By Mike Roussell, PhD
Updated: September 05, 2012

Q: What are your top three must-follow rules for weight-loss success?

A: You might be surprised that my top three must-follow rules for long-lasting weight loss don't have anything to do with spinach or Greek yogurt. Instead, they're all about behaviors. Why? Your love affairs with black bean and yam chili or high-protein chocolate mousse with coconut milk will come and go as your taste buds seek new flavors, but consistently eating healthy foods and incorporating fitness into your life transcend specific food choices and modes of exercise, allowing you to stay lean and fit for life. Here are my top three tips for weight-loss success:

Make it Autopilot: Create a schedule for your diet and exercise. Plan ahead so when the week starts, all you need to do is execute. I'm guessing your life is busy--family, work, hobbies, etc. The food that you're eating needs to be there, ready to go, when it's time to eat. If it is, then sticking to your diet is easy. Thinking about what to eat, finding/preparing it, and then eating it takes too much time and mental effort during an already busy day. You'll find yourself ‘starting your diet again tomorrow' and reaching for the nearest refined-sugar, nutrient-poor food you can find (those kinds of food always seem to be just within arm's reach). Make a menu for the week, cook, and prepare meals in advance so that you can function on dietary autopilot all week.

Monitor Your Body: You need to monitor and track how your body is changing. This could be as simple as weighing yourself each morning, measuring your waist, hips, and chest every two weeks, or regularly getting your body-fat percentage checked. Whichever method or combination (I recommend daily weighing and taking girth measurements every two weeks) of methods you choose, commit to doing it on a regular basis and track how your body is changing. If you are regularly monitoring your body's changes, you'll never ‘discover' that you are 10 pounds heavier. You'll know when you become 3 pounds heavier and then you can adjust your diet or exercise plan accordingly. Research shows that the awareness of weighing yourself every day, leads to being leaner.

Focus on Subtle Changes: Subtle changes are long-term changes, and I want you to be in it for the long haul. Would you rather lose 10 pounds in 8 weeks only to have to lose that same 10 pounds again next year or take 12-14 weeks to lose 10 pounds and keep it off forever? The latter, right? Radical changes to your diet plan rarely work forever; ease into it.

Start by making sure you're eating fresh vegetables at every meal. Then make sure you're eating protein at every meal. Next, start reducing or removing starchy and grain based carbohydrates from one or two of your daily meals. Do this over the course of several weeks so that the changes and adjustments seem small and inconsequential. Over the course of one, two, and three months, these changes lead to significant weight loss that is easy to maintain. Depending on your current diet, adding vegetables to every meal might not seem like a big deal. But considering the average American eats less than one cup of vegetables per day, incorporating vegetables into every meal is truly a major behavioral change.

The Bottom Line: Focus on subtle changes and build on them week after week. This is the real key to developing healthy habits to lose weight and stay lean for life.

Meet the Diet Doctor: Mike Roussell, PhD

Author, speaker, and nutritional consultant Mike Roussell, PhD holds a bachelor degree in biochemistry from Hobart College and a doctorate in nutrition from Pennsylvania State University. Mike is the founder of Naked Nutrition, LLC, a multimedia nutrition company that provides health and nutrition solutions directly to consumers and industry professionals via DVDs, books, ebooks, audio programs, monthly newsletters, live events, and white papers. To learn more, check out Dr. Roussell's popular diet and nutrition blog, MikeRoussell.com.

Get more simple diet and nutrition tips by following @mikeroussell on Twitter or becoming a fan of his Facebook page.

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