Everyone begins a diet with robust enthusiasm. But then a vacation, a celebration or a stressful event happens… and derailment. The derailment happens not because of failure, but due to expectations from the beginning. No matter how you slice it, dieting comes down to calorie restriction. Sounds like a punishment, right? It is, when you frame it that way. There is a better approach.
People who go for quick weight loss and fad prescription diets may lose 5-10% of their weight prior to that reunion or summer vacation, but most of the time they regain it because they haven’t figured out how to eat once they’ve stopped the diet. Some of these fad diets are so foreign from the usual pre-diet routine, people can’t figure out how to consume their calories once they’ve reached their goal. After all, how many shakes, cottage cheese and cocoa desserts or carb-free meals can you eat before you just want to dive into a bucket of wings? Hellooooo, can we say boringgggg. (and please check your blood pressure if you ordered the hot wings). So, if diets don’t work, what does?
Understanding what works for people
The National Weight Control Registry(NWCR) tracks trends of people who have lost 30 pounds or more and kept it off for at least a year. 45% of those in the registry lost weight on their own and 55% through some other program. Their success stories show that the motivations for losing weight was either a health scare or a decision to get healthy.
Some didn’t even have a weight loss goal, they just started on their health journey with a focus on more veggies, healthier carbs and eating less junk food. Some joined Weight Watchers, some learned about healthy eating through a health education program and some just stopped sugary drinks and eating fast food. One man, unaware he had been eating over 6000 calories a day, learned how to eat healthy through the required pre-surgical nutrition counseling, lost over 150 pounds, and ended up cancelling his bariatric surgery.
Mindset- Losing weight is not a destination; it’s a journey
Losing weight is about gaining health. It means learning about food choices through tracking calories and carbs or aiming for the perfect plate with ½ veggies, ¼ healthy carbs and ¼ lean protein for those who do not want to track. It’s learning how to moderate and not go overboard.
The goal is to find real foods with simple ingredients that will take you on the course to health. Keeping the excess weight off includes getting to the route of excess weight and finding ways to modify those unhealthy habits. Losing weight and keeping it off means moving more despite the weather and finding alternative exercise opportunities when there’s rain, snow or ice. Success stories from the 10,000 people the NWCR tracks shows that they exercise an hour a day, mostly in the form of walking.
Are you an emotional eater?
The American Psychological Association reports that millennials, more than any other generation, overeat or eat unhealthy foods due to stress. In the last month, 50% of millennials report eating this way, compared to 36% of Gen Xers, and 36% Boomers. Finding substitutes for eating to manage stress is a journey but it’s a journey worth taking. Finding solutions to the stress is possible, even if it means negotiating your needs and wants, swapping childcare responsibility, finding a meaningful hobby or asking for help.
It helps to get people on your side. Either join a program like Weight Watchers that assigns points to foods and has no prepackaged plan or work with a health coach (I do online or in-person health coaching) who will tailor lifestyle changes to your pace and help you find solutions to obstacles. There is no deadline to getting healthier, it’s just a gradual process of change.
Not everyone regains weight
There’s a statistic floating around that 95% of dieters regain their lost weight. That is why two doctors, Dr Wena Ring and Dr James Hill, did an analysis in 1999 of the NWCR to uncover the truth. They found that over 2000 registrants had successfully lost and kept off an average of 67 pounds. Some people lost the weight suddenly and some gradually over 14 years.
Other statistics from the NWCR:
- 78% eat breakfast every day.
- 75% weigh themselves at least once a week.
- 62% watch less than 10 hours of TV per week.
- 90% exercise, on average, about 1 hour per day.
Expect slip-ups along the way
The biggest mistake I saw my clients make was to abandon ship once they got off course. If they splurged on a donut or fast food meal at lunch the rest of the day was a total loss. Their all-or-nothing philosophy didn’t have any wiggle room for getting back on course that same day after a splurge.
Everyone has slip-ups. Just get right back on track that same day.
The key to getting through holidays, celebrations, stressful periods is to have a strategy ahead of time. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just better than what you used to do. It could be getting extra exercise, eating less of a favorite food or banking it by eating less earlier in the day or the day after. Know what will work best for you.
Turning over a new leaf for good
There is no doubt that leaving old favorite unhealthy habits behind does come with a period of “lifestyle mourning”. Old habits do stick like glue, and new habits stick like Teflon. But new habits will stick like glue when you’ve found what works for you.
And there’s nothing like being told one has prediabetes or some other health scare to create a sense of urgency. But it is also possible to suddenly decide to lose weight like Emily Kilar from the NWCR’s success stories did at age 15. She realized she needed to lose the 85 pounds she had gained and quit eating fried foods and drinking soda. She started to read more about nutrition and focused on eating more fruits and vegetables. She exercised daily, walking in the morning and in the evening, and brought yoga and hiking into her life. She lost the weight and has kept the weight off for over 4 years.
Framing it right
You’re not losing weight, you’re gaining health. You’re not on a diet, you’re learning how to eat healthy. The problem with fad diets is that they don’t teach you how to eat healthy. They give you a food prescription, eliminating any creativity and self-exploration, and result in constant yo-yo dieting.
When you focus on eating healthy, it gets you to your goal in a sustainable way.
Barbara does online or in-person health coaching and can help you get to your healthy weigh, the healthy way. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or through her website: ahealthyweightoday.com