I spent my whole life being overweight, and then obese and finally – morbidly obese.
Then at age 47, I hit my heaviest weight ever at 337 lbs on December 20, 2021. But I’ve been bringing my weight down pretty steadily since then by losing a little over a pound per week, on average.
In the first 12 months of my weight loss journey, I lost 62 lbs.
That’s not a world record or anything, but I am pretty happy with those results. And I am continuing to lose weight as I head toward my goal weight of 185 lbs and about 150 lbs total weight loss.
What Is My Secret to Losing Weight?
I’ve had some people ask me how I lost 62 lbs in one year.
I suspect that most people who ask that question are looking for a quick little soundbite – one simple sentence that tells them the secret to losing weight.
We all love to oversimplify things, but locking in healthy and permanent weight loss is more complicated than that.
The truth is that there wasn’t one single hack that suddenly flipped the switch and made me go from gaining weight month after month to losing weight month after month.
It was a gradual process that was actually several years in the making.
This was not my first attempt at losing weight.
I made many weight loss attempts over the past 20+ years.
But until this past year I never lost more than 5-10 lbs before gaining it all back.
Something is different this time around, for sure. But I think it’s misleading to just say that it's just because of one simple thing.
But nobody wants to hear that, right?
So if I were to over-simplify my answer and squeeze it into one little soundbite, I guess I would say that I lost over 60 lbs in a year by changing my daily habits – by stopping some of my weight gain habits and replacing them with new weight loss habits.
That is the short answer.
Below is a slightly longer one…
6 Beginner Weight Loss Habits
Improving my daily habits has been key to my weight loss success this past year. I’ve had good days. And I’ve had bad days. And I got completely derailed on some days where everything just went to crap.
But it’s my daily habits that saved me.
My habits got me back on track faster so that I didn’t just spiral into depression and self hate and undo all the progress that I’d been making.
So if you’re looking for one super secret special life-changing hack that will turn it all around – I’d suggest building weight loss habits that will help you reach your goals on autopilot.
Here are the six main habits I’ve been building in recent years that helped me lose over a pound a week.
1. Start the Day Off Right
One of the most effective weight loss habits in my journey over the last few years has been the habit of eating a healthy, low-calorie breakfast pretty much every morning.
When I start my day off right, it boosts my mood and my motivation further and makes it so much easier to avoid overeating the rest of the day. And even if I blow my diet later in the day, at least I offset the damage by not going too crazy at breakfast time.
The key for me was to go with something that’s not just low-calorie and satisfying but that was also super fast, cheap and easy to make. That way I could just slip it right into my morning routine – even on the days when I wake up late.
I originally started with some type of hot or cold cereal every morning with some kind of fresh or dried fruit. It would take me only about one minute to prep and another 1-2 minutes to eat (with another 2-3 minutes in the microwave if doing oatmeal or grits).
I eventually settled in on PBJ oatmeal with a piece of fruit that I could eat with the oatmeal or bring with me and eat on the road. If I wasn’t in a rush, I might even cut up some fresh fruit and add it right into the bowl of oatmeal.
And now I am also experimenting with savory oats with veggies (OMG you will freak out when you try this stuff).
But you can do whatever works for you.
I tend to eat the same basic thing every day for breakfast, with only minor variations here and there. That works well for me. And in a way, I even find the rhythm and familiarity of it to be kind of therapeutic.
But if eating the same basic breakfast multiple times a week gets too monotonous for you, then try out a few options that you can rotate to avoid breakfast boredom.
Some other low-calorie breakfast ideas:
- fruit and greens smoothie with protein powder
- 1-2 slices multigrain toast with PB and fresh fruit
- 1 hard-boiled egg with 1 slice wheat toast and fruit or jelly
- 1 slice peanut butter toast or avocado toast with fruit
The key is to make it so stupid simple, so fast and so easy that after a few practice runs you can do it almost every day without any additional time, stress or effort.
Otherwise you’ll be more likely to skip breakfast on days when you’re running late.
But when you’re trying to lose weight, you should probably never skip meals – not even breakfast.
For most people, skipping meals just sets you up for bad eating habits that lead to obesity.
YOU might feel that you are the exception. And maybe you are. But if you are obese and you have a habit of skipping breakfast – you might want to rethink that.
Skipping breakfast creates a perfect storm for gaining weight because now you’re more likely to hit the drive thru while super hangy later on and scarf down a whole day’s worth of calories in just one fast food meal.
Or more likely to raid the break room at work.
Or more likely to stash high-calorie snacks at your desk or in your car.
That is what got us here, people.
And that is not going to get us to where we want to go.
So let’s start the day off right with a quick, easy low-calorie breakfast to curb junk food cravings and to get some momentum going for the day.
2. Build a Super Easy Exercise Habit
Another great daily habit for losing weight is to start doing a quick little exercise routine.
I want to mention up front that exercise has played only a small part in my weight loss journey. In terms of calories burned, it's minimal. I just don't exercise that much. And if you're 100+ lbs overweight, you technically don't need to exercise much, if at all, to burn off extra fat.
It does help, though. And I definitely recommend it.
Exercising – even at a modest pace – helps give your metabolism a boost. And it can be fun. And it can allow you to eat a little extra junk food on those days when you just gotta have it.
But really, most of my weight loss has come by simply not overeating as often as I used to.
Exercise plays an important role in the big picture, both for physical health and mental health. So while the exercise itself is not predominantly responsible for my weight loss directly, it helped in other ways.
Anyway, it's a part of the equation. And it would be foolish to neglect exercise completely.
Strength Training Workouts
I have some light dumbbells and exercise bands at home. And I use them from time to time to perform a variety of exercises that work my shuolders, arms, chest and back. Home workouts are totally legit, and I expect to always include them in my life – even though I don't do them every day. I'm working on that.
If you already know your way around a gym and feel good about working out at gyms, then go with that. I worked out at gyms on and off for 3 decades, and I enjoy it. I will probably join a gym again later on.
But if you have a tendency to skip the gym, then you already have a habit. Your habit is not going to the gym (i.e. you are already in the habit of talking yourself out of going to the gym and then sitting around somewhere else…doing something else…perhaps with snacking involved…idk…Chef don’t judge…but still…).
So the first step might actually just be to pack your gym bag and leave it in your car so you are ready at all times to hit the gym.
Sounds simple, right?
Because going to the gym every day is not just one weight loss habit. It is multiple habits linked together. And skipping any one of those habits can break the chain and prevent you from exercising that day…that week…that month, etc.
Of course, once you get that first habit going (gym bag in car or by front door), you will need to get in the habit of bringing the bag back into the house after your workout.
But what if you often skip the gym because you always forget your gym back in the car – filled with stinky sweaty gym clothes from last week because you keep forgetting to bring it back into the house?
So you might need to get in the habit of putting the gym bag on the front seat as soon as you enter your car after working out at the gym. That way you won’t forget and leave it in the back seat or trunk of your car when you get home.
Then you’ll have to get in the habit of taking the dirty workout clothes out of the bag and putting them in the hamper or washer as soon as you walk in the door after coming home from the gym. Otherwise you'll procrastinate, and then forget completely until the following morning when you're supposed to be going to the gym to work out – and then you're likely to skip the gym again.
And then you’ll need to get in the habit of remembering to repack the gym bag with clean gym clothes and then putting it back in the car or at least by the front door so that you are ready to go again the following day.
See how one simple habit is more complex than it seemed at first?
Most “habits” are actually a cluster of new habits.
So you aren’t just building one habit – you’re actually building five or six new habits.
Anyway, that’s a story for another day. But you get the point.
SoOo…start by packing your gym bag.
Now, if you aren't already a gym person, then I recommend you make things even simpler and make your new exercise habit a simple bodyweight workout that you can do in 30-60 seconds. That's what I did.
Because as they say, you can’t scale up a habit that doesn’t exist yet.
And to overcome the resistance you feel in your mind when you are trying to build a new habit, it’s easier if you break it down into a stupid simple micro habit and just tackle one little chunk at a time.
You can always improve the habit later. But first you have to create the habit to get the ball rolling.
A Personal Example
One trick that worked for me was to just do 5 reps of standing pushups while leaning against a countertop.
Just 5 reps and then you’re done. It takes less than 30 seconds.
That is so small that it’s easy to blow off – but it’s also easy to NOT blow off.
Still, you will be tempted to talk yourself out of it because after all:
- What good are 5 little pushups going to do anyway?
- That won’t burn off any fat, will it?
- You would have to do at least 20 or 50 or 100 reps to make any difference!
That is what the voices in your head will tell you.
But do not listen to them. Just do it. And then just do it again the next day and then keep doing it every day.
You won’t, of course.
You won’t do it every day. You’ll skip it sometimes – for days and even weeks at a time.
And that’s okay. That's normal, and it's part of the process. Exercising every day is a skill, and it takes practice, patience and repetition to lock it in.
I didn’t do it every day, either. I still don't (did that stop me from losing 60+ lbs last year? Nope.)
But I kept track of how often I did it.
And over time I gradually began doing it more and more.
Soon I was also doing five bodyweight squats immediately after the countertop pushups. Then I found it easy to stack on 5 five calf raises right after the squats because calf raises take nothing out of you. Then I added five standing toe touches (MyFitnessPal calls them “standing forward bends” FYI).
And it wasn’t much later that I was eventually doing the entire calisthenics circuit without giving it much thought.
I still didn’t do it every day. But it was getting easier to pick it right back up after blowing it off the day before.
And…over time…I have been doing it more and more. I have done more reps of calisthenics in these last two years than I did in the previous two decades.
Micro workouts like these are like training wheels.
They aren’t impressive. They aren't designed to help you win any competitions or trophies. And you don’t have to use them forever.
They just help you build the habit of moving every day until you can get past the hesitation and the resistance and the procrastination – and build up a little strength and skill and self-discipline. Then you simply outgrow them.
Burning a ton of calories isn't the point.
In the beginning, the goal is to start a new daily habit of exercise. You'll push harder later on to increase the calorie burn and fitness benefits. But for now, just start building the habit.
Micro workouts that only last 30-60 seconds are easy to do. Sure they're easy to blow off, but they're also easy to NOT blow off.
These short 1-2 minute calisthenics workouts are a great way for beginners and non-athletes to start a daily exercise habit that supports weight loss.
3. Track Meals and Workouts
Tracking your habits and your results are separate habits in and of themselves, and remembering to track them (and then also not blowing them off when you do remember) also takes time, effort and practice.
But tracking your meals isn’t hard these days. I use MyFitnessPal on my phone and love it. It’s been a really useful weight loss tool for me this past year. But there are tons of calorie tracking apps out there. Pick one you like and use it.
The key is to not put too much pressure on yourself to do it all perfectly.
I don’t weigh and measure my food most of the time, other than using a measuring cup and measuring tablespoon once or twice a week to keep my eyeball estimates from drifting too far from reality.
But yeah…I mostly just estimate my portion sizes and then log it all into MyFitnessPal on my phone. It's not as accurate as weighing and measuring every single bite all day every day – but being that meticulous is not necessary for losing weight – not if you are morbidly obese. For a lot of people, it's just overkill.
You can track your weight too. I do that using the free Apple Health app that came on my iPhone.
But don't obsess over the numbers on the scale. Your weight isn’t going to always do what you want it to do or what you expect it to do.
In the beginning, you might still continue gaining weight – just at a slower pace than before. And that is actually excellent too. Slowing down your rate of weight gain is also progress, and it counts.
So if you get depressed and give up when the scale goes up – just forget about weighing yourself. Billions of humans throughout history managed to maintain trim and fit bodies long before the bathroom scale was invented.
You can use one if you want, but you don’t need to weigh yourself to lose weight.
So if a scale is counterproductive for you, then try not weighing yourself for a few months. Instead, just go by how your clothes feel and by how your body feels and by your energy levels.
Maybe just focus on non-scale victories and process goals.
If you were gaining 20-30 pounds a year but manage to slow it down to only gaining 10 lbs in a year – that is progress. That counts, and it’s a lot better than most people actually do. And it’s better than you did last year, right?
So learn to celebrate small victories and not put so much pressure on yourself.
Just like the old story of The Tortoise and the Hare (aka turtle vs bunny) – slow and steady wins the race.
4. Prep Healthy Low-Calorie Meals at Home
If it’s a meal that requires preparation (washing, peeling, cutting, cooking), you might just meal prep a batch on your day off and then portion it out into small microwaveable containers. That way you can just pop one in the microwave at work or before you rush out the door for work – or just whenever it’s time to eat your next meal.
I finally started doing proper meal prep about three years ago. And I can go back in My Fitness Pal and basically tell which weeks I did meal prep vs. no prep based on my weight loss.
This simple, often overlooked diet hack has made a huge impact on my weight loss journey.
I try to do it once every week, but I miss a week here and there. I’m not much of a cook. And I’m lazy. And I don’t know what I’m doing.
But on the bright side – I’m not a picky eater. I didn’t get up to 337 lbs by being a picky eater. So I guess there’s that.
Anyway, I just do super simple easy meal prep. I won’t be winning any awards with this stuff. And Gordon Ramsay won’t be knocking on my door anytime soon, except maybe to tell me that I’m an idiot sandwich.
But hey, I’m slowly losing a bunch of weight.
And these simple meals are helping.
I just do meal prep once a week by cooking up a big batch all at once. Then I divide it all up into equal sized microwavable containers and store in the fridge. I usually prepare 6-7 meals at a time. Things like:
- raw vegetable sandwiches (cucumber, tomato, lettuce, salad)
- slow-cooker veggie and beans soup with rice
- canned food with rice or pasta
- frozen veggies with rice or pasta
- veggie burritos and tacos
- pasta with veggies and sauce or chili beans
5. Only Eat 3-4x a Day
Another weight loss habit that made a big difference in my weight loss results was to limit my eating to just 3-4 meals a day.
Back in 2019, I was attempting to lose weight (again), and I spent some time thinking about why I was morbidly obese to begin with. Sure, there were many factors. Not one – many.
But as I spent some time thinking about this and observing myself and my current habits, I had an important moment of self-awareness. I observed one of the reasons for my consistent weight gain over the years.
I ate all the time.
I mean, not 24/7. But I had a tendency to graze on food throughout the day.
And it wasn’t just at the standard meal times.
And it wasn’t always because I was actually hungry.
I realized that I am what they call an emotional eater, meaning that I will eat for all kinds of reasons besides physical hunger. I often eat because of what I feel – positive or negative.
And more than anything, I found that I would eat more – sometimes even to the point of binge eating – when I felt stressed out. Do that enough times over a period of years, and you have yourself a habit that isn’t going away easily.
But becoming aware of these eating patterns has been one of the keys to breaking the patterns and replacing them with new eating patterns (i.e. habits) that promote health and healthy weight rather than the opposite.
So I decided to get back to more traditional eating patterns – eating just 3 meals a day with no snacking in between meals.
That was difficult for me, and it took a lot of practice.
But now, three years later, I no longer graze on food all day long.
I mostly just eat breakfast, lunch and dinner with a 4th meal/snack at some point (usually at night if I’m staying up late or early if I get up super early).
And I have even stopped myself pre-binge a few times – sometimes successfully redirecting toward more productive behaviors (but not always…we’re workin on it).
So I rarely binge at night like I used to. I rarely graze on food all day anymore. And I frequently pass on snacks in-between meals when people offer.
I don’t do this perfectly every single day.
But I do it often enough now that it helps me keep my daily calories in check. And that helps me maintain a more healthy body weight over time.
6. Lose Weight Gradually
These days I’m also starting to shift toward healthier food choices too.
But eating healthy is not technically necessary for weight loss.
If you have any medical or health concerns, or if your doctor says you should avoid certain foods, obviously follow that. And if your motivation is already high and making this change seems easy enough, do it.
But I lost my first 40-60 pounds eating the exact same foods I always ate in the past – just smaller portions and therefore fewer calories in total. I’m talking about burgers and fries and pizzas. Chips and crackers and processed junk foods. Sodas and diet sodas and coffee and sugar and stuff like that.
Sure, many foods I ate were also healthy – rice and oatmeal and veggies and potatoes and fruits and salads – but many were not.
Eating healthier is always a good idea and will bring many positive benefits – I definitely recommend it. For many people it is a matter of life and death. And I wish I had been able to make this shift much earlier in my life.
BUT — I just feel like it’s worth pointing out for the record that you can start losing weight eating the same junk food you’re eating now – by just eating less of it. Reducing calories works.
This is an important point to make.
I see many people get completely overwhelmed by all the weight loss advice out there – and especially the pressure to do all the things all the time. They want to lose weight AND go vegan AND start running every day AND cut carbs AND eat zero sugar AND…
They feel like if you're not hardcore and fixing everything all at once, you're a loser (that sort of mentality).
Many people struggling with obesity have tried and failed for years and feel discouraged at the magnitude of what lies before them on their weight loss journey – all the lifestyle changes they will need to make to reach their health and fitness goals.
It’s a lot.
We don't call it a JOURNEY for nothing.
Changing my lifestyle has been VERY, VERY difficult. I tried for years with little to no progress, as far as I could see. My weight just kept creeping up and losing weight felt impossible sometimes.
And I think that allowing myself to still eat my favorite, familiar comfort foods early on – foods that everyone else around me was eating too – actually helped me get the weight loss train rolling forward.
It’s tough to make a lot of changes all at once. Sometimes you can do it, but sometimes you just can’t. Sometimes making tiny changes to your diet and lifestyle is much more effective in the long run.
Allow yourself to do it badly, and don't worry if it's good enough for anybody else.
Don’t Overthink It – Just Start
Okay, guys. So those are the six weight loss habits that I would most credit with my success so far.
- Low-calorie breakfast
- Micro workouts
- Food tracking
- Weekly meal prep
- 3-4 scheduled meals a day
- Portion control
There’s still so much to unpack from those six weight loss habits.
Knowing what to do is not the same as knowing how to do it or being able to do it consistently. The psychology of weight loss is arguably the most important yet most overlooked part of losing weight. But hopefully this blog post gives you some actionable ideas you can use to help you change your habits and reach your health and weight loss goals.