THE BLOG
08/31/2014 10:09 am ET Updated Oct 31, 2014

7 Strategies Healthy, Lean People Employ for Lasting Fat Loss

You have that one friend, and I do too. She enjoys delicious food but stays lean and healthy. She ages gracefully, with glowing skin and a vibrant smile. She radiates confidence and turn heads in her little black dress, yet she could do the same thing in a simple cami and pair of skinny jeans.

Once I asked her what skin cream she uses. Another time, I jokingly asked who her surgeon was. Both times, she remained adamant her diet makes her lean, full of life, and at least a decade younger looking than her real age.

Beneath that confident insouciance demands a lot of work. I wanted to know how lean, healthy people like her maintained fat loss and vibrant health, even during hectic schedules and the struggles life throws everyone's way.

Based on her wisdom combined with the numerous successful clients I've worked with over decades, I created this list of seven traits lean, healthy people frequently employ.

1. They measure progress. You can only change what you measure. Successful people weigh themselves once or twice a week but never become slaves to the scale. They measure their waist, hips and thighs with a tape measure. More tech-savvy folks use a digital tracking advice or a smartphone app. One study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research found folks who used a weight tracker tool lost more weight. Others simply rely on a favorite pair of jeans to gauge their progress.

2. They create lateral shifts for their favorite foods. Dietary deprivation often spells disaster. Tell yourself you can't have a particular food and suddenly it becomes the impossible-to-not-think-about purple elephant in the room. Rather than abstain, lean healthy people find lateral shifts, or smarter alternatives, for their favorite foods. They swap bread for a gluten-free rice wrap. If ice cream's their weakness, they opt instead for no-sugar-added coconut milk ice cream. Dark chocolate with almond butter becomes their go-to dessert, and if they drink, they swap beer or sugary alcohol drinks for an occasional tequila or pinot noir. Nearly any favorite food or drink becomes an opportunity to make a creative lateral shift so you get all its pleasure without any guilt.

3. They don't let the enemy into their home. I've got one and so do you: That favorite food you overeat. Mine's almond butter, and one tablespoon can quickly become... Well, more than a tablespoon. Lean, healthy people don't allow unhealthy foods or ones they can't control into their homes, thereby removing a serious obstacle for fat loss. They also don't make excuses why these foods should reside in their homes. If they have kids, they make lateral shifts by swapping, say, junk foods for apple slices with almond butter.

4. They keep healthy foods nearby. When you keep the bad stuff out, you open the door for whole, healthy, fat-burning foods. One study in the journal Environment & Behavior with 96 college students put fruit and vegetables in clear or opaque bowls either nearby or seven feet away. The nearby bowls saw more action. Who needs a special occasion to keep healthy foods nearby? Keep low roasted or dehydrated nuts in beautiful dishes or hummus with crudités on a beautiful platter. Just remember that even healthy foods become unhealthy when you overeat them.

5. They plan ahead. Lean healthy people know hunger makes caving in to whatever fatty, sugary concoction on the road, airport, or their in-laws' house all too easy, so they plan, prepare, and consider worst-case scenarios. "Think ahead; don't end up in a food emergency where the only thing open is a fast food restaurant or convenience store," writes Dr. Mark Hyman in a HuffPost blog. "Think breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. It will become a habit. Plan, shop, prepare, eat. Create an emergency food pack and buy quick-to-cook meals or make whole foods at home."

6. They write everything down. I had one strict rule when I worked one-on-one with clients: Write down everything you eat or you're fired. That helped them become more accountable and compliant, and I could catch any potential culprits that created weight loss resistance. Studies suggest what I practiced for years. One in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine with about 1,700 participants over six months found those who wrote down everything they ate lost twice the amount of weight as those who didn't. If fancy food-tracking apps aren't your thing, go old school and write everything you eat down in a food journal.

7. They have a strong support system. Lean healthy people never do it alone. Whether a group or a tell-it-like-it-is best friend, they have a support system that keeps them on track. One study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that, over six months, participants who attended 20 weekly group sessions "achieved clinically significant short-term weight loss." If group meetings aren't for you, find an online forum. A study in the International Journal of Medical Informatics showed an online community played a vital role in participants' weight loss efforts that clinicians, family, and friends might not be able to fill. And a controversial study in The New England Journal of Medicine found who you hang out with can influence whether you're lean or obese, so choose your friends wisely.

What strategies do you maintain for fast, lasting fat loss? Share yours below.

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