The Power of Less, Leo Babauta
Precision Nutrition

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