When it comes to weight loss, we all know it’s the big things like moving more and eating less that will get results. But add these micro-changes to the mix and you’ll be surprised at the results.
As we hurtle towards the end of February, it’s a good time to take stock of those health resolutions we optimistically made at the start of the year.
Chances are, the gym sessions have slacked off as life gets busier and you’re not cooking at home as much as you would like.
Completely changing your lifestyle is a big ask, but luckily science says small changes can also reap big results.
A new study from Cal Poly University, published in the journal Obesity, found that micro-behaviours were a key factor in long-term weight loss.
Researchers surveyed nearly 5,000 WW members (the new Weight Watchers) who had, on average, lost 22kg and kept it off for three or more years and identified 54 micro-behaviours that had an impact on long-term weight loss.
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According to Dr Michelle Celander, Director of Program and Science for WW, these are the 10 key micro-behaviours that successful dieters incorporate into their lifestyle to keep the weight off for good.
1. Consistently make healthy eating choices
“What we’re talking about here is making your healthy eating choices a habit. The key to developing habits is repetition. Doing the same action over and over again means eventually you’ll end up doing it without needing intentional effort.
“Start a new eating habit by creating a cue, behaviour and reward. For example the cue might be having a coffee or tea, the behaviour would be to have this with a piece of fruit instead of a biscuit, and the reward would be that you will feel better and more energised for the day.”
2. Record the type and amounts of food you eat
“There are many ways to keep track of the type and amounts of foods you eat, from keeping a paper journal and taking pictures of your meals on your phone, to tracking what you’ve consumed via an app. This is key to becoming aware of not only how much but also how often you’re eating.”
3. Record the calories of the foods you eat
“Understand what your daily kilojoule needs are and how your typical eating pattern and the activity you do matches with it. The average adult is 2079 calories per day, but depending on your age, gender and activity, this may vary.”
4. Choose lower-calorie foods over the higher-calorie options
“As a general guide, go for fresh produce over processed foods from a packet. Processed choices are likely to have added fat and sugar and be higher in energy.
“Try to limit the amount of discretionary food you eat. Chocolate, lollies, chips and fast food are all high-energy options that may lead to weight gain if consumed regularly. Asking for dressings and sauces on the side is another easy smart swap.”
5. Keep lower-calorie foods accessible for a healthy snack
“Plan ahead with healthy options, whether it’s carrying fruit or high-protein snacks in your bag, or having chopped veggie sticks, low-fat dips, tinned tuna or boiled eggs in your fridge or in your desk drawer at work.”
6. Think about past successes if you regain weight
“Take stock regularly of how far you’ve come and the progress you’ve made towards achieving your health goals. Write it down, or discuss it with a friend or a coach. Reflecting on the positives and repeating actions that you’ve done in the past will help you stay motivated and focused on getting back on track if you feel like you’re slipping or like you’ve been derailed.”
7. Have several servings of fruit and vegetables each day
“Rather than a last minute addition, start with veggies as your base when preparing main meals and aim to fill half your plate with a rainbow of non-starchy options like carrot, broccoli, mushrooms and eggplant for a healthy mix of nutrients. Eating these first is also a good way to ensure you’re not too full to finish them towards the end of the meal.
“Finally, start thinking of veggies as a part of every meal or snack, which will naturally crowd-out less nutritious options. That might look like tomatoes in an omelette for breakfast, berries with yoghurt as a snack, a chicken salad for lunch, and grated zucchini into pasta bolognese for dinner.”
8. Eat lower fat meats
“Look for meat labelled as ‘lean’ when shopping and try to reduce the amount of processed meat like salami, sausages, streaky bacon you’re consuming during the week.”
9. Weigh and/or measure the foods you eat
“Having the right tools is key for weighing and measuring foods. Invest in a set of measuring cups and spoons and kitchen scales so you can easily manage your portions. With time, you’ll learn what the right amount is for you.
“A great tip is to find a space on your kitchen bench to keep a set of kitchen scales so it’s always accessible and you can easily weigh out portions of food accurately.”
10. Choose lower-calorie dairy products
“Try swapping full fat milk for light or skim milk or opt for plain low-fat Greek yoghurt and reduced fat cheese like ricotta or cottage cheese. Subtle changes like these mean you can still enjoy the foods or experiences you love but in a healthier way without noticing the difference too much.”