9 Sustainable Weight Loss Ideas

A few months ago we wrote about the changes we have been making to our health and our eating habits. It is time for an update.

Overall we have been doing well. We have continued to focus on our mental and physical health. Our bodies are amazing just the way they are, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take better care of them. To make any significant change, you need to be happy with who you are or no matter how many changes you make, or pounds you lose, it will never be enough. You still won’t be happy.

We have been continuing to focus on sustainable habits around exercise, what we eat, and how much we eat. We have been trying to stop worrying about the daily ups and downs we see on the scale, but instead focusing on the longer term trends.

Our recent weight loss progress.

As you can see by our weight graphs over the last three months, there are lots of daily variations. Sometimes our weight can jump two pounds in a single day. Sometimes we go two weeks with barely losing an ounce. When we look at the full three months of data, the trend is unmistakably, we are going in the right direction.

Increasing your physical health isn’t easy. It requires consistency. Your habits and weight weren’t created overnight so why would you expect to be able to fix them overnight. There will be ups and downs and you need to be okay with setbacks. Don’t be okay with not doing your best. Be okay with mistakes. Don’t be okay with complacency.

Here are some of the ways we are making this new lifestyle work for us:

  • Teamwork. The two of us are in this together. We don’t tell each other what to do but we do help to remind each other what we have committed to do.

    You need someone who can be tough with you. Maybe a friend, a spouse, or a coach. It is easy to find someone who will agree with you, sympathize with you on bad days, and will give you space to make mistakes. Those are all important, but you also need someone who knows when you need a little push. If you eat more during the day than you had planned to, you need someone to remind you of your goals. They aren’t there to make you feel bad or to tell you that you aren’t good enough; they are there to remind you that “you can do it!”

  • Plan meals. Each evening we plan our meals for the next day. We decide what we are going to eat and we stick to it. This requires us to show empathy and trust for ourselves (don’t starve your tomorrow self!). This removes the need for us to make choices in the moment, when we might be tempted to make poor ones.

  • Intermittent Fasting. We have chosen to skip dinner twice a week. We started with once a week, but found it easy enough to do that we increased to doing it twice. This reduces our calorie intake, and we spend most of our hungriest hours sleeping. This has worked really well for us. We don’t change how we eat on those days (other than not having dinner).

  • Less variety of food. When we are served a meal we haven’t had in months, we get excited. Maybe we are just weird. That excitement can lead us to “accidentally” eating three plates of food, instead of a single plate like we planned. When we rotate through a smaller set of meals every couple of weeks, it leads to every meal being good, but not overly exciting. This helps us retain more control.

    We don’t want our food to distract us from life. We want to eat healthy food we enjoy, and that is easier to accomplish when we have a reduced variety of meals.

  • Smaller portions and smaller bites. Previously, we tried using smaller plates, measuring our food, and using calorie counting apps. None of these solutions were sustainable. They took too much effort or were too easy to fool ourselves with. We have found that simply learning to be okay with a partially filled plate and a half empty spoon works for us. There is no need for your plate to be filled to the brim. There is no need for food to be spilling off your spoon at each bite.

    Some tips:

    • Dish up vegetables first, it leaves less room on your plate for the main course.
    • Create a habit of only half filling your plate. Look at any fancy restaurant meal, the food is no where close to the edge. You can enjoy being a little posh.
    • Only use half or less of your spoon. Smaller bites mean you eat slower giving yourself more time to feel full, and bonus, you are less likely to spill.
  • Share a plate. When we go out to eat, to save money and our waistline, we share a meal. We started doing this years ago. We share the appetizer, main course, and the dessert (when we have one). This means we can try almost anything on the menu without eating a 1500 calorie meal.

    We have recently started doing this at home occasionally as well. It’s psychologically easier (for us) to dish up a full serving of food, especially dessert, and share, than it is to dish up a small serving.

  • Text before snacking. Our goal is to not snack at all, but we aren’t there yet. Instead of being hard on ourselves for our moments of weakness, we have decided that if we want a snack, it simply requires sending a text. This isn’t to ask the other person for permission, but rather to let them know that we are planning on having a snack and to ask if they would like to join us (we are both home during the day). This increases our accountability to each other and allows us not to think of a snack as a failure.

  • Review weight trends. Each morning we weigh ourselves and record our weight. We look at our one month trends to reinforce we are making progress and to remember the path isn’t smooth or fast. This helps us to keep the proper perspective and not to focus on the daily fluctuations.

  • Hunger scale. A +5 means we are stuffed so full we can’t move, a -5 means we are fainting from hunger. The idea is to learn to measure how hungry or full we are. When we say we are hungry, are we a -1? Maybe a -2? That is a reasonable level of hunger and we're fine. After a meal, are we a +3? We ate a little too much, next time we should try to slow down. This isn’t something we use everyday, but it does help us on occasion to decide how hungry we are and to reinforce that it is okay to be hungry.

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Improving how we eat and how we take care of our bodies hasn’t been easy. It has taken a lot of trial and error for us to find the set of daily habits that work for us. There are many other ideas we tried that either didn’t help us with our goals or were just too much effort and as a result not sustainable.

We hope that this post can motivate you and can give you some ideas for how to improve. We aren’t expecting perfection, we are simply focused on being better today than we were yesterday. Baby steps.

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The purpose of “The Couple Project” is to learn more about what makes a strong marriage or relationship. We share what we are learning, which ideas we are trying, and which ideas helped improve our relationship. We realize not everything that works for us will work for you, but we still hope you will find our journey valuable.

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