Many people seek to lose weight with only the short term in mind. However, maintaining weight loss is just as much of a challenge for people as the initial weight loss itself. In this article, we’ll outline the habits and behaviors that successful dieters adopt.
The Importance of Habits
Our habits and behaviors lead to long term weight loss success more than anything else.
This makes sense right? However, most dieters, coaches, and weight loss programs don’t put much emphasis on learning behaviors during the diet process. Rather they focus on whatever they are restricting at the time; sugar, processed foods, carbs, etc..
You can’t restrict food forever. In fact, a rigid control of eating behavior is negatively correlated to weight loss maintenance. Meaning, if we don’t ‘drop’ that rigid control over our diet at some point, we’re more likely to over eat and gain the weight back.
Below are 6 core habits and then an additional 8 habits that have multiple studies backing them. Research shows that people who adopt these behaviors are drastically more successful in initially losing weight as well as keeping it off.
- Consistent Meal Patterns. Maintaining a consistent meal structure (what & how much you eat in each meal) and frequency (how many times you eat per day) seems to be strongly correlated to long term weight loss success. This is most likely due to the fact that the structure limits how much cognitive resources we must use in order to eat. The more streamlined we can make eating – the better.
- Meal Frequency of 3-5 Meals / Day: This meal frequency seems to be most supported in the literature based on it’s ability to help manage hunger and energy throughout the day while providing your body with amino acids at regular intervals (more important for the maintenance of lean muscle). Eating at either extreme (>3 meals /day or <5 meals / day) does not show any benefit and can only compromise our ability to regulate our hunger and energy levels throughout the day
- Low Energy-Dense Food Choices: Low energy-dense foods—vegetables, fruits, and lean meats—all take up a lot of volume (space) while being relatively low in calories. This means we get more stomach distention (a trigger for satiety) with less energy intake. A.K.A we consume less calories while still being full.
- Moderate Protein Intake (1.6g/kg+ / Day). Protein is not only very satiating, but it also has the highest thermic effect of feeding (TEF). What that means is through digesting and assimilating protein we use more energy than any other nutrient. About 30% of the calories from protein are ‘burned’ just from digesting it. That equated to less net energy intake.
- Eat at home a majority of the time. There is a strong correlation between how often people eat out and how much they weigh. A 2018 study showed that for every 1-meal/week increase in fast-food and sit-down restaurant consumption there was an increase in BMI of 0.8.
- Eat Distraction Free: While the term ‘mindful eating’ may sound woo woo, research continues to show that distracted eating and eating quickly leads to more weight gain. This simply comes down to the fact that when we’re distracted we consume more. When we eat quickly, we don’t give our bodies satiety signals enough time to kick in and we fill up on food way past the point of being full.
8 more behaviors that have multiple studies to back them up:
- Exercise regularly
- Remind yourself of long-term goals, regularly, out loud, or written
- Don’t eat directly from the refrigerator or pantry
- Store tempting foods out of sight and out of reach
- When preparing a meal, don’t snack on ingredients
- Make it a habit to leave something on your plate when you stop eating
- Avoid watching TV, reading or driving a car when eating
- Decide on the amount of food you will eat, portion it out, and then it
Overall, if you do not engage in many of these behaviors then it is something to consider as you go throughout your diet process. The idea is to keep the end in mind. Sure, the initial weight loss is important – no doubt about it! But we must keep in mind that these behaviors are what lead to self regulation; the ability to maintain the body composition we want with very little energy. And THAT