I have been helping people attempting to lose weight for 20 years. I myself went through this process 25 years ago. People are attracted to all kinds of fads and formulas that sound exciting and get a lot of hype, but they just don’t work in the long term. Our 10 Weeks to Health program has helped many with successful weight loss. It is very rewarding to work with clients who follow the program and achieve better health.
Over the last 5 years or so, current research is showing us what has to change if we are going to reverse the trend of increased obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and the 12 cancers related to being overweight.
The Failures of Diets
Dieting has been in the mindset for 50 years or more. You decide to lose weight either for esthetic reasons or health concerns. So you start asking around about diets or search the web to see what others have tried. You most likely will pick the latest fad diet. Fad diets will allow you to eat as much of the foods you like, as long as you eliminate other foods. You start the diet and yes, you lose weight. And you will continue losing weight until one of two things begins to happen:
- you will be hungry or feel deprived about not eating the foods you want, or
- your body begins to rebel because of lack of nutrition.
This kind of dieting does not address why you put on weight to begin with. It also ignores the exercise factor.
What do the successes have in common?
If you want to know what does work, then let’s look at those handful of people who have successfully lost weight and kept it off. 23 years ago, a professor of psychiatry named Dr. Rena Wing stated something called the National Weight Control Registry. Dr. Wing, aware that practically no one was keeping off lost weight, set up this registry. In order to qualify you must have lost at least 30 lbs. and kept it off for more than one year. Today there are 10,000 people listed and the average weight loss is 66 lbs.—and yes, they have kept if off. Not everyone on this list has lost weight the same way. 45% say they lost weight on their own diets and 55% were on a structured weight loss program. Most of them tried more than one type of diet before finding something permanent.
But there were similarities between all these success stories:
- 98% of the people made modifications to the way they were eating. Mostly, they cut back on the amounts they ate.
- 94% increased their physical activity.
- Most of the people ate breakfast every day.
- They all weighed themselves at least once a week.
- Almost all watched less than 10 hours of television or computer screens per week.
- Most also were able to fit in an hour of exercise most days of the week.
What motivates people to make the effort and stick with it? Most of the people interviewed had reasons other than a slimmer waist. A health scare, overall desire to live a longer life, or to be able to have good quality of life were the motivating factors that worked. Other reasons include gaining self-esteem, having a better body image, gaining more stamina to be able to accomplish daily tasks, and feeling more comfortable physically.
No Universal Way to Eat
Losing weight is highly individual. There is no one way for everyone to eat. That is another fallacy of dieting. You buy a diet book and the author knows NOTHING about you, but is sure you will succeed on his or her plan. One of the things the dieticians who work for me all know is that there is a certain amount of trial and error involved. Each individual has to be treated as an individual. A successful weight loss program not only includes a food plan based on the individuals likes and dislike along with nutrition and caloric counting, it also takes into consideration behavioral change, psychology, budget and the persons schedule.
The Best Way to Change
Losing a lot of weight can be an overwhelming task. I always tell my obese clients to think about one pound and one week at a time. Every pound you lose is a pound of health you gain. It is too daunting to think about losing 50, 60 or 100 pounds. Also, successful weight losers don’t think about losing weight as much concentrating on their health, changing their habits one by one and trying to accomplish their health goals on a daily basis. If you concentrate on your health, the weight loss will follow. If you obsess on weight loss, you will very likely turn into an all or nothing perfectionist. As soon as something goes wrong, you will give up. Always give yourself credit for every single success you have no matter how big or small.
Losing weight is an important ingredient to good health and quality of life, but in order to succeed, you have to do it the right way. Don’t diet but instead, learn good health habits and change bad health behaviors one at a time. It will “add hours to our day, days to your year and years to our life”.