DEAR DOCTOR K:
One popular book claims that there are “7 habits of highly effective people.” Do people who effectively lose weight and keep it off also have habits in common?
That’s a very interesting question — and I think the answer is “yes.” There are certain “habits” that help, but only if you make a long-term commitment to them.
Lasting weight loss demands that you transform your eating and exercise habits. But many other choices you make each day can also make a difference. What follows are several habits that can help people achieve — and maintain — their target weight.
But first, a word of advice: Don’t do all of these at once. Choose just one and try to stick with it for a week or so. Once you find yourself doing that first one consistently, then add a second. And start with the one that you are most confident you can be successful with.
- SET SMALL, SPECIFIC AND REALISTIC GOALS. Perhaps you’d like to drop 50 pounds. Start with a more realistic goal of losing 5 to 10 percent of your weight. Once you’ve achieved that, set the next goal.
Also, avoid generalized goals, such as, “I should eat less and exercise more.” Instead, set specific short-term goals:
*I will bring a healthy lunch from home at least three times next week.
*I will walk with a friend after work on Monday and Wednesday.
- SELF-MONITOR. Many people are not aware of how many calories they eat or how much they exercise. Writing down what you do can help you gain awareness of your behaviors and track your changes toward specific goals.
You can go low-tech, recording your behavior in a notebook. Or you can go high-tech: Many smartphone apps help you monitor your exercise and eating. Since, for many people, their phones are always with them, the apps make it easy. Also, some apps help you monitor your exercise, for example, by sensing the number of steps you take per day.
An important part of self-monitoring, of course, is to weigh yourself regularly (at least weekly) and record the number.
- FIND A SUPPORT NETWORK. Find at least one weight-loss buddy — your spouse, a friend or a relative — to help motivate you and hold you accountable.
- EAT BREAKFAST every morning. Get up 15 minutes earlier to make time for it. Eat slowly, putting down your utensil or sipping water, coffee or tea between bites.
- MODIFY YOUR SCREEN TIME. Keep track of your screen time (TV or computer) for a week, then try scaling back the time by a quarter or a third. Devote the extra time to exercise, or shopping for and preparing healthy meals.
- SHOP SMARTER. Never shop when you’re hungry, and use a list to avoid impulse buys.
This advice may seem obvious. It is, but many people for whom it is obvious also ignore it. Don’t be one: These “habits” really can help you achieve your weight-loss goal.