These are the habits that worked for me, and most of them I still follow to keep the weight off. Everyone is different and not all of these habits may work for you, but maybe you find some inspiration and ideas here.
I stick to still water and herbal teas most of the time. I have stopped drinking soft drinks, including the diet variety. A lot has been written about the sugar content of these drinks. That includes most fruit juices as they are made of concentrate. It is much better to eat the whole fruit as you get both the vitamins and the fibre that are good for your body. Diet soft drinks are no better, as some research suggests that the body still thinks it is getting sugar. I am no saint, however, I do like my glass of sparkling wine or a nice cold beer on a hot summer night. But they are treats, not a daily staple.
Fill Half Your Plate with Vegetables
This goes hand in hand with portion control. Since I started eating a plant based diet this is even easier. I always make sure that half of my plate is vegetables. And if I have seconds I make sure again. This way I can fill up knowing that I eat healthy and keep calories under control. And by vegetables I do not mean French fries or cauliflower in cream sauce with a ton of cheese on top. Just thought I mention it in case you were wondering.
Avoid Fast Food
I think everyone knows that fast food is bad for you. It is full of fat, sugar, salt and highly processed. For me, personally, it was much harder to give up the diet coke that came with the fast food, than the food itself. Some fast food chains do have healthier options these days, but avoid the salad dressing. Too much sugar, too much salt and I actually do not understand half of the names of the other ingredients, which is always a sign for “do not eat me”. Some chicken salads with dressing have more calories than a burger. So don’t be fooled by the advertised “healthy choice”.
Well, I could write a whole book on this part. As you may know from my weight loss journey story here, I started to get back into exercising after having my children with yoga. It does not matter what kind of exercise you start doing, as long as it is something you enjoy and keep doing. Once you get fitter and you have established a habit of exercising, you may get more adventurous and challenge yourself to try something new! Start with walking your dog or using an elliptical machine or play football with your children. Whatever it is, aim for 30 minutes of exercise five times a week. And then go from there.
I never liked running. I always had an excuse in PE not to participate in any running exercises. But I decided to take it up to see if I could maybe start liking it and lose weight doing it. After all, running is cheap, as it only requires some good shoes, does not require any equipment, and you can do it anywhere anytime. If you have read my story, you know that by now I am loving my 10k races and have been training for a half marathon. Running now is my refuge. I started slow with walking/running intervals and then very slowly building up distance and speed. Take your time doing this, so you reduce the risk of injury. And remember, the first five to ten minutes of every run are hard, as your body is adjusting. In the motivating books section below I have listed several books on running that motivated me to get into and keep running.
Keep a Journal
To be honest, to keep a journal can be a chore. But it can be very helpful and sometimes even fun. When I was trying to live healthier and keep track of my progress, I found a book called Adore Yourself Slim, which helped me a lot. The last chapter in the book is called “Write Yourself Slim” that contains not only a food log, but there is also space to write down your workout, your hypnosis session (see point 9), your daily reward, slip ups and what you are happy about. The book contains a lot of other fill-in sections, and I found this interactive approach very motivating.
I have also used the www.fitday.com app for a while, which I think can be helpful for people who rather use an app than write down on paper what food they have consumed. I found it easy enough to use, and the progress graphs and charts can be motivating, however, I also find it quite time consuming, as there are thousands of foods to choose from. And to be honest, I am not really into measuring and weighing my meals. Having said that, using it did help me become more aware of what I was actually putting into my mouth, and as a result made me think twice about mindlessly finishing off my kids’ plates.
Buy Clothes that Are Too Small
When you are unhappy about the way you look and you feel uncomfortable in your own skin, shopping for new clothes can be a nightmare. Squeezing into tiny fitting rooms that have awful lightning and unforgiving full body length mirrors can be awfully frustrating. I sometimes wonder how anyone can ever think that they look good in those cubicles!
When I was losing weight I found it motivating though to shop clothes that were slightly too small. I bought dresses that were too tight over my hips or trousers that gave me a slight muffin top. After a few weeks I would try them on again, and voila, they would fit better. That helped me track my progress, as on the scale I would often see no change at all. It also happened that I would buy a pair of pants or a dress just because it fit, and not because I looked particularly good in them! I must admit though that some of these clothes ended up in the charity bin with their price tag still on….
Drink Less Alcohol
This was and still is hard. I just like partying too much! And once I have a glass of champagne I cannot resist a second one, and a third one…. So in general, it is easier for me not to drink at all than to stick to one glass. If you have read my weight loss story you know that I basically was not drinking for six months to lose my excess fat. And as we all know, alcohol is not just empty calories but is addictive and drinking raises health risks. So to keep it all in balance, I try to limit drinking to holidays, date nights and dinner parties. After all, I want to enjoy my life and you should enjoy yours. If it involves alcohol just try to limit it to those special occasions and ditch the glass of red every night habit.
Reduce Added Sugar
I love dessert, sweets, chocolate…. I simply cannot give up sugar altogether, although after having read several books on the topic – see below book selection – it probably would be wise. However, I don’t think a treat now and then does much harm, on the contrary, it can make you really happy! I can’t imagine celebrating my kids’ birthdays without enjoying a piece of cake with them! Or a whole summer without ice cream! Just don’t overdo it and make sure you have sugar for the right reason – i.e. not mindlessly stuffing yourself with cake or biscuits or chocolate, but to savour and enjoy every bite. Of course, if you can abstain, good for you!
The book Adore Yourself Slim got me into visualisation, which helped me a lot on my journey to a happier and healthier me.
Visualisation has a lot to do with your goal, i.e. your “why”. Whatever the reason you want to change the way you feel and look, visualisation is about thinking what you want to achieve. For example, if you want to look your best for your wedding day, visualisation is about picturing yourself in your wedding dress, dancing with your sweetheart, thinking about how you will feel and what you will do. I found this a very helpful tool to remind myself daily why I was eating healthy and exercising.
Read Motivating Books
Here are some books that kept me motivated (and still do!) :
This list of course could be going on and on. There are thousands of books on nutrition, exercising, healthy lifestyles and inspiring personalities.
I pretty much explained that above, with regard to sugar. But whether it’s a slice of pizza or a handful of French fries or a dessert – I believe in a healthy balance, so on occasion we can indulge ourselves and we should not feel guilty about it. I think it is better to have the occasional treat than trying to avoid a certain food, only to eventually give in and totally overdoing it as a result.
Believe in Yourself
This might be the hardest one of all. When the scale does not move for 5 or 6 weeks or more (as happened in my case many times), when the muffin top just seems to be glued to you, when you feel tired and exhausted, and you are wondering why you should go for a run despite the rain or the minus degrees outside, or everyone is tucking into their dessert while you are sipping hot tea and you wonder why am I doing this, it would be so much nicer now to eat chocolate/watch tv/drink a glass of wine and just give up – that is when you have to believe in yourself that you can do it. That you will get there. Don’t give up. Keep going. Be strong. Believe.