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How To Let Go of Weight Loss Habits That Don’t Work (And Pick Up Habits That Do)

Written by Ali Donahue
How To Let Go of Weight Loss Habits That Don’t Work (And Pick Up Habits That Do)

Quick Look

You can stop blaming yourself for trying to lose weight and failing to keep it off. When you stop believing the lie that weight loss depends on willpower, you can start the process that actually does lead to healthy weight loss. You might feel very attached to weight loss rituals (like counting calories) that offer short-term results.

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The Full Story

Attempting weight loss is our unspoken national pastime. Half of us try to figure out how to lose weight every year. Practically the only thing we do more of is watch TV!

So it makes sense that we have A LOT of habits and rituals around weight loss. Things like...


    Counting calories.

    Cutting carbs.

    Eating cheese only on Tuesdays.

    Drinking bone broth for breakfast every day.

    Recording everything we eat.

    Weighing everything we eat.

    Making only packaged shakes for lunch.


We don’t just do these rituals. We get deeply attached to them. They may help us feel in control of our eating. They may bring us comfort. We might even love them. This is completely normal. Rituals help us organize and contain our experiences.


But what do we do when cherished weight loss rituals and habits don’t actually help us… lose the weight for good? What if they help us become yo-yo dieters, instead?


It can be quite uncomfortable to think about shifting familiar food and eating habits. Even scary! So let’s take it one step at a time.

How do I tell if my weight loss rituals are working?

A few questions can help you look at your weight loss habits clearly. It can also help to grab a pen and paper and write down your answers. Writing has proven physical and emotional benefits, particularly for stressful or emotional topics.

Take a moment and reflect on these questions.

Are my weight loss rituals helping me with healthy weight loss?

  • Do they work when my life is stressful (when you’re sick, or the kids are sick, or when work is busy, when I have to travel). Or do they only work when my life is calm?

  • Do my weight loss rituals take a lot of time and energy?

  • Do they help me feel free and easy, even happy, about my eating and my weight?

  • How much am I living my weight loss rituals, and how much am I living my life?

If your go-to rituals and habits consistently empower you to enjoy your food, your body, and your life, that’s wonderful!

But if you notice that your weight loss rituals demand constant attention, or work only when nothing else is going on, or don’t help you lose the weight… that’s a signal that it might be time to shift them or let them go.

Two ways to shift away from what’s not working 

1. Healing your brain

So what is a diet for healthy weight loss?Let’s start with this. Most family weight loss habits and rituals don’t address the very first and most fundamental part of weight loss:

A lot of the food we’re used to eating, “diet” food included, jerks our neurochemistry around constantly. Eating refined sugar, for example, ends up lowering our dopamine, which affects our mood. Depression, anxiety, elevated stress-response — processed foods contribute to all of them.

If your food isn’t feeding your brain, weight loss habits and rituals alone can’t get you to a baseline of brain health that can handle the ups and downs of weight loss.

Think of it this way: You can’t run a marathon if you forgot to put on your shoes. (Well, you can if you’ve run barefoot your whole life, and if that’s the case, we’re very impressed!)

Feeding your brain healing foods has to be the first priority. And what’s consistently proven to support healthy brain function and be a healthy weight loss food? Whole plant-based foods. Whole plant-based foods are your brain shoes. 

Next, we have to make it easy to eat healing foods for healthy weight loss in a world of constantly available processed foods. In other words, make a plan.

2. Reduce decision making

This doesn’t mean counting calories. It means knowing in advance what you’ll be eating for meals and snacks for about a week at a time, and having that food at your fingertips. A whole plant-based food plan for several days in a row removes constant decision-making.

Shifting to these two fundamentals — foods that heal your brain and an eating plan that reduces decisions — you can start to let go of weight loss rituals that aren’t working for you

And then? You start to lose weight easily, with the foundation to keep it off as you enjoy your life.

Key Takeaways

  • Weight loss habits and rituals are a common part of people’s lives.

  • Sometimes we stay attached to the rituals even when they aren’t working.

  • A few questions can help you see if rituals are working for you.

  • Letting go of weight loss rituals is easier when you eat whole plant-based foods, make it easier to choose them each day, and have a reliable balanced meal plan. 

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