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Ten Impactful Healthy Habits to Lose Weight Sustainably

The most successful weight loss efforts overlap with healthy lifestyle habits, meaning you can lose weight and support your overall health.

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In a world that seeks instant gratification, weight loss efforts often trump the importance of health. But successful weight loss comes from adopting healthy habits across all aspects of life. A sustainable weight loss journey shouldn’t dramatically disrupt your life or feel like a punishment. Instead, small changes over time go a long way and help promote long-term weight management.

When trying to lose weight, your calorie balance is a priority. But well-balanced nutrition also considers your culture, social life, physical activity, mental health, and much more. By taking all of those factors into consideration, you not only work toward lasting weight loss, but you also promote a healthy lifestyle overall. 

Why Is It Hard to Lose Weight?

Losing weight can be challenging for several different reasons, the primary reason being that fad diets are not designed for your success. Fad diets tend to steal the spotlight in the weight loss world, but they don’t necessarily have your long-term health in mind. Healthy weight loss takes time and requires you to understand your individualized needs beyond what fad diets imply.

Without addressing your specific macro- and micronutrient needs, you’re left to guess and battle outside factors with willpower alone. However, willpower is not enough to override your biological needs. Your body will demand adequate nutrition and make metabolic adjustments if it doesn’t get it.

Your social environment can significantly affect your overall health and weight loss goals. If your workload or social life add stress and take priority over your health, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle to lose the weight you want. One recent study found that stress management can positively impact weight loss efforts, so don’t discount the value of your mental health.⁵

Ten Habits That Can Help You With Weight Loss

Implementing daily habits that support your weight loss efforts can set you up for success in the long term, without sacrificing your overall health. Below are some of the best habits to implement to lose weight and live a healthy life.

Start meal planning (and prepping)

Planning ahead is key to meeting your weight loss needs through well-balanced nutrition. By planning your meals and snacks ahead of time, you’re setting yourself up for success.

Opt for a high-protein breakfast 

Breakfast is known for being the most important meal of the day. We’ve all heard it before, and honestly, it deserves the hype. Breakfast is essential to weight loss efforts, and getting enough protein in your morning meal is key. A protein-rich breakfast has been shown to help with postprandial energy expenditure and satiety.¹

Eat slowly 

Many of us are constantly on the go, and eating is just something we squeeze in when we have time. Try to prioritize time to sit and eat slowly. When eating quickly, we tend to lose track of portion sizes and end up overeating.

Keep hydrated

Water is essential to many metabolic processes, such as digestion, regulating body temperature, improving nutrient absorption, and removing waste from the body. According to the National Academy of Medicine, the average adult needs between 9 and 13 cups of water per day.⁴ So, be sure to drink plenty of water.

Man-in-black-crew-neck-shirt-drinking-water

Don’t shop hungry

You’re likely to end up with some indulgent foods in your shopping cart when shopping on an empty stomach. Grab a healthy snack, drink a glass of water, and go to the store prepared with a shopping list in hand.

Exercise regularly 

We know that healthy eating habits go a long way when trying to lose weight, but regular exercise is also vital. According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, the average adult needs 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week.²

Practice mindfulness 

There are three different types of hunger; brain, mouth, and actual stomach hunger. We can feed each hunger, but it’s essential to be mindful of where our hunger is coming from. Here is one way to evaluate where your hunger is coming from:

  • Brain hunger is when we eat because we’re bored, stressed, sad, etc. It’s often tied to emotional eating.
  • Mouth hunger is when we eat to satisfy our cravings. For example, we might snack on potato chips when we want something salty or crunchy, or reach for a candy bar if we want something sweet.
  • Stomach hunger addresses actual hunger when our bodies tell us they need energy.

When we’re aware of why we’re eating, we’re more likely to make well-balanced choices.

Find healthy swaps 

While there are no “good” and “bad” foods, we can always opt for more nutrient-dense choices in our meals. For example, instead of white bread, choose whole-grain bread instead. Instead of soda, go for a glass of sparkling water.

Make food decisions yourself 

With social media at our fingertips, it’s easy to get a misconstrued idea of healthy eating patterns. Social media only shows us a small portion of someone’s life. Unfortunately, it’s unrealistic to design your weight loss journey based on the snippets you see on influencer platforms. Make food decisions with your health in mind rather than the latest trend floating around the internet.

Limit high-glycemic foods 

Knowing the glycemic index of a food can help you understand its sugar and carb content. Limiting high-glycemic index foods can help you manage your weight by avoiding blood sugar spikes.

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Unhealthy Habits You Should Try to Break 

Small daily habits can make a world of difference in a well-balanced diet, especially when trying to lose weight. Below are unhealthy habits everyone should avoid (or quit altogether).

Watching TV while you eat 

Eating while you watch your favorite show can be a trap for mindless eating. Our brains are focused more on the television than on how our bodies respond to what we’re eating. This might cause you to go for seconds when you really only need the first plate.

Focusing only on exercise 

Exercise is integral to our well-being, but our activity level can’t carry full responsibility for our health. When trying to lose weight, we often overestimate the number of calories we burn during our workouts, meaning we’re at risk for overeating at meal times. And more importantly, if we don’t consider our food choices, chances are, we’re not giving our bodies the tools they need to make the most of our sweat sessions.

Not eating enough 

So many of us have experienced the frustration of cutting calories and not losing the weight we want. That’s because our bodies are incredible machines and make metabolic adaptations to the calorie restrictions we put into place. When the body senses fewer calories coming in, it goes into protective mode and slows down its metabolism, which slows down weight loss.

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Skipping meals 

Skipping meals causes the body to slow its metabolism in an effort to burn fewer calories and conserve energy. Whether trying to lose body weight, manage a chronic disease, or improve your overall health, healthy eating includes every meal. And if you are in a pinch and can’t sit down to eat, a dietary supplement is better than nothing.

Sacrificing sleep

Research has proven that lack of sleep can affect the hunger hormones leptin and ghrelin. A recent study found that, when compared to subjects who slept eight hours per night, those who slept for five hours each night had higher ghrelin and lower leptin levels. With this ratio of hunger hormones, they experienced higher hunger rates and higher body mass indexes.³

Snacking carelessly 

Multitasking can be a great skill to have in this busy world, but it can lead to mindless eating if you’re not careful. Snacking carelessly often translates to eating extra calories and weight gain. Choose your snacks wisely and be present while you eat them.

Focusing too much on calories 

Calorie counting sounds good in theory, but it can actually work against weight loss efforts. Holding yourself to strict, unsustainable calorie goals can feel like a punishment, even leaving you with a feeling of failure if unaccomplished. If calories get too low, or you restrict certain foods and food groups, you are more likely to binge on them later. 

Using food as a stress outlet 

Stress is a common manipulator of hunger, and we often rely on food as a comfort in stressful situations. Finding other outlets to manage your stress, such as walking around the neighborhood, can help you stay on track with your nutrition goals.

Keeping Track of Your Health and Your Progress

Continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) can be a valuable tool in your weight loss journey. Tracking your glucose levels can help you embrace a healthy lifestyle and safely lose weight by giving you insights you need to make adjustments based on how your body responds to the foods you eat.

Everyone is different, and our nutrition needs are unique to ourselves. Learning what spikes your blood sugar can help you make small, sustainable changes with your overall health in mind. Check out the science behind Signos to learn more about how glucose levels play a role in weight management.

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References

  1. Jamie I Baum, Michelle Gray, Ashley Binns, Breakfasts Higher in Protein Increase Postprandial Energy Expenditure, Increase Fat Oxidation, and Reduce Hunger in Overweight Children from 8 to 12 Years of Age, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 145, Issue 10, October 2015, Pages 2229–2235, https://doi.org/10.3945/jn.115.214551
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, June 2). How much physical activity do adults need? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved November 5, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm#:~:text=Each%20week%20adults%20need%20150,Physical%20Activity%20Guidelines%20for%20Americans.&text=We%20know%20150%20minutes%20of,do%20it%20all%20at%20once.
  3. Mosavat, M., Mirsanjari, M., Arabiat, D., Smyth, A., & Whitehead, L. (2021, March 23). The role of sleep curtailment on leptin levels in obesity and diabetes mellitus. Obesity Facts. Retrieved November 5, 2022, from https://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/514095#
  4. Institute of Medicine. 2005. Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/10925.
  5. Xenaki, N., Bacopoulou, F., Kokkinos, A., Nicolaides, N. C., Chrousos, G. P., & Darviri, C. (2017). Impact of a stress management program on weight loss, mental health and lifestyle in adults with obesity: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of molecular biochemistry, 7(2), 78. https://doi.org/https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6296480/

About the Author

Chelsea Rae Bourgeois is a registered dietitian nutritionist with several years of experience working in the clinical setting. Once a track and field athlete on a competitive stage, she now finds joy in combining her passions as a health writer to help people embrace their wellness through nutrition and fitness.
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Please note: The Signos team is committed to sharing insightful and actionable health articles that are backed by scientific research, supported by expert reviews, and vetted by experienced health editors. The Signos blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. Read more about our editorial process and content philosophy here.

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