Building good habits is an essential part of reaching your health and fitness goals.
In my experience as a Personal Trainer, building long-term habits is arguably the main factor that distinguishes people who reach their long-term fitness goals and those that don’t.
Strong habits are essential because they reduce reliance on willpower and discipline and therefore boost your consistency and adherence.
Personally, I have been following all of the below habits on a daily basis for a long time. Because of this, they are almost second nature and I do them on autopilot almost like brushing my teeth.
This makes it significantly easier to take the actions that I need to take on a daily basis to reach my fitness goals.
When you first start implementing new habits, it’s not always easy in the first few weeks. Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of vegetables and at the beginning this was a habit that was tough to implement.
The key is to stick with it knowing that it’ll become easier over time. Now, I eat vegetables everyday out of habit and I actually enjoy how they taste! That’s definitely something I would have never imagined at the beginning!
Most of the habits discussed below are based around your nutrition and diet; That’s because what you eat is by far the most important factor when it comes to losing weight.
That being said, other variables like exercise and sleep still are important, so it’s important to not neglect these areas of your lifestyle as well. These variables are discussed below as well.
1. Eat more protein
In terms of managing hunger, protein is the most filling and satiating macronutrient. It can also help to reduce cravings.
A high protein diet helps your muscles recover after your workouts. It helps with muscle-building, and if you are dieting, it will help you to avoid muscle loss when losing weight.
Protein also has the highest thermic effect of any macronutrient, meaning that it burns the most calories simply by just being digested.
Consuming roughly 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass will optimise these benefits.
Examples of high-protein foods include:
- Red meat
- Low fat greek yoghourt, milk, and cheese
- Protein powder
2. Drink more water
Water is a natural appetite suppressant.
When your stomach is full, messages get sent to your brain to stop eating. Drinking water takes up space in your stomach and can help to create this fullness along with the meals that you are eating.
Also, if you’re not drinking enough water, then it’s very easy to mistake thirst for hunger.
I like to flavour my food with plenty of seasoning, which is high in sodium and increases thirst. Back when I was a beginner and before I knew any better, this meant that I was eating more food when I wasn’t even hungry, I was just thirsty! Needless to say that this greatly stunted my weight loss results until I copped on.
3. Eat more fruit and vegetables:
Fruit and vegetables are right up there with the most filling foods that you can eat for the number of calories that they contain.
Because they have a high water percentage, they are very low in calories for the large volume that they offer.
Going back to the personal story discussed above, I used to really dislike eating vegetables. But through repetition and sticking with it, I now eat them every day without a bother. Even if you don’t like the taste of certain foods at the start, your body and taste buds will get used to them over time by a process called habituation.
4. Eat until satisfied, not stuffed
Once you feel satisfied and no longer hungry, that’s when it’s best to stop eating for weight loss. Eating until stuffed rather than satisfied will likely mean consuming a few hundred calories more per meal and this can be the difference between being in a calorie deficit and losing weight and not.
5. Live an active lifestyle
Are you doing some form of intentional exercise most days?
If you’re looking to lose weight, there’s only so low that you can drop your calories, especially as you get deep into a diet. When this happens, using other tools, like exercise, to increase the number of calories that you are burning each day becomes very important.
Living an active lifestyle does not need to involve getting hot, sweaty and breathless. It can simply involve walking more. Even if you have 5 or 10 minutes while you are waiting for the washing to finish, go and get some extra steps in!
Lifting weights is also another great option; When dieting, your body is at an increased risk of muscle loss and lifting weights helps to avoid this. Not only that, but lifting weights can also help you add more muscle to your frame and tone up. This will increase the number of calories that your body burns every day even when you are asleep because muscle tissue is very metabolically active.
6. Eat more home-cooked meals
On average, home-cooked meals contain significantly less calories than takeaways or meals that you buy when out and about.
When you prepare your own food, you have control over what goes into your meals. Meals that you don’t prepare yourself often have extra sugar and fats added, which can greatly increase the calorie count.
In this study , it was observed that people who prepare more of their own food, tend to eat healthier and eat less calories.
Personally speaking, I eat out with friends and family in moderation. It can be fun and food is a key part of many social occasions and that’s okay! That being said, I recommend home cooking your meals for the most part. You’ve a lot more control over what goes into it and there won’t be as many high calorie additives in it like oils and butters.
7. Get plenty of sleep
7 – 9 hours of sleep is very important for weight loss.
Not sleeping enough makes you hungrier and increases your cravings for high calorie foods; This is your body’s way of trying to compensate for a lack of sleep.
Not getting enough sleep will also increase tiredness and this can mean that you move less the next day because your body wants to conserve energy.
Lack of sleep doesn’t make weight loss impossible, but it definitely makes it harder.
Finally, getting plenty of sleep improves the quality of your weight loss.(more from fat and less from muscle tissue). The science shows this and it’s something that I’ve definitely noticed with my own results having been someone who used to skimp on my sleep in the past.
Tracking helps to ensure accountability and it removes the guesswork.
The first thing that you’ll need to track is your food intake. Otherwise, how else are you going to know if you’re in a calorie deficit or not?
There’s so many different ways to track calories, and different methods work best for different people. Find a method that works for you and suits your preferences.
The second thing that you will need to track is your actual results and whether you are moving towards your goals. Tracking your food is an important daily process, but at the end of the day it’s a means to an end and it’s results that we care about. The most common ways track body changes are:
1. Using the weighing scale
2. Using the mirror and take progress pictures:
3. Keep a track of how your clothes fit:
4. Take tape measurements:
Whatever method you choose, stick with it. Using the scale one week, taking progress pictures the next week and then taking tape measurements the week after that will make it very difficult to track progress. But if you use the scale each week, then it will be a lot easier to see what’s going on.
9. Eat mindfully and undistracted as much as possible
When you are eating, be present and focus on the physical act of eating as much as possible.
This means switching off the TV as much as possible and not munching down food while thinking about the stressful day at work that you just had.
Focusing on other things while eating distracts you and it can lead to you eating more food than you needed.
10. Have the same energy on the weekend
A habit that I often have to try to get clients that come to me out of is having a completely different energy on the weekend. It’s like they are living two different lives. During the week, they are regimented with their nutrition, exercise and sleep. But on the weekend, they eat a lot more, exercise less and skimp on their sleep.
Taking some downtime at the weekend is important in terms of maintaining balance and allowing your body to recharge. Slightly easing off the gas is fine, but your life shouldn’t look completely different. If it does, then this might be a sign that you need to dial things down slightly during the week, so that you don’t need to “escape” at the weekend.
Losing weight and maintaining a leaner physique doesn’t need to involve drastic changes; There are so many simple but effective behavioural and habit shifts that the average person can make that can dramatically improve their results.
In summary, you’ll get better results by making these lifestyle changes than you will from going on an unsustainable weight loss plan that involves turning your current life upside down and not being able to stick to it for more than two weeks.