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Want to know why weight loss is so hard? Because how much you weigh is the result of deep-seated, lifelong habits.
How you eat. What you eat. When you eat. It all goes back to what you learned when you were young. Did you learn to relax by eating your dinner in front of the TV? Then you probably still do that today.
Did you learn that sweets give you a pick-me-up when you’re feeling tired? Then you’re probably still tempted to reach for the cookies after a long day. These habits are hardwired into your brain.
The good news? It’s completely possible to retrain your brain for better eating habits. The bad news? It takes time, dedication and consistency.
The consensus is that it takes about 66 days for a new behavior to feel natural and automatic. And it’s usually not a good idea to tackle too many behaviors at once, otherwise you’ll lower your chance of success.
So, the question is, what habits are most important for maintaining a healthy weight?
Luckily, a recent study provided a straightforward answer about what habits to target in the next 66 days if weight gain is something you struggle with…
Habits proven to cause weight gain
A recent study from researchers in Spain found that seven unhealthy habits determine your weight.
The four-year study included 1,600 people. Researchers followed these people and kept track of these seven unhealthy habits:
- Not planning portion sizes ahead of time.
- Eating pre-cooked or canned food.
- Stocking the pantry with snacks.
- Frequenting fast-food restaurants.
- Not choosing low-calorie foods.
- Not cutting off fat from meat or skin from chicken.
- Eating in front of TV or sitting on the sofa.
The more of these habits people practiced, the more they weighed. But three of these habits stood out from rest:
- Not planning portion sizes
- Visiting fast-food restaurants
- Eating in front of the TV
Researchers found that people who practiced these three habits were much more likely to gain weight than people who didn’t. So, are you ready to start your 66-day challenge?
Letting go of unhealthy habits
Maybe you’ve given up these three unhealthy habits already. If that’s the case, good for you. Pick three other habits from the list to focus on.
But if these three habits are still hardwired into your brain, start making changes….
When it comes to portion size, half your plate should be filled with fruits and veggies, a quarter of your plate should contain protein and a quarter of your plate should hold whole grains. If you want to make portioning super simple, you can even buy portion plates that tell you exactly how much of each type of food to eat.
The other two unhealthy habits involve resolve more than anything. Commit to eating at home instead of eating out. Get rid of your TV trays and unbury your dining room table, so it’s easier to overcome the temptation to eat in front of the TV.
If you give up these old habits for 66 days, your new habits should become second nature. If you do slip up every once and awhile, don’t let it derail you completely. Research shows that if you mess up here and there it doesn’t mean you won’t reach the finish line. But research also shows that it’s more important to stay stringent in the beginning, so do your best to stay strong those first few weeks if you can.
If you’re really struggling to break unhealthy habits, you may also want to try mindfulness meditation. It helps you become aware of your cravings, so you don’t succumb to them. Here’s a guided mindfulness meditation video you can try.
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