Weight-loss success is much more likely if you follow some important behavioral strategies in addition to the choices you make for every meal. Based on my many years of experience working with hospital patients and the clients in my private practice, We’ve identified 3 Success Strategies that go a long way toward helping people stick to a weight-loss plan.

These strategies are simple—no need to reorganize your life to fit them in. Just start working them into your daily routines, and before you know it, you’ll be much better positioned for weight loss success.

healthy breakfast

Success Strategy #1: Eat within the first hour of awakening

When you are at rest, your body wants to conserve energy, so your metabolism slows down. Just as you shut off the lights when you sleep, your body turns down many of the processes involved in metabolism. When you wake up, you want to turn everything up and start burning calories and fat as soon as possible. That’s why I recommend eating breakfast within one hour of waking up.

By eating a nutritious, energy-revving breakfast (try these 20 flat-belly breakfasts), you are jump-starting your metabolism. When you add healthy food to your tank, so to speak, you prime your engines and get them ready to go, go, go for the day, so you can do everything that you have to do as well as those things you want to do, while feeling energetic.

Despite what you may have heard or read, it still stands that if you skip breakfast, you’re telling your body to stay in conservation mode. You’re setting yourself up to feel tired, lethargic, and irritable. When no fuel comes into your tank, your body starts thinking about holding on to calories and fat rather than burning them because it doesn’t know when more food will come. This is absolutely not the way you want to start your day. Even if you don’t feel like having breakfast, push yourself to have something—an apple, an orange, some yogurt, maybe a glass of vegetable juice. Something is better than nothing.

healthy lunch

Success Strategy #2: Eat early and often

Many people follow this kind of daily eating plan: They either skip breakfast or have a small bite in the morning. They go light on lunch. Then their hunger roars like a starved lion in the middle of the afternoon, at which point they start eating sweet/salty junk food. Then at dinner, thinking they didn’t really eat much during the day, they help themselves to giant portions of their evening meal, followed by dessert and bowls of ice cream and chips while sitting around watching TV for a few hours before bed.

This is not the way to eat.

It’s much better for your body to eat early and often. That means having a healthy, lean, green breakfast; a morning snack to keep your metabolism humming; a healthy lunch; an afternoon snack; and a dinner that’s smaller than you’re probably used to, with a small snack in the evening. Ideally you should eat the bulk of your calories at breakfast and lunch.

Researchers have found that people who consume most of their calories before 3 p.m. are more likely to be successful at weight loss than those who pile on the calories later in the day. And get this: It takes 24 hours for your blood sugar to stabilize after a late-night meal. Eating earlier gives your body plenty of time to burn up calories and stabilize your blood sugar before you get into bed.

sleeping

Success Strategy #3: Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night

We Americans are an exhausted bunch of people. Although sleep researchers recommend 7 to 8 hours per night, studies show that 30 percent of us get fewer than 6 hours of sleep a night. Being chronically tired truly interferes with your health. Lack of sleep is associated with higher rates of hypertension, diabetes, depression, obesity, and cancer. In fact, studies show that getting fewer than 5 hours of sleep per night is associated with a higher body-mass index. The more sleep-deprived you are, the higher your risk of obesity. Insomnia causes hormonal changes and cravings for carbohydrates. And when you deprive yourself of adequate sleep, fatigue lowers your ability to resist trigger foods. Instead of eating, try taking a power nap for a bigger, more effective payoff.

Nighttime sleep even has an effect on daytime hunger, influencing the production of the hormones that regulate appetite. When we’re over-tired, we tend to eat more than we do when we are well rested. Overall, people who sleep less appear to weigh more. Be sure to get your 7 to 8 hours a night. If you’re having trouble sleeping, see your doctor; you may have a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea. If you have trouble getting the sleep you need, try these fabulous sleep boosters.