Seeing the words “diet” and “fun” in the same sentence might seem like an oxymoron. When we decide to lose weight, ideas of deprivation, boredom, sacrifice and even misery usually come to mind. But they don’t have to. Weight loss CAN be fun and enjoyable—if you have the right attitude and set out on your journey with the right tools—and rules—for long-term success. Here are some weight-loss rules you’ll love to follow:
Related article: 6 Things Successful Dieters Have in Common
Research shows that what we tell ourselves is a predictor of results. A positive mindset greatly increases one’s chances of success, and when we make the journey towards any goal enjoyable, we achieve it with greater speed and stick with it for the long haul.
So throw out the “dieting” rules that make you feel deprived and bored. To start, follow these rules of weight loss that not only work—but actually make the process more fun! And whatever you do, focus on enjoying the journey, not just reaching your destination.
1. Eat more often
Out-of-control hunger is a common predictor of overeating—and giving up on any diet. When you go too long without food, your blood sugar drops, your mood and focus plummet, and you often grab the easiest thing you can, which usually isn’t healthy. Instead of skipping meals and starving yourself, don’t go more than 3-4 hours without eating. This will keep your hunger monster at bay and keep you happy and satisfied on your program.
2. Treat yourself
When you decide that a particular food (or even an entire food group), is off limits for your diet, research shows that we focus on that one food even more than if we simply allowed ourselves permission to eat it from time to time. If you told me I could never eat cookies again, I probably wouldn’t be able to stop thinking about how much I like cookies and would feel miserable that I couldn’t have them. Since willpower is in such short supply in humans, there’s a really good chance that anyone would cave in eventually—and likely go overboard. So give yourself permission—and make a plan—to make room in your diet for your favorite treats.
3. Love what you eat
When you eat or drink anything, do so slowly, mindfully and without distraction. By doing so, you’ll increase your enjoyment and slow down your eating which will allow you the time to notice when you’ve had enough. And if it’s a treat you’re having, you’ll feel so much more satisfied even if eating less because you’ll have relished every bite, guilt free.
4. Lie around and do nothing
If you’ve ever stayed awake burning the midnight oil, here’s your excuse to shut off the lights: Getting 7-8 hours of sleep every night is essential for weight loss. Individuals who are sleep deprived have higher levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin and lower levels of the fullness hormone leptin, which causes them to eat more calories. Perhaps we should rename beauty sleep to slimming sleep!
5. Don’t skip breakfast
Think you’ll be saving calories by skipping your morning meal? Think again. After an all-night fast, the best way to jump-start your metabolism is to eat within the first hour of waking. Studies have shown individuals who skip breakfast tend to over-consume at lunchtime or later in the day, offsetting all the calories they saved by skipping breakfast. Even if it’s something small, try a quick and healthy morning meal to help set you up for success later in the day.
6. Go out to eat
One of the first things people are told when losing weight is to cook more at home and stop eating out. This is good advice in general—but you don’t have to give up on a fast takeout meal or your favorite restaurant in order to slim down—especially these days when restaurants are creating healthier, lighter fare than ever before, and sharing those nutrition facts on menu boards and their websites. There are loads of ways to enjoy eating out without blowing your diet. Many menus offer lighter options, and good chefs are more than willing to accommodate special requests. Because restaurant portions do tend to be larger than normal, bring a friend. Split an entree to save calories and money. Or, order an appetizer as your main course.
7. Indulge in gourmet delights
If you eat foods you don’t enjoy, you’ll feel dissatisfied and find yourself searching for more food, even if you aren’t hungry. While budgetary constraints are real and you shouldn’t spend above your means, you might find that occasionally splurging on high-quality foods (even if the portions are smaller) can really make your food fun and enjoyable. A few more budget-friendly luxuries might be gourmet coffee and tea or a small bar of rich, dark chocolate. Seek pleasure from your foods as much as your budget allows.
8. Keep your workouts short
If time or boredom are a problem and you find yourself skipping exercise because you just don’t have an hour to spare, no worries! Short bouts, as little as 10 minutes at a time, done several times over the course of the day, have similar calorie burning and health benefits as long, sustained sessions. What’s more, surveys of the most motivated and successful weight losers found that those who exercised less than 30 minutes a day got better weight loss results than those whose exercise plans called for an hour or more a day. Here’s why.
9. Hang with your friends
Having support and camaraderie is a huge help while working on healthy lifestyle changes. Make weight loss a team effort by asking friends with similar goals to work out with you. Rather than go out for meals, cook healthy potluck dinners together. Join a bowling league. Participate in weight-loss forums. You can swap healthy recipes, share success stories and disappointments, and have friends to whom you are accountable and who are also there to cheer you on.
Next: Don’t diet
10. Don’t diet
This may be the most important rule of all. “Going on a diet” implies a start and a stop, but that’s not how sustainable weight loss is achieved. Diets often slow down your metabolism due to the drastic cut back in calories your body is used to, and many diets that are advertised today are just plain unhealthy. Following rigid plans requires constant willpower, something we know humans have only a short supply of! Change and adjust your lifestyle habits a little at a time and you will lose excess pounds and achieve and maintain the healthy body weight that is right for you.
From now on, define the word “diet” as the food plan you use to maintain a healthy body weight, supply you the energy to support your busy lifestyle and keep you well.