5 Essential Habits For Weight Loss

By  Stephen Box

When it comes to weight loss there's no shortage of advice - it's enough to make your head spin.  Having personally lost 80 lbs and spent nearly a decade coaching others has taught me what does and what does not work.

In my experience, small, simple habits done consistently always win out over harder, complex quick-fixes every time.

Below, you'll find what I call the "Core 5."  The "Core 5" are the 5 eating and exercise habits that when done consistently have produced the best weight loss results for my clients.


Why It Matters:

Your body takes about 20 minutes from the time you start eating to react to the release of the chemicals that control your hunger signals.  If you're a fast eater, you may be consuming too many calories - even if you are making healthier choices.

In a study at the University of Rhode Island, researchers served lunch on two different occasions to a group of 30 women – a plate of pasta with tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese.

For each meal the women were instructed to stop eating at a comfortable level of fullness.  One meal was to be eaten quickly and the other slowly by putting their utensils down between bites.

When the researchers looked at the amount of calories consumed for each meal they found:

  • the women who ate their meal quickly consumed 646 calories in only 9 minutes.
  • the women who ate their meal slowly consumed 579 calories in 29 minutes

67 calories may not seem like much but if you saved that for 3 meals per day, it would equal 73,365 less calories per year - that's roughly 21 lbs worth of calories!

How to Do It:

  • Start with an additional minute or two and build your way up to 20 minutes.
  • Take a breath before and after each bite.  You can also put your fork down between bites.
  • Avoid distractions like looking at your phone or watching TV that allow you to eat mindlessly.  
  • If you enjoy eating, take the time to savor and taste each bite.


Why It Matters:

Learning to listen to your body by eating slowly is a great first step.  However, eating slowly only works if you listen to what your body is saying and not overeating.

80% isn't an exact level of fullness, rather the point at which you could eat a bit more but feel satisfied.

If you're like me and were always told to clean your plate, you may feel like you are wasting food.  If this is the case, try putting less food on your plate and adding more until you reach 80% full.

How to Do It:

  • Pay attention to how you feel.  Are you bloated?  Sleepy?  You may have gone past 80%.
  • Check in on your hunger.  A good rule of thumb is that you should be ready to eat but not starving about 3-4 hours after your last meal. 


Why It Matters:

No matter your fitness goals, you need protein. The exact amount will vary depending on your activity levels and goals. 

A great starting point is 0.65 - 1.0 g of protein per pound of body weight. If you are fairly sedentary, start on the low end.  If you are active, aim for the higher end of that range.  For example, a 180 lb male doing strength training 4 days per week would aim for approximately 180 grams of protein per day.  

What makes protein so great? I could write an entire article on that subject, but here are just a few reasons:

  • Protein helps synthesize important hormones, including hormones that make us happy and relaxed.
  • Protein supports our immune system.
  • Protein boosts our metabolism; it helps us lose fat and stay lean for life.
  • Protein helps us feel more satisfied with our meals. This is important if you’re trying to eat to 80% full.
  • And most importantly: Protein helps build and repair almost every tissue in our bodies.

How to Do It:

  • Choose lean proteins such as chicken, turkey, lean beef, and fish. Something to be aware of is the fact that some cuts of chicken and turkey can have more fat than beef, so always make sure you are getting a lean cut. 
  • If you want to avoid meat, many grains, legumes, and some veggies contain protein as well.


Why It Matters:

Everywhere you look there is a focus on steps, calories burned, and cardio-based exercise. Many people are under the belief that cardio is the best way to burn fat.

I lost 80 lbs and barely stepped foot onto a cardio machine or did any running. I had a client who lost over 50 lbs and cut his body fat percentage in half without a single day of cardio.

I’m not saying you should avoid cardio – I personally enjoy jumping in the pool for a few laps, hitting the heavy bag, or working the battle ropes. What I am saying is strength training at least 2-3 times per week will help:

  • build lean muscle,
  • increase your metabolism,
  • and shape your body more effectively than cardio alone.

How to Do It:

  • If you know how to lift already, grab some headphones and pump some iron. 
  • If you're new to lifting, hire a coach or find a friend with gym experience who can show you the ropes.

You may want to check out my article 6 Things Every Gym Newbie Needs to Know.


Why It Matters:

According to Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD here are 5 reasons we should drink more water.

  • Drinking water helps maintain the balance of body fluids. Zelman says “The functions of these bodily fluids include digestion, absorption, circulation, creation of saliva, transportation of nutrients, and maintenance of body temperature.”
  • Water can help control calories. Water actually serves 2 purposes here. It’s replacing higher calorie options, and it aids in helping us feel full so we eat less.
  • Water helps your skin look good, reducing the signs of aging.
  • Water helps your kidneys. Body fluids transport waste products in and out of cells. The main toxin in the body is blood urea nitrogen, a water-soluble waste that is able to pass through the kidneys to be excreted in the urine, explains Steven Guest, MD, a Kaiser Permanente nephrologist.
  • Water helps maintain normal bowel function. When we don’t drink enough water our colon actually pulls it from our stool so we don’t get dehydrated, the bad news is that leads to constipation.

How to Do It:

  • In order to get all the benefits of water and stay hydrated, a good rule of thumb is to drink at least ½ your body weight in ounces of water. For a 180 lb person that would be 90 oz of water per day.
  • If you struggle to keep with how much water you're drinking, try putting rubber bands around your bottle for every 10 oz you drink.
  • If you're one of those people who doesn't like taste of water, try infusing it with fruit.


Why It Matters:

You know you need to eat your veggies but you might not know why it's important to have a good variety.  

Fruits and vegetables are divided into 5 different color groups and each color provides different phytonutrients - plant nutrients, that help us fight disease and stay stronger for longer.

Most of us don't get enough phytonutrients in our diets

  • 31% get enough greens
  • 22% get enough reds
  • 21% get enough yellow and oranges
  • 14% get enough whites
  • 12% get enough purples and blues

Fix this by eating at least 1 cup of each color per day.  Check out the list below from

What Do You Think?

Did you find this information valuable?

Are you already doing these habits consistently?  If not, which habits will you add?  

Let me know in the comments below!

P.S. Most of us know what we should be doing but have a hard time doing it - this is exactly what my ProCoach Nutrition & Fitness Program is designed to help you with.

Stephen Box, CFT, OTA, Pn2

About Stephen

My passion for fitness started with my own 80 lb weight loss journey. I love showing people that fitness and nutrition don't need to be complicated or restrictive. A good coach should be able to meet you where you are and help you get to where you want to be.

I am certified as a fitness trainer through the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA). Additionally, I hold certifications in exercise nutrition through Precision Nutrition and online fitness training through the Online Trainer Academy.

When not serving my clients I am an expert media contributor for companies such as Men's Fitness, Men's Journal,, and many others.

related posts:

The Secret Sauce to Achieving Your New Year’s Resolutions
Carbs Simplified – Why carbs are important and how to maximize them
6 Things Every Gym Newbie Needs to Know
  • This was a very helpful article. I liked the format of using points and making the information simplistic. I hope this information stays here as it is a good nugget of information to have and be able to refer back to. The fact that you are someone who has lost weight makes me feel as if you really get it and am glad that people like yourself are out here to help people lose weight and remember how to form and keep healthy habits.

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