Every year 1 in 2 people in Australia make losing weight and getting fitter their New Years resolution however within three weeks most people have given up on their resolutions.
If this sounds familiar there may be a few reasons why. For example starting a ‘diet’ to lose weight can be a way of setting yourself up to fail- because if the diet is overly restrictive and not sustainable, you won’t get results. It’s the main reason most dieters gain back the weigh they’ve lost and often a fair bit more.
Telling yourself ‘I should choose the salad’ when trying to lose weight doesn’t help either. Saying we ‘should’ be doing something subconsciously makes the implication that we’re supposed to be doing or achieving that thing, but that we’re not. That can make people feel like they have already failed before they have even started. Far from acting as a motivating factor, these feeling can often bring us down.
So what’s the secret to long lasting weight loss? Below are some proven strategies that can help make your weight loss and fitness goals a reality.
1. Reflect on the ‘why’
Behavioural scientists say that keeping the reason why you want to lose weight at front of mind motivates you to keep going until you reach your goal. Studies also reveal that losing weight to please yourself rather than someone else delivers better results, as does doing it for a reason like getting more energy or better health, rather than focusing on purely appearance. And remember- no ‘should-ing yourself. Instead reframe your weight-loss strategy into something you’d like to start working on.
This will put you in a more positive and helpful frame of mind, so that you are more likely to start taking steps towards achieving your goals.
2. Don’t focus too much on the end goal
You might have a number on the scale in mind, but according to a Portuguese study, making it your primary focus isn’t the best approach. Focusing on achieving a certain weight can be a subconscious ‘cue’ that you can quit weight loss friendly behaviours once you hit (or don’t hit) your target. A 2016 study also found most of us need more immediate rewards to stay motivated, rather than the out of reach carrot a number on a scale represents. A better approach is to focus on the weight-loss process instead by making a bunch of smaller changes that are rewarding- this is what delivers big results over time.
3. Make SMART-related changes that stick
The ‘small changes’ approach to losing weight is scientifically backed, and there are so many changes to choose from. These will be discussed later in the blog post. Once you’ve picked a few to work on, turn them into easy routines that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-related (SMART).
For example, if you choose ‘exercise more’, you might phrase this goal as: ‘I’m going to walk the dog after work three times a week this month’. It’s specific. You can also measure whether you achieve it. It’s very achievable and realistic- and by including ‘this month’, you’ve made it time related.
4. Turn changes into habits
When something is habitual, you’ll do it on autopilot instead of having to make a conscious effort. An effective way to it is by using the proven TAP technique- or Trigger, Action, Practise. So if your action is ‘I’m going to walk the dog after work three times a week this month’, choose a trigger to act as a prompt to do it. It might be hanging the lead at the front door or refilling the dog’s water bowl. Then, whenever you encounter that trigger, practise the action.
5. Don’t let a setback set you back
Gained weight instead of lost it? Or maybe you haven’t carried out those small changes as often as you’d like? Don’t panic- and most importantly don’t give up. Research shows you don’t need a 100 % hit rate when acting on your trigger to make a change stick, and that weight gain doesn’t have to derail your journey towards your weight-loss goal, either.
From Small Changes to Big Results
Here are 20 small changes you can make to help you towards achieving your goals:
1. Shop with a grocery list- Researches confirm it helps weight loss by making it easier to avoid unhealthy impulse food purchases.
2. Track what you eat- People who did so in a study published last year lost over 2 kgs in 3 months- without making a conscious effort to change their diet.
3. Eat 25g protein at breakfast- A CSIRO report has found that eating at least 75g protein a day helps deliver weight loss- and that consuming 1/3 of it at breakfast is key.
4. Snap your snack in half- 15 minutes after you’ve eaten it, you will feel just as satisfied as if you’d eaten the whole thing but will have consumed up to 400 fewer kilojoules.
5. Don’t eat on the go- It upsets your ‘food memory’ which means at the next meal or snack time you could eat much more food than you otherwise would.
6. Read food labels- People who read food labels to choose food products weigh 4 kilograms less than those who never worry about reading the nutrition information.
7. Eat a small handful of almonds daily- Eating a daily 40g serve of almonds has been linked to a reduction in stomach fat.
8. Drink 2 glasses of water before each meal- You’ll consumed about 370 fewer kilojoules, which can add up to losing 2.2 kgs in 12 weeks.
9. Pick and stick to an exercise time- Increasing physical activity at the same time as making a few food-related changes delivers better weight loss than either strategy on its own. A study found that people who exercise at roughly the same time each day also do the most activity.
10. Downsize your portions- It can shave up to 2200 kilojoules a day from your diet. Use plates no more than 25 cm wide.
11. Plan your meals- In a US study, people who bought lunch immediately after they’d eaten breakfast consumed 900 fewer kilojoules at midday than people who decided what to eat for lunch at lunch time. Think ahead!
12. Load your plate with prebiotics- The link between gut health and weight loss means it’s smart to feed your gut bacteria a prebiotic-rich diet, including garlic, leek, chickpeas, lentils, oats and pistachio nuts
13. Shop for your food online- This reduces how much food winds up in your home and how many high fat foods you’ll access.
14. Go for a brisk walk after lunch- Exercise affects the production of two gut hormones that suppress appetite, so you’ll find it easier to avoid that mid-afternoon snack.
15. Order first- Research proves we mimic the food choices of people we eat with, so order first to make your healthy choices stick.
16. Eat slowly, chew more- Taking smaller mouthfuls, chewing each bite 20 times and pausing between forkfuls leaves you feeling fuller, despite consuming 290 fewer kilojoules per meal.
17. Make sure you can hear yourself eat- When you can’t do this, you’ll eat 25% more food.
18. Divide your plate into 4- Fill two quarters of it with non-starchy vegies, one quarter with a wholegrain carbohydrate and the final quarter with a serve of healthy, lean protein. People who did this for 6 months were three times more likely to lose 5% of their body weight.
19. Avoid Artificial Sweeteners- The brain struggles to compute the big hit of sweetness that sweeteners deliver (minus any kilojoules) which then triggers a process that increases your appetite so you’ll eat even more.
20. Eat your breakfast 90 minutes later & dinner 90 minutes earlier- This was enough to double the amount of body fat that participants lost during a 10-week 2018 study.