Meeting weight-loss goals can be tricky, but it can be helpful to consider that losing weight ultimately comes down to creating and sustaining daily habits that, when achieved,  support weight loss.

A habit is a small decision you make and action you take every day. According to Duke University researchers, about 40% of our daily actions are due to the habits we have developed. Put another way, an individual’s life today is essentially the sum of their habits, says James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits.

To make any habit easier to do, start with an incredibly small habit that isn’t reliant on motivation and willpower. Motivation ebbs and flows, and willpower is something that is easily exhausted as it is used throughout the day. A habit needs to be so easy that an individual can’t say “no” to doing the habit.

For example, say your client’s goal is to get to the gym at least five days per week to help with weight loss. Instead of making their goal to get to the gym five days this week, make it “I will put on my gym shoes (or pack my gym bag and take it with me).” Make this first habit so easy that they don’t need motivation, they only need to take a simple action to get a little closer to their ultimate goal.

“Small” thinking is actually “big” thinking when it comes to habits, so have your clients embrace the simplicity at first, and celebrate these small wins every step of the way.

Creating an Identity

One of the keystones to creating a new habit is to focus on creating an identity around the habit your client desires. To change a habit or behavior, they need to change the way they think of themself. For example, if they’re quitting smoking, they need to think of themself as already being a non-smoker.

Think about the way many people set goals for themselves: “I want to lose weight,” or “I want to get stronger.” They may even get more specific, such as, “I want to lose 15 pounds,” or “I want to deadlift 300 pounds.”

Unfortunately, these goals focus on their desired outcomes, and not their identity

Outcomes are what happen because of the habit; the process of a habit is what they do; and identity is what they believe about themself as it relates to these processes.

So, how do your clients change their beliefs? According to James Clear, do the following:

1. Decide the type of person you want to be

For the first step, encourage your clients to ask themselves questions such as, “What do I want to stand for? What are my principles and values? Who is the type of person that could get the outcome I want?” For example, if your client wants to lose weight, they need to become the type of person who moves more every day.

2. Prove it to yourself with small wins

Here are some ways your clients can achieve some small wins: They can buy a pedometer and try to walk an extra 5,000 steps over time each month. This can be accomplished by walking an extra 50 steps on the first day, an extra 100 steps on the next, and so on. Increasing steps taken over time could easily result in a client walking 10,000 or more steps per day by the end of the year.  

Considering this, how will your client change their identity to make a habit or goal a reality that is in alignment with who they are?

Make simple, attainable habits, such as putting on their workout shoes or walking a few more steps each day. The more often they do these single, simple actions, the more likely it is that they will become a habit and lead to improvement over time. Think small but get big results.