You can implement certain behaviors into your life gradually, or completely overhaul your entire lifestyle if you are highly motivated to lose excess weight and become healthier. It also helps to have realistic expectations surrounding your weight loss goals so you can stay on track and continually work toward achieving your goal weight.

Learn About Nutrition

It’s one thing to be told how to eat, but knowing more about how foods affect your body can motivate you to start avoiding certain foods and increase your intake of healthier foods. For instance, fast foods and processed foods contain high amounts of sugar, sodium, fats, and chemicals that not only cause weight gain, but that can make you feel sluggish, mentally cloudy, moody, and tired. These foods can also upset your hormonal imbalance and contribute to poorly managed blood pressure and cholesterol.

Take time to learn about nutrition and the benefits of eating healthy, whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, fish, and sources of lean protein. According to a study published in the journal Nutrients, eating whole fruits promotes long-term weight management and reduces the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, depression, and colorectal and lung cancers.

You may also want to consider seeing a nutritionist who can help you create a healthy meal plan for weight loss. The more you know about nutrition and how it ties into your overall health, the more success you’ll have in losing excess weight and staying healthy.

Change Your Eating Habits

Sometimes, it may not be the foods you’re eating that are contributing to weight gain, but the way you’re eating. Eating late at night before bedtime, eating large portions, and binge eating are all harmful eating habits that can lead to weight gain. 

The way you prepare foods may also contribute to weight gain, or prevent you from getting the full nutritional value of foods. In a Chinese study, researchers found that microwaving, boiling, and stir-frying led to greater loss of nutrients in broccoli compared with steaming, which was the most effective cooking method for retaining the vegetable’s nutrients. Avoid frying your foods, and try to stick with cooking methods that retain your food’s nutritional value.

Increase Your Physical Activity Level

Exercising regularly and staying physically active can help you burn calories and maintain a healthy weight. The National Library of Medicine recommends that adults perform 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity every week, along with strength- and muscle-building exercises twice per week.

One of the best ways to ensure you exercise consistently is to choose activities you truly enjoy—otherwise, you may be more prone to finding excuses to skip your workout. Start going for walks in your neighborhood or at local parks, or join a gym where you have access to a variety of workout equipment. If your fitness level is low, ask your doctor about the safest ways to ease into exercise without increasing the risk for injury and for recommendations on workouts ideal for you based on your weight and overall health.

Get Quality Sleep

Lack of sleep is a well-established risk factor of obesity, according to findings published in Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care. Sleep loss affects metabolism, glucose tolerance, stress levels, hormones, and appetite to increase the risk of weight gain and obesity.

If you suffer from sleep deprivation, try to identify the root cause of your sleep loss so you can start sleeping better and gain control of your weight. Invest in a new comfortable mattress and bedding, or start going to bed earlier to get more sleep. Avoid using electronics for at least an hour before bedtime, since screens emit blue light that can interfere with your sleep quality.

If you feel as though you’re getting enough sleep but still feel groggy every morning, it’s possible you may have obstructive sleep apnea, which is also closely linked to obesity. Your doctor or a sleep specialist can perform a sleep study to determine whether you have sleep apnea and can treat you for this sleep disorder accordingly.

Manage and Reduce Stress

Chronic stress increases your body’s production of the stress hormone cortisol. Experiencing stress for a short time is normal, but long-term production of cortisol can upset the body’s hormonal balance to affect glucose, appetite, and metabolism—all of which ultimately drive weight gain and obesity.

If you are suffering from chronic stress, find healthy ways to manage or reduce stress so you can gain better control of your weight. Exercise regularly, practice mindfulness meditation or deep breathing and eliminate unnecessary stressors from your life. Your doctor can also talk to you about effective stress management techniques that can help you reduce stress and lose excess weight.