Tricks for Turning Healthy Intentions into Long-Lasting Habits for Weight Loss and Health

April 3, 2024
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Habits are routine behaviors

These behaviors may happen at consistent times and be performed in consistent ways in the same environment 

It’s easier to lose weight and improve health when your healthy behaviors are habitual. They reduce effort, thought, time, and discipline required to perform healthy behaviors. Here are some positive effects of turning healthy choices into habits. 

  • Reduced burden and thought for healthy behaviors means you can perform a greater number of healthy behaviors
  • People have only a limited amount of self-control, discipline, and willpower. Healthy habits don’t take up much of these limited resources
  • Establishing habits for your health behaviors frees up your time, mind, and energy for other things like financial decisions, relationship management, and planning for the future

Some habits are linked to weight loss and health

Which habits do you want to establish to support weight loss and blood sugar management?

Here are some behavior choices that are linked to improved results.

  • Consuming fish, beans, and whole grains regularly
  • Selecting water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Keeping carbohydrate consumption to moderate amounts
  • Controlling portion sizes
  • Achieving 150 minutes per week of physical activity

Fogg model for behavior change: Motivation, Ability, and Prompts (MAP)

The Fogg model says that strong enough motivation, ability, and prompt need to be present for a behavior to occur. You can use this model to help you perform desired behaviors, such as healthy ones.

Motivation is the desire or willingness to perform a behavior in a specific situation

Here are some examples of motivation for certain behaviors.

  • Wanting to be prevent or delay type 2 diabetes
  • Wanting to have more energy or sleep better
  • Wanting to fit into smaller clothes
  • Enjoying foods you prepare

Ability is the capacity to perform the behavior.

Here are some examples of abilities that may be needed for certain behaviors.

  • Knowledge about balanced meals and nutritious foods
  • Finances to purchase walking shoes, fish, or leakproof containers
  • Time to prepare foods or be physically active
  • Organizational skills to shop for groceries

Prompts are cues or triggers that remind you to perform the behavior. 

Here are some examples of prompts. 

  • Sticky notes, alarms, and notifications
  • Visual cues like seeing water or vegetables at the front of the fridge or seeing your walking shoes at the door
  • Routines like preparing dinner

Strategies for establishing habits

Here are some strategies for establishing habits.

  • Work on just 1-2 new behaviors at a time instead of aiming for many changes.
  • Be specific about which behavior you want to perform
  • Plan when you’ll perform the behavior and how long it will take
  • Set up reminders like alarms or sticky notes
  • Assemble anything you may need like workout clothes, certain foods, or a recipe
  • Try habit stacking by adding the new behavior to something you may already do, like weighing yourself after brushing your teeth or packing your dinner leftovers into a lunch bag for tomorrow as you clean up from dinner

Keep trying!

Automaticity is the idea that habits happen automatically. You achieve automaticity when your habits no longer take conscious thought. 

It can take 60 or more days to establish automaticity. Keep trying, no matter how many times you forget to perform the desired behavior!

Health Coach Q & A

I am struggling a lot to lose.

That’s very understandable! Lots of people have trouble losing weight, but we’re here for you!

Some people like having meal plans to follow. That helps remove decisions. This and this are sample plans.

It can be helpful to shift thinking to smaller changes instead of thinking about overall eating patterns. It’s more manageable that way. A first step might be to log meals and snacks for a few days. Think about small changes you might make, and then try some.

Here are some small changes that can be reasonable to implement and that can be effective.

  • Choosing grilled instead of fried chicken
  • Trimming fat and skin from meat and chicken
  • Having half the portion of salad dressing
  • Using mustard instead of mayonnaise
  • Choosing yogurt without added sugars

Here are some additional ideas

Some people notice that cravings and emotional eating are getting in the way of weight loss. We have a webinar recording you can watch, as well as some information here.

Lark DPP members can always email for more support! Lark members can also join the Lark DPP Facebook Group for support from each other and from Lark coaches.

Understanding on eating certain foods and I feel I need more help on food choices. 

Great questions! 

Regarding understanding on eating certain foods; Everyone may have their own exact preferences and patterns, but there are a few general tips for best foods to eat for weight loss and health. 

Here are some more guidelines.

  • Aim for lots of vegetables at most meals. They’re nutritious, low in calories, and filling. They’ll help you lose weight and stay full!
  • Great sources of protein include fresh and frozen fish, canned and pouch tuna, beans, lentils, egg whites, plain nonfat yogurt, and low-fat cheese and cottage cheese. They’re more filling and nutritious than sources like red meat and processed meats like sausages, hot dogs, salami, and ham.
  • When you have a sweet tooth, consider fruit instead of sugary foods like candy, cake, and ice cream. 
  • Small amounts of healthy fats like peanut butter, olive oil, and avocados are better choices than butter.
  • For snacks, plan to have access to nutritious foods like vegetables, fruit, protein, and whole grains like brown rice cakes and whole-grain sliced bread. That way, you can avoid low-nutrient processed snacks like chips, cookies, and candy.
  • Drink plenty of water or other low-calorie fluids like black decaffeinated coffee and unsweetened tea.

What time should you stop eating?

It depends on many factors.

Here are some considerations.

  • What time you go to bed. You might want to stop eating 2-3 hour before bedtime.
  • Whether you tend to feel overfull or have indigestion or heartburn in the evening. If so, you might want to stop eating earlier. 
  • How big your dinner is. If your dinner is large, you might want to have it earlier.
  • Whether you include an evening snack after dinner. If you have a small dinner and a light snack later, your snack might be within 1-2 hours of better.
  • How hungry you are at bedtime. If you’ve been hungry at bedtime, you might want to experiment with different eating patterns during the day to reduce hunger in the evening.

It is true the more times you eat, taking care of the portions is better than only do 2 or 3 foods per day?

You’re right - there is a lot to consider!

It’s fine to eat several times a day, as long as each time, you’re eating a smaller amount. 

If you choose to eat just 2-3 meals daily without snacks in between, those meals may be larger compared to if you include snacks and/or have more meals each day.

Portions are always important! Generally, have large portions of vegetables and moderate portions of lean proteins at most meals and snacks. When you have fruit, starchy vegetables, and whole grains, portions can be moderate. Portion sizes of healthy fats should be small to keep calories in check.

Lark doesn’t recommend limiting food types to 2-3 daily. A variety of foods is best for nutrition, weight loss, and overall health. Consider aiming for 3-5 food groups per meal. You might have vegetables, a lean protein, and a serving of a high-fiber carbohydrate, plus 1-2 other foods like a reduced-fat dairy product, healthy fat, or fruit, for example.

I eat while watching TV!

Watching TV is an activity that’s tied to eating unhealthy snacks, but you can take steps to replace this habit with healthier ones.

Here are some strategies to reduce calorie intake while watching TV.

  • Watch less TV so there’s less time to eat while watching TV.
  • Find something else to do with your hands while watching TV, like drawing or scribbling, sewing, or using a fidgeter so your hands aren’t available for eating.
  • Use a foam roller or pedaler for light activity while watching TV.
  • Have a glass of ice water nearby while watching TV instead of eating.
  • Prepare and serve a large portion of raw vegetables like celery sticks and eat them while watching TV.

Help with eating too fast

Eating too fast can lead to eating more, which can get in the way of weight loss. It can also lead to indigestion and cause other concerns like trouble sleeping or discomfort while exercising. 

Here are some tips for slowing down.

  • Take smaller bites.
  • Only eat while sitting and after you’ve served yourself your portion on a plate or in a bowl.
  • Ask yourself if you’re hungry.
  • Wait at least 20 minutes before serving second helpings. Before you take second helpings, stand up and ask yourself if you’re still hungry. Sometimes, we feel more full after some time has passed or when we stand up.
  • Challenge yourself to detect each flavor, scent, and texture in your food as you chew it.
  • Ask yourself what the rush is. Sometimes, we rush so that we can get more food, which means we get less pleasure from what we’re already eating.

How much protein exactly does an older woman need?  The doctor cautions against too much protein. How much is too much?

National guidelines say that generally healthy young adults should get 0.8 grams of protein per day per kilogram of body weight. For older adults, this can increase to 1-1.2 grams of protein per day per kilogram of body weight to help support the maintenance of muscle mass (along with strength/resistance training).

For a woman who weighs 180 pounds, this is about 80-90 grams of protein per day. Most American adults get this much without trouble by including a serving of a good source of protein at most meals and snacks. Here’s a sample day with that amount of protein.

  • Breakfast with puffed brown rice cereal, reduced-fat cottage cheese, seeds, and fruit
  • Lunch with a black bean burger on a whole-grain bun, fruit, and baby carrots
  • Snack with a string cheese stick and an apple
  • Dinner with broccoli, fish tacos on whole-grain corn tortillas, and a side of beans

“Too much” protein depends on many factors, like your exact needs and the source. Your needs may be higher if you’re on certain medications or are particularly active. You’re more likely to get “too much” if you’re getting your protein from animal sources, especially red meat. There may be possible links to kidney and liver risks, as well as to risks for bone health. Red meat can be high in saturated fat, too.

It’s best to ask your healthcare provider how much is a good amount for you as an individual.

When it comes to water, is seltzer as good as flat water? Are there any downsides to seltzer?

Seltzer water is water that is carbonated and doesn’t have minerals added to it. Just like plain water, seltzer water doesn’t have calories or sugar. It’s just as good for hydration as flat water. 

Since it’s carbonated, you might find that seltzer water fills you up faster. 

If you want, you can use seltzer water as a swap for soft drinks. Serve it with ice and a lemon wedge to give it more personality!

What can I eat between meals?

Snacks can help fill you up and provide necessary nutrients. Raw vegetables are good choices almost anytime. So, help yourself to grape tomatoes, raw celery, carrot sticks, bell pepper strips, cauliflower florets, snap peas, and broccoli florets!

For a nutritious snack that fills a calorie and hunger need, it’s best to include some fiber and protein. You might also have a small amount of healthy fat. 

  • Along with vegetables, fiber can come from fruit, beans, whole grains, and starchy vegetables.
  • Some protein options are tuna, hard-boiled eggs, cottage cheese, skinless chicken, plain yogurt, reduced-fat cheese, and beans.
  • For healthy fat, some options are 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, 2 tablespoons of vinaigrette dressing, ½ ounce of peanuts or nuts, and ¼ of an avocado.

We have more snack ideas here and here!

We also suggest watching our March 20 webinar on healthy snacks!

It’s important to remember that the calories you get from snacks count! If you’re already meeting your calorie needs from meals, it’s important to keep snacking low to avoid getting more calories than you need. Or, you can reduce calories from meals. 

I've always been thin and never had trouble losing weight, however, after having twins I couldn't exercise because they never slept at the same time so I didn't lose the weight as easily. And now that I'm post-menopausal, the same strategies I used when younger (which are what is being taught by Lark) are not working. Any suggestions particularly for this situation?

This can certainly be challenging! 

When metabolism shifts, it can take bigger changes to lead to a calorie deficit and weight loss. We suggest reading the answer to the first question, above, for strategies for weight loss. Remember, Lark members can always email for more specific questions!

It’s also important to consider muscle mass. We naturally lose muscle mass as we age, but strength training can slow the process greatly. We highly recommend the webinar by Dr. Sarah Graham about resistance training for an introduction!

We also suggest talking to your healthcare provider about more strategies and any other concerns you have. 

Can you go back to the previous page?

Thanks for asking! You can always check our webinar summaries and recordings over at the Lark DPP Webinar Hub!

Why is brown rice preferred over white so much since it has arsenic in it?

That’s a great question! Brown rice is a whole grain. Consumption of whole grains is linked to benefits like healthier body weights and lower risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Brown rice is higher in fiber and natural nutrients than white rice.

However, brown rice has more arsenic in it than white rice. Arsenic is a toxin and a contaminant that can come from herbicides and pesticides. It may cause health problems like increased risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes.

This is a brief article about the potential benefits and risks of consuming brown rice. So far, the evidence is mixed on the balance of whether to choose brown or white rice if you consume a lot of rice. Products with brown rice can include brown rice, rice cakes, brown rice cereal, and brown rice pasta. People who choose a gluten-free diet may consume more rice because it’s gluten-free.

To reduce your risk from arsenic while getting benefits of whole grains, diversify your diet. Consume a variety of whole grains instead of depending solely on rice products for your grains. Whole-wheat bread, cereal, and pasta are common alternatives. Gluten-free options include popcorn, whole-grain corn cereal, gluten-free oatmeal and oat cereal, and quinoa.

I have a breathing problem. How should I start exercising?

It’s great that you want to exercise! That can have huge benefits. 

The first step is to get clearance from your healthcare provider. Learn about which activities may be safe for you, which to avoid, and which signs to look for and monitor as you exercise.

Here are some general measures to increase safety.

  • Start at a low level, possibly with low-intensity exercise and for short durations. Only increase as your body and your healthcare provider allow.
  • Consider starting with low-impact activities that you can easily perform.
  • Do a warm-up that gradually increases your breathing rate rather than jumping into your main exercise session.
  • If relevant, consider air quality and avoid exercising outdoors in poor conditions if your breathing condition is exacerbated by pollutants like pollen or smog.
  • Stay hydrated to support lung health. 

What are healthy foods for the car?

If you find yourself eating on the road, it’s good to have healthy options in the car so you don’t have to depend on fast food, convenience food, or vending machines. You can also use healthy foods to supplement small portions of less healthy foods; for example, if you need to have lunch at a fast food restaurant without healthy options, you can have a small lunch and then fill up on fruit from your car.

You can always keep non-perishable foods in your car.

  • Pouch tuna
  • Whole-grain crackers, rice cakes
  • Nuts, peanuts, peanut butter
  • Pouch lentils or beans

Here are some foods that you can replenish every couple of days or daily.

  • Low-fat string cheese sticks
  • Apples, bananas, oranges, tangerines
  • Packages, bags, or containers of baby carrots or carrot sticks, mini bell peppers, grape tomatoes, cut celery, sliced cucumbers, bell pepper strips, broccoli or cauliflower florets
  • Hummus or guacamole cups

What does Fogg stand for? How do I get that Fogg MAP?

The Fogg model for behavior change says that a person needs strong enough motivation, ability, and prompts to perform the new behavior. 

Here’s more about MAP

  • M is for motivation. Why do you want to perform the behavior? Common reasons are for health, to feel better, for social reasons, or for other rewards.
  • A is for ability. What do you need to perform the behavior? It may be knowledge, time, organizational skills, money, or other resources.
  • P is for prompt. What will trigger the behavior? It could be an alarm or notification, a visual cue like a sticky note, or an internal cue like hunger.

You can go here for more information about the Fogg model. Plus, we have plenty of examples in the webinar! You can look at the recording. 

My phone is very limited to what I can download, and the app always what to download something else. I don't spend that kind of time on my phone. Will all those be offered from a website?

We’re sorry you’re having trouble with your phone and downloading. You can absolutely attend Lark webinars from your computer! You can use your browser (e.g., Chrome or Safari), or you can download the zoom app from your computer. Just click on the link to the Lark zoom webinar from your email when you’re on your computer, and follow the prompts. Please feel free to email if you have any questions!

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Cooking and Lifestyle to Keep You and Your Family Healthy and Happy

April 17, 2024 12:30 PM
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