It’s no surprise—most people who lose weight, gain the weight back. That’s because they completely change the way they eat and move. Then, when life goes through a tough spot, they resume their old habits.
My real-life research on people offers a better way. Instead of completely revamping their lives, those who successfully lost weight made just a few small changes. Over the long run, the weight came off—and stayed off. Because the changes became part of a new habit—instead of a “diet” —people were able to sustain the changes.
From my research, I’ve uncovered seven skills for successful weight loss:
No More Excuses
Each of us has a life story filled with reasons why we’re heavier than we’d like to be or why it’s so difficult to eat right and exercise. But, the truth is there are so many other people who have overcome these same obstacles (and worse) to be successful. You can, too! Bum knee? Find a movement, like water aerobics, that feels good. No time? Get a quick and healthy cookbook or search for ready-made healthier options in your grocery store.
Treat Yourself Right
Check your thoughts. Do you actually believe you can drop the extra pounds? Or do you eat just one cookie and then say, “Oh, I blew it. I might as well eat the whole box of cookies.” Treating yourself right involves accepting small setbacks, no scolding. One cookie doesn’t blow anything. Just get back on track immediately. It also helps to develop a positive affirmation and repeat it to yourself (out loud) throughout the day. Here are a couple of ideas: “I enjoy eating healthy foods including fresh fruits and vegetables” and “I love taking a walk every day.” Don’t laugh—the more you say it, the more you believe it.
Make Your Own Rules
The best diet is the one you don’t know you’re on, one that naturally becomes part of your life. Stop waiting for the “perfect” diet. Take a look at all the different ways you’ve tried to lose weight before and ask what worked and what didn’t. Joining a gym sounds like a good idea, but do you have an extra hour every day? Why not start walking everyday for 10 minutes? Not eating anything but fruit before noon may have sounded like a healthy approach, but if you couldn’t stick to it, don’t do it again. Research shows that both protein and fiber helps to stave off hunger longer. Maybe a veggie and egg white omelet with a bowl of oatmeal?
No More Deprivation
No one wants to be on a diet that keeps them hungry all the time. And, it’s no fun to be on a program that deprives you of the foods you love. Do you love dessert? Instead of telling yourself you’ll never eat it again, why not go to your favorite restaurant every weekend and enjoy a serving of your favorite dessert? Many restaurants are now offering minis—smaller versions of the most popular desserts. And, because you enjoy them in the restaurant, there’s nothing at home to tempt you for the rest of the week.
Accelerate Your Metabolism
There are several medically proven ways to increase your metabolism—eating breakfast is one. Some people don’t like eating breakfast because they think it makes them hungrier midmorning. Instead of thinking of that hunger as a problem, realize that it represents your metabolism on overdrive—that’s a good thing! Just plan a healthy midmorning snack such as a handful of nuts or a piece of fruit. The more you eat during the day when you’re the most active, the less you’ll need to eat at night (when you’re burning fewer calories).
Ask Yourself Why
Instead of spending all your time looking at what you eat, think about why you eat. If you eat when you’re stressed, consider taking a stress management course. If you eat when you’re bored, now’s the time to search for new friends or find a hobby.
Keep Your Focus
Most people are more able to maintain life changes with the support of a friend, group, or professional. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It also helps to have a way to monitor your success. It could be a weight chart, a food log, or a calendar to check off when you get in some exercise.
The important thing to remember is that you don’t have to do everything all at once. Although a 10-minute walk only burns 100 calories, if you do that everyday (and change nothing else), you’ll drop 10 pounds over the next year. Get rid of the two teaspoons of sugar in your morning coffee, and over the next year you’ll lose another three pounds. See? It really is no big deal to lose weight.