This year, I decided to change my ways and I adopted five new habits, which are working wonderfully for me. I've been able to drop 45 pounds through the year—and I'm keeping it off, which I'm really happy about.

Number one is portion control. In Bolivia, we have something kind of like a diet called TLM. It stands for "traga la mitad", which means eat half. It is the hardest diet to do because there's no "you can't eat this" and "you can't eat that". It's: Eat whatever you want—but half.

I started by portioning half on my plate. If I want more, I'll get it. But it turned out that once I'm done with the first half, I'm perfectly happy. I don't need any more food. Previously, it felt like because all that extra food was on my plate I had to finish it.

I changed my vocabulary around this so I no longer say I can never have something, because the minute I want a particular piece of food more than anything else I end up eating an extravagant amount of it.

Now, if I want, say, an ice cream, I will just get a kids' size one, and I find I'm super satisfied with that. I'm happy and I don't feel like I'm restricting myself. It's really working for me.

Number two is eliminating low-nutrition white food almost entirely from my diet. By that I mean white sugar, white flour, white rice, and so on. It's not a 100 percent elimination—if I really want something, then I will eat it—but these less nutritious white foods are mostly gone.

I've learned how to read labels correctly. I'm working towards a nutrition certification and have nearly completed it.

I can see how much sneaky stuff producers put into our food. I make most of my food from scratch, but I've also made a conscious effort to ensure whatever I purchase doesn't contain any sneaky sugars or flours or anything that is no good for me.

Number three is healthy snacking. I've always been a huge snacker. I used to wonder why I was never hungry. It was because I always snacked. And I always snacked on junk. Chips, cookies, chocolate, candies. I always had a good stash of them at home.

That all ended this year when I started swapping my snacks. If I feel like I want to snack, I have a piece of fruit. I know fruit is often vilified by the low-carb community because of its natural sugars. But for me, fruit is a great source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

As long as I don't eat the whole basket of mangoes, I can enjoy the snack and feel very satisfied. If not fruit then I'll sometimes snack on nuts, which have great fats and will satisfy you. Or maybe a whole-grain cracker with a piece of cheese. Things like that.

I have permanently eliminated all the other junk that I used to snack on constantly throughout the day.

Number four is getting better sleep. I am making a conscious effort to sleep at least my eight hours. I need eight hours. Some people need more or less. I needed eight, but I was sabotaging that all the time by staying up super late reading or playing games on my phone or watching movies.

I'm now trying to go to bed at the same time every night. Obviously, life is life; things happen. I have a social life. But most nights, I'm in bed at a certain time. I get my eight hours and I wake up super happy and not tired. I'm not foggy. I am energized and ready to go—and I believe that has a lot to do with my weight loss.

Number five, and this is the most important of them all in my view, I started intermittent fasting this year. I began with 12 hours of fasting. It was a piece of cake. You eat your last meal. You're still digesting for a few hours, you go to bed and sleep, you get up, and it's time to eat. No big deal.

Then, progressively, I went up to 16 hours fasting, eight hours eating. That I did for the longest time. Eight hours is a lot for eating, especially if you're making a conscious effort to eat the right foods with the right nutrition.

Have enough fiber, carbs, protein, and good fats and you will be okay. You will not be hungry and then you'll spend at least half of the 16 hours of fasting asleep. As for the rest of the time, it's not that hard to power through a little bit of hunger.

Now, I'm very flexible with it. I'm up to an 18 hour fast with a six hour eating window, but sometimes I'll do 17. It's not written in stone.

And I'm also flexible if I go out and have dinner with friends. When I come home, I start my timer and I will respect my fasts, and it doesn't matter if that means the next morning I can't eat until lunchtime.

Well, I'll have coffee, tea, water, and just go for a walk or something to entertain my brain and forget about food until it's time to eat. Then I'll get back on my normal fasting routine.

I find that intermittent fasting has helped me incredibly. My body is losing volume. I've gone from a size 18 to a 10 and I'm super happy. I find that I sleep like a princess because I don't have a bunch of food in my stomach. I really like it and I'm planning on doing it until my last breath.

So that's it—my five new habits that helped me to shift the weight and keep it off. Losing weight is a permanent battle but I think I have finally found a lifelong solution for myself.

Mary Ann J Allen is The Frugal Chef.

All views expressed in this article are the author's own.

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