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Through years of research, I have learned and developed five habits that have helped me lose weight and keep it off.
Habit #1: Weigh yourself and record your weight at the same time every day, wearing the same or very similar clothing.
Good, consistent data helps provide good results. I know that some of you have heard that you shouldn’t weigh yourself daily; however, the research tells us differently. The truth is: Most people who lose a significant amount of weight and keep it off weigh themselves daily.
Many people will lose weight by developing this one simple habit.
Habit #2: Eat or drink a healthy breakfast every day and record all caloric intake
For ease, these two habits are grouped together.
Some of you who pay attention to weight-loss research may be recoiling right now, saying this isn’t right because of recent research saying it doesn’t matter when you eat your calories. While that may be true, and I am well aware of the research, there is another crucial element to weight loss, especially for binge eaters or people with a food addiction. That is the balance of influence between the frontal cortex (the thinking part of our brain) and the basal ganglia (the part of the brain that controls habits).
Decisions we may make in the best of times are often overwhelmed (or, you might say, out-voted) in the worst of times. For example, avoid grocery shopping or eating when you are tired, stressed or under the influence of any mind-altering substance, legal or illegal.
There is a great deal of research which has come from the National Weight Control Registry that says people who lose substantial weight and keep it off eat or drink breakfast. I load most of my calories in the morning and rarely eat after work. I am like many who have great difficulty eating only one of anything. For me, as well as many others, none is much easier than one.
Habit #3: Exercise every day and record your exercise
This seems very basic, but there are two important things to understand: 1. It is easier to exercise and to continue exercising when you do it with a buddy — friends, family or even your dog. And 2. You are more likely to exercise when you include it as a part of your natural routine and do it within your natural environment. Friends, pets and environmental reminders can all help us maintain an exercise program.
Habit #4: Find or create a system of support and accountability
According to an article from the “Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology,” most people who lose a large amount of weight and keep it off have both a support and an accountability system where they both receive support from and provide support to others, and where there is appropriate, loving and meaningful accountability.
Habit #5: Make ongoing plans; revise as often as needed
Planning really must be a habit. As the old adage goes, “fail to plan, plan to fail.” As you begin to collect data and understand where your successes and difficulties might be, it’s important to plan for situations that may be especially difficult.
For example, when attending a group function where everyone is eating and where there may be something I would really like to taste, I may socialize until right before it’s time to leave then have a bite of that item or a small plate and leave right after.
If I’m in a dinner situation when, for social reasons, I need to eat, I’ll eat a small plate of food then push my chair away from the table far enough to make it more difficult to continue to eat, but close enough to continue to be sociable. I usually plan and even record what I will eat in advance. I plan and write down what I will purchase at the store. I adjust my plan for unique situations and write it down to increase my commitment.
As you plan, write down both successes and failures. Adjust your plan according to the data you have recorded and the unique situations you will face, and then make plans accordingly.