7 Healthy Lifestyle Habits That Can Boost Weight Loss
Habits are some of the most powerful tools in our arsenal when it comes to long-term wellness and weight management. The more habitual the behavior, the less you need to think about doing those things that can greatly contribute to a sense of well-being. This is especially important when it comes to weight loss habits — the most successful habits are those that we don’t have to think about because we do them instinctively.
Fortunately, weight loss habits don’t always have to be eating and exercising habits. Developing other healthy lifestyle behaviors into habits is one of the most positive, encouraging things you can do toward long-term wellness, without focusing on the antagonizing, hamster-wheel mantra of “diet and exercise.”
“When it comes to weight loss, we tend to want it yesterday,” says Caroline Cedarquist, MD, co-founder of BistroMD. “This mentality leads people to try fad or crash diets that eventually can cause more long-term weight gain and this cycle can be frustrating, demotivating, and very taxing on the body. Focusing on other long-term lifestyle factors aside from diet and exercise can help teach both your mind and body how to lose weight naturally, successfully, and sustainably.”
With guidance from nutrition, fitness, and psychology experts, here are seven lifestyle habits that can help boost weight loss.
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1. Getting enough sleep
Sleep is critical to a sense of overall well-being, and many of us aren’t getting enough of it, but it’s an especially important healthy habit when it comes to weight loss.
“Sleep is one of the most important things you can do to promote weight loss, as a lack of sleep can promote weight gain,” says Cedarquist. “This is because inadequate sleep can heighten cravings toward comfort foods, plummet energy to be active throughout the day, and can increase stress, which fuels the fire.”
Under the general heading of “getting enough sleep,” there are many other, smaller behaviors that can help in making proper sleep a habit unto itself, such as having a consistent bedtime, avoiding naps and caffeine in the later part of the day, and limiting screen time before bed.
2. Proper hydration
Making proper hydration a habit is a simple matter of always having a glass of water nearby, and sipping it throughout your day. Hydrating properly can easily qualify as a healthy weight loss habit.
“You need plenty of water to feel good and look your best,” says Kellyann Petrucci, MS, ND, author of Dr. Kellyann’s Bone Broth Breakthrough, who suggests aiming for a total of eight cups of water, or about a half-gallon, daily. “When your body is dehydrated you actually hold on to more water. Water is also what helps move waste through your body and excrete it properly, it also revs up your metabolism, and keeps your muscles and joints happy.”
3. Resting after exercise
When we’re in weight loss mode, we tend to push ourselves to exercise more, but the quality and quantity of rest between workouts are just as important as the quality and quantity of the workouts themselves.
“You may assume that the more days you spend in the gym the better your results will be, but if you’re not leaving any time to rest, this can slow the process down,” says Patrick Dale, personal trainer and training editor for Fitness Volt. “Over-exercising leads your body to exhaustion, thus affecting your performance when working out and preventing you from building strength.”
Letting your body recover properly also helps to avoid the kinds of over-effort injuries that can lead to an inability to work out, forcing us to be sedentary.
Related: The 3 Best Workout Recovery Tips From a Sports Nutrition Consultant
4. Meal prepping
While what we eat is undeniably important when it comes to weight loss habits, how we prepare for those meals can also be healthy lifestyle habits worth building.
“Meal prepping can be a helpful tool for weight loss for a couple of reasons,” says Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, spokesperson for Jennie-O. “First, you can portion out the recipes you make into separate serving containers so you don’t have to think about whether you’re taking the right amount of food.”
Spending a few hours meal-prepping on a single day also decreases the amount of time you spend thinking about what you’re going to eat throughout the week, which can help you feel more relaxed about meal times, according to Largeman-Roth. She also suggests keeping the meal prep low-key, aiming for a few meals and a handful of snacks at a time, so there’s room for changes in the plan as life evolves.
5. Practicing meditation and mindfulness
“Managing stress” doesn’t sound very actionable unto itself when it comes to developing habits, but habits that do help you manage stress can be extremely beneficial to weight loss.
“Research has shown that stress and weight loss are intricately linked,” says Marissa Alert, PhD and founder of MDA Wellness. Because when we’re stressed, our body releases cortisol, a hormone that can contribute to weight gain and other health issues, which is why finding ways to manage stress is one of the most important things you can do for your overall well-being.
“One of the most effective ways to reduce stress is through mindfulness and meditation practices,” says Alert. “By taking time to focus on the present moment and cultivate a sense of calm, we can reduce our cortisol levels and create a more relaxed and peaceful state of mind,” which in turn helps us to make healthier choices when it comes to food and exercise, as well as stay motivated for building long-term healthy habits.
Related: 6 Expert-Approved Tricks for Handling Your Stress
6. Getting outside
On the topic of stress reduction, “there are several lifestyle changes that can make a big impact on one’s weight loss journey,” says Jesse Feder, PT, RD, and contributor to My Crohn’s and Colitis Team. “One of the most impactful things, in my opinion, is being in nature daily.”
Feder’s statement is backed by a 2019 study in Frontiers of Psychology showing how spending 20 minutes in nature can effectively decrease cortisol levels.
Again, cortisol is basically the body’s comfort-food-seeking hormone, and one that, when triggered, is one of the biggest saboteurs to our weight management efforts.
“Technology, work, and fast-paced life put a lot of stress on us,” says Feder. “Being in nature for a period of time each day can be very therapeutic, helping to reduce fatigue and leading to natural improvements in mood and productivity, which can most definitely help you stay motivated and on track with making healthy choices.”
7. Practicing self-love and gratitude
Alissa Essig, holistic plant-based nutritionist and founder of Plantwhys, advises practicing self-love through the process.
“When we want to lose weight we often focus on shaming ourselves into weight loss with negative thoughts about our bodies,” she says. “Love ignites parts of our brain that control goal-oriented motivation. An easy way to habitually practice self-love is to just breathe deeply, going through different parts of your body and expressing love and gratitude for them. The average person has over 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day, and 80% of those thoughts are negative. By replacing some of those negative thoughts with love for your body, you will be surprised how it can help with weight loss.”
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