10 Habits for Long Term Fat Loss
Updated: Apr 22
The five must-haves of weight loss exist in a hierarchy:
Diet and hydration
All non-exercise movement and activities (NEAT)
Exercise (Resistance Training, HIIT, Cardio)
Sleep + Stress
There are many ways to lose weight. The shelves on Amazon are packed with books proclaiming to have discovered the 'secret' to rapid weight loss. Nine out of ten times these books are rubbish. Generally speaking, it is less than optimal to lose weight quickly. Losing weight rapidly is unhealthy, and it is likely to all come back, plus some. The best way to lose weight is considerably less exciting, but the results can be permanent. It is all about slow, incremental lifestyle changes.
Temporary changes create temporary results.
Permanent changes create permanent results.
I am going to argue that fat loss is a better overall goal than weight loss. The scale matters to a point, but your body composition is most important for health and aesthetics in reality. Body composition is a measurement of the combined fat mass and lean mass in the body. Fat mass is exactly what it sounds like – all of your body fat. Lean mass is everything else that’s not fat mass: bones, organs, muscle mass, and the water within your body. General weight loss does not account for where the mass comes from. Most of us don't want to lose bone, organ, or muscle mass. Fat loss should be the goal.
First and foremost, break bad habits by replacing them with good ones. Breaking bad habits isn't easy; it takes grit. Most people who end up breaking bad habits try and fail multiple times before they make it work. You might not have success right away, but that doesn't mean you can't have it at all.
"The Habit Loop is a neurological loop that governs any habit. The habit loop consists of three elements: a cue, a routine, and a reward. Understanding these elements can help in understanding how to change bad habits or form better ones." - Duhigg, C. (2012).
Here are 10 habits for lifelong fat loss:
Write down your goals and some food rules you can live with. Make sure to tell a supportive person who will hold you accountable. Come up with actionable rules. These are vital for fat loss. Find what works for you. Then make some long-term, individualized rules you can stick to. S.M.A.R.T Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time based. Make short term achievable goals and progress incrementally.
Move your body as much as you can. Non-exercise activity like walking, fidgeting, standing, gardening, typing, taking the stairs all burn more calories than you might realize. A person can burn up to an extra 750 calories per day by moving more and incorporating NEAT into their daily routine. For example, just standing up burns triple the calories of sitting.
Practice good sleep hygiene. Getting 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night is optimal. Make sure your room is dark, quiet, and cool. Turn off all electronics at least 1 hour before bed. Also, leave about 2 hours between your last meal and bedtime. Lastly, go to bed and wake up approximately the same time every day.
Decrease your stress. Chronic stress makes you fat. Take up meditation; read a book; see a funny movie; go on a hike; learn a martial art; focus on breathing; create art; go into nature, etc... These are all good ways to lessen the stress of life.
Commit to small dietary changes you can live with permanently. Small changes are key. Once it becomes a normal part of your life, make another. Then another. The turtle always beats the hare.
Do at least 1 thing every day to move closer to your goal. There are 365 days in a year and if you do at least 1 small thing per day - reading a diet book, taking a walk, writing in your food diary, or taking an exercise class - you will begin to build a foundation in health. These proactive tasks will keep the goals fresh in your mind and provide some cognitive comfort, keeping you on track. Daily action steps will habituate positive behavior and build self-confidence.
Workout (Cardio and Weight Training) at least 3 times per week for at minimum 45 minutes. Reams of data show individuals who achieved long-term weight loss did it with diet and exercise. Attempting to lose weight and keep it off without focusing on diet AND exercise is a Sissafian feat. Learn to love the process.
Eliminate most if not all liquid calories. As a healthy adult, the only thing you should drink is water, seltzer, unsweetened tea, coffee, and the occasional glass of wine. The beverage industry wants us to drink other things than tap water and lots of it. We don’t need any other liquid to live a healthy life.
Learn to cook; eat out less. Plan your meals, especially if you go out. A 2017 study in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found that people who consume home-cooked meals at least five times a week eat more fruits and vegetables and are 28 percent less likely to have an overweight BMI. Restaurants don't care about your weight. They make foods that taste good, which usually means lots of fat, sugar, and salt.
Don't overthink it, just start. Seriously. Doing even 1 minute of exercise is better than doing nothing. Start today!