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There’s a problem with the way the world looks at weight. For many, weight loss is considered a short-term thing. You have a big event coming up, or summer is creeping up on you, so you have to scramble to lose those pounds that you put on during the rest of the year. Or you reach a point when you become so fed up with how you feel and look, that you decide it’s time to get really strict with yourself and start a weight loss regimen that is full of deprivation.

Once the event is over, or winter comes around again, it’s back to old habits. The weight slowly creeps back on and before you know it, you’re back to scrambling to try to lose the weight. The problem with this is that it misses the big picture. When you focus on weight loss as a goal for a specific event or reason (other than your health and confidence), it becomes a chore – and one that is not attainable for the long-term.

The people who are most successful with losing weight – and maintaining that weight loss – are those who realize that you need to create habits that are conducive to a happy, healthy body. That doesn’t mean crash dieting or depriving yourself of everything you love. It means making small changes to the daily habits that, collectively, make up your life. So what are the most important habits? Well, it will probably come as no surprise that healthy eating and regularly exercising make the list, but you may be surprised at some of the other contributing factors.

1. Put Diet in the Forefront

Diet is not a four-letter word. Well, it is, but not in the way people make it out to be. Your diet is simply the foods that you choose to eat. Diet should not be synonymous with deprivation and sadness and it should never be something you’re forced to be on. In order to maintain long-term weight loss, you need to view your diet as a long-term strategy. It’s your way of life. It’s the way you always eat.

You should be focusing on clean, whole-foods at least 80 percent of the time (all the time). Your regular eating plan should consist of lots of fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. You can veer off this track every once in a while – for special occasions or when you want to enjoy a glass of wine at night – but then get right back to it.

2. Make Exercise a Hobby

Exercise is also an important factor for maintaining a healthy weight, but it’s not as important as you may think. Now, hear me out: many people think that as long as they’re exercising regularly, they can eat whatever they want; but this is not true. The problem is that people tend to overestimate the amount of calories they’re burning during exercise and underestimate how many calories they’re actually eating during the day. Obviously, this combination is not a good one when you’re trying to lose or maintain weight.

The key to making exercise a routine is to find something that you love doing. You shouldn’t be forcing yourself to sweat; eventually, it should become enjoyable. If you hate the treadmill, stay off of it! Join an aerobics class or take up swimming. The best thing you can do is turn your exercise into an enjoyable hobby.

3. Figure Out to Manage Your Stress

Stress can prevent you from reaching or maintaining your ideal weight even if your diet is pristine and you exercise 7 days a week. Unfortunately, stress is an unavoidable part of modern life; the key is in how you deal with that stress.

Do you do anything to manage your stress levels? (And no, drinking two glasses of wine when you get home from work doesn’t count). You need to incorporate healthy, stress-reduction activities into your daily routine, until they become a habit. Meditate for 10 minutes in bed before you start your day, take a hot Epsom salt bath at night, write in a journal releasing any and all negative thoughts before bed. There’s no right or wrong way, but it’s important to find whatever way works for you.

4. Kick Your Sugar Habit

Added sugar isn’t just bad for your waist line, it’s bad for your health. Over the years, our consumption of added sugar has increased dramatically – and with some major consequences.

One of the best things you can do for yourself is ditch added sugar. This means no sugar in your coffee and ditching that after-dinner sugar fix. It may seem like a difficult thing to do, and we agree, those sugar cravings can be hard to kick, but the sooner you do it, the better.

5. Get Enough Sleep

In today’s fast-paced world, sleep has lost its place as a priority. We prioritize work over sleep, exercise over sleep, watching TV over sleep. Part of the problem is that many of us don’t realize how important sleep is for our well-being.

Sleep is when your body recovers from all the stressors of the day. Quantity is important, but so is quality. It’s ideal to make sure you’re getting 6 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night on a regular sleep schedule. We know you probably thought your days of a bedtime were over, but a self-imposed bedtime may be one of the best things you do for your health.

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