10 Habits to Help You Lose Weight and Keep It Off

woman exercising

To lose weight and keep it off, you must be willing to make changes. While there are multiple factors beyond your control that can affect your ability to lose weight (including genetics, race, and age), there is plenty you can do to experience the transformation you desire. Are you ready to make wellness changes that stick?

Creating the right kind of goals and changing your habits to set yourself up for success are crucial elements of any long-term weight loss plan. Here are 10 ways to help you lose weight and keep it off.

1. Address Both Diet and Exercise

In order to lose weight, you must burn more calories than you consume. While you might feel tempted to address just one of these two components, for effective and long-lasting weight loss, you’ll need to address both.

You’ll never permanently lose weight if you keep eating fast food while you attempt an exercise plan. And you won’t see the kind of long-term results you desire if you just cut back on your diet, while remaining sedentary. Address both diet and exercise, and you’ll be far more likely to establish habits that will serve you in the long run.

2. Make SMART Goals

Rather than embarking on your weight loss adventure with a vague sense of what you want (i.e., “be skinny”), set goals that will set you up for success. A common acronym for goal setting is SMART—make sure your goal is:

  • Specific: “I want to lose 15 pounds and keep it off.”
  • Measurable: You can measure weight loss, but it’s harder to measure happiness. Therefore, “be happy in a bikini” is a less effective goal than “to fit into a size 8 bikini.”
  • Achievable: “Lose 50 pounds in a week” is not an achievable goal. Be realistic about what you want to achieve, and make sure it is possible and in your best interest.
  • Relevant: “Have a beach body” might be an appropriate goal for one person, while “climbing up a flight of stairs without getting winded” might be the best goal for another. Be sure the goal you set is tailor-made for you.
  • Time-bound: “Fit into my size 6 jeans by September 1, 2019.”

3. Visualize Not Only the Outcome, but the Journey

Visualization is a powerful tool that can take your weight loss journey to the next level. However, the key to visualization isn’t necessarily to picture the outcome you desire, as much as it is to imagine yourself doing the things necessary to achieve your goal. For example, rather than imagining yourself a perfect size fill-in-the-blank, see yourself setting out your exercise clothes the night before your workout, meal-prepping your food, and politely declining sugary drinks while out to dinner with your friends. By visualizing your habits in action, you are more likely to follow through with them.

4. Vary Your Workouts

If you are bored with your workouts, you likely aren’t going to keep doing them. Therefore, vary your workouts to keep yourself motivated and fired up about your wellness plan. Do the elliptical on Monday, swim in the lap pool on Tuesdays, do a group fitness class on Wednesdays, ride your bike on Thursdays, and take a yoga class on Fridays. Not only will you prevent yourself from burnout, but you will hit different muscle-groups and sharpen different skills in the process.

5. Don’t Let Yourself Get Too Hungry

While it may seem counter-intuitive, letting yourself get too hungry is not a good idea when you are trying to lose weight. Experience likely tells you that when you let yourself get ravenous, you are less likely to make healthy food choices. One way to curb the feeling of starvation that might cause you to make poor choices is to eat breakfast every day. It is also a good idea to have healthy snacks in your bag at all times. A handful of almonds, a piece of fruit, or a carefully selected protein bar can save you in times when you might otherwise swing through the drive-through on your way home from work.

6. Have an Accountability Buddy

Accountability is a critical element of achieving goals. You can use accountability to hold you to your eating habits and your physical activity. Here are some ideas for accountability systems:

  • Send pictures of your meals to your best friend.
  • Have workout dates with your significant other.
  • Hire a personal trainer.
  • Register online for your yoga or fitness class so you have to pay even if you don’t go.

7. Monitor Your Habits

Simply monitoring your habits has a tendency to change them. If you know you have to write down that you ate five M&M’s, will you eat them anyway? Use a tracking system or journal to plan and chart your fitness and diet habits. You can use a regular notebook, or use an app to do it digitally.

8. Improve Your Cooking Skills

Just like trying new exercises will keep you motivated for the long-haul, increasing your cooking repertoire will keep you inspired to eat healthy, colorful, whole foods that taste delicious. One way to commit to your health goals could be to take a healthy cooking class or to invest in a beautiful new cookbook. Or, for a more cost-effective approach, make it a goal to try at least one new recipe a week from your favorite blogger, cooking site, or cookbook. The more tools you have to make healthy eating a lifelong journey, the more likely you’ll be to succeed.

9. Stay Hydrated/Don’t Drink Your Calories

Stick to water, and you’ll not only be healthier, but you’ll probably eat less. Sometimes you may interpret your thirst as hunger, so try drinking at least eight 8 oz. glasses of water a day to meet your needs. Also, remember that all fluids are not created equal. Eliminate sugary drinks and juices, which can sabotage your efforts.

10. Make Healthy Living a Way of Life

Finally, the greatest thing you can do to lose the weight and keep it off is to make choices that contribute to a healthier way of living. Quick fixes and eliminations diets might get you to lose weight quickly but are not sustainable in the long run. Getting physical activity every day and eating healthfully has been shown to help people keep their weight off; however, you must make sure the changes you make are sustainable. You’re looking for a healthier way of living, not a quick—and temporary—solution.

Onward! Let this be the year you take the steps to succeed in your health and fitness goals. Change your habits and change your life!

*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.


Discover Deepak Chopra’s secrets to stay energetic and balanced all year long with our self-paced online course, Secrets to Vibrant Health. Learn More.


Share This Article
About the Author

Karson McGinley

Yoga Teacher and Life Coach
Karson McGinley is the owner of Happy-U Yoga in San Diego, California. A teacher for over a decade, Karson works to bridge the gap between the ancient wisdom of yoga and the modern science of human flourishing through her classes, bi-weekly article contributions to The Chopra Center, and leading the Happy-U Yoga & Positive Psychology Teacher Training program. Karson teaches Hatha, Vinyasa, and Anusara Elements™ classes, inspired by the teachings of Classical and Tantric yogic philosophy, positive psychology, and metaphysical texts like A Course in Miracles . By sharing spiritual themes, scientific research, and anecdotal...Read more