What lifestyle changes should I make if I want to lose weight?

Taking a good, honest look at your current lifestyle is an important start. Pull out a small notepad and start keeping record of meals, snacks and drinks. Also record your activity, not limited to traditional exercise. Gardening and walks should be considered as your daily activity representing your current lifestyle, for example. Be specific. Regarding meals, record your portions. Regarding daily activity, record duration and intensity. 5 to 7 days should give you a good idea. Now that you know where you are, you can begin to make healthy lifestyle changes to reach your goal of weight loss. It’s important to make changes that at some level you can continue for life. This is key to making lasting “lifestyle” changes vs. changes that you may only make short term to lose the weight. Simply and gradually begin to replace unhealthy habits with new healthy ones in the way you think, the way you fuel your body and the way you move. You are on your way to healthy weight loss as a result of making healthy “lifestyle” changes.

Troy Taylor, NASM Elite Trainer
Fitness Specialist

Losing weight requires a deficit in energy. It is really that simple, not easy, but simple. You have no choice if you want to lose weight but to create that deficit. This is done primarily with diet and secondarily with exercise. The answer to your question is first if you want to lose weight you must figure out how to take in fewer calories than you need on a daily basis. This will be the biggest lifestyle change that you go through. The second biggest change will be adding exercise if you don't exercise already. Both of these things you can get a lot of help with and you can and will be successful if you commit to these changes.

Robert DeVito
Fitness Specialist

In order for you to lose weight and maintain a lifelong, healthy weight you must first transform your thought process as it pertains to your life choices. Here are distinct directions on creating a wellness vision and action plan for life.

To think better you need to do these five things:

  • Make realistic commitments - Fitness will require realistic investments of your time, energy, and will power. Do not make promises you won’t keep.
  • Visualize your success - See yourself as you want to be. Mental imagery can provide numerous benefits, such as enhancing your belief in your abilities to achieve your goals. See yourself look and act as the person you desire to be.
  • Remain positive and proactive - Just consider how futile negativity is. There is only a positive benefit to being positive.
  • Define fitness for yourself - Discover what it means to you to be fit and create smart goals.
  • Commit to get and stay fit - When you make a promise, especially to yourself, it is important to keep it. Dedication is important when you want to achieve a goal. Without commitment, fitness will always be something you want, not something you have.

Further; The National Weight Control Registry has noted that these following BEHAVIORS have been utilized to great success in long-term weight loss* (a weight loss of at least 30 pounds maintained for at least 1 year)

  • Eat breakfast daily
  • Exercise approximately 60-minutes a day  
  • Check weight at least once a week
  • Watch less than 10 hours of television per week
  • Maintain a consistent diet on weekends and weekdays
  • Track food intake
  • Plan meals on most days of the week
  • Track fat and calories
  • Measure food at least one day per week
  • Add physical activity into daily routine
  • Set realistic goals
  • Own the “process” of change

If weight loss is to become a priority, you must realize that you need to transform your lifestyle and current behaviors to some extent.

Limit time spent watching TV. Watching TV can contribute to obesity in a number of ways. Watching television requires little energy and most of us snack mindlessly while watching our favorite shows. It replaces time that could be spent being more active and can actually influence food purchases and between meal-snacking. Think about all those commercials you see advertising non-nutritious fast foods and beverages. We don’t just see these foods advertised during the commercial breaks, but they are quite often seen within the programs we are watching themselves! Try doing something active while watching TV. Walk in place, stretch, do some squats, or put your treadmill in your living room and walk while watching your favorite shows.

Start logging your food. In order to solve a problem we must first identify all the behaviors associated with that problem. Keeping a food journal is a great tool in helping identify not only how much you eat, but also why you eat. Each time you eat write down the time of day, amount of each food you ate and/or drank, along with how you were feeling at the time. Did you eat because you were hungry, bored, lonely, and sad? Becoming aware of all these things is a huge step in the right direction toward making changes toward a healthier lifestyle. 

Focus on learning desired nutrition and physical activity behaviors and eliminating unwanted behaviors and focus on changing one behavior at a time. Trying to change everything at once is overwhelming. Pick one behavior and focus on it until it becomes a habit. Then choose another behavior to focus on. Remember the key to success is taking one step at a time. Many small changes add up to one BIG change.

For many people overeating and being overweight has become an integral part of their identity. Habitual behaviors can be hard to change and many times are a way of helping people adapt to stressful situations. For example, many people overeat to cope with the stresses of everyday life. It’s essential to learn alternative ways to deal with emotions and stresses.

Change can be difficult, and at times scary, and will not happen overnight. Permanent weight loss requires changes in your attitude towards food and exercise. Try to think positively about making healthy food and lifestyle choices. It will help to focus on what’s motivating you.

Lifestyle changes are important not only for losing weight, but also for keeping it off! Making only short term changes will lead to short term success. Adding more fiber to your diet is an easy lifestyle change that will help you shed pounds. Fiber makes calories disappear! Yes, you read that right. In fact, a study conducted by David Baer of the United States Department of Agriculture's Human Nutrition Research Center found that women who doubled their fiber intake from 12 to 24 grams per day cut their calorie absorption by 90 calories daily. That's a 9.4 pound weight loss in a year! Fiber acts like a sponge in your digestive tract, absorbing other molecules like carbs, fats, and sugars--along with all their calories--and preventing them from settling on your hips. And, since fiber rich foods take longer to digest, you feel fuller longer, so you tend to eat less throughout the day, making weight loss easy to achieve!

Laura Russell
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist
  • Focus on filling your plate 1/2 full with vegetables, 1/4 starch (whole grain if possible) and 1/4 protein
  • Slow down when eating- taste and enjoy your food. Savor it and be mindful of what and how much you are eating
  • Plan ahead- this take more time, but it will be worth it to plan for what you will have to eat for each meal and snack. Bring food with you for times of food uncertainty.
  • Increase vegetable intake. These have the least amount of calories and will fill you up- it is never fun to feel hungry so vegetables are the food you can eat as much as you want
  • Exercise regularly- 45 minutes most days of the week is necessary for weight loss
  • Listen to your body- are you really hungry or are you board, emotional, etc.
  • Track you food and exercise. This takes time, but it is worth it to help you learn from mistakes and be accountable. Try using a phone app or online program. 
  • Eat three meals per day. Skipping meals slows metabolism and will make it very difficult to lose weight.
Tanya Zuckerbrot
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Lifestyle changes you should make if you want to lose weight include self-reporting by using a food diary, joining support groups as well as seeing a dietitian or nutritional counselor. Other behavior changes can include changing of eating habits, such as chewing your meals slowly, drinking sips of water between bites or during the meal or even leaving the table during a meal. One of the challenges to behavioral therapy is setting realistic expectations that you can meet.

Most often, people who are obese would like to have an approximate 30% weight loss from their current weight. This is oftentimes unrealistic. Most studies show that about 5-7% weight loss is an appropriate amount.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.