Adopting healthy habits to support your long-term weight-loss success doesn’t have to be excruciatingly difficult. In fact, it shouldn’t be difficult at all. While watching portion sizes, eating healthy and staying active take effort and dedication, you also want to avoid pushing yourself too hard. If you overly restrict your calorie intake, your body fights back by slowing your metabolism and dialing up hunger hormones, explains Dr. Richa Mittal, a weight-loss specialist and founder of Radiant Health Weight Loss & Wellness based in Frisco, Texas.
Instead, take it slow: “It’s best if progress is slow and steady, as this will ensure you are losing fat and making changes that become your new normal, instead of just a short, painful period of time you leave behind to go back to your old routine,” says Randy Evans, RD. That means picking up some simple, low-commitment habits that you’re more likely to stick to.
JOIN AN ONLINE SUPPORT GROUP
Camaraderie (even online) is one of the top ways you can support long-term weight-loss habits, says Brenna Cliver, certified personal trainer and founder of Victoriam Performance. Case in point: A recent study in PLOS ONE found people who had access to an online support group lost more weight than those who were only given an informative pamphlet. To keep up your weight-loss efforts, find a support group you can tap into anytime, whether that’s a fitness-focused Facebook group, message boards on an app like MyFitnessPal or a private text stream with like-minded friends. “All it takes is a quick search and click to find a place where you can connect and ask questions, share your success with others and even serve as a mentor,” says Cliver.
STOCK UP ON GRAB-AND-GO SNACKS
Sure, you’ve taken on healthy eating habits at home, but when midday hunger pangs lead you to the vending machine for high-calorie, highly processed foods, healthy back-up snacks are in order. To support your weight loss, make sure snacks with filling fiber, lean protein and healthy fats are always within reach, advises Mittal. Keep non-perishable, emergency snacks in your office, car or bag, and fill your fridge and pantry with RD-approved on-the-go eats like single-serving packets of nuts, cheese sticks and dehydrated veggies like okra and chickpeas.
BOOST YOUR HYDRATION GAME
Staying hydrated is a must for weight loss — water keeps your energy up for exercise and helps you avoid confusing thirst for hunger. That being said, plain old H20 can get boring. Rather than reaching for sugar-packed beverages like soda and juice, give your water a boost with tasty alternatives like lemon water, flavored seltzer and tea, suggests Mittal. “With an infuser bottle, you can get creative and add natural flavor from mint leaves, cucumber, basil or even fresh fruit,” she adds.
MAKE HEALTHFULNESS A WEEKLY TREAT
Meal prep and healthy eating come with a learning curve, and it’s normal for it to take months for these habits to fully set in, notes Evans. To avoid healthy food burnout and add more fun to your weight-loss journey, make it a practice to try a new healthy restaurant or recipe each week or every other week, says Cliver. Mark the date on your calendar and use it as a reward system, knowing that at the end of a hard week, you get to spoil yourself in a healthy way.
USE MOVEMENT TO DE-STRESS
Stress can disrupt your weight-loss journey with a vicious cycle of poor sleep, off-kilter hunger hormones and stress eating, but exercise provides a natural, speedy solution. “If you’re under increased stress, remember to remain active to help restore hormone balance and counter its effects,” says Evans. Try a quick 20-minute de-stress workout at the gym and if you’re even more pressed for time, just go for a brisk 10-minute walk around the house, office or outside. The movement helps you ground yourself and gets feel-good endorphins pumping.