Making Healthy Changes a Habit: Why Rituals are Important
If you’ve embarked on a weight loss plan, you’re certainly not alone. All around you, people are attempting to trim a few inches off their waists, knock a few points off their cholesterol totals, and lower the number on the scale. In fact, according to a 2016 survey done by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, 56.4 percent of women said they had tried to lose weight in the past year.1 Unfortunately, many don’t succeed in keeping weight off long term. In fact, some experts say that only about five percent of people who try to lose weight actually keep it off.2
Why? Because diets don’t work. “Going on a diet” implies you will eventually go off of one. In order to lose weight, you must make long lasting changes to your lifestyle. Most importantly, you must permanently adopt a regular workout routine and a healthy eating plan.
Old Habits Die Hard
We are creatures of habit, and we gain comfort from a regular, predictable routine. If those habits include bad ones, such as drinking a few sodas a day, sleeping too few hours, and spending too many hours on the couch watching TV, they can catch up with you. Over time, these habits equal fewer calories burned and more pounds gained. To successfully lose weight, first, you must take a good, honest look at your habits and flag the ones that could be holding you back from the healthiest possible you. Some of the worst habits when it comes to weight gain include the following:
- Not counting drinks. Some people think, if you don’t chew it, it doesn’t count. Quite the contrary. Soda, beer, sweet tea, wine, juice—these drinks can account for more calories than food for those who guzzle them.
- Mindlessly eating. Donuts at the office, snacks while you’re watching a movie, or a quick spin through the drive-through—these calories all count, even when you don’t sit down for a meal.
- Not sleeping enough. When you don’t get your recommended seven to nine hours of sleep, your body secretes cortisol, which stimulates your appetite. Sleep loss also makes your body more likely to store fat.
- Skipping breakfast. When you skip breakfast, you don’t save calories. In fact, your body misses the jump start it needs to get your metabolism going in the beginning of the day.
- Eating too much. This sounds like a no-brainer, but people can get caught up in thinking they ate “one meal” without looking at the size of the portions on their plates. You can learn more about healthy portions at choosemyplate.gov.3
So, now that you know what the worst habits are, how can you break them and adopt new, healthier ones?
Go through the stages of change
There are four stages of change when it comes to adopting a new health behavior. They are:
- Contemplation, when you begin thinking about change and getting motivated to start.
- Preparation, when you make up your mind to take action.
- Action, when you act on your plan and start to make changes.
- Maintenance, when you have become used to the changes and have adopted them for at least six months. This maintenance stage is when most people drop off.4
Strength train habitually
Research shows, regular strength training such as the resistance workout you get in the Curves circuit, helps you lose weight and keep it off. Muscle tissue is more metabolically active than fact tissue. In simpler terms, when you’re at rest, it burns more calories than fat tissue. So, the more muscle you have on your body, the higher your metabolism, and the more weight you will lose.5 Ideally, you should incorporate some kind of strength training into your workout routine at least two times a week.6
Track your progress
Of course, there are going to be days where you feel tired, discouraged, and tempted to abandon your new routine in exchange for the comfort of your old one. When this happens, reminders of how far you’ve come can keep you from derailing. By tracking your progress, you’ll create a roadmap of where you started compared to where you are today. These records can offer a reminder that the new healthy habits you’ve adopted are really working and moving you closer to your ultimate weight loss or health goals.4
Don’t beat yourself up over setbacks
Changing bad habits is hard, and it takes time. Along the way, you are going to have hard days, and you’re going to experience setbacks. That’s OK. What’s important is that you get back on track with your new habits as quickly as you can.4