As with most things, weight loss success comes, not from one dramatic action, but from an accumulation of habits. When you are able to adopt healthy habits into your life, you will be able to consistently lose pounds without having to sacrifice the things you enjoy.
In this article, I’ll lay out a dozen habits that you can incorporate to encourage fat loss.
Habit # 1: Try to Exercise First Thing in the Morning
Many studies show that exercising after waking up can improve weight management in a few areas.
- Establishes a routine: It takes about 60 days to establish habits and a routine; after that, you’ll be a morning workout pro!
- Increases energy: Working out first thing has been shown to focus the brain more than a cup of coffee.
- Improves mood: During exercise, your body releases “feel good” hormones, allowing you to start the day happy and energized.
- Improves sleep: Exercise in general is shown to improve sleep overall, but studies have shown that people who work out first thing fall into a deeper, more restful sleep at night.
- Lowers blood pressure: Studies have shown that working out in the morning lowers your blood pressure by 10%, and that lower blood pressure continues throughout the rest of your day.
- Improves blood sugar control: Studies have shown that working out first thing also levels out your blood sugar for the rest of the day.
The most obvious benefit to working out is the number of calories burned. This, of course, helps with fat loss. My favorite workouts in the morning are those that are difficult but quick. I don’t want to wake up a couple hours before work to lift, so instead I get a quick fat blasting HIIT workout session in to start my day off on the right foot.
Habit # 2: Strength Training
Strength training is the most important fitness habit you can ever build into your life. Not only will it allow you to build a muscular, fit, lean body now, it will be your body’s greatest weapon against the natural declines of old age that will begin to kick in when you get into your 30s. Strength training done the right way will make you far less likely to suffer from lower back problems, and will prevent muscular imbalances that often lead to injury. You’ll also be able to offset the natural muscle loss that kicks in from around the age of 35.
Getting into the strength training habit in your 20s will allow you to build a decent amount of muscle. Every ounce of muscle on your frame will make you a more efficient fat burner, so the strength training habit will help you ward off that middle aged pot belly!
Habit # 3: Cardiovascular Exercise
A common mistake that many older exercisers make is that they focus on just one type of exercise – either strength training or cardio. That is why it is so important to build both of them as fitness habits in your 20s. Doing some form of cardiovascular exercise two or three times per week will help you to maintain and improve the health of your heart and lungs.
Regular cardio exercise doesn’t have to mean that you spend hours on a treadmill every week. There are a lot of options when it comes to cardio. Choose an activity or sport that you love to do and build it into your schedule a few times each week.
On top of your actual cardio sessions, get into the habit of choosing the more active version of getting around. Take the stairs rather than the elevator, walk or bike rather than driving everywhere and choose to get your entertainment out in the fresh air rather than in front of the computer or TV screen.
Habit # 4: Steam Your Vegetables
A great habit to develop in your 20s is to spend a couple of times each week preparing such vegetables as beets, parsnip, bell peppers, and broccoli and steaming them for 30 minutes. Make enough for 3 dinner meals. Then all you have to do is add a lean protein source to the meal.
Preparing your food in this way will ensure that you get the best nutrients in the purest way while avoiding high glycemic carbs. Your meals will also be a whole lot easier to prepare.
Habit # 5: Healthy Snacks
Getting into the habit of reaching for healthy snack options as your default setting is a huge one when it comes to staying lean for life. If you are able to steer yourself away from potato chips and cookies in favor of fruit, nuts and lean proteins, you will be a whole lot healthier and happier.
Here’s a healthy snack option that provides the ideal ratio of protein, healthy fats and fiber:
Slice up an apple, some cubes of Edam cheese and a handful of walnuts and mix them together in a bowl. Enjoy them as an evening snack rather than going to the freezer for ice cream.
Habit # 6: Establish a Consistent Sleep Pattern
Most people still don’t appreciate how vital healthy sleep is to your overall health. It is during the time when you sleep that your body rebuilds muscle tissue and reinvigorates your organs. Establishing a consistent sleep pattern that provides you with 7-8 hours of sleep will ensure that you get the quality and quantity of sleep that you need to be fully refreshed when you get up in the morning.
Habit # 7: Eat Balanced Meals
Eating a well-rounded meal every time you eat is a perfect way to begin your health and fat loss journey. You want to eat a mix of lean protein, vegetables, complex carbs, and good fats every time you eat a full meal.
The amount of protein on your plate should be around the size of your closed fist, your fats should be about half your palm, complex carbs should sit in the palm of your hand, and the rest of the plate (about half) should be veggies.
- Icelandic yogurt
- Nuts and seeds
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
- Avocado oil
- Fatty fish like salmon
Complex Carbohydrate Sources
- Whole grain bread
- Brown rice
- Legumes: black beans, lentils
- Sweet potatoes
- Green beans
- Brussels sprouts
- Dark green lettuce
The great thing about loading your plate with veggies is they are low carb, and you can eat a massive amount of them without adding too many calories to your daily intake. They also help you get the right amount of vitamins, minerals, and fiber for the day. Most well-rounded, maintainable fat loss diets look identical to this one, and you don’t need to spend big bucks to get it.
Habit # 8: Drink Water Right When You Wake Up
Drinking at least two 8 oz glasses of water right when you wake up actually speeds up your metabolism a bit—studies show by almost 30%. That’s an easy habit to establish that will enhance your weight loss efforts.
On top of drinking water first thing in the morning, continuing to drink water throughout the day, around 64 ounces to be exact, also aids in weight loss. The reason? Well, the body is mostly made of water, and every system inside the body runs smoother and more efficiently when there is an abundance of water present. It also reduces appetite. A lot of the time when you feel hungry, it’s actually just dehydration. So be sure to stay on top of your water intake in the morning and throughout the day!
Habit # 9: Pack Your Lunch
This is my absolute favorite habit to teach to my clients. You don’t realize how much you truly eat when you just run down the street for a bite to eat at lunch time. You usually choose what’s most convenient, and that isn’t always the healthiest option. When you eat out more than once a week, you are actually consuming more hidden calories than you realize, and in order to lose weight, you can’t be consuming calories you don’t know about.
By packing a lunch, you know exactly what you’re getting, you know you won’t overeat because you’ve portioned it correctly, and the convenience factor is taken care of—it’s in the office fridge 15 feet away.
Habit # 10: Take a Healthy Cooking Class (or Two)
Weight loss is all about willpower, and I have good news. Flavorful food is good for you, too. Foods that are high in sugar and fat may taste good, but they sacrifice flavor.
Focus on your meals tasting good. Chances are, if you have a wide range of taste on your plate, you will be eating nutritious meals with fewer calories. Fresh vegetables in your diet are a major source of flavor and can become a highlight of mealtime if you can taste them properly (ie: not drenched in fat or sugar).
Finding fruits and vegetables in season at your local farmer’s market can make for a fun outing in addition to enhancing the flavors on your plate.
Flavorful meals are easier to get when you make them at home. A little bit of planning will help you expand your flavor palate and save money at the same time.
A cooking class is one of the most reliable ways for you to explore and discover new flavors. You can even find classes that emphasize weight loss, but that’s not as important. If you learn how to cook better, you can embark on a voyage of discovery in your own kitchen and make it easier to incorporate healthy eating tips. The exploration of flavors is one of the most exciting and stimulating things you can do in life, and once you start you won’t want to stop.
Habit #11: Get Organized
Everybody is different, but we all live full lives. It’s hard for me to keep on top of my busy schedule, so when I make changes, it can introduce a lot of chaos. Having a healthy relationship with food is important to me.
An organized plan can help you identify the things that are holding you back and highlight the things that are pushing you forward. Sometimes you may even have two good ideas you are working on that contradict each other. For instance, you may want to buy a nice, high-end outfit, but you also want to lose some weight. If you buy the outfit and then lose weight you will have to get it tailored. That’s not the end of the world, but if you lose the weight first and then reward yourself with the new outfit, you get to skip the time and expense of getting your new clothes tailored.
Habit # 12: Keep a Food Diary and Track Changes to Your Food
Logging everything you eat can have a powerful impact. Just writing down the things you put into your body will make you more aware of what you are eating and why. This will increase your willpower without much effort at all. In fact, people who are dieting lose twice as much weight when they keep a food diary. This isn’t calorie counting, per se. You can record the calories, but you don’t have to. Elevating your awareness of how much you are eating is what counts.
A food diary isn’t magic, though. There’s solid science behind the value of writing things down, and a weight-loss study on the value of food diaries exposed the essential elements required for a successful food diary:
A. Keep it on hand.
Carry your food diary with you so you can log every time you eat. Practice estimating portion sizes until you can accurately record how much you eat when you go to a cafe or restaurant. (most people underestimate portion sizes).
B. Find the diary that is right for you.
Maybe a leather-bound journal from your favorite stationery store or an app on your phone is what you need. Some people use a spiral notebook; some of the best fitness journals are also the simplest. Whatever makes you more likely to keep up is the way you should go.
C. Be honest about your cheat days.
If you’ve over-indulged, be sure to write everything down. Don’t beat yourself up about it, just be aware. And you should certainly reward yourself for eating nutritional foods.
D. Eat at home.
If you stay home for meals you are more likely to log them, and you will find it easier to track how much you are eating. The diary will make it easier to collect and organize nutrition tips that will help you to prepare nutritious meals, too. It helps to avoid fast food places, restaurants, and other eateries because they load your food up with sugar and fat to make it as delicious as possible.
E. Use the same diary for your fitness routine.
Keeping all of your weight-loss data in the same place can help you stay organized and keep you focused. After you develop new habits and practices that help you reach your goals, you will find your food diary and workout logs become a source of inspiration and motivation you can look back on with pride.
Reading all of the healthy habits at once may seem a little overwhelming. Don’t let it. Focus on just one habit per week and work to integrate it into your lifestyle. Within three months, you’ll be doing all twelve of them, making your weight loss journey a whole lot smoother.
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