Posted by on Jul 29, 2013

General HealthWeight Loss

Leo Babauta is a simplicity blogger & author. He created Zen Habits, a Top 25 blog (according to TIME magazine) with 260,000 subscribers, mnmlist.com, and the best-selling books focus, The Power of Less, and Zen To Done. Babauta is a former journalist of 18 years, a husband, father of six children, and in 2010 moved from Guam to San Francisco, where he leads a simple life.

Visit Leo on his websiteTwitter, or Fitocracy

Losing weight can be a huge challenge for most people, for one very important reason: it’s hard to change old habits.

You want to start a new diet, but the old eating habits don’t die easily. You might do well sticking to a diet for the short-term, but for the long-term, habits will rule.

Same with a new exercise program: you’re fired up for a of couple weeks, but then life gets in the way. Your old habits come back, and you’re not exercising anymore.

So what are we to do?

Figure out how to change our habits.

It’s not impossible — it just takes a bit of knowledge. I’ll show you how to change your habits, but first let’s take a brief look at what habits to form.

The Habits

The specific habits you form to lose weight are very personal, but here’s an idea to get you started:

  1. Eat whole foods — whole grains, nuts, seeds, veggies, fruits, non-fried protein — instead of sweets, fried foods, processed carbs. This actually entails a few habits, like grocery shopping, cooking. Or ordering healthier choices (without all the sauces) when you’re out.
  2. Exercise each day — walk, do some bodyweight exercises, run, do a short intense workout, etc.

What you do depends on what you can stick to, what level you’re at, what you have access to, etc. What specific foods you eat depend on what you like, but I’ve found that sticking to whole foods (that aren’t fried, that don’t have sauces) makes a huge difference in weight.

How to Form the Habits

Habits are formed by tying a habit to a trigger, and repeating it a bunch of times (let’s say a month if you do a daily habit) until it becomes automatic.

The problem is sticking to it long enough that it becomes automatic. And it’s difficult to do that when you’re stuck in old grooves — your old habits make creating new habits harder.

We’ll solve that in this habit plan:

  1. Pick one habit to replace an old habit. Start with just one habit for now, to make it more likely that it’ll stick. Let’s say you want to eat more veggies. Instead of snacking on chips or sweets in the afternoon, snack on carrots/broccoli and hummus (for example). Or if you normally check email when you wake up, instead go for a walk or do 5 minutes of bodyweight exercises.
  2. Keep the habit small. We tend to be ambitious and do a lot at first. Then we crash and do nothing. Don’t fall for this fool’s trap, and instead do a small habit (5 minutes a day) until it becomes ingrained. Later you can add to the habit (walk or run for longer, for example). But in the beginning, keep it small if you want it to stick.
  3. Focus on the enjoyment. If the habit feels like a sacrifice, you won’t do it for long. So instead of thinking, “I have to do this” think, “I get to do this.” And enjoy the crap out of it. Then the habit itself becomes the reward.
  4. Have some accountability. Commit to doing the habit to a small group of people you care about. It can be your family/friends on Facebook, your peeps on Twitter, your crew on Fitocracy. Log your habit daily, share with them, stay accountable to them. For extra fun, commit to doing something really embarrassing if you don’t stick to the habit each week.

That’s the plan. It’ll help you stick to a small habit for long enough for it to become a part of your lifestyle.

Then repeat. Do it again in 3-4 weeks with another habit, then another.

For example, you might start with more veggies, then create the habit of walking each day, then drink water instead of soda, then add some pushups and bodyweight squats, then eat veggies with your lunch and dinner, then change your breakfast to steel-cut oats with nuts, cinnamon, berries and flaxseeds, then add some weights to your workout, then eat whole grains instead of that crappy pasta and white rice you’ve been eating.

Bam. Habits created, weight lost, life changed. I’ll be waiting for the check and a picture of a leaner you in a few months.

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