When it comes to weight loss, you know just about everything you’re supposed to remove from your life — processed foods, a couch potato habit, soda. But losing weight doesn’t have to solely be about subtraction. In fact, the most successful weight-loss plans work well because they include additions like healthy foods, positive thoughts and more.
Here, four things to add to your life to shed pounds and enjoy the process:
A REGULAR FOOD SCHEDULE
“It’s hard to underestimate the importance of routine and structure when it comes to healthy weight management,” says Katie Rickel, PhD, a clinical psychologist and CEO of Structure House, a residential weight-management facility in Durham, North Carolina. “Our bodies are complex machines that are influenced by the hormonal, environmental and behavioral rhythms that exist in our day.” That means you can train your body to crave food at the same time each day assuming you make an effort to eat only at designated times (i.e., 8 a.m., noon and 6 p.m.), she explains. “It is likely that cravings during other times of the day will decrease significantly.”
To keep tabs on what and when you’re eating, track it with an app like MyFitnessPal, which allows you to easily structure your eating and set personal goals — key components for weight loss, finds a systematic review in Obesity Reviews.
YOUR FAVORITE FOODS
An overly strict diet can often lead to binges, which means restrictions aren’t really paying off, says Dr. Charlie Seltzer, a weight-loss physician.
This isn’t an excuse to go crazy but instead a suggestion to eat some of the foods you truly enjoy — even if they’re not part of your ‘diet’ — from time to time. Research shows when you eat foods you love (a scoop of ice cream or a slice of pizza, for example), you get a happy head rush of the feel-good hormone dopamine you won’t get from less-satisfying replacement (such as hummus, veggies or a protein bar).
The result: Assuming you’re keeping your portions in check, you’ll feel satisfied, which means you’ll be less likely to overdo it with calories than if you had the hummus and veggies, the protein bar and then finally caved and ate the ice cream because you still wanted it, Seltzer explains.
A GRATITUDE JOURNAL
Ever scroll through Instagram and start thinking about everything you don’t have? To some extent, that’s normal. “Our fast-paced, instant-gratification culture often encourages us to continue seeking more rather than appreciating what we currently have,” says Rickel. And this constant striving isn’t just frustrating and exhausting — it also makes you feel like you have a void that you have to fill, which can trigger emotional eating, she says.
The fix: Each evening, write down three things from your day you’re grateful for — they could be as simple as going for a quick walk at lunch or receiving a compliment from a coworker, Rickel says.
This practice may feel small but it could help improve your self-esteem, decrease bodily dissatisfaction and even curb unhealthy eating habits, some research finds.
A STRENGTH-TRAINING PLAN
When you’re losing weight, you’re not just shedding fat — you’re also losing muscle. Weightlifting can help counteract this, preserving your muscle mass and building your strength. But it can also give you something else to focus on and be proud about as well as help you overcome plateaus. “If you’re lifting properly, you are always going to get stronger and that’s going to make you less likely to sabotage your weight-loss efforts,” says Seltzer.
Start small by learning the proper form for basic movements such as squats, deadlifts, bench presses, lunges and pushups.
“People tend to get off track with weight loss when they have too much time on their hands,” says Seltzer. You might isolate yourself, fixate on setbacks or even start viewing your self-worth in terms of how well your weight-loss journey is going. Finding something you love to fill your schedule can take some of the stress off the focus on weight loss and also provide a source of happiness in other aspects of your life.
Activities such as swimming, cycling, reading a good book or playing with your kids can bring about feelings of accomplishment, fulfillment and joy, says Rickel. Think about the pursuits that usually cause you to lose track of time (because you’re enjoying yourself so much) and add more of them to your days.