The Blog

Change Your Habits to Change Your Weight

There is no better time to start than today. Start one positive practice today and repeat it daily to begin creating the habit that leads to successful, sustainable weight loss.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

While every other weight loss 'guru' is teaching (or selling) the latest diet or detox plan, I'm here to tell you something you already know: those don't work. Sure, they may work for awhile--you'll lose a couple of pounds (of mostly water weight), be less bloated, and feel like you can conquer the world with your amazing willpower.

Then, a few days in, or maybe a few weeks in, your motivation will fall off, your energy will drop, and you'll be at a birthday party or have a stressful day such that end up eating a whole cake. And that's when it starts: the yo-yo of willpower and dieting.

Forget that.

The only truly sustainable way to get healthier, to shed some excess weight, and maintain a svelte figure is by changing your habits. Yes, habits are totally unsexy in the face of fad diets and green detoxes, but they matter.

A little secret: I spent years following the latest diet and detox craze and I was never any lighter or happier than before I'd started. After all those years of disappointment, I learned to give up diet-trend following and instead found more success by changing the habits and unhealthy patterns in my life.

That's why I can say from experience, the only way to achieve life long success and confidence with your weight is by adopting new, supportive body and soul nourishing habits that will lead you toward your long term goals.

These questions will help to guide and inspire your healthy habits.

What do your food habits say about your commitment to health and weight loss?

Healthy and fit people have a different default programming for their food choices than those who are struggling with their weight. For example, the server at the restaurant asks, 'do you want a soft drink with that?' The healthy, automatic answer is, of course, 'no, water will be fine.'

Lean people have realized what else matters: total daily quantity of sugar consumed, portion sizes, cooking at home, and eating only when hungry instead of following the clock.

Food habits work just like any other positive habit: they have to be built and trained to become habits. You can practice everyday: at the grocery store, in your kitchen, and by checking in with your body to see if you're hungry. The more you do them, the more routine they become.

How much do you sleep?

Countless research [1, 2] has shown that those who sleep the recommended 7-8 hours of quality sleep per night are less likely to overeat, less likely to be overweight, have less body fat, and are more likely to make healthier decisions throughout the day.

Sleep deprivation affects weight regulation through poor sugar metabolism, altered hunger hormones, impaired decision making around food and quantity, and reduced activity and energy expenditure.

Going to bed around the same time every night and waking up approximately 8 hours later is indeed a habit that can be trained. It may mean rescheduling your activities, watching less TV, and putting away your electronic devices earlier to encourage quality sleep, but all of these can be turned into habits that support your goals.

What do you do when you need a boost of energy?

Throughout the day energy ebbs and flows depending on sleep, food and digestion, the environment, our level of excitement, and our body's natural rhythms. In one of those times when your energy dips, such as mid-afternoon, do you reach for a sugary snack? For a cup of coffee or an energy drink?

Coffee and energy drinks too late in the day can keep you up at night and affect your sleep quality. The sugar from a vending machine run or an energy drink will most likely be stored as belly fat since your body can't use that much sugar at once.

This may be one of the simplest, positive habits you can start creating immediately after reading this article. When your energy sinks, try going for a walk, stretch and take a few deep breaths, or drink a cup of tea (which tends to be much lower caffeine). Reinforce your new habit by doing it daily or every time you notice your energy nod off.

How do you treat yourself?

No, I don't mean what do you indulge in, but rather how do you talk to yourself? How do you structure your day? Do you give yourself time and space to breathe?

Constantly berating and belittling yourself with negative self talk adds an inordinate amount of stress and feelings of inadequacy. It's not surprising the body wants to protect itself behind layers of fat.

Scheduling your day so you're running around constantly overwhelmed, giving your all is another major stressor. Not allowing yourself the space to relax, to take deep breaths, to check in with the body, and to feel what the body needs is to ignore the wisdom of your body and to add to its stress.

Stress is one of the major factors in holding onto excess weight, particularly belly fat, through the production of a hormone called cortisol. Stress, for many people, also leads to overeating, especially of sugar and carbs.

To change these stress-inducing behaviors, begin by building supportive, loving habits: start each day by telling yourself you are beautiful and smart; be willing to say no to commitments you don't want; set an alarm on your phone for three times per day that reminds you to take a deep breath and check in with your body. Pause. Breathe.

Nourish yourself, love yourself, and the body will follow.

The road to sustainable weight loss is never a quick one and oftentimes its very bumpy along the way, but it is very rewarding. While fad diets and detoxes may be flashy, they won't support you for the long haul. Only you can support you, by creating good habits that support your goals, nourish you, and guide you to success.

There is no better time to start than today. Start one positive practice today and repeat it daily to begin creating the habit that leads to successful, sustainable weight loss.