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Behavior Changes That Can Help You Lose Weight

Changing behaviors is a key ingredient in shedding the pounds — and keeping them off.

woman holding a bag of groceries in the kitchen

Many people who try to lose weight know they should exercise and watch what they eat. But making these changes is not always easy. Experts say you’re more likely to be successful if you make small, realistic changes that fit your lifestyle.

For example, if you’re a night owl, don’t try and get to the gym by 6 a.m. Choose lifestyle changes that make sense for you and the way you live. Write down your long-term (six to 12 months) and short-term goals. Track your gains and update your list as you make progress toward your goals.

Set small, realistic, goals that are easy to reach

  • Do you want to increase your intake of fruits and veggies? Try adding a salad or a piece of fruit each day. Are you looking to get more exercise, but don’t know where to begin? Start with a 10-minute walk every day, then work to increase that amount of time.*
  • Keep a journal. Note your weight changes regularly and list what you eat every day. It can help you track how close you’re getting to your goals. Focus on your accomplishments, not your mistakes.

Create an environment for success

  • At home, keep healthy basics on hand to make tasty, nutritious meals. Maintain an ample supply of healthy snacks like fat-free or low-fat yogurt and cottage cheese, low-fat and low-sodium crackers, fruits and veggies. Purge your home of high-carbohydrate, low-nutrient snacks that you may have turned to in the past. If they’re not in the house, you may be more likely to eat healthier choices that are availabe.
  • At work, keep healthy snacks at your desk when the mid-afternoon munchies hit.
  • Use smaller plates, bowls and glasses when you eat. That will make the portion size look larger than they are.

Pinpoint your barriers and have a plan to overcome them

  • Too rushed to cook healthy meals? Plan meals and shop ahead to help avoid the last-minute rush that may lead to take-out, fast food or high-calorie restaurant meals. Look for quick, simple recipes or stock up on healthy frozen meals for those extra busy days. Make use of your slow cooker. Healthy meals will be ready when you get home.
  • If your schedule doesn’t have a large chunk of free time, try three 10-minute exercise sessions instead of a half-hour workout.
  • You don’t have to banish your favorite treats from your diet. Enjoy them once in awhile rather than as a daily habit.

Ask for support

  • Tell your supportive family and friends about your plan and why it’s important to you. Ask for encouragement and respect for your new habits.
  • Invite your loved ones to join you in eating more healthfully and getting more activity. Planning and cooking healthy meals or going for a walk together can be fun, family activities.

Banish guilt and take care of yourself

Don’t be ashamed or mad at yourself when you stumble. Think about what led you to make those choices and stay focused on your goals. Here are a couple ideas:

  • Think positively and make a conscious effort to give yourself empowering messages.
  • Reward yourself with non-food items.

If you hit bumps in the road, think about what’s getting in your way, then come up with a plan to move past them. Stay positive and focused, so you can get back on track. Focus on the good choices you’ve made and get back on your path toward better health.

* Any new exercise plan should start with a visit to your doctor. Discuss whether you’re ready to start getting more active. If you have a health condition or a physical disability, ask if you should take any special precautions when you exercise.

By Susan G. Warner, Contributing Writer

Weight-Control Information Network. Changing your habits: Steps to better health. Accessed: November 8, 2016.
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Tip sheet: Healthy eating starts with healthy food shopping. Accessed: November 8, 2016.
National Institutes of Health. Breaking bad habits: Why it’s so hard to change. Accessed: November 8, 2016.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Losing weight: Getting started. Accessed: November 8, 2016.

Last Updated: November 9, 2016