I’m going to let you in on a little secret: All diets work! It doesn’t matter which one you choose. If you follow the rules, and cut back on what you eat, you’ll almost certainly lose weight. The problem is, most trendy diets are too extreme, so the results don’t last. The truth is that weight loss isn’t a short-term effort—it’s a lifelong journey toward better health and self discovery. Sure, it’s hard to hear you need to do something forever. Forever is a long time. But if you want to keep the weight off, it’s essential to develop healthy habits that go beyond 30 days, and help you live a healthy, enjoyable life (with room for the occasional treat!).
Are you ready to lose weight, and keep it off for a really long time? Then get inspiration from the people who have! The National Weight Control Registry monitors “successful losers,” people who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for an average of 5.5 years. Here are six of their most common habits.
Habit 1: Sweat every day
The study finds that successful losers engage in high levels of physical activity, for approximately 1 hour a day. So find something you love doing, that gets your body moving and your heart pumping, and make it part of your daily routine.
Habit 2: Keep your calories down
You know you need to cut calories to lose weight, but if you want to successfully keep the weight off, you can’t go back to eating like you did before. Now that you’ve slimmed down, recalculate how many calories you really need, and keep tracking for a few weeks, to get used to your new normal.
Habit 3: Go easy on fat and oils
Keeping pepperoni pizza, french fries, and bacon burgers on the daily menu will not help you stay slim. High-fat foods pack lots of calories, so skip the deep-fried, cheese-smothered options, and choose to get your healthy fats from avocados, extra-virgin olive oil, and nuts instead. And remember: You only need about 5 teaspoons of fat a day, so be light handed—even with the good kind of fat.
Habit 4: Eat a healthy breakfast
Eating early maximizes the benefits by working with your body’s natural circadian rhythm, but it can’t be just any breakfast. Shift when you eat, and dine like a king with protein and fiber, like a couple of boiled eggs and a few slices of avocado on 100 percent whole-grain toast. Then lighten up dinner, making it more of a snack.
Habit 5: Weigh in at least once a week
Regularly hopping on the scale helps you notice small weight gains before they become big ones. Keep your weigh-ins consistent, by picking a day and time, ideally first thing in the morning, before breakfast but after visiting the restroom.
Habit 6: Eat well on weekdays and weekends
Maintaining a consistent eating pattern is key. It’s amazing how many calories can be consumed in just a couple of days of relaxed eating. Avoid the weekend binge, and indulge in one cheat meal a week, not an entire cheat day (or days!).
If you’re still struggling to maintain weight loss, the next step is to get personalized advice. Nothing really beats nutrition and exercise wisdom that’s specific to you and your lifestyle. Seek help from a registered dietitian who can take a closer look at your eating habits and work out an individualized action plan tailored to your needs. That way, you can identify what’s holding you back, and start making healthy habits stick.
Above all, remember: Weight maintenance is a slow and steady marathon, not a speedy sprint. If you can stop the extreme yo-yo dieting, and embrace a healthy lifestyle, then forever won’t feel so bad.
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.