How to set yourself up for weight-loss success
Before you make a single change to your diet or exercise routine, steal these 6 strategies to help bring healthy goals and weight-loss success within reach.
What if we told you that losing weight has more to do with what’s in your head than what you put on your plate? It’s true! In a recent study, people who had the best weight-loss success had the highest levels of activity in the brain region linked with self-control. That part of the brain processes long-term information — such as the desire to be healthy — and balances it with the desire for a large order of fries.
So, if you’re looking to reach a healthier weight, start with your mindset — not with the latest fad diets. After all, those don’t have a great track record for long-term success. For example, another recent study showed that even when people lost weight on a fad diet, they regained half of it within 2 years. And in 5 years, they regained more than 80% of the weight they had lost.
Need help reframing your thinking? These 6 strategies can help you shift your mind into healthy weight-loss mode and boost your chances of lasting success.
Seek your inner motivation.
“The statement ‘I want to lose weight’ should be replaced with something like ‘I want to get healthy,’ or, ‘I want to be stronger mentally and physically,’” says Pamela Peeke, M.D. Dr. Peeke is a professor of medicine at the University of Maryland and co-author of The Hunger Fix. This shift will help stop you from obsessively focusing on the number on the scale.
To find your inner motivation, ask yourself: Why is losing weight important to me on a long-term and wellness level? “Connect it with what gives you meaning and purpose in life. For example, to keep up with your children and grandchildren,” says Dr. Peeke. “If you develop health problems from excess weight, you won’t be able to enjoy your time with them as you should.”
Find your support team.
Losing weight can be challenging when you go it alone. On the other hand, people who have strong support from family and friends are often more successful. The key is to find folks who will stay positive throughout your ups and downs.
“You don’t want the food police,” says Dr. Peeke. “You want to find people who are nonjudgmental, so that you don’t have to deal with finger wagging if you have a bad day.”
It may also help to have some professional support. This could be from a nutritionist, a fitness trainer, or a health coach. Many health plans offer expert-guided wellness and weight-loss programs as a benefit at no extra cost. They may also offer a digital health management app such as Wellframe. A digital health management app can connect you with a health coach through your insurance, making it a handy tool for both physical and emotional support.
A digital health management app such as Wellframe can make it easier to reach your healthy-weight goals. To find out if you have Wellframe, send a message to your human resources department.
Take stock of where you are.
Take a few days to jot down what you eat and drink, and your activity level. This gives you a baseline to start from. From there, look for unhealthy patterns. Then use them to set up specific goals for improvement.
For example, you might notice that you tend to snack late in the evening. “Set a goal that you’re only going to eat during a 10- to 12-hour period,” Dr. Peeke advises. This way, you can help cut down on extra nighttime calories.
Or maybe you realize that you’re sitting at a computer for most of the day. In that case, set a goal to get up and move for a few minutes every hour on the hour. These changes might seem small. But they help create habits that set you up for long-term success.
Make sleep a priority.
Improving your sleeping habits may be the most relaxing way ever to lose weight. One recent study looked at young, overweight adults who got less than 6.5 hours of sleep a night. They ate about 270 fewer calories per day once they started to get more z’s.
“Irregular sleep schedules can impact your appetite and hunger hormones,” Dr. Peeke says. Ideally, she suggests, you get into bed at around 10 p.m. or 10:30 p.m. The goal is to have enough energy in the morning so that you can exercise. You will also be less tempted to overeat if you’re well rested.
Feeling anxious or overwhelmed? That can block your weight-loss efforts. Research suggests that people who join stress management programs and learn relaxation techniques such as deep breathing lose significantly more weight than those who don’t. Once again, hormones are at play. Stress can raise levels of hormones such as cortisol. This in turn ramps up your appetite.
To keep stress in check, look for healthy strategies that help clear your head and reset your outlook. Tempted to flip on the TV or pour a second glass of wine? Try taking a walk or calling a good friend instead. This is also a good time to see if your health plan offers any stress management programs.
Set one small goal at a time.
It might seem to make sense to track every bite you take and every move you make. But micromanaging your habits all day, every day can make you feel overwhelmed, says Dr. Peeke. And that can put you on the path toward frustration and fatigue — and failure.
Instead, Dr. Peeke suggests focusing on one small step at a time that brings you closer to your weight loss goal. Once you’ve checked that small step off your list? Add a new one and keep going from there.
“Let’s say your goal is to eat clean,” says. Dr. Peeke. “Your next step is to make a healthy food list and set up a time to go to the grocery store.” Grocery shopping complete? Set your next clean-eating goal. Maybe it’s to cut up veggies so you have healthy snacks handy when hunger strikes. “Once you’ve started that process, other things like regular physical activity will naturally fall into place,” says Dr. Peeke.
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