Struggling to stick with your weight loss plan? Here's how to build healthy habits that stick as well as my top 10 habits for losing fat and keeping it off for good
There are a lot of different ways to lose weight that can work...
Low-Carb can work...
Weight Watchers can work...
The Zone Diet can work...
Any diet that successfully puts you in a calorie deficit can work. The problem, though, is just because it can work doesn't mean it will work.
Sure, you might get 2-3 weeks worth of results, but if you can't adhere to the rules & strategies of a particular plan, you'll just end up stuck in a vicious cycle of yo-yo dieting...
Here's where Fat Loss Habits come in...
With robot-like adherence, anyone can follow any diet and likely lose weight...
But without making exercise and healthy eating a habit, they'll just end up going back to their old ways of eating and living. (which are what got them overweight in the first place!)
No one wants to put in hours of hard work dieting and exercising only to gain it all back again. The ultimate reward is to lose weight and keep it off for good, and the advice in this article is going to help you accomplish just that!
Once you build healthy fat loss habits into your life (especially the ones I recommend at the end), losing weight and staying lean will be easier that you ever thought possible.
In this article, you'll learn:
- What Fat Loss Habits Are (and why they're so important)
- How To Build Fat Loss Habits That Stick
- My Top 10 Fat Loss Habits You Need To Be Doing
What Are Fat Loss Habits?
You probably have a decent understanding of what a habit is, but just to make sure we are on the same page, here's my definition:
Habits are the small, often mindless, decisions you make and actions you perform every day. In fact, your entire life–both the good parts and the bad parts–is essentially the sum of your habits.
Therefore, fat loss habits are the routines and rituals you do on a daily/weekly basis that help you lose fat.
But it goes one layer deeper than that...
Fat loss habits are also what help you maintain your results in the long-term without being in a constant state of gaining weight and dieting.
Instead, all of your nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle habits are built in a way to promote health and leanness. Getting and staying lean isn't something you DID, it's something that you now DO.
How Can You Build Fat Loss Habits?
Building a fat loss habit–or any habit for that matter–is simple. What's difficult is creating a fat loss habit that sticks and stays around for life.
I won't waste your time by going too deep into the science behind habit formation. Instead, we're only going to focus on the actionable information you need so you can start building long-lasting fat loss habits right now.
(If you want to learn more about the science of habit, and why they're such an important aspect of our lives, I recommend you check out this article series by James Clear or the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg)
The 3 Essential Steps of Habit Formation
Building a habit is a pretty simple process, but it takes a lot of patience and consistency. If you want to build habits that stick and benefit you in the long run, you need to follow these three essential steps.
1. Start Small - The problem: the more effort a single habit requires, and the more resistance it causes, the less likely it is to stick. The solution: your new habit should be small enough that it doesn't require much effort or willpower. Example: if walking for 60 minutes a day is too much, start with 5-10 minutes and work your way up.
2. One Habit at a Time - The problem: trying to start more than one habit at a time is going to cause the same problem as above - it'll require too much effort and create too much resistance. The solution: Only take on ONE habit at a time, and don't start working on a second habit until performing the first one feels "automatic." Example: Once 5-10 minutes of walking is effortless, then you should start working towards increasing your time to 20-30 minutes, and so on...
3. Daily Habits Win - The problem: people set up a small, single habit to do, but fail to do it consistently. The solution: make your habit something you do daily. If not daily, make sure it's repeated the same number of times and on the same days during the week (i.e. three times a week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday). Example: set a rule that you'll walk every day or at the same times/days of the week.
My Top 10 Fat Loss Habits You Need To Be Doing
I've had to develop many fat loss habits throughout my weight loss journey. And while they are all useful, I decided to narrow them down to the ones that have had the greatest impact on my results...
The list that follows is my top 10 fat loss habits that have helped me lose weight and keep it off.
Because of their impact on my success, I now have my online coaching clients implement these same habits into their daily lives. What's interesting is that the clients who take these habits don't necessarily get better short-term results compared to others...
Instead, they consistently report having less stress and more enjoyment with their diet and workouts. They aren't just suffering through to get a result; they're actually enjoying their new healthier lifestyle.
That's the real magic of building fat loss habits. They make the process of eating healthy and working out enjoyable and sustainable for the rest of your life!
How to Implement These Fat Loss Habits
First off, don't make the mistake of trying to implement all 10 of these habits at once. If you try doing that, I can guarantee you won't be doing any of them after a few weeks...
Remember the 3 essential steps - You need to start small, follow one habit at a time, and make the repeat the habit daily or as close to daily as possible.
How quickly a habit becomes "automatic" will vary from person to person, but I recommend you work on a single habit from this list for at least 2-3 weeks before going to the next one. It may take you longer than that, and that's 100% okay.
Building a fat loss habit isn't about speed - it's about consistency.
Be patience and give each habit time to develop. They may just be what help you lose weight and stay lean for the rest of your life!
Fat Loss Habit #1 - Eat Similar Foods
Different people will prefer different variety in their diet.
But regardless of how much variety you prefer, the truth is that the less variety you create with your food choices, the less stress you're going to encounter in your daily/weekly meal prep.
Now, I don't recommend restricting yourself to a short list of foods, especially if you don't enjoy them. Instead, you should make a list of healthy foods that you enjoy and use them as the staples in your diet.
Here are some of my staple foods:
- Lean Ground Beef (92/8 or 96/4)
- Frozen Vegetables
- Uncle Ben's Ready Rice Bananas
- Blueberries (frozen),
- Onions and Peppers
- Whole Eggs & Egg Beaters
- Quick Oats (plain)
- Quest Bars
- Peanut Butter (this brand is golden)
- Stevia Sweetener
- Edy's 1/2 Ice Cream
- Sweet and Regular Potatoes
- Coconut Oil (for cooking)
I use these foods to make different dishes, and then swap the protein, carb, and fat sources depending on my preference. This isn't a comprehensive list of the foods I eat, but they make up 90-95% of the meals I'm preparing at home.
I also recommend having 2-4 different dishes for each meal that you can easily rotate. If you had the traditional breakfast, lunch, and dinner, then you'd have 6-12 different dishes to play with.
Another useful approach is to eat the same dishes for each meal and only change them when you want something new.
The Bottom Line: It's good to have variety in your diet, but don't think you have to eat 100 different foods every week. Stick to a small list of staple foods and use those staples to create a 2-4 dishes you can alternate in and out of your meal plan.
Habit #2 - Eat Veggies or Fruit With Most Meals
This serves two purposes...
- It ensures you're getting plenty of fruits and vegetables in your diet
- It increases the volume of your meals, which will help you stay satiated despite eating in a deficit.
Don't feel like you have to have a serving of fruit or vegetable every single meal, though. If you're eating ice cream, I wouldn't expect you to microwave a small bowl of broccoli to go with it...
Try to make this a habit for your meals 90% of the time, and you'll be getting plenty of healthy fruits and veggies in your diet.
Fat Loss Habit #3 - Focus on Protein
I've talked about the importance of protein while dieting before...
And while you don't have to gorge yourself with protein every day, it's still challenging at times to get an adequate amount - especially if you're constantly on the go.
That's why you need to focus on protein and make it a priority in your meal planning.
When you're going out to eat, choose a dish built around a protein source. I keep things simple and pick a meal that includes a piece of leaner meat, veggie, and a side dish:
Pro Tip: choose a protein source and a side dish that's lower in calories. For example, opt for grilled chicken over fried, top sirloin over ribeye, a baked potatoes over French fries, etc...
Finally, have plenty of snack-friendly protein sources ready for when you're in a pinch. Some of my favorites include beef jerky, Greek yogurt, Quest bars, tuna packets, and hard boiled eggs.
Fat Loss Habit #4 - Avoid Liquid Calories
Unless you're out with friends enjoying a few alcoholic drinks, I don't see the point in wasting calories on liquids.
All they do is add extra calories to your already restricted calorie budget while doing diddly-squat for your hunger...
Stick with zero-calorie water, black coffee, diet soda, zero-calorie water mixes, and sparkling water Reserve your calories for solid foods and your belly will thank you with fewer growls.
Fat Loss Habit #5 - Pay Attention to Portions
You shouldn't feel guilty for eating fun foods like ice cream and cookies. While they obviously aren't the healthiest options, they aren't going to make you gain weight either.
The truth is that cookies and ice cream don't make us fat. Rather, it's when we eat them in excessive quantities and consume too many calories that we gain unwanted weight.
Most of your foods should come from whole foods, but if you do have foods that are "unhealthy," just be sure that you're serving yourself appropriate portion sizes.
Maybe split that dessert with someone else at the table, or just have one Poptart instead of two.
Fat Loss Habit #6 - Never Miss Twice
The "Never Miss Twice" habit focuses on never having two "unhealthy" meals in a row.
If you have a cookie with your lunch (which is okay!), then make sure your next meal is 100% on point with veggies and lean protein.
As Uncle Ben from Spiderman said:
"With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility."
Fat Loss Habit #7 - Weigh Yourself Daily
I know, I know...daily weigh-ins suck.
They're even worse if you're someone who's weight bounces up and down like a row boat in a hurricane.
But there are benefits for weighing yourself daily.
Firstly, it keeps you accountable.
Secondly, it gives you data so that you can find your weigh-in weekly averages, which is a much more accurate way of analyzing your weekly weight changes compared to weighing just once a week.
Here's a video I made explaining how to find and use your weekly weigh-in averages:
- Weight yourself every day and write the number down. Remember, the number on the scale doesn't mean much day-to-day.
- At the end of the week, take all seven of your weekly measurements, add them up, and divide that number by 7. This will give you your average weigh-in.
- Repeat those two steps for at least 4 weeks and then start analyzing your weekly weigh-in averages rather than your daily or once-a-week weigh-ins.
Fat Loss Habit #8 - Strength Train 2-3 Times a Week
If you want to get the most "fat loss bang for your exercise buck," you need to be resistance training or strength training (aka lifting weights).
Not only does it burn calories, but it also helps you build muscle and lose more weight from fat.
I recommend 3 days a week, but if you need to start smaller, two days (or even just one day) a week will do.
Here's Why Lifting Weights Will Maximize Your Fat Loss
Fat Loss Habit #9 - Move Your Body Every Day
Oh, so you've already been exercising in the gym for 60 minutes a day, 3 days a week have you?
What are you doing the other 15 waking hours of the day?
For most people, the time outside of the gym is their problem. They're chronically sitting at work, sitting while commuting to and from work, and then sitting at home in the evening.
The reality is that most of us are much more sedentary than we believe, and it has a big impact on our metabolism and daily calorie burn...
So to combat this sedentary nature of our lives, start moving your body more throughout the day.
Personally, I've found that the best approach is to set aside 2-3 blocks of time throughout the day when you can walk 15-20 minutes. I usually choose the morning, before, and after my workout to get it done.
If that's too much, start by simply being more "activity minded" by taking the stairs, getting up and stretching every hour, parking in the farthest space, standing at your kid's ball game, etc.
If you use a fitness tracker such as a Fitbit, I shoot for 10-15k steps per day.
Fat Loss Habit #10 - Become a Planner
For many people, the biggest thing holding them back from losing weight and achieving their dream body is a lack of time.
Their schedule is packed with business meetings, family responsibilities, and errands that their health and exercise routine are put on hold until they have "more time"...
The truth, though, is that there will never be "more time." There will always be new priorities popping up and keeping you busy.
The solution is to stop waiting for the perfect time to start, and make your health and exercise a priority now, and the best way to do this is by planning your nutrition and exercise into your schedule.
Will it require sacrifice? Of course. But if we are being honest with ourselves, who doesn't have time to schedule out 30 minutes of walking a day, or 2-3, 45-minute workouts a week?
It simply comes down to prioritizing your health over other pleasures.
That might mean you have to delay watching the newest episode of House of Cards to get a workout in, or going to bed an hour early so that you can get a walk in before work.
Like all of these habits, start small. If all you can justify right now is a 10-minute brisk walk in the morning, do that.
If you take a look at all 10 of these habits, you'll notice one similar trait...
They all include activities that can build over time.
Struggling to eat fruits or veggies at every meal? Start small by adding one veggie and one fruit per day.
Struggling to make it without your morning latte? No problem - start by ordering a smaller size or choosing lower calorie ingredients like skim milk and stevia.
Pick one habit to develop, continue improving until it's "automatic," and then move on to another.
If you take this seriously, you could potentially have 10 new healthy habits formed within the next 4-6 months that help you not only lose weight, but also maintain a healthy body for the rest of your life.
Know someone who could benefit from reading this? If so, I'd love it if you'd please share it with them. 🙂