I’ve talked many times about lifestyle change as critical to permanent weight loss. Patients who come to my weight loss clinic are discovering how to make the specific lifestyle changes that are key to permanent weight loss the natural way.
Let’s look at some of the specific things that work for them to keep weight off long-term.
Orienting to Outcomes, Rather Than Goals
Permanent change isn’t about aspiring to something “out there”… it’s about taking action with small steps in the direction of a measurable outcome. You know what you want, but more importantly you’ve made the decision to go after it, and you’re enacting that choice.
When health becomes your goal, rather than “losing weight”, it becomes easier to get and stay on track for weight loss as well. Once you discover and pay attention to how good you can feel on a healthy diet, it’s easier to make day by day choices that support keeping that feeling.
Shopping and Stocking Smarter
If you don’t buy unhealthy foods, you don”t have them around the house. Of course, as you make the lifestyle changes you’ll learn in our program and reading these articles, many things will leave your cupboard shelves permanently. You’ll choose to shop to eat clean. You’ll have more fresh food in the house, and less packaged and “convenience” foods. You’ll probably learn to use your freezer more, whether it’s just to make smoothie prep easier by batch-freezing ingredients, or because you’ve discovered the powers of your slow cooker.
Reading food labels becomes second nature, and the ones with long lists of chemical ingredients or high carbohydrates and low fiber get rejected. They no longer deserve shelf space in your health-oriented home.
Permanent weight loss is made much easier by developing the habit of drinking lots of water. Dropping the habit of drinking pop, sweetened juices, and other sweetened beverages is essential, as is limiting alcohol. If you can make green tea a habit, you’ll reap many health benefits beyond fat loss.
Increasing Fresh and Raw Portions
Increasing what you eat may seem counter-intuitive, but we’re talking about what you eat in specific categories here. The more fresh vegetables you can consume, the better. A wide variety is ideal. Fresh fruit, raw (unroasted) seeds and nuts, and even raw fish if you enjoy sushi. The less your food is processed and the fresher it is, the more healthy enzymes it will contain.
I’ve heard people say that salads are boring, but they’re thinking of a typical “green salad” with a few tired lettuce leaves, a couple of chunks of tomato, and a few slices of cucumber on a good day. When you learn to build a really healthy salad, you’ll find they can become a taste treat – and 15 different ingredients may just be a starter. I’ll write more about that soon.
This is about having healthy meal ingredients available, having stocked healthy snacks, packing your own lunches, keeping an emergency snack in the car or your office desk, and generally making sure you’re not caught having to eat fast food or dealing with unnecessary hunger cravings. You shouldn’t be hungry – and if you’re eating right, with sufficient fiber and slow carbs, your meals will digest slowly and your blood sugar shouldn’t be spiking. You can’t skip meals – it makes it much more difficult to sustain weight loss.
You’ll be eating more fresh, green, natural food, so plan on shopping every three to four days. A weekly trip just won’t do it when you need to keep fresh salad and smoothie makings on hand.
Find an activity that gets you out of your chair, that you enjoy. It could be walking, an organized sport, a martial art, Tai Chi, yoga, biking, rollerblading, bouncing on a trampoline, skipping rope, going to the gym… there are dozens of possibilities.
If you really haven’t hit on one yet that you can become attached to, try signing up for a different class each month. Often there are introductory deals – try online deal sites for your local area. Your body needs to move to be healthy.
Don’t worry about needing to do hard exercise – you don’t. If you are more active than you were previously, even if it’s a few 20 minute walks a week, you’re trending in the right direction. Family activities are great too, if that is appropriate.
Watch portion sizes. Never eat from a bag or large container – serve the amount you want to eat in a separate dish. Consider smaller plates or bowls. Pay attention to cravings. Notice and turn off the TV if the commercials are triggering eating, or find a way to watch your favorite shows commercial-free. Sustaining weight loss involves a lot of mindful attention to changing small habits that have a big impact over time.
Have a small salad, some fresh veggies or fruit, or a small portion of homemade soup before your meal. If you can do that about 15 minutes before, you’ll find you naturally eat much less of the main course. Enjoy your food, chewing slowly and savoring it. Wait twenty minutes before “seconds” to give your stomach time to signal your brain that you’ve really had enough.
Don’t clear your plate if you’re not hungry. You can always put it away to eat later. Sustaining weight loss can mean reprogramming some bad food habits you were taught as a child. You can do it – you’re in charge now.
Don’t Take Yourself Out
If you have emotional eating or self-sabotage issues, get the help you need. If there are people in your life that sabotage your weight loss, set appropriate boundaries. If the self-sabotage is coming from you, find help so that long-term patterns don’t reoccur and you can achieve permanent weight loss. If your lifestyle is truly healthy and you still can’t reach or maintain a healthy weight, there’s a medical issue. It may be an allergy to dairy or gluten, a side effect of a prescription medication, or a thyroid or other hormonal issue. Get the help you need to live a healthy, long life, where your weight loss is permanent.