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Why Doing Less Is the Only Way to Lose Weight

07/01/2015 10:49am ET | Updated December 6, 2017
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Most people think that in order to lose weight you have to count calories and go to the gym five days a week.

While it's true that eating more vegetables and increasing your exercise are essential to living a healthy life, heading into big lifestyle changes full-force can actually hold you back from reaching your goals.

Before you can live a healthy lifestyle, the first thing you have to do is to establish the habit of showing up.

Let me explain.

You've been wanting to lose weight for some time and you finally decide to step up and do it already!

So you go on a low-calorie diet and plan to go to the gym x number of times per week. Things go great for a while, and maybe you even lose a few pounds.

But then life happens, you get stressed out and honestly, you're hungry! So you drop the diet.

You also feel tired and overwhelmed. Pretty soon you've stopped going to the gym too, and then end up right back where you started, or even worse, a few pounds heavier.

Sound familiar?

The problem with your approach is that you're assuming that there is a quick and simple fix to losing weight, but life's more complicated than that.

Despite what the weight-loss industry likes to tell you, you can't leap into a healthier lifestyle and expect that it will be easy to keep up with when times get tough.

And times always get tough, especially when you're changing your whole lifestyle.

If you want to lose weight and keep it off, you have to make a long-term plan and begin by taking the smallest possible steps to get there.

The trick at the beginning is to actually do less than you think you can, not more.

Why should you do less?

Because the key to creating new healthy habits is consistency.

A recent study featured in the European Journal of Social Psychology found that healthy habits can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days for a behavior to become automatic, and more than half of the participants in the study managed to create a lasting healthy habit in 66 days or less.

What was their secret? A solid strategy of showing up consistently.

But showing up consistently is really hard to do if you set goals that are too big. Big goals make you give up before you even have time to establish a new habit.

So to make things easier, break down your bigger goal into small and easy steps.

When you do this you're far more likely to show up for your new healthy habits, feel accomplished, and continue on your path toward a more vibrant life.

Here's an example:

Let's say you want to start practicing yoga to help you lose weight.

Instead of jumping into a month-long membership at your local studio, start small.

Charles Duhigg's groundbreaking book, The Power of Habit, explains that every successful habit has a trigger, a response action, and a reward and/or punishment.

So to start your yoga habit, begin by rolling out your yoga mat at laying out your yoga clothes before you go to bed. This is your trigger.

Then in the morning, put on your yoga clothes, sit down on your mat, take a deep breath, get back up, and go about your regular routine. That's it!

I know what you're thinking.

Just sitting down on your yoga mat isn't going to help you lose weight, and that's true. Unless you have a magical yoga mat, this action alone won't help you lose weight.

But you've got to build up the foundation of your habit before you can successfully follow through on it.

Without establishing the habit of showing up you'll never lose those unwanted pounds.

Once you've done this every morning for a week, reward yourself by buying yourself your favorite latte, or getting a new yoga prop.

The reward will keep you motivated to keep going even when you hit a roadblock, so don't forget to set one up for yourself!

If you want you can also give $5 to a friend, and tell them ahead of time that if you don't sit down on your mat every day they should give that money to a charity you hate.

Tim Ferriss talks about this strategy's success in his own life and I find it to be both amusing and highly effective as well.

Then the next week, instead of just sitting down on your mat, take 10 deep and mindful breaths.

The week after that add on 10 rounds of cat-cow, then 25 the next week, and then add in five sun salutations the week after that.

Continue building up from there.

Set weekly goals for yourself and remember that the most important thing is to keep showing up every day.

I'll never forget what my yoga-training teacher Jonathan Fields said: "It's better to do a little yoga a lot that a lot of yoga a little."

The same holds true for any healthy habit, especially if you're trying to lose weight.

So make a plan and start smaller than you think.

You'll reach your goals much more quickly and easily than you ever thought you could!

Want more inspiration, information, and action-oriented steps to create lasting healthy habits? Check out the free weekly Della Terra Wellness newsletter! Click here to get instant access.