Welcome to the latest edition of 52 healthy habits, where each week we tackle a new healthy habit in order to improve our lives. When we make the decision to live a healthier lifestyle, we often make the mistake of trying to change everything at once. We decide to eat "clean," workout six days a week, give up wine (gasp!) and then inevitably get overwhelmed and go back to our old ways. A more sane and sustainable approach is to tackle one habit and build on it slowly over time. It's not a quick fix but it is an effective long-term solution to a healthy lifestyle. When healthy behaviors become habits, then no willpower or iron-clad motivation is needed.
But where do you start? There a million things you could do and as we discussed, doing too much at once is usually not an effective solution. We want to tackle the things that will make the biggest impact when working to achieve our goals. Here are the first five habits I recommend when prioritizing fat loss. These five small habits will yield big results over time. Take one at a time, cultivate it until mastered, then build on the next one.
PRIORITIZE PROTEIN/VEGGIES AT EACH MEAL
Fat loss starts in the kitchen. Make sure every meal has a serving of protein and veggies. Protein helps you maintain muscle, which is very important to ensure that you are losing fat and not muscle when you lose weight. Protein and the fiber from veggies help you feel full.
When you want a snack, look for a high protein snack, like cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, protein shake or a tuna packet. Focus on what you can add to your meals to make them healthier, rather than what you have to take away. Learn more about adding protein and veggies in these blog posts.
When I'm in an environment where I am not in control of the food being served: at a restaurant, at a dinner party or a work function, I always fill my plate with the protein and veggies first. It's a smart strategy to make the best decisions possible in any circumstance. We can never be perfect, but we can always strive to make the best choices possible.
When you gobble down your food in five minutes flat you don't give your stomach enough time to send the signal to your brain that it's full. I am as guilty of this as anyone. A great fat loss strategy is to eat your meals slowly. Set a timer for 20 minutes and stretch it out. Chew your food slowly (20-30 times!), put your fork down between bites, take a drink of water between bites, talk with your family. Slow it down. Pay attention to fullness signals and stop eating when full. You'll digest your food better and likely eat less, which is ideal for fat loss. You can learn more about mindful eating in this blog post.
A great habit to cultivate for fat loss is a power walking routine. No, I didn't say you have to join CrossFit or sign up to run a marathon. Those things can be great (if they align with your goals and preferences), but if you are just starting out take 15-20 minutes every day and walk a mile as fast as you can. Walk with purpose, like you're late for the start of Game of Thrones. Take your dog. Don't have a dog? Borrow a dog. They'll love you for it. Do it twice a day if you can. Little changes can make a big difference. Here is more on how to make exercise a daily habit.
Sleep is so important for fat loss that I would say if you could only do one thing on this list that you choose to prioritize sleep. It's the most overlooked activity in our modern environment but the most important. Create a sleep routine and aim for 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Yes, it matters for fat loss. Before you think about taking supplements or trying the next "fat loss secret" make sure you have the basics covered. I go into more depth on creating a sleep ritual in this blog post.
REPLACE ALL DRINKS WITH WATER
If you replace all soda, juice, energy drinks and sugar-filled drinks with water (or seltzer water) you'll cut hundreds of empty calories a day. In order to lose fat you need to create a calorie-deficit, which means you consume less calories than you burn in a day. An easy way to do this without depriving yourself is to cut out those empty calories from sugar-filled drinks. Water can help you feel fuller and more energized. Dehydration causes all kinds of problems like fatigue, lack of energy and headaches. This is easy to fix with regular intake of H20. I cover some strategies to increase water intake here.
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