Recent research published in Obesity shows what successful MyFitnessPal users know to be true: Small, simple lifestyle changes, aka micro-goals, can boost your likelihood of losing weight and keeping it off for good.
“Micro-strategies are the way to go,” says Keith-Thomas Ayoob, RD. “They’re easy to do, produce small but immediate wins and add up to even greater ones over time.”
To shed pounds and get healthier, it’s essential to tweak your calorie intake, move more, track your progress and build coping skills to overcome challenges and setbacks. These 10 micro-strategies can help you tackle all of the above.
Start each morning with a tall glass of H20, says Liz Wyosnick, a Seattle-based registered dietitian. Rehydrating can help you avoid mistaking thirst for hunger and give you an energy boost (which is ideal for a morning workout). Keep a glass on your nightstand or a water bottle beside your coffeemaker as your cue to drink water first thing, she suggests.
Most people don’t get enough protein at breakfast, which makes them hungry in an hour or two when the office junk food starts calling,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, RD, author of “The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club.” To stay fuller longer and stick to your daily calorie goal, add more protein to your morning meal with Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, eggs, protein powder or tofu, she says.
Whether you’re ordering a bagel, scanning the cereal aisle or stocking up on pasta or bread, the choice between nutritious, fiber-rich whole grains and refined grains (which have been stripped of nutrients and fiber) pops up all the time. Your strategy: Choose whole-grain options to increase your fiber intake, which helps fill you up, supports healthy digestion and, in turn, fuels your weight-loss success, says Harris-Pincus.
“There’s no need to run a marathon to lose weight, but most people need to move more,” says Ayoob. What to do: Spend half of your lunch hour eating and the other half walking. Over time, those extra steps add up, and the midday movement can give you a mood boost to help you manage food triggers and cravings later in the day, he explains.
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“Eliminate highly triggering foods from the places you spend a lot of time, like your home, office and car,” says Molly Carmel, an NYC-based therapist who works with compulsive overeaters and author of “Breaking Up With Sugar.” Without that visual cue of a bag full of chips, you’re less likely to think about, crave and end up overeating high-fat, high-calorie foods. Clearing your counters and drawers of less-healthy foods and instead placing a bowl of fruit or nuts where you’ll see them is a simple microstrategy to set you up for success.
Non-starchy produce (Think: leafy greens, carrots, celery, cucumbers, tomatoes and broccoli) are a must for weight-loss because they’re high-volume and low-calorie, says Wyosnick. Make adding them to your meals and snacks easy and automatic by adding 5–10 minutes of meal prep immediately after you finish grocery shopping. Cut up a few heads of broccoli for roasting, de-stem and chop kale for a quick sauté, and chop crunchy veggies for a go-to afternoon snack with hummus, she suggests. Store them in eye-level clear glass containers so they’re always in sight.
“If you feel like you’ve made a poor food choice, don’t let it consume you for the rest of the day,” says Shena Jaramillo, RD. Instead, take a second to acknowledge the choice and what it did for you (For example: “I was craving something sweet — and it’s OK to have less-than-healthy foods sometimes.”) Then, move on with your day. Research shows thinking positively (and ditching food guilt) can help keep you on track for weight-loss success.
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“My number 1 strategy for weight loss is always a good night’s sleep of at least seven hours,” says Dr. Craig Primack, a weight-loss physician and president of the Obesity Medicine Association. Your microstrategy: Set a non-negotiable bedtime 7–8 hours before your alarm clock goes off. Restorative sleep is essential for weight loss because it keeps your metabolism humming and hunger at bay, where sleep deprivation can lead to cravings and zap your willpower — making weight loss that much harder.
“If I know I’m going to work out first thing in the morning, I set out my workout clothes the night before,” says Primack. If you’re more of an evening workout person, change into your workout clothes before you leave work to make skipping the gym less of an option, he suggests.
If you dread hopping on the treadmill or stationary bike, pair it with an audiobook or podcast you enjoy — and only allow yourself to watch or listen to it then, recommends Primack. This way, you’ll begin to associate your workouts with something you anticipate.
Originally published February 2020, updated with additional reporting
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