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I lost 18 pounds with healthy habits. Not in 18 weeks which would be the usual headline, but in one year. And then instead of gaining it all back, I continued to lose 5 pounds in the second year. You too, can learn how to lose 18 pounds with healthy habits, without ever feeling deprived.
Does it feel too slow? I understand, but consider 2 years from now: Do you still want to be the diet queen, or do you want to be at a healthy weight?
The best thing? This 6 step plan of how to lose weight with healthy habits is not a big secret, does not require you to buy anything, and is completely replicable!
When we want to lose weight we usually go for the quick fix, the newest diet, or the diet that has served us in the past. We know how to lose weight right?!? The problem is keeping it off in the long run.
Around 4 years ago , I stopped my very last restrictive diet. Until that point, I had been counting calories (my go-to diet) and I had managed to lose a significant amount of weight, but I felt deprived.
I was hungry. I was tired of counting calories. And sick of having my life energy focus on keeping this state of deprivation in order to be at a healthy weight. I had enough.
Finally, I decided that instead of being a Yo-yo dieter, it was time to me to create a lifestyle that supported a healthy weight. I was never going on a diet again. And I haven’t, if you define dieting as being in a state of deprivation.
I did this by using the Personal Management Cycle of learning what I need to do, step by step implementing habits and processes that served me, changing those that didn’t, and by constantly reviewing what worked and what didn’t.
Read More: The Personal Management Cycle
How to Lose 18 Pounds with Healthy Habits
It was not a quick process to change my dieter’s mindset. And yes, I did gain all the weight back that I had lost on my restrictive diet before things turned around.
However, by focusing my energy on creating habits that sustains the person I want to be, I am now consistently losing weight. The first year my weight loss was at a rate of 1.5 pounds per month.
I know that doesn’t sound much in dieter’s way of measuring, where we are often looking to lose 1.5 pounds a week, the difference is that this is sustainable long term.
By having this healthy weight loss I have:
Mostly lost fat rather than muscle (and water).
Not gained the weight back on but instead continued to lose about half a pound a month in my second year of weight loss.
Not felt deprived but continued to live a full life.
If you really think about it, what would you rather do? Lose 18 pounds in 18 weeks by deprivation and gain it all back, or lose 18 pounds in a year and keep it off??
It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you don’t stop.Confucius
How to Lose 18 Pounds:
1. Add “Bad” Foods
The first thing I did was to stop restricting what I was allowed to eat and not eat. I added back bread, crisps, bear and even pizza. And yes, initially I did go to town, and gained some weight. But as it stopped being a forbidden treat and instead something I could have if I really wanted it I, with time, I craved it less.
2. Add Veggies
Next, I added a lot of veggies to my diet. I strive for 5 portions of veggies a day and try to spread them out over as many meals as possible.
Note, this is not 5 portions of fruit and veggies as recommended by the NHS but of just vegetables.
This is because fruit is often a snack or a desert while if you eat more veggies you will, with time, start eating less of other foods as you add or substitute to get your 5 veggies a day.
3. Increasing NEAT
NEAT or Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis is the energy we use for everything that is not sleeping, eating or “sports-like exercise”. This is everything from typing away at the keyboard to going to the shop to doing your laundry to having a spontaneous dance party.
Depending on how you spend your day you usually use between 500 to 2000 kcal per day. That is a huge difference remembering that the national eating guidelines in the UK are 2000 kcal for women and 2500 kcal for men! By finding a number of small ways of moving more during the day one can make a huge impact long term.
4. Increase Exercise
In addition to increasing NEAT, dedicated exercise is also important. I tried a number of different types of exercise and finally settled on a daily walking habit combined with Body Balance, a combination of yoga, Pilates and tai chi that I do in my living room.
Read More: 10 Health Benefits of a Daily Morning Walk
5. Be Hungry Before a Meal but Not After
I had got into a habit of being scared of being hungry. Everywhere I was reading about the benefits of regular snacking and how eating every couple of hours was good for your blood sugar. (It isn’t, it keeps it artificially high.)
I spent a lot of time experimenting with my snacking but the key was when I realised it’s a good thing to have a healthy appetite before a meal.
To get hungry is not an emergency if you know you have a good meal coming. Not eating until you are comfortably full on the other hand, is a dieter’s mindset and feels like deprivation.
6. Optimising Your Environment
Finally, to ensure I was loosing weight naturally I ensured that my environment was supporting the person I wanted to be by doing things like:
Storing unhealthy foods out of sight or not bringing them into the house.
Having fresh fruit in a bowl in the kitchen.
Leaving my walking shoes out in the evening to facilitate my morning walk.
Putting up a pull up bar in my home office (no, I still can’t do pull ups, but I do hang in it every day and I have hopes that one day….!).
Bringing portion size boxes of almonds when out and about to avoid picking up something less healthy along the way.
How to Lose 18 Pounds: Implementing Healthy Habits
No, I didn’t set up the list above, decided that the first of January was the day and did all the changes at once for quick results.
Instead I kept experimenting with one or two changes in my eating and movement habits at the time, tracked both the results on the scale and how they made me feel, and slowly but surely found a healthstyle that worked for me.
It took me 2.5 years from I made the decision to never go on a restrictive diet again and until I started to lose weight. Not only that, I actually gained weight during that time!
When first adding things back in, allowing myself all those things I had been restricting (bread, crisps, pizza, beer….) it was easy to go a bit nuts initially!
The key is to be mindful in the consumption. How does this food make me feel? How does it affect my health journey? Do I want this every day? Or is once a week or once a month enough?
This is a long process that continues for years but the end result is phenomenal – you end up eating in a way that you choose and that feels good – and that is in line with your values and goals!
Get your free habit worksheet below to help implement your healthy habits.
Review Which Habits Serve You
When doing a full, long term, overhaul of your eating habits, moving away from the dieters mindset or the current popular thinking around “good” and “bad” foods it is absolutely key. By having a long term review system in place, you can evaluate and make changes as you go on this journey.
There are two key pieces to this:
How to Lose 18 Pounds: Daily Weigh-Ins
This is not to shame me or to make me feel good or bad about yesterday’s decisions. I can’t stress this enough.
Unless you ate a ton of salt, which will make you retain water, what you see on the scale one morning will have very little to do with if you were “good” or “bad” yesterday. It often takes a couple weeks for a lifestyle change to make an impact on the scale.
The reason for the daily weigh-ins is to get data. I get on the scale in the morning before breakfast and note down the number it gives me.
I practice not to judge myselfand just track the number as a data point. If you want to lose weight that’s what you need – objective data points to see where you’re going.
What is important is not the daily fluctuations – even though you do learn quite a bit about yourself from them. I for example will easily gain 2 pounds overnight if I eat something salty like popcorn, haloumi or soy sauce – or if I have my period.
In the same way I will lose a pound or two if I’m dehydrated (like having wine and not drinking enough water). If I focus on the daily fluctuations, I could easily come to the conclusion that popcorn and haloumi is “bad” and wine “good” foods!
Instead I try to focus on the trend. Over the last 2-3 weeks, what happened with my weight? Did you move up, down or maintain? Am I happy with that trajectory?
How to Lose 18 Pounds: Weekly Check-Ins
I have a reminder in my calendar every Friday to consider how things are going and if there are any changes I would like to make. At that time, take a look at my average weight trajectory to see if I’m happy with how I’m doing.
I also think back over the past week to see if there was anything that felt good, where I was happy with my choices and if there are areas where I can do better.
A few weeks ago, I noticed a trend that I was craving popcorn every afternoon and for a few days I gave in and had them. Because I was walking so much, they didn’t through off my weight trajectory, but they made me feel bloated. My appetite for dinner was reduced and my sleep was impacted.
When doing my review I realised that even though I wasn’t gaining weight, this wasn’t a habit I wanted to establish. I also realised that, as I had increased my movement, I needed more food in a day.
I started experimenting with things like a larger lunch or a bigger afternoon snack. By being mindful and considering how the popcorn made me feel I could find the underlying cause and work on creating a habit that serves me.
How to Lose 18 Pounds: Be Kind
The most important part in creating a lifestyle where you are at a healthy weight is to let go of the dieters mindset. Stop beating yourself up for not following your “chosen diet”, and instead create a life you will enjoy:
A life you can live to the fullest, enjoying all your favorite things, in a way that is consistent with your overall goals and values.