The majority of people who lose weight soon learn that maintenance brings new and often more difficult challenges to overcome, and they often gain the weight back within a couple of years. Many diets, intense workout programs, and detox plans are often a setup for failure. They can help you lose weight, but don't help you learn the habits to support it for life.
If you asked someone who lost weight and kept it off long-term how they did it, they'd probably say, "It's a lifestyle," but that's vague and rarely helpful if you're struggling to do the same. Below are five key habits that will help you not only lose weight but also keep it off.
- Don't rely on willpower: If you struggle to stick with portions and stop yourself from overeating, you probably think you have weak willpower. The truth is that most people have weak willpower when it comes to indulgent food. Keeping snacks and indulgences around the house and frequently putting yourself in situations with a lot of temptation and exposure to food media (Pinterest, Instagram, and TV shows) are all ways that weaken your willpower. To lose weight and keep it off, one of the best things you can do is avoid sources of temptation.
- Enjoy being more active: Exercise shouldn't be used to compensate for overeating; it often leads to burnout and less control over eating habits. Instead use it to boost your mood and energy, burn extra calories through the day, and strengthen your muscles. Getting in a good gym session is important for strength and cardio training, but your body benefits from consistent activity through the day too. Simply walking an extra 5,000 steps each day, taking the stairs more, cleaning, or a doing quick yoga routine while you watch TV are all great ways to be more active.
- Focus on habits, not results: You've likely collected diet advice over the years, through repeated attempts to lose weight and eat healthier. Each time your efforts didn't work as intended, it gave rise to negative thoughts that can become consuming. This often starts a pattern for the future where people often expect themselves to fail, and to avoid disappointment, they'll self-sabotage in small ways or stop trying altogether. When you focus only on results, and not how you achieve them, it's easier to feel like you've failed when you don't get an expected, often unrealistic, outcome.
Instead, shift your focus from results to habits. Small changes make the biggest difference long-term, so appreciate the moments you made healthier choices, like getting in an extra walk, adding more vegetables to your meals, or eating less sugar. After consistently improving your habits, results will follow.
- Self-care: Everyday life can be busy and stressful and many people are accustomed to using food, social media, or TV to deal. Instead, indulge in what your body really needs. It might be relaxation through a warm bath, reading, or meditation. Or it could be a good workout, connecting with friends and family that make you feel happy, or more mind stimulation through learning a new skill. To find success in weight loss, it's helpful to enrich your life with things that are separate from food.
- Make new goals: It's common to think the work is over once the weight is lost, but in reality it's just beginning, though it can be fun to create the life you want to live in your leaner and healthier body. Setting new goals helps you to avoid boredom and keeps you moving forward rather than back. You could set new fitness goals, learn how to cook new foods, or get involved in the community. When you explore new habits and find ones that you enjoy as your leaner, healthier, and often happier self, going back to old habits is less of an option.