How to Use Simple Habits to Lose Weight in a Sustainable Way?
There are countless diets out there promising you fast weight loss.
Which seems to be working the first couple of weeks.
But you’re left feeling hungry and unsatisfied.
As tempting as these quick diets are, it’s hard to stick to them.
Eventually, you regain weight, because unless you change your brain’s neural pathways through sustainable repetition, you’re going to revert to who you still are underneath.
Here’s a scientifically proven weight loss plan that uses the power of mini habits and aims to:
• Cause sustainable weight loss
• Improve your metabolism at the same time
Ready? Let’s begin, shall we?
Why Lose Weight?
Being overweight isn’t something to be ashamed of. It doesn’t lower your value and worth as a human being.
But excess weight can affect your health and your ability to do and enjoy certain activities. It can also affect your self-esteem
If you want to lose weight, don’t do it because you’re “supposed to be thinner” or have a certain body mass index (BMI). Do it for yourself. BMI is an incomplete measure of a person’s health. Some muscular and fit people are considered overweight according to their BMI.
If you want to lose weight, do it because you want to play with your kids without going out of breath. Do it because you want to live a long, healthy life. Do it because you want to look in the mirror and feel good about what you see.
Diet’s Two Definitions
There are two ways people use the word “diet.”
#1. Diet (n): the food and drink you regularly consume
#2. Diet (v): to eat less food or to eat only particular kinds of food in order to lose weight
Every single person has a diet (#1), but not everyone is dieting (#2).
Dieting Makes Us Fat?
This might find this shocking, but hear me out.
A study was conducted in 1986 to find the metabolic impact of yo-yo dieting, which is marked by repeated weight loss and regain. To stimulate this behavior, scientists restricted and expanded the calorie consumption of obese rats.
The results revealed that it took the rats 21 days to lose 131g the first time, and 46 days to lose the same weight during a second cycle. On the other hand, it took the rats 29 days to regain their pre-diet weight the first time and 10 days only to regain the same weight during the second cycle. (1)
By cycling weight loss and gain, the rats’ bodies became more than twice as resistant to weight loss and almost three times as prone to weight gain (by function of time).
This is a natural biological response of a starved or partially starved animal (or person). Your body becomes more conservative with the energy it takes in and stores as much fat as possible. This can save your life, if when you’re facing a period of famine.
But for those of us who are enjoying an abundance of food but restrict our intake to lose weight, that still send the message to our bodies to slow down its metabolism and not burn too many calories, because it doesn’t know when the next meal will come.
The Biggest Loser is an American TV show with millions of viewers. The premise: Which contestant can lose the most weight by show’s end?
A study followed 14 Biggest Loser contestants for six years after the show, and except for one, all of them regained weight after the show. Four even became heavier than they were before the show and nearly all of them suffered from abnormally low metabolism and lower metabolism than before the show. (2) Low metabolism makes it hard to lose weight, but effortless to gain weight.
Dieting might work in the short term, but it’s not a good choice in the long term.
But this isn’t the fault of diets (n), it’s the fault of dieting (v). Most of these diets will work if you stick to them, but we simply can’t just “do whatever it takes” to stick to them.
So if diet isn’t the answer, what is?
Small, consistent changes in the form of mini habits can be the solution for weight loss and maintaining your weight in the long term.
In fact, one small study revealed that, after three months, the group implementing small changes lost significantly more weight than the control group and the traditional dieting group. (3)
Consistency is the key for behavioral change. This internal change is even more important than fat loss.
Weight Loss Is Not about Carbs, Fat, or Calories
Food can be separated into three categories: whole foods, ultra-processed foods, and everything in-between.
Ultra-processed foods are the primary reason why we gain weight. Eating whole food, on the other hand, is the best way to lose weight.
Even though ultra-processed foods can be further broken down into crabs, fats, and calories, it’s not any one of those factors that make ultra-processed foods weight-gaining. It’s all of them to which are added inflammatory ingredients, poor satiety, and a lack of nutrition.
But because people are focusing on macronutrients, they end up choosing a fat-free yogurt that is loaded with sugar, just to avoid fat.
Consider this: fats and carbs have both been eaten as long as food has existed. But obesity didn’t skyrocket until these new kinds of ultra-processed carbs and fat were introduced.
1. Underrated Weight Loss Tools
- Water (It is zero calories, helps regulate your appetite, and improves your metabolism)
- All fruits
- (Almost) all vegetables
- Seeds, beans, and nuts
- Fish (not fried)
- All spices
- All herbs
- Fermented foods such as (full-fat) yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, komboucha, etc.
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
2. Weight Loss-Friendly in Moderation Food
Whole grains: such as brown rice, whole wheat pasta, oats, etc.
Minimally processed meat
3. Semi-Unhealthy Foods: Might Cause Weight Gain
Low-fat or no-fat dairy: because beneficial fats are taken out, it is less satiating than full-fat dairy, it’s also mostly associated with weight gain in studies.
Fruit smoothies: Even if you make it at home with real fruit, you’re missing out on the true fiber content of the fruit, as studies have found that blending the fruit changes how the fiber is digested which makes it closer to fruit juice, definite weight-gaining drink!
4. Super-Unhealthy Foods: Weight-Gaining
Ultra-processed foods: chips, crackers, cookies, pies, cakes, ice-cream, pancakes, waffles, white pasta, pizza, white bread, fruit juice, soda, lattes, and candy.
Anything fried, and most things cooked in vegetable oil such as soybean oil
Faux healthy foods (highly processed with added sugar): These include organic granola bars, organic dried fruit (it’s also missing important water content), flavored yogurt, organic cereal.
Most commonly available sauces and dressings: They are usually high in soybean oil, sugar, and/or salt.
Significantly processed meat: such as bologna and hot dogs.
Brain Change before Body Change
Your brain is a slow-changing machine, but that’s a good thing. Because if it could completely change overnight, you would be unstable.
Change should be gradual, almost unnoticeable. When you try to switch from your daily burger and fries to salad, your brain is going to fight the sudden change. It simply doesn’t fit the brain’s slow change process.
This is one of the major reasons why most change attempts fail. People are making big changes at once.
How to Think About Weight Loss
The following are general mindsets for weight loss that if you get them right, you’ll win:
1. Your Primary Goal Is Not Weight Loss: It’s Behavior Change
You shouldn’t focus on what the scale says or the size of your jeans. They’re not the primary thing you’re trying to change nor can they measure your success. Your primary goal should be changing your behavior.
If you want to lose weight, you need to change into the type of person who weighs less, and the results will follow.
In other words, it doesn’t matter how much weight you’ve lost as long as you see signs of behavioral change such as growing preference for eating salad and exercising.
2. You’re in Charge
Following the instructions of some diet guru, strips you of your sense of autonomy, this makes it more likely that you’ll rebel.
However, when you start implementing mini weight loss habits into your life, you’ll be designing your own plan. You’ll have options of different strategies that you can turn them into habits. You’ll be in charge.
3. Addition over Subtraction
One of the most difficult things about losing weight is the common belief that you need to give everything up and deprive yourself of your favorite junk food and treats. This can drain your willpower and make you give up.
When you use mini weight loss habits, your goal isn’t to eliminate everything healthy in your diet, but to add more healthy options to it. Instead of cutting back on all the junk food you eat, you simply have to eat more healthy food.
The more healthy food you eat, the more you get used to it and actually start craving it.
How to Use Simple, Mini Habits to Lose Weight?
A mini habit is a ridiculously small behavior you do every single day. It generally takes a minute or less to accomplish such as:
– One push up per day
– One squat per day
– Eating one serving of fresh vegetable per day
A mini habit might not look that effective on paper and you might think to yourself “I can do more than that!” which is true – most of the time.
You might be able to work out for 30 minutes every single day, but you can always do one push up every single day, even on the worst days. When you can always do something, you become unstoppable, and that’s enough to make lasting change.
That isn’t to say that you can’t do more than one push up. You can always repeat your mini habit, and there’s no amount too small or too large. “A low requirement and high ceiling is perfect for consistency plus unlimited upward potential.”
Mini Habits Strategies
#1. Make It Easy
Processed foods have the advantage of being, generally, more convenient than healthy food. A bag of chips can sit in your pantry for months and it’s ready for you to eat whenever you want. Cutting a piece of fruit, on the other hand, is comparably difficult.
A healthy meal can take two hours or more of cooking and cleaning. But there are many ways to make eating healthy easier.
Easy Meal Ideas
– Buy frozen vegetables. They won’t go bad for a very long time while still retaining all of the nutritional value of fresh produce. Master the stir-fry. Cook the frozen vegetables in a pan with coconut or olive oil, add some spices (pepper, ginger, turmeric, etc) and toss in a pre-cooked meat.
– Learn some slow cooker recipes so you can throw in all the ingredient and come back when it’s ready.
– For breakfast, invest in an egg boiler or cook eggs in a pan with olive oil.
– For dessert, frozen fruits can be ideal. It’s already cut and ready to eat. You can also combine it with whole plain yogurt.
#2. Instant, Permanent, Easy Substitutions
Switch to whole grain products. Refined grains are weight-gaining, whole grain, on the other hand, are quality food rich in antioxidants, fiber, and nutrients.
Switch to coconut oil and olive oil for cooking. Coconut oil and olive oil are better, not only for weight loss but also for your health.
Use olive oil, herbs, spices, and vinegar for dressings and dips. Avoid the standard “soybean oil and sugar” dressings sold in grocery stores. You can make great salad dressing using olive oil and balsamic vinegar. You can also add black pepper, herbs, cheese, and spices.
Use hummus and guacamole for as veggie dip! Healthy hummus and guacamole can be prepared found in stores (read the ingredients!).
#3. Eating Psychology
1. Use large forks and small plates.
The combination of small plates and large forks can psychologically help with portion control and make you consume less food according to many studies.
Even if you don’t have small plates or large forks, you can still benefit from this technique by simply being aware that plate and bowl size affects your portion choices, and adjust accordingly.
That isn’t to say that you need to eat less food. One study showed that not filling your plate with enough food will, might make you go back for seconds.
2. Eat to satisfaction, not to explosion.
In Japan, there’s a popular concept called “harahachibu,” which basically means “eat to 80% fullness.” It’s a solid guideline to know when to stop and not overeat.
By stopping at 80% fullness, you enjoy the whole eating experience better.
3. Eat at a Normal-Slow Rate
Studies suggest that if you want to lose weight, eating more slowly can help you eat less. It leads the mind to believe that you’ve eaten more, but it also gives extra time for the body to digest food.
Corby Martin and his colleagues at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center have found that the most effective speed rate for reducing appetite is a combination of normal-slow rate. (*)
This means that you need to start at your normal speed and then drop to a slower rate.
4. Avoid Eating While Being Distracted
People tend to eat more when they’re distracted.
Avoid eating while watching TV, reading a magazine or a book. Even eating while chatting with others, is found to increase your intake. (*)
5. Keep it Out of Sight
Placing food or drink out of sight or moving it away, or storing it in a place that is difficult to access, can reduce your consumption.
Instead, try placing fruits on the counter so you can snack on them.
6. Keep a Food Diary
Scribbling down what you eat in a food diary, or a journal or even post-it note has been found to help people lose twice as much weight as those who didn’t keep track of what they’re eating.
Becoming aware of what you’re eating on a daily basis can help you break your bad eating habits and consume less.
7. Put a Mirror on Your Kitchen Wall
While exercising in front of a mirror can do more harm than good, eating in front of a mirror, on the other hand, can be beneficial.
A study conducted by Stacey Sentyrz and Brad Bushman, at Iowa State University, suggests that eating in front of a mirror can help you lose a few pounds. (*)
This is explained by the fact that seeing your own reflection makes you more aware of your body.
#4. Healthy Drinking
Drinking water is one of the most underrated weight loss methods. It has zero calories and improves your metabolism.
A study, conducted by Brenda Davy, Ph.D, devided 48 adults aged 55-75 years, into two groups. Both groups consumed a low-calorie diet, but one group drank 2 cups of water prior to their meals and the other did not.
Over the course of 12 weeks, water drinkers lost about 15.5 pounds, while the non-water drinkers lost about 11 pounds. (4)
Another study found that drinking 500 ml of water (16.9 oz bottle) increases metabolic rate by 30% in 40 minutes. (5)
Green tea is rich in antioxidant, called catechin, which makes it an ultimate weight loss drink.
Studies show green tea specifically helps reduce visceral fat in the abdominal area which is the most harmful fat on the body. (6)
If you want to add a sweetener to your tea, choose honey, raw brown sugar or stevia.
#5. Food Mini Habits Ideas
1. Eat one extra serving of fruit.
One serving of fruit is one apple, one banana, or one large cup of berries. If this is going to be your mini habits, it’s important to always have fruit on hand. You can also buy frozen fruit so it’ll be ready to eat and won’t spoil.
Buy organic as the conventional (dirty dozen: strawberries, spinach, kale, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, potatoes, hot peppers) contain a high amount of pesticides. But if you buy conventional, rinse well.
Fruit Bonus: Eat additional fruit.
2. Eat one extra serving of vegetables.
One serving of vegetables is one full carrot, three pieces of broccoli, half a bell pepper, one fourth of a cucumber, one handful of spinach, etc. If you already consume vegetables on a daily basis, then this strategy aims to add one extra serving of vegetables.
If you want to dip your raw vegetables use hummus or guacamole.
Vegetable Bonus: Eat additional vegetables or make yourself a salad.
3. Make one mini healthy food upgrade.
Make upgrading your food options a habit. If you need a snack and you think to eat chips, upgrade and eat some unsalted raw nuts. If you’re at a restaurant, upgrade and swap your typical side dish of fries for a baked potato, or a salad. Ask the waiter for olive oil instead of the regular soybean oil.
Food Upgrade Bonus: Double or triple your upgrade.
4. Prepare one healthy meal at home.
If you already eat at home at least once a day, then add one extra meal. Breakfast can be very easy to make at home. Eggs are great for weight loss. They are rich in nutrients and make you feel full. If you’re going to cook them in a pan, use olive oil. Fruits and yogurt can be a good option too.
Healthy Meal Upgrade: make another meal, or make enough for healthy leftovers!
5. Drink one extra glass of water.
Water is a great weight loss tool. If you’re used to flavored beverages, you can make your transition easier by adding fruits and spices to your water. Lemon slices, mint, apples, mango, ginger, cucumber, strawberries, oranges, etc. they all can liven up your water and add antioxidants such as Vitamin C to it.
Water Bonus: Drink more. (make sure that your water intake doesn’t exceed three to four cups of water in an hour, because that’s what a normal kidney can excrete at a time)
#6. Fitness Mini Habits
Exercise might not help you lose weight immediately, but it can boost your metabolism, which means that, in the long term, even when you’re not exercising, you’ll still burn calories.
Exercise is proven to burn both visceral and subcutaneous fat. (7)
In other words, you’ll be trading fat for increased muscle. You’re going to look and feel better, which is the true goal, even though you’re not losing any weight.
But exercise shouldn’t be a sacrifice you make to lose weight, it should be something you enjoy doing. When you’re out of shape, it might not be much fun and feel uncomfortable to exercise, but once you start experiencing the benefits, you’ll get hooked. And the right way to start exercising is through mini habits. If you start with one push-up every day, you’ll change from resisting exercise to enjoying it and doing more than one push-up a day.
1. NEAT Activities
Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) activities are everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise. They include activities such as walking to work, typing, performing yard work, and even fidgeting.
A great way to increase your NEAT activities involves using your body rather than relying on machines and chairs. Instead of sitting, choose to stand. Use the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk or bike instead of driving.
2. HIIT Workouts
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts generally combine short bursts of high-intensity exercise with periods of rest or lower-intensity exercise.
Studies show that HIIT exercise is the best form of exercise for burning off fat, especially in the abdominal area. (8)
The results of HIIT aren’t just limited to time spent exercising. The studies show that you continue to burn calories even after you stop.
The internet has plenty of other ideas for HIIT workouts. Search for “HIIT workouts” or “interval training,” and start burning.
High-Intensity Training Considerations
High-intensity exercise requires recovery time. Be careful not to overdo high-intensity exercise. You might get injured and more is not necessarily better.
Consider the safety of high-intensity exercise. Talk to your doctor about high-intensity exercise, especially if you have any pre-existing health problems.
3. Fitness Mini Habits Ideas
Fitness mini habits are especially beneficial if you’ve never been able to exercise consistently. These habits take seconds, so no matter how busy or tired you are, you can still do them.
The following is a list of fitness mini habits:
- One push-up
- One pull-up
- One sit-up
- 10 jumping jacks
- Run on a treadmill for 30 seconds
- Run up and down a flight of stairs one time
- Complete 30 seconds of a workout video
Fitness Bonus: Do more of the same exercise or more of a different exercise.
4. Do Nothing
Several studies have been conducted to demonstrate the power of the placebo effect.
Such experiments included people who got drunk when given alcohol-free drinks, others who became more alert when given caffeine-free coffee, and even patients who reported reduced pain when they underwent a fake knee operation.
In another study conducted by Alia J. Crum and Ellen J. Langer, 84 female room attendants working in seven different hotels, were told that the work they do (cleaning hotel rooms) is good exercise and can help them lose weight and boost their mood.
4 weeks after the intervention, the informed room attendants showed a decrease in weight, blood pressure, body fat, waist-to-hip ratio, and body mass index, compared to other room attendants (4).
In short, becoming aware of the calories-burning activities that you engage in every day can help you lose weight and improve your mood.
|Home & Daily Life Activities||125-pound person||155-pound person||185-pound person|
|Standing in line||38||47||56|
|Child-care: bathing, feeding, etc.||105||130||155|
|Food Shopping: with cart||105||130||155|
|Playing w/kids: moderate effort||120||149||178|
|Heavy Cleaning: wash car, windows||135||167||200|
|Child games: hop-scotch, jacks, etc.||150||186||222|
|Playing w/kids: vigorous effort||150||186||222|
|Moving: household furniture||180||223||266|
|Moving: carrying boxes||210||260||311|
5. Use More Energy
The recipe for losing weight is to eat less and exercise more. You don’t have to spend hours at the gym, a 30-minute walk can be ideal.
You can also include more moving in your daily routine by using the stairs more often or parking farther.
6. Avoid Exercising In Front of Mirrors
Whether you’re exercising at home or at the gym, try to avoid floor-to-ceiling mirrors.
A study conducted by Kathleen Martin Ginis and her colleagues at McMaster University revealed that those who constantly saw themselves in the mirror while exercising ended up feeling significantly more exhausted than those who face a wall.
In fact, mirrors encourage people to focus on their less-than-perfect bodies. This can increase their self-consciousness and social comparisons.
#7. Hidden Weight Loss Factors
Food and being active are the primary factors associated with weight loss, but there are other factors that can directly or indirectly affect your weight by affecting the way you eat and move.
Even though these hidden factors might not seem important, they can still make a big difference, so keep them in mind.
A study found that the result of 5.5 hours of sleep compared to 8.5 hours of sleep slowed fat loss by 55%, and shifted hormones to increase hunger and decrease fat oxidation. (9)
In fact, when people sleep less, they become hungrier and more susceptible to overeating.
Stress causes the release of cortisol hormone in the body. This hormone causes the fat to be stored in the abdominal area.
This is why it’s important to keep your stress levels in check and always take some time for yourself to distress and relax. Meditation, massages, exercise, a walk in nature, and spending time with loved ones, are great ways to reduce stress in your life.
3. Gut Health
Studies have found differences in the gut bacteria of overweight people and those of their healthy weight counterparts. Fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, komboucha, etc. are proven to repopulate the stomach with beneficial bacteria.
Tracking Your Mini Habits
Tracking your progress is important. It lets you know how well you’re doing overtime and makes you more encouraged to keep on it.
The following are some strategies to help you keep track of your progress:
A Big Calendar
Keep a calendar in your room or on your desk and keep a list of your mini habits nearby. Check off on the calendar when you complete your mini habits. You can print one of the many free printable calendars you’ll find on the internet, or you can simply print out your Gmail calendar.
This a great way to keep track of your progress especially if you’re away from home often. Some apps can also remind you to do your mini habits at a chosen time.
We love hearing from you. Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below.
Like This Post? Please Consider Sharing It On Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!
Portions of this article were adapted from the book Mini Habits for Weight Loss, © 2016 by Stephen Guise. All rights reserved.