When it comes to weight loss, having good intentions isn’t enough if you aren’t confronting the poor diet and lifestyle choices you’ve made in the past or you fail to follow though consistently with the habits that’ll help you lose weight.
You may have gotten off to a great start but somehow your enthusiasm dwindled and now all you have to show for it is a gym membership, a corner of your room stacked with fitness equipment, and a wardrobe housing new fitness wear.
It sounds like you’ve done some of the right things but you’re still holding on to some habits and behaviours that lead to weight gain and hold you back from losing weight.
Fret not! With the new year peering round the corner, three months of consistent effort is enough to see progress. Without further ado, let’s get into the 5 habits you should break to help you lose weight and keep it off.
Lack of consistency with workouts
Working out only when you feel like it, shows a lack of commitment. Just as we wouldn’t leave brushing our teeth to days we felt like it because we’d end up with bad breath and other oral health conditions, we shouldn’t leave exercise to chance. Regular exercise (3-5 days a week) is the prescription for a healthy strong body.
If you’re overscheduled and struggle to find the time or energy to squeeze in a workout, it’s one of two things: either you struggle to set boundaries with your time or you have an all or nothing attitude when it comes to working out. An all or nothing attitude to exercise might sound like ‘I can’t manage to squeeze in an hour workout 5 days a week…I just don’t have the time’.
At the start of my weight loss journey, this perfectionary attitude to fitness would keep me from exercising for days and sometimes weeks until finally I came to accept that my life isn’t perfect, and my workouts didn’t need to be. This new mindset changed everything for me and opened me up to creative ways I could fit exercise into my day-to-day routine.
Exercise became an activity I could fit into my lifestyle as opposed to something I fit my lifestyle around. Nowadays, you might catch me squatting or lunging in the middle of the kitchen while making dinner or push-ups before a shower and leg ups before bed. A little here and there adds up on days I’m not able to block out an hour in my day for a workout.
The key is to find your own sweet spot that does the magic without throwing your work-life out of balance. If that looks like 10 minutes of jump rope 5 days a week then great! the key is to commit to the routine, until you’re able to up the intensity and time.
According to the NHS, adults should aim to incorporate ‘at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate intensity activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity a week.’
Not planning meals
When we leave our food choices to chance, we set ourselves up to make unhealthy choices especially when we’re hungry. Weight loss is 80% diet and 20% exercise AND we’ve heard it time and time again that you can’t outwork a bad diet.
A key to staying in control of your diet is preparing/prepping meals ahead of time. Getting in the habit of this takes the guess work out of mealtimes and will help you stick to a healthy eating plan.
When it comes to prepping meals the two most common ways include:
- Batch cooking your meals, say, over the weekend and store them in individual containers to be eaten over the course of the week.
- Preparing the ingredients for the meal you intend to cook ahead of time to cut back on cooking time.
It’s not unheard of for people to eat all the ‘right things’ and still struggle to get their weight down. What a lot of beginners aren’t aware of is that eating healthy is not a free ticket to eat all you want and still get a snatched waistline. The truth is, and in most cases, a calorie deficit is required for weight loss.
If you find yourself unsure of healthy portions, it might be helpful to sign up to Myfitnesspal to track your calories. It will help you to gauge your excesses- where you need to cut back and generally become familiar with healthy plating and be accountable to yourself.
Too much cardio
I blame those late night exercise TV commercials that fooled us into thinking cardio exercises that have you hunched over gasping for breath with your wig slung to one side are the key to weight loss and somehow if you can’t withstand an intense session on the ‘Easy Glider’, then you don’t stand a chance at weight loss.
I started running for weight loss at the beginning of my fitness journey as everything I understood up till that point was that running would help you lose weight and get you in shape. And yes, this is true…in part. Let me explain from my experience.
With running, I came to realise that my ability to remain consistent with my exercise routine was hindered by my body’s slow recovery after a run. I’d run 1 day and spend the next 2-3 days recovering. I physically couldn’t bring myself to move with vigour. The other thing is, naturally, exercise triggers hunger as our body’s way of recovering and protecting itself. After my run I’d often struggle to control my hunger and I’d reach for whatever I could find and sometimes I’d overeat.
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What I’m saying is, when it comes to weight loss, a balance of cardio and strength training is key. Cardio as a means to weight loss can be likened to taking the stairs but combined with strength training, it’s like taking the elevator. I’d recommend aiming for exercises that build your strength and double as cardio. examples of these include: climbing stairs, skipping/jump rope, rebounder exercises or spinning on moderate resistance.
Weight lifting and adding resistance bands to your training regimen will help you gain muscle. What research has proven to be true is that increasing your muscle mass also increases your metabolic rate which helps you burn fat, faster!
Not getting enough sleep
If there’s a good reason to log off your social media and turn off Netflix at gone past bed-o-clock, this is it. Sleep is going to make your weight loss goals easier. It’s recommended we sleep 7-8 hours a day. Research shows poor sleep can make you gain weight and negatively impacts our metabolism. Personally, when I’ve gotten very little sleep, I tend to eat more and make poor food choices the following day; also, my energy and motivation for exercise is next to zero. There’s no argument that when it comes to executing our fitness goals, we’ll go further with a good night’s sleep.
This video explains in more detail how a lack of sleep can lead to weight gain: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HacYOqa0dao
Comparing your progress to others.
When we compare ourselves to others there’s a tendency to feel like we don’t measure up. It’s a futile mind game that should be avoided. You can’t change the fact that people will have different rates of success especially considering the many variables that come into play such as their age, genetics, fitness level, underlying medical issues, whether they’ve given birth, if they have access to professional guidance and support to name but a few. The best thing you can do is draw inspiration from others, resist feeling discouraged and remain focussed on your own goals.
Have you even been on a weight loss journey If you haven’t felt like calling it quits after weeks of exercising and eating right only to find that the scale hasn’t budged!
I get it, it’s a great feeling seeing the tangible proof of your efforts; but you see, your progress is so much more than the number on the scale. The value of eating right and exercising regularly goes far beyond just weight loss.
One of the ways you can tunnel vision and stay motivated on your weight loss journey is by focusing on the person you are becoming- stronger, more resilient, developing self-compassion- Instead of beating yourself up for not yet reaching your ideal body weight. You are as capable of a lifestyle change as the next person.
Keep your eyes fixed on your own goals, embrace imperfection as the norm and quit comparing yourself to an unrealistic standard you’ve set yourself.
What behaviours have you had to finally overcome to lose weight?