As you move through your weight loss journey, you will encounter two kinds of habits – healthy habits you want to create (such as eating more fruits and vegetables) and less healthful habits you want to stop (such as drinking sugar-sweetened beverages).
You will find that it’s more challenging to stop an unhealthy habit than create a new one.
Existing habits represent default behaviors, often performed automatically over long periods of time.
As I help patients build new healthy habits, I also try and nudge them to tweak some of their older habits that make it hard to manage weight successfully.
Here are 3 of the top less healthful habits I often address:
1-Drinking Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Daily
Sugary drinks are the # 1 source of added sugars in the diet.
Examples may include sodas, fruit drinks, sport and energy drinks and sweetened waters or teas.
Sugary drink consumption has been associated with weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
I tell patients not to drink their calories; sweet drinks don’t fill them up or provide other beneficial nutrients.
I talk about healthy substitutions, such as seltzer waters with no-calorie flavorings, making your own ‘spa’ water by adding cut-up lemon, lime or cucumbers to a pitcher of water or drinking unsweetened ice tea or coffee.
Having an insulated water bottle that can stay with you throughout the day can encourage more water drinking.
If you’re really having trouble making the switch, some people enjoy adding a splash of juice to their water glass, pitcher or bottle.
2-Ordering in or Taking-Out Foods Daily
Don’t expect the restaurant to make it easy for you to choose healthy items.
In fact, more typically, we are all being overserved and end up overeating.
You can still eat out now and then but when eating out becomes your go-to, daily eating pattern, it will be hard to keep your portion sizes and calories in check.
After providing counseling on the importance of preparing your own foods at home, one patient deleted the Uber Eats and Door Dash app from her smartphone to reinforce this recommendation.
Sounds ‘radical’ but it worked!
3-Having No Daily Physical Activity Plan
I ask my patients to tell me the most physically active things they do in a typical day.
For the people who are too busy at work, sitting at their desks, or spending their time with care-taking responsibilities, I discuss the health hazards of sitting too much.
You may be surprised to know that the health risks of too much sitting goes beyond not burning enough calories to include decreased energy levels, decreased work productivity, joint pain and stiffness, poor posture and less joint flexibility.
Prolonged sitting is also a top risk factor for gaining weight, developing diabetes, obesity, increased blood fats, cardiovascular disease, some forms of cancer and even premature death.
Akin to feeling sleep deprived, the feeling of sluggishness brought on by a sedentary lifestyle can also weaken your motivation to eat healthfully and has been associated with excessive snacking.
I help patients to start building more activity into their daily routines.
This can start with taking a 5 to 10 minute ‘movement break’ for every hour that you are sitting and taking a 10-minute walk before you start your day, at lunchtime or after dinner.
Slowly, you can build up from there and even build a movement portfolio into your life.
To get your personalized plan for managing weight and boosting health, check out my self-help book, Six Factors to Fit: Weight Loss that Works for You!
Robert Kushner, MD