Who doesn’t like washboard abs or dream of fitting into that old favorite jeans? But these remain dreams due to excessive weight.

To achieve our goal, we decide and start a weight loss program, but a fortnight or month into the program, we fall back on our old habits and our dreams remain our dreams.

Losing weight is not easy. Everybody has an opinion to give even if they do not follow that seriously. It is important to note that the adage “one size fits all” does not work when it comes to losing weight.

Every human being is different and differences like sex, age, body type, physical activity, underlying medical conditions, past dieting experiences, and food preferences play a significant role in determining the success or failure of a weight loss program.

Obesity in the US has reached an epidemic proportion, with nearly 40% of American adults being diagnosed as obese (BMI of 30 and more). This is prevalent in both sexes, males are 37.9% and females are 41.1% (2015-2016 figures).

Excess weight often leads to associated medical conditions like increased BP, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, cardiovascular ailments, and even certain cancers.

The Steps

Even though there is no perfect diet that can result in weight loss in everybody, studies have shown that there are certain universal behaviors that aids in weight loss. Some of these include cutting out aerated and sugary drinks, focusing more on healthy food, and leading an active lifestyle.

We take a look at 10 universal behaviors that can aid a person in weight loss and healthy eating:

1. Keep track of what you eat

Keep a food diary. Note down every single thing that you consumed in a day, times and portion. Keep tracking for three to six days. Identify the amount to times you feel genuinely hungry or are emotionally hungry.

2. Identify the goal and develop your plan.

A crucial aspect of developing an effective weight loss program is identifying the purpose – why are you losing weight? Is it for the summer trip to Hawaii or attending a friend’s wedding or your wedding or become physically active?

Once the goal is determined, identify the steps to reach that goal. Be specific. How many times will you eat outside? Will you cook? Eat smaller portions? Will you go for a jog or go to the gym? Start with small achievable goals which can lead to the larger goal.

3. Identify barriers and steps to overcome them

You have started a weight loss program and stuck to it for some time now, but are facing problems in continuing.

Identify what is causing the problem. Is it excessive sleep or a busy work schedule? Sleep early and get an hour earlier to find time for exercise.

If it is because of the empty pantry, then jot down a list of ingredients that you will require for preparing healthy meals. Head to the nearest supermarket and get all the necessary ingredients. Subscribe to a health magazine for new and innovative recipes.

4. Identify habits causing unhealthy eating and avoid them

An essential part of an effective weight loss program is identifying the patterns that are causing an unhealthy diet.

Do you snack in front of the TV? Do you skip meals due to work only to eat anything and everything two hours later? Do you keep eating even if you are full?

Keep yourself busy while watching TV by folding laundry or doing anything except reaching for that bowl of crackers or popcorn. Eat small bites during meal times if you are unable to eat a full meal.

5. Portion Control

Portion control is necessary when undergoing weight loss. One does not need to eat until the stomach has no space. Eat smaller portions. Familiarize with standard serving sizes.

One serving of meat does not mean one plate full. It is only 4 ounces, and one pasta serving is only 1/2 cup.

6. Identify cues on hunger and satiety

Know the difference between physical and emotional hunger. Do you eat because your body craves food? Or do you eat food because you are bored, stressed out, anxious, sad, etc.?

Try stopping before the stomach is full. Ideally, one should eat food that satiates about 75% to 80% of their hunger. Stop at least 20 to 30 minutes before you feel full. Include foods that make you feel fuller like high-fiber food, proteins, and water in the meal.

7. Be positive

Changing a particular behavior takes time — anywhere between two to three months.

Don’t feel sad or give up if you are not noticing changes or you slip. Rope in your friends to perk you up, try some physical activity, or indulge in some hobby. Give yourself time to acknowledge the changes that have taken place.

8. Give some leeway

Follow the 80/20 rule. Stay focused on your goal and on track for 80% of the time, but allow some freedom for small indulgences or cheat days.

The last thing one wants while undergoing a weight loss program is feeling guilty or deprived.

9. Increased focus on overall emotional and physical health

Indulge in activities that will make you feel content and happy.

Identify activities that you enjoy and make it a point to do it every day. Focus more on the seasonal and high-quality food in a supermarket rather than the “diet” aisle.

10. Enjoy the process

Enjoy the process of eating. Eat mindfully. Take time to appreciate aroma, texture, taste of the food that you eat.

Changing a particular behavior takes time and effort. Taking small steps today will result in a healthy you tomorrow.