You did it — you got in shape, dropped a few kilos, and felt better than you felt in years. Now, how do you plan to build habits of health to keep the weight off?
Hitting your goal weight might be one of the hardest things you've ever tackled. But as many people will tell you, keeping the weight off can be just as difficult as losing those initial kilos. In fact, some estimates state that 80% of people who lose at least 10% of their body weight will gain the weight back (and sometimes more).
To maintain your newfound weight loss, energy levels, and physique, it's important to build habits of health. New healthy habits can prevent weight gain and keep you physically active for the rest of your life. A great way to form new habits is following the method outlined in one of my top favorite books ever: James Clear's Atomic Habits (affiliate link).
Below, I share some of my favorite habits to help make nutrition, cardio, strength training, and recovery work (read: the four pillars of 4 Legs Fitness) a cornerstone in your life.
Please note, this post is meant for informational purposes only, and should not be taken as medical advice. Please speak to your healthcare provider or RDN (registered dietitian) before beginning any weight loss plan.
4 Habits of Health To Incorporate More Cardio
Cardiovascular training includes low-impact exercises (like walking) or intense exercises (like HIIT training). Cardio helps burn fat, increase aerobic capacity, and keep the weight off. Here are a few tips to incorporate more cardio into your life. These will help you increase your Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT), which is the energy you consume when living your daily life (i.e., when you are not actively exercising).
1. Run Your Errands (Literally)
Do you need to return books to the library, make a deposit at the ATM, or stop by the grocery store? Rather than waste gas mileage on these errands, tackle them by foot.
Walking errands incorporate more steps into your daily life, helping you walk 2-3 kilometers without even realizing it. Plus, it can be much more enjoyable than sitting in traffic or circling the block trying to find a parking space. Simply put your headphones in, listen to an audiobook, and tackle that to-do list.
2. Walk or Bike Your Commute
If you're spending time in the car each morning on your work commute, why not burn a few calories while you're at it? Rather than drive, choose to walk or bike to work (or even take public transportation — you'll still have to walk to the bus or metro stop).
If walking to work is not a possibility (or you work from home) try to incorporate a lunchtime walk instead. On your lunch break, set a daily goal to walk 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) before sitting down to eat.
3. Don't Outsource House or Yard Work
I know, I know — on your never-ending to-do list, sometimes items like cleaning, laundry, or pulling weeds are the first things you outsource to a housekeeper. But in your quest for better health, you may be missing a few opportunities to increase your daily physical activity.
House and yard work may not be fun, but it certainly helps increase your aerobic capacity and burn calories. An hour of tidying up your home will burn 179 calories, an hour spent washing windows burns 229 calories, and an hour of vacuuming burns 236 calories. If you really want to get a workout in, get down on your hands and knees and scrub the floors — burning an incredible 465 calories per hour.
4. Find a Type of Cardio You Enjoy
Most people believe they dislike cardio workouts because they simply haven't found a type of cardio they enjoy. But for these habits to take shape for life, you need to strike a balance between resistance training and cardio.
Sure, you may not enjoy running laps around your neighborhood — but that's not the only type of cardio available to you. Try mountain biking, rollerblading, rowing, or hiking, which you might find to be more fun. Or, take a spinning or HIIT class, which spikes your heart rate while motivating you through with teammates, loud playlists, and a fitness coach.
4 Habits of Health To Start Strength Training
If you want to not only get good posture but maintain a healthy weight, resistance training (with good form) has to be part of your training program. Follow these habits to build a regular strength training program:
1. Lift Heavy
Many individuals, particularly women, avoid lifting weights for fear that it will make them bulk up. This is one of the number one myths in fitness. Lifting weights doesn't make you bulky — it helps boost your metabolism, improves posture, and gives you an aesthetically pleasing physique. Plus, it’s a well-known fact that muscle burns more calories than fat, helping you maintain your current weight.
If you want to keep a healthy weight for the rest of your life, then resistance training has to be a key component in your training program. Follow a well-balanced program designed by a personal trainer or health coach that targets all muscles in the body, prevents overtraining, and builds muscle mass.
2. Learn To Lift With Correct Form
Unfortunately, lifting weights with improper form is one of the easiest ways to get injured. Therefore, I always recommend beginners book a one-on-one consultation with a personal trainer to learn the basics of lifting (or book a consultation with me through my Build Bullet-Proof Health program).
It’s impossible to describe all aspects of correct form in a single blog post. However, as a starting point, remember these three things:
- Brace your core: Squeeze your abs like you're about to be punched in the stomach, even when you're not doing a core exercise.
- Roll your shoulders back and down: Shrug your shoulders up toward your ears, then shoot your shoulder blades back to the back of the room, now drop your shoulders down your back. Maintain this posture throughout most exercises, especially compound exercises like deadlifts, squats or bench presses.
- Tuck your chin: Keep your chin tucked, allowing your gaze to follow the weight. This is especially helpful in deadlifts or kettlebell swings, where many people strain their neck by looking forward, when they should look at the bar.
3. Learn How To Progress Your Workouts
At one point, previously difficult workouts will become easy for you. But lifelong healthy people learn to continuously challenge themselves and their workouts, so their bodies can never *quite* adapt.
This concept is known as "progressive overload," and it's vital to your lifelong transformation. Progressive overload is the idea of introducing a new stimulus to make a familiar workout more challenging (thereby stressing your body and burning more fat). You can progress your workouts by lifting heavier weights, running further or faster, adding a source of instability (like standing on a bosu ball), reducing rest times between sets, or trying single leg exercises (like single leg squats instead of back squats).
4. Get Yourself an Accountability Buddy
Having someone to hold you accountable is vital to optimal health, as they can motivate you, inspire you, and encourage you on days when you feel like giving up. However, I find that accountability buddies are most useful when it comes to resistance training.
An accountability buddy can double as a spotter when you weight lift, point out form corrections, and motivate you to complete another rep. Plus, having someone to lift with can create some healthy competition — I guarantee you will lift heavier weights with someone standing next to you.
4 Healthy Habits Centered on Rest and Recovery
Rest, sleep, and recovery are three of the most valuable, yet often overlooked aspects of a healthy lifestyle. To help maintain your goal weight, try to keep these four things in mind:
1. Make Recovery Work Preventive, Not Reactive
Many people ignore recovery work until they get injured. At that point, they're benched from their workouts often for many weeks, which causes mental frustration and physical weight gain.
Weight control is difficult (if not impossible) when you can't work out due to injury. Therefore, make recovery work a key aspect of your wellness program. Find yourself a good physical therapist who can dry needle nagging injuries, foam roll at least 2-3 times per week, stretch after every workout, and ice sore muscles (or take a cold shower).
2. Reduce Your Stress Levels
Reducing stress levels is vital to your optimal health and well-being. Your body is created to protect you against various threats in your life. Because of this, your hormones will alter based on your environment.
Cortisol levels spike when you're in a stressful situation, whether it's a deadline at work, a fight with your partner, or a brutal morning commute. When your cortisol levels rise, your body tries to protect itself, hoarding food, slowing down metabolism, and increasing your blood glucose levels. A particularly serious type of stress is the Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The Center for Advancing Health (CFAH) showed in a report on their website that cognitive behavioral therapy can help ease symptom severity by about half. Interestingly cannabis can substantially help to recover from this condition.
To lower your stress levels, try to stay off social media, avoid toxic relationships, and find a job you like with a good work-life balance. Or even better: create your own job, which you are passionate about. Then work-life balance is irrelevant.
3. Rethink Your Sleep Habits
Good sleep hygiene is a key component to living a healthy lifestyle. Getting enough quality sleep also helps with weight management, as numerous studies show that poor sleep leads to an increased risk in obesity, metabolic disorders, heart disease, weight gain.
To improve your sleep habits, try to sleep in a dark room, avoiding all electronics two hours before bed. Give yourself a set bedtime, and try to get at least seven uninterrupted hours of sleep per night.
4. Don't Skip Rest Days
If maintaining weight loss is your goal, it's all too easy to succumb to the pressures of overtraining. Many times, I see people successfully complete a weight-loss program, only to start working out twice as hard (and twice as often) for fear of gaining the weight back.
Unfortunately, overtraining can slow down your metabolism, make you susceptible to injuries, or even cause you to develop CNS fatigue. To prevent overtraining, schedule a weekly rest day, and don't skip it (just like you wouldn't skip one of your workouts).
4 Habits of Health To Rethink Your Eating Habits
A healthy diet is vital to weight management and well-being. Use the tips and tricks below to develop healthy habits related to nutrition. A lot of these are influenced by the Precision Nutrition coaching knowledge.
1. Eat Breakfast
If you want to maintain your goal weight, start your day by eating breakfast. Fueling up with a breakfast of protein and fiber helps fuel your workouts, prevents overeating, and helps jumpstart your metabolism for the day. Check out my recipes for protein pancakes or crunchy overnight oats.
When selecting your breakfast, be sure to fuel your body with healthy foods and choose it in line with your plans for the rest of the day (workout days require a different energy intake than rest days). Avoid junk like whole grain bagels and cream cheese, sugary cereals, and breakfast pastries. Instead, focus on veggies, protein (such as eggs or salmon), and healthy fats.
2. Drink Plenty of Water
Hydration plays a critical role in all weight loss success stories. Drinking water helps keep your body cool (which is vital for regular exercise), promotes cardiovascular health, lubricates your joints and prevents muscle cramps, and helps your body rid itself of toxins.
Set a goal to drink at least eight glasses of water per day. Aim for at least two liters per day (on workout days even more). I also recommend drinking a glass of water before every meal (which fills you up, thereby causing you to consume fewer calories).
3. Make Simple, Healthy Eating Swaps
Sometimes, the best eating habits are the ones that seem so simple. If long-term weight maintenance is your goal, then you don't need to deprive yourself of your favorite foods — you just need to find healthier versions of those foods.
Here are a few healthy eating swaps that have worked for my clients (that don't involve counting calories):
- Burgers: Lose the bun and enjoy your burger on a low-carb leaf of butter lettuce instead.
- Pasta night: Enjoy your favorite sauces over zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash.
- Sandwiches: Rather than enjoy a meal between two slices of bread or a tortilla, simply enjoy it as a bowl as a meal replacement. Or, you could use veggies instead of bread, enjoying zucchini boats or stuffed bell peppers.
4. Avoid Empty Calories
One of the best lifestyle changes you can make is to cut sugar from your diet. Avoid soda, candy, cakes, and other desserts, which can spike your blood sugar, thereby preventing your body from burning body fat. Avoid the temptation and don’t buy these things in the first place. If you have it at home, you’ll eat it.
Once again, I don't believe a healthy lifestyle is a life filled with deprivation. Therefore, give yourself the freedom to enjoy a treat on special occasions — just don't make sugar a part of your day-to-day eating patterns.
Or find tasty and nutritious snacks or breakfast options. My favorite are protein pancakes or overnight oats. Here is a lot of useful info about oatmeal.
It is important to avoid emotional eating by treating these foods as rewards, comfort, or coping mechanisms. Instead, treat yourself with a night out with friends, a massage, a walk around the block, or other activities that support your health.
A Healthy Lifestyle Isn't Done Through One Healthy Habit
You can't do just one thing and maintain your goal weight. Instead, weight management requires a well-rounded approach, involving a regular exercise routine, sustainable dieting practices, and strategically implemented rest and recovery.
Fortunately, developing habits of health is completely doable — and even enjoyable. To help build and maintain a healthy lifestyle, try to incorporate daily movement by walking to work or cleaning your home. Get yourself an accountability buddy at the gym and learn the basics of correct form. Try to reduce stress where you can and rethink your sleep routine. Last but not least, watch your food intake, eating a balanced diet of protein, fiber, and healthy fats.
If you want a well-rounded program that incorporates each of these habits of health, then join Build Bullet-Proof Health today. It incorporates nutrition, resistance training, cardio, and recovery — the backbone of a healthy lifestyle. Plus, if you sign up for the premium membership, you get monthly calls with me to discuss your progress.
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