The most sought after health goal in the United States is weight loss.
And it isn’t just because we are tired of not looking like supermodels (though that would be nice) – it is because obesity is literally killing us.
According to the National Institutes of health, being a cause of around 300,000 deaths a year, obesity is the second leading cause of death in the United States, just behind tobacco use.
So, yeah – our desire to lose weight is partially to help us look better and should be partially because not losing weight is killing the shit out of us.
Whatever it is driving us to lose weight, we have to make sure to hold onto that, focus on it, and run with it. It is our “why” for our weight loss journey and could literally save our lives.
We have to hold onto it for a while too. Possibly even for the rest of our lives.
Look, it IS possible to manipulate our bodies to make quick changes that make us appear somewhat thinner and fitter if we need to make a change quickly for a pool trip, photo shoot, class reunion, or whatever; however, these tricks are not going to create meaningful long term change.
In order to produce meaningful long term changes in our health and design the body’s we desire and dream about, we have to stop participating in quick fixes and develop easy weight loss habits that are sustainable for a long period of time.
This list of habits for weight loss can be implemented to help make those meaningful long term changes, that can help us look better and possibly even save our lives.
Don’t try to implement them all at once, pick a few and get started. Once they become easier, come back and pick more.
These habits won’t change our health situations overnight, but let’s be honest – has anything?
Through continuous improvement and adding new habits we create a domino effect that will result in huge and lasting progress.
Since we aren’t getting any skinnier sitting around reading this, let’s get on with it.
1. Drink Two Gallons of Water a Day
We usually hear that we should drink around a gallon a day, but in the words of Mathew McConaughey playing Mark Hanna in The Wolf of Wall Street, “you gotta pump those numbers up – those are rookie numbers.”
We all know we should be drinking water, but frequently we aren’t doing it and drinking this much water has multiple advantages.
It can give our metabolism a kickstart, keeps our bodies flushed to improve performance, actually helps decrease bloating, gives us a full feeling and suppresses appetite, and it can motivate us to take other healthy actions.
Do not underestimate the power water has, it is the universes freakin’ miracle drug.
Since this is a habit we know we should have anyways but frequently don’t stick to, we should make it easy. Getting a large water bottle and always keeping it with us can help.
Eventually, we will start sipping on it when we are thirsty, hungry, or even just bored and it will become automatic.
Little effort, little focus, huge gain.
2. Cut out the Coffee Creamer
Ouch. Don’t skip this one yet, I didn’t like it either at first.
I used to drink a lot of coffee. And frankly, I still do.
However, when I was consuming coffee creamer with it, my coffee alone was contributing 900 calories daily. That is an insane amount.
We can’t just look at the back of the creamer bottle and assume we have a serving or two either.
Grab a tablespoon and measure out how many you put in there before it tastes the way you like it. Two tablespoons do not go far.
There is no awesome way to do this. When starting, I found a zero calorie “creamer” option with branched chain amino acids that kind of tasted like shit compared to real creamer, but helped make the transition to straight black coffee, which I now love.
And, if we can make that transition, black coffee becomes an awesome weight loss tool.
3. Stop Drinking Calories
Like with the coffee creamer, this will be harder on some of us than it is on others.
Drinking calories is frequently also related to something bigger than just choosing to have a soda.
When we focus on good habits for weight loss, we also have to target bad habits that contribute to weight gain, and this might be one of them.
Ordering a soda with lunch everyday, drinking a glass of sweet tea when we get home from work, making a pitcher of lemonade before going outside in the summer, or even drinking gatorade everytime we workout are all habits that could be contributing to weight gain.
We should save calories for things that actually provide value to our nutrition and health, rather than something that just gives us a quick temporary spike of energy and happiness.
To do this, to break any bad habits, we have to get super focused on why and we have to decide what good habits we are going to replace them with.
Then we can ask ourselves everytime we go to grab that soda, is this temporary relief worth the pain I have felt for all of these years?
Carrying our water bottle with us everywhere we go allows us to have water already with us every time we get thirsty, making it easier to drink water than it is to drink our calories. This is a good habit that can replace the bad habit of drinking our calories.
4. Strength Training for Weight Loss
Strength training is an awesome way to boost weight loss, or at least fat loss, and recompose our bodies.
Benefits of strength training that contribute to weight loss include calories burnt while exercising, calories burnt while recovering, calories burnt while resting due to larger muscles consuming more calories in a rested state, and motivation created from chasing and reaching new goals.
Like any other physical activity, a certain amount of calories are burnt while actually performing the workout. However, the magic of strength training for weight loss actually lies in what happens after the workout is done.
First, our bodies will require energy and nutrients to rebuild the muscles that we have broken down to make them bigger and stronger and our metabolic rate stays higher.
This allows calories to continue to burn for several hours following the workout. Much longer than the calories burnt after a cardio workout.
Further, once the muscles become bigger and stronger, more calories are required to maintain them.
That’s right. Simply by having more muscle, more calories will burn while sitting on the couch watching television.
Also, chasing new personal records in lifts like the bench press, deadlift, and squat can keep us motivated to keep getting stronger and better.
5. Intermittent Fasting
The science on this is debated. Just an upfront warning.
Since I am not a scientist, I will not be trying to create an argument for or against the science of it, but I will explain a way that definitely can allow it to work.
If we like it.
That’s it. If we find that we like intermittent fasting and we can stick to it, it can be an awesome tool for weight loss, because it gives us less time to snack and less time to have to focus on calorie consumption.
Whether or not the science on it is correct, many of us skip breakfast anyways.
So, just by extending the time spent not eating a couple hours after skipping breakfast and choosing not to eat following a certain time at night, we only have to focus on how many calories we are eating during a short window.
If we find this approach to be easy and enjoyable, it makes it super effective whether all the other theories around it hold true or not.
6. Exercise after each meal
Why? Because it is easy.
These exercises will not be our main workouts of the day, they will simply be little ways to burn a little bit of calories while boosting our energy and moods.
It can be small exercises like 20 air squats, push ups to failure, some time on a recumbent bike, or whatever you can think of.
This will work because it will become a habit that keeps us active throughout the day, especially if we spend a lot of time inactive or at a desk.
Since eating is already a habit we have, probably around specific times everyday, we will only have to stack the new habit of exercising on it, making it super easy to do, especially if we keep it short.
A short bit of exercise after each meal also helps the body utilize the nutrients and calories we have just consumed, preventing them from being stored as fat.
7. Track workouts
If we don’t pay attention to our habits, if we don’t know what we are doing everyday, if we don’t know where we are going right and where we are going wrong, if we don’t know what is working and what isn’t, then we can’t know how to improve
Really, we should track everything.
However, if we are used to not tracking anything, tracking everything seems intimidating and will be avoided, so start with tracking something.
By tracking our workouts we can see how we are improving daily and it will give us motivation to continue to work out daily.
If we currently squat 50lbs for ten reps, think about how badass it will be to write down 100lbs for ten reps, then 150lbs for ten reps.
That improvement will allow us to really see ourselves getting stronger and healthier.
For those who are more into cardio the same thing will apply when we run a mile, then ten miles, then run our first marathon, then run a marathon under 5 hours.
This simple habit can make you hungry for more. Don’t underestimate the power of writing shit down.
Once we build the habit of tracking workouts we have created a commitment to ourselves to workout and write it down everyday.
Breaking that commitment will make us feel guilty, giving us even more motivation to workout everyday so we don’t break the chain.
8. Count Calories
Seriously, don’t even set a calorie goal, just count them.
This is an approach that has worked for many people, so it is at least worth a shot.
This falls in line with the idea of tracking what we do. Simply by tracking our actions we can make massive changes because it motivates us and allows us to see where we are and what direction we are headed.
If we are tracking our actions, like counting our calories, we will begin to make adjustments without even noticing it. Do you really want to write down you ate 1500 calories at McDonald’s for lunch today? When the goal is weight loss, I doubt it.
Counting our calories forces us to see what is causing our bad weight gain by making us aware of how many calories are actually in different things we consume.
When we do begin to set calorie goals and macronutrient goals, we will have an idea of where to start and what foods we can eat.
This makes the process of improving much easier. Counting calories can be a big step in the beginning of a long term journey.
9. Focus on fitness goals
Every Damn Day. Write them down, think about them, and picture how it will feel to get closer to them.
Why do we want to get healthy? How healthy do we want to get? What physical feat have we dreamed of that we haven’t met?
If we give ourselves a few minutes every morning to write down our goals, fitness related and otherwise, and really dig deep and get straight with ourselves about where we are and where we want to be, we can completely change our lives.
We get caught up in what we want to do someday, or even worse, how we don’t want to be. So caught up, that we can’t get laser focused on where we are going.
Remember, losing weight won’t only change our appearance and energy, it could literally save our life.
So, our goals can’t just be to look good, they need to be bigger than that.
We have to want to be healthy so we are alive to see our children succeed or so we can chase our other dreams we have been putting off.
If we make our goals things that we HAVE to achieve rather than WANT to achieve and get laser focused, we do not have the option to quit.
10. Create a routine
A solid routine, especially in the morning and the evening, can help us create more time for exercising and focusing on our goals.
We should be picking what time we go to bed and wake up. We love to use the excuse that we “don’t have the time” to get healthy.
Yet, we have the time to sleep in because we stayed up 3 extra hours on social media or binge watching a television show the night before.
What is more important?
We need to set a morning and evening routine and include what time we will sleep, get ready, exercise, eat, and focus on our goals. Otherwise, instead of controlling the day, the day will control us.
By not having a routine, we risk giving control of our lives to someone or something else, and as we already know from failed attempts in the past, it only takes one or two times of being thrown off to break a good habit.
We have to make the time to achieve our goals.
11. Stop buying Junk food
Temptation is a killer and willpower is not the best way to deal with it.
We only have so much willpower and we have to save it for when it is most important.
When we go to the kitchen and have to choose between chips and vegetables, soda and water, or pizza rolls and chicken breasts, we have to use willpower. Eventually we will run out.
By not putting junk food in our cabinets to begin with, we set ourselves up for success, because we don’t give ourselves any other option.
We have to stop giving ourselves the option to fail.
For those of us with families this can be really tough, but we have to ask ourselves, do we want our children to face the same problems we do? Why would we not want them to get healthy also?
Of course, we can’t fully expect our children or significant others to have the same goals we have, so sometimes we have to dig for other options.
When that is the case, we still need to make it easier to be healthy.
We can do this by prepping our meals, putting our food in a separate cabinet, or keeping our food separate in the fridge and being intentional on what we are going to grab before we even open it.
Not buying junk food is going to be the best option, but if for the sake of not pissing our families off that is not an option, we still need to make it as easy as possible.
We have to stop exposing ourselves to the things that are bad for us, starting now.
12. Pack Lunch the Night Before
Some of us just hate taking the time to pack our lunch in the morning.
It’s easier to just bypass that and hit the drive through for lunch.
We even start justifying it by telling ourselves things like “I’m working today, I deserve it”, “it’s just one meal, no big deal”, or “I probably burned these calories while working today anyways.”
This is our old way of thinking. This will not get us to our goals.
By packing our lunch the night before we can be sure we have a healthy lunch and it all of sudden becomes easier in the morning to just grab that meal than it is to leave work during lunch break and go to the drive through.
This also gives us more time in the morning to exercise, meditate, or really get focused on our goals and what it will take to achieve them.
This also comes with a financial benefit. A healthy packed meal will usually be a cheaper meal.
There is no good reason for us not to take five minutes to pack our lunch the night before.
13. Plan out meals
Whether we meal prep or just give ourselves a plan of what we will eat throughout the week, we are setting ourselves up for success.
Just like setting up our morning routines, if we don’t have some kind of plan for what we will eat, something will get in our way and knock us off track and set us back on our goals.
For some of us, the easiest way to go about this will be to eat the same things over and over again.
By eating the same meals over and over again we are able to create a habit and turn eating into an automatic act, eating only for function rather than enjoyment.
For others, this idea completely sucks and will never work out.
Some of us get burnt out and want a variety of different meals. That is okay too.
Look up some recipes, get some good ideas, and try some new meals.
We just have to make sure we are doing it ahead of time and have the ingredients for the week ahead, so it doesn’t become easier to eat junk.
Don’t try to do it all at once. That kind of action is what has caused us to give up in the past.
We will see greater achievements in our health and weight loss if we pick the one or two actions that are the most important right now, get laser focused, and turn them into habits.
After that, we can pick the next most important habit.
The important thing is that we just get started and get a little bit better everyday. The weight loss will come along with that.