What is the secret to weight loss?
Lately I’ve been talking to a lot of people who ask me the same question “What is the secret to weight loss?” I chuckle, not because it is a silly question, but because I know they won’t like my honest answer.
There is good news and there is bad news in the answer to this question. Here’s the bad news; there is no secret to weight loss. There is no quick fix, there is nothing that will take it off quicker and make it last longer. No magic bullet, no pill. There is talk of a new obesity drug that was just passed by the FDA. I happen to know that one of the stipulations for administering that drug is to incorporate behavior modification in some form, again no quick fix.
So what’s the good news? The good news is that you have the power to change your mind about weight loss. Weight control is similar to becoming a good athlete, or becoming an expert in any field. It takes practice, commitment and time. Stay with me here. The bodies of athletes don’t want to be pushed as hard as they are. Elite athletes practice their trade each and every day, unless it is a designated rest day. Similarly, Steve Jobs likely worked 10+ hours per day (I’m guessing) to be the best in his field of innovation. The point is people who master a new skill do it with commitment, dedication, practice and time. The same is true for weight control. It has to be something that you commit to with dedication and tenacity.
How is that good news? So many people give up on a weight loss program because they feel powerless to change; nothing is working or perhaps not working fast enough. The good news is that anyone has the ability to change the way they think. One of the things I work with people on is how much their thoughts, feelings and emotions lead to unhealthy behaviors that keep them stuck. With guidance and practice I have seen even the most resistant client learn how he/she is standing in their own way. The “secret” to successful weight control is really to change your mind. Commit to the journey and the process in front of you. Decide to make the choice and don’t look back.
Everyone I talk to about losing weight tells me to write down what I’m eating. This is irritating and hard to keep track of. Do I really need to do this? Why?
The answer really lies in scientific research to be honest. Research shows us that keeping a food log, or a food journal, is the best predictor of long-term weight control success. What I mean by that is, those who keep a food log are the most likely to be successful at weight loss long-term. This is applicable to ANY “diet” or weight control program out there. You asked why this is important. The answers are many. Here are a few:
1. Keeping a food log offers immediate feedback. If you are struggling with “why” you aren’t successful in meeting your weight management goals, this will help you look back and understand where you might be able to make some changes to your program. For instance, if you are feeling confused about what might be getting in your way, you might look back and see that you have been eating too many calories over time, or too many sweets, etc. etc. Without writing things down your mind tends to forget when and how much you ate. This could lead to not meeting your goals.
2. Writing down what you eat holds you accountable to yourself and what you put in your body. If you know you have to write down what you are eating, you are less likely to indulge in things that you know are not good for you. If you are hesitant, or feel uncomfortable writing down what you have just eaten, perhaps your feelings are a reflection of eating something you wish you wouldn’t have. When we are putting healthy foods in our body, we generally won’t have any trouble writing those foods in a log. In fact, we might feel proud to do so.
3. Another reason writing in a food journal is useful is to help us set and achieve clear goals. When we write in a log or a journal, this allows us to set and achieve goals. For instance, I might set a goal that I am going to eat between 1500-1800 calories for the next 5 days. If I am consistently keeping track of my calories, I can easily track if I have achieved that goal after 5 days. This is a good way of practicing meeting small and large goals. As we get good at meeting our nutritional goals, we can try and meet our exercise and weight goals as well.
My sister is stick thin. She plays every sport and does everything perfectly. I am not like her. I’m overweight, not coordinated at all and feel like I can’t do anything as well as she does. I get really sad when I think about this and I’m really jealous of her. What do I do about this?
This is a tough situation, but rest assured you are not alone in these feelings. Siblings often rival against one another for a million different reasons. This one is difficult because you are actually comparing yourself physically to someone who may be biologically very different from you. Even though you are from the same parents, your biological make-up can look very different. This may mean that your appearance is very different as well, along with your ability to gain weight. Your sister may not be biologically pre-dispositioned to weight gain the way you are. This does NOT mean, however, that it is not possible for you to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. It just means you have to know you are not dealing with apples to apples here. The two of you are different, period.
That being said, the real struggle here is how you can learn to accept yourself and your differences and stop comparing yourself to your sister. There will always be things she may be better at than you, and there are most likely things you will always be better at than she. You may just be to caught up in your comparison to notice your own strengths. We need all types of different strengths in this world, and you need to focus on the amazing gifts YOU bring to the table, and take the focus off of your sister.
There are many things you can start doing if you want to reach or maintain a healthy weight, but as you go on that journey, don’t forget the importance of self-acceptance! No matter what size you are, you will not be happy unless you can really learn to accept and love yourself for your own uniqueness!