7 Habits for Successful Weight Loss

woman-eating-healthy-saladDeveloping Great Habits to Lose Weight Successfully

Summer is here, but there’s still plenty of time to get in great shape!

There are 7 critical habits for success in your weight loss goals. Your adherence to them will determine how successful you can be.

According to Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, it only takes 21 days to form a habit, and you truly can do anything for 21 days!

Tackle each habit one at a time to make lifestyle changes instead of temporary changes.

1.  Diet

healthy diet foodsYour diet is just as important, if not more important than exercising.  Stay away from processed foods.  Generally speaking, if it has a long shelf life, it usually isn’t very good for you.

Aim to eat lots of fresh veggies, fruits and quality protein.  When you go out to eat, ask your server to put 1/2 or 2/3 of your meal in a take out container before bringing it to the table.  The calories of most restaurant meals easily exceed 1200 calories/meal!  Your meals should contain Fruits, Vegetables, Lean Proteins, Complex Carbohydrates, Quality Fats & Water.

Don’t drink your calories!!!  Sodas and fruit juices contain empty calories & sugar or high fructose corn syrup.  Caloric drinks are keeping many people fat. In the United States, the primary source is sugar sweetened beverages, with soft drinks leading the way. Second are specialty and dessert coffees.

Energy drinks high in sugar and caffeine round out the top three, and I’m sure you know someone who practically lives on those things!  A 16 ounce Dunkin Donuts Mocha Almond Latte has 464 calories.  A 16 ounce Starbucks Frappuccino w/soy can run you 250-350 calories or more!  That’s about 1/4 of a typical female’s daily calorie intake on a fat loss program!  A 12 ounce can of soda usually runs you 140–160 calories, many of the popular energy drinks are 16, 20 or 23 ounce sizes and run 220–345 calories.

Many people think that fruit juice is an improvement over soda, but whole fruit is better. Whole fruit gives you fiber, contains fewer calories and satisfies your appetite more. Most fruit juices are loaded with sugar or sugar substitutes.

And unless you’re an athlete with very long workouts or events, skip the sports drinks too.  They’re just sugar water with electrolytes.  Regardless of whether it’s “natural” or not, liquid sugar of all kinds makes calorie control much more difficult. You can end up drinking most of your calories pretty easily.

2.  Resistance Exercise

woman performing resistance exerciseLadies, don’t be afraid to lift weights!  It’s a great way to get that “toned” look we’re all looking for!  Women generally don’t get bulky from strength training because we don’t have enough testosterone.  Women bodybuilders must incorporate special diets and hours of weight training, as well as supplements to help them get muscular.

In other words, you have to be very deliberate to get bulky!  Muscle is denser than fat, which means it takes up less space in the body than fat does.  Muscle does not weigh more than fat.  A pound of muscle and a pound of fat both each weigh a pound.  But fat takes up more space in your body!

If you’re 3 sizes smaller, but you haven’t lost as much scale weight as you would like, would you really be upset about that?  Don’t base your success on just what the number on the scale says.  Are your clothes fitting looser?  Are you getting compliments about your weight loss?  Pull out a tape measure to see how many inches you’ve lost!  The more muscle you have, the more fat you’ll burn.

3.  Cardiorespiratory Exercise

woman-exercise-classThis is any form of training that gets your heart pumping.  Your heart is a muscle, and needs exercise just like your other muscles!

And cardiovascular training can help you lose weight, which can help you get off medications for high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Try to get at least 30 minutes of heart pounding exercise 3-5x/week.  And if you cant do 30 minutes, start at 10 minutes and build your way up to 30 minutes.  Just get moving!

4.  Motivation – Goals

motivation and goals for fitnessWhat motivates you to get in shape?  Is it an upcoming event such as a wedding or a reunion?  Is it something someone said to you like a doctor or a family member?  Or are you sick and tired of being sick and tired?

Whatever your motivation, channel it to reach your goals!  And be specific!  Don’t just say that you want to lose weight.  Let’s say that you want to drop from a size 16 to a size 6 in 6 months.  Track your progress weekly so you can make sure you’re on track.

And if you slip up, just get back on track!  No one is 100% compliant 100% of the time, so don’t let an overindulgent outing totally derail your efforts.  You haven’t failed until you give up and stop trying.  Set short term (daily or weekly), medium term (monthly) & long term goals (annually) to stay on track.. Make sure your activity is something you like to do.  Otherwise you will stop doing it.

5.  Rest

man resting to healthGet at least 6-8 hours of sleep/night & make sure you get adequate rest between workouts.  Never work the same muscles on consecutive days.  Watch out for stress!  When you’re stressed, your body produces cortisol, a stress hormone that wrecks havoc on your body and your ability to lose weight.

On the other hand, exercise helps your body combat stress, and your body releases endorphins (the feel good hormone), when you exercise.  So make sure you get your workouts in, but make sure you’re allotting time for rest and recovery as well.

6.  Consistency – Cardio 3-5x/week, Resistance Training 2-3x/week.

consistency to achieve your fitness goalsYou didn’t gain the weight overnight, and you won’t lose it overnight.  Don’t give up!  You have to be patient.  Measure your progress each week by getting on the scale AND taking measurements, and if what you’re doing isn’t working, check to see if there’s something you can do to change it.

Have you been following your diet consistently?  Have you been exercising consistently?  You will get out of it what you put into it.  If you put 80% effort in you will get 80% results.

You might even want to illicit the expertise of a personal trainer to provide accountability or to see how you can tighten things up.  Above all else, don’t give up!

7.  Use a Food Log!

woman using food log

For at least the first 1-2 weeks, use a food log to track the number of calories you’re eating.  You will probably be surprised at how many calories you’re eating.  You can either write it down in a notebook, or use an app such as My Fitness Pal or Sparkpeople.  They’re both free.

You can also log your foods on the My Fitness Pal or Sparkpeople websites (myfitnesspal.com sparkpeople.com).  They make it pretty easy to keep track of what you’re eating.  The objective is to get an idea of what you typically eat over the course of 2 weeks.  Women should eat somewhere between 1200-1800 calories, and men should eat somewhere between 2000-3000 calories.

And the aforementioned apps above will tell you how many calories you should be eating based on your height, weight and age.  You need to know where you are, to know where you need to go.

You might also want to note how you’re feeling both before and after eating to identify any emotional triggers or any food related issues such as food allergies or intolerance.  If you love dairy products for instance, but you find through your food log they give you terrible gas, maybe you should look into alternatives.. I find that keeping track of what I’m eating helps me eat better overall.

The Bottom Line

So that’s my list of the 7 habits that will help you succeed in weight loss. It’s not too late to start working on getting in shape for 2014!  Don’t wait!  Get moving!  Make time and take time to take care of yourself!  Your body will thank you.

About Theresa Duncan

Originally from Detroit, MI, Theresa has been offering health and fitness advice for the last 30 years while working as an engineer. She decided to turn her passion into a profession, and finds nothing more satisfying than helping others reach their health and fitness goals.

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