I hope you've been enjoying my Getting Back to Healthy series where I have been documenting my weight loss journey. This article is the conclusion to that series, summarizing the top three habits I've developed to lose and keep the weight off that you can use for your own weight loss journey.
This wasn't the 100lb weight loss you hear about on the TV infomercials. This series is about recovering from the drift that we all face in our lives as we age, and setting up habits so that it doesn't happen again. Day by day, month by month, year by year, the pounds sneak up on us, shrinking our clothes and encouraging us to indulge in all the fantastic food around us and stay in our warm cozy beds just a little while longer.
The journey to health is never quite complete, staying healthy is a way of life, not a one-time diet. It takes a lot of effort to get your body in good working condition, but it also takes discipline to keep it there month after month, year after year. The key is to realize that certain habits can make this a little easier.
Here are three healthy habits I've developed over the past few months that allowed me to lose weight and get me back into the healthy zone. They worked for me, if this is an area you struggle with, I know they will work for you as well.
1. Eat mindfully
Our bodies need to last us a lifetime, so we need to be careful what we put into them. What and how much you put in your mouth is the biggest thing to focus on if you are looking to maintain a healthy weight. Your physique is 80% diet, and 20% exercise according to most experts and my own personal experience. You can lose weight without ever picking up a weight or even doing any exercise at all if you control what you put into your body.
Consider these two examples.
Get the picture?
Don't get me wrong, running does have some fantastic health benefits, but if you aren't paying attention to your diet, you are going to have a hard time losing weight no matter what you do. If you want to know how to take the pounds off, you need to understand where they are coming from. Set up an account at myfitnesspal.com or a similar service and track your diet. Once you know which foods or drinks are making up the bulk of your calories, you'll be able to clearly see where you can start cutting back.
Beyond that, strive to be mindful about what and how much you eat. I've found a pattern of light-light-heavy or heavy-light-light works for me (light breakfast, light lunch, heavy dinner, or heavy breakfast, light lunch, light dinner).
Protein such as that found in Dannon's Nonfat Greek Yogurt, eggs, fish (try chunk light tuna), or chicken breasts will keep you full for a long time, try to eat a fair amount of protein in every meal. You can also buy protein shakes like Optimum Nutrition's Whey Protein and use that as an easy meal replacement to get your protein up with few calories, just watch some of those because a lot of them have a ton of calories. Greek yogurt has become one of my favorite snacks and has a ton of protein with little fat or calories. Veggies like green beans, broccoli, and corn add few calories while filling you up and are great for you.
You can lose weight with nearly any type of food if you control your portions, but making a habit of eating the right things will make it much easier to cut the cravings and keep yourself heading in the right direction.
2. Make exercise enjoyable
Enjoyable exercise? How do you do that? Well, for me, I started a habit of taking my dog for a walk around the neighborhood each night. Now we are both eager to go for a walk, at least when it is somewhat warm. I even speed it up to a run from time to time which I actually enjoy.
I set up my Total Gym so that I walk by it every night on the way to my bed, and I've made a habit of working out on it for a few minutes each night. It's probably the best piece of exercise equipment I've ever bought, I actually enjoy playing on it, and I can tell the difference now after a few months of doing it regularly. It doesn't even really feel like a workout. It probably won't get you into competitive bodybuilding shape, but for the typical person looking to keep reasonably fit? Perfect.
I have also joined a local indoor recreational soccer league. I really enjoy playing, and since I'm in the over 35 recreational league, no one expects me to be a superstar. I've found a community there that has created some good friends while also keeping me in shape.
On the weekends, I'll try to get away for a hike for a few hours if possible. Some of my kids have started joining me from time to time on this as well, so this is turning into a family activity that keeps everyone healthy and gives us time away from all the electronics to talk.
These are a few things that I enjoy doing. What do you enjoy doing that keeps you active? Look for ways you can turn being active into play.
UPDATE: I ended up replacing my Total Gym with an actual gym. I've learned to enjoy working out and found some new friends there. Update to the update…I went back to my total gym eventually.
3. Create relationships
If you are going to make being healthy a lifelong goal, then you need to look for ways to continually encourage yourself to be healthy. One of the best ways I've found is to hang out with others who are healthy. If someone's idea of a great visit is a bike ride in the afternoon, playing a physical game like soccer, or going on a walk, then you're likely to drift towards doing healthy things when you are around them. Likewise, if they eat healthy things, and you guys spend time together over meals, you'll likely find yourself picking up those habits as well.
Ultimately, life is about relationships. Include your kids and significant other in your walks and journey toward health whenever possible. Find friends who enjoy doing healthy things, and I think you'll find yourself drifting in the right way instead of the wrong way over time.
I appreciate all the support and encouragement from my readers that I've received over the last few months on this journey. I enjoy reading stories of how my journey has inspired others; if this series has helped you, I would love to hear about it!