If you are reading this, you most likely have already resolved to lose weight.
Congratulations on making it a priority to reach healthy weight! It’s a resolution that is worth fighting for. But how can you make sure you win that fight? And, once you reach your goal, how can you make sure you maintain it? Let’s break it down into seven simple steps that are pretty easy to wrap your mind around:
(1) know your goal,
(2) know what you are doing,
(3) start small,
(4) change behaviors one at a time,
(5) talk it out,
(6) don’t beat yourself up, and
(7) ask for support.
Know your goal
Yet, we are planning to lose weight but what will be the goal source for this lost?
There are two main tissues the body may use to lose weight: fat and muscles. Muscles are heavier than fat but also tighter and burn a lot of calories as there are a lot of chemical reactions going there. Fat, however, is lighter, looser, and lazyer tissue. In the other words, fat has been a significant part of our body shape but it doesn’t weigh as much as some people believe, and also doesn’t burn calories for us. Losing muscles will make us losing more weight and will show nice numbers on weigh scale, but will also decrease the amount of energy we are able to spend. As the result, when we are back consuming our regular diet, the weight begins to climb back on the same amount of calories we ate before and didn’t gain. Losing fat with preserving muscles, however, will allow us to lose a few garment’s sizes while the weight loss rate will stay slow and sometime insignificant especially in the beginning.
So, what is your goal - the number on a weight scale or belly size? Are you planning to lose weight or to lose fat?
Know what you are doing
We all know the food basics. We know how many fruit and vegetables are recommended to consume daily, what kind of fat is healthy and what portions we have to eat to control weight. Unfortunately, most of us usually do not realize the physiology of the body processes related to food after it was eaten, which is actually affect our weight much more then what exactly we had for lunch. For instance, people mistakenly believe that if they could eat less they would lose weight. Like the body fat is some simple storage box in which we can easily put the fat when excess or take out if needed. Unfortunately, this is not what happens, because there are complex passways in the body have to be turned on to use the fat. Otherwise the weight loss comes mostly from muscle loss and appears perfectly on a weight scale but later brings the weight back very quickly and with additional percentage. And we believe that there is our fault that the weight came back, we don't realize that it was just a result of processes started on the last diet.
For thousands of years starvation death was the main body’s fear. And all those years the body learned how to preserve fat, how to prevent it's loss in different conditions. When the body receives signal that there is an imminence of hunger/malnutrition/starvation, it launches fat preserving mechanisms. Breaking down muscles is a part of it. The body’s mission is to preserve fat, and the body sacrifices the muscle ballast to prevent itself from spending too much energy. Our body is unable to lose more than 1 lb of fat per week. When any diet promises 10 lbs lost per week, or you starved yourself to get a certain weight goal and lost 4-8 lbs weekly, it means that most of it was muscles loss.
The good news is that the science had a big progress and we know today most of the processes that happen to food in the body. We know how to increase metabolism and how to make body to lose fat and preserve muscles. We know how to combine different kinds of food to make the body utilize it the most effective way. We know what way of eating will increase energy expenditure. It is very important to get and utilize all this knowledge when starting weight loss journey to prevent harming to your health and make sure you are not entering yo-yo dieting which makes you gain more weight than it was on the start, and harder to lose it each new cycle.
Rome wasn't built in a day. Think about how a baby learns to walk. Kids don’t read a manual and then suddenly stand and walk. First the baby pushes up onto all fours and rocks back and forth, then gradually crawls, finds something to hold on to and pulls himself up. Then he or she realizes there are many things to hold on to and then starts “cruising”, and finally the baby begins taking one, two or three steps at a time. Weight loss is very much like teaching your inner baby to walk. If baby will try to run before he learned to walk it will end up with falling. So we are. To achieve the main goal we have to keep the steps small and achievable. For instance, this week I will drink 3 more glasses of water daily. . Next week will be the launch of a new task, but permanent habit changing must be done gradually and with great attention to detail.
Change behaviors one at a time
You know how sometimes you end up arriving at your destination with no recollection of actually driving there? That’s because driving on regularly travelled routes becomes so automatic that it happens in a very unconscious manner. Our patterns around food happen very similarly. Some of us find themselves eating each time they return home even if they came back from a party where they had a good amount food. Others have to have some sweet dessert after a meal or watch TV during the lunch. Most of our food related habits are fairly automatic and unconscious. Therefore, we have to force our current automatic responses to food out of hiding, pull them apart one by one and then rebuild healthier responses. For instance, if you tend to space meals too far apart, have trouble making time to plan your food intake in advance and have difficulty with drinking water – choose one of those items to focus: one at a time. Do not tackle the next behavior until you have mastered the first. It is too much to take on all three of those items at a time. Choose only one and stick with it until you’ve strengthened that habit. Then move on to the next. By focusing on too many behavioral changes at once you will overwhelm yourself. By focusing on one you will build confidence in your mastery of new behavior and that will pave the way for the next new behavior to be formed.
Talk about it
Come to weight loss group, join the group on Facebook, or come to an appointment with your RD and talk about the changes you are making. Talk about the things you are doing right as well as the areas in which you feel challenged. Fear of failure, frustration, exasperation, self-pity and even self-loathing can at times override your best intentions. But encourage yourself to push through it! Allowing your thoughts, feelings and behaviors around food and weight to come out of hiding will let the part of you that wants good health and weight loss to take the driver’s seat. Talking about your process in a non-judgmental and caring environment can decrease feelings of shame or failure and help you get honest about your level of commitment to yourself and your goal. Talk it out!
Don’t beat yourself up
When you find that you have lost your way and driving the wrong direction, there are two choices:
1. blame yourself and continue to drive in circles until you get to nowhere or
2. say yourself : “OK. This is where I am. It’s already happened. I have to stop and find the exit”. Then stop and ask for direction or find new way with GPS.
All stops we have on our way to a healthier weight are just points to learn from and move on with a new experience. By being kinder and gentler to ourselves as we make such profound lifestyle changes, we support ourselves instead of tear ourselves down. Learning to eat healthy is not a 50-yard dash or even a marathon. Both of these races end. Instead it is a lifelong journey that must allow for some potholes and some flat tires along the way. If you are too hard on yourself every time you hit a roadblock with your weight loss, there is a chance you can allow those feelings and thoughts of self-sabotage to kick in. Instead, fuel the part of you that acknowledges your progress while simultaneously acknowledging those areas where you still struggle. For instance, replace “I cheated” with “I was so hungry and ate too many grapes but at least I didn’t reach for the chips”. The second statement acknowledges your progress while still noticing an area for improvement. It’s a matter of tone in the way you talk to yourself and about yourself. Using a loving and compassionate tone while still being honest with yourself will get you much farther than approaching your choices with judgment and criticism.
Ask for support
Research shows that sharing your experience with like-minded person significantly increases chances to success. Don’t go through it alone. Identify those individuals who take your goal seriously, who genuinely care about your well-being and want what’s best for you. Find a friend or a family member who knows how important your goal is. Then, tell them what would help you. Be honest. Join healthy eating weight loss group. Tell your RD what you struggle with and what gets in your way. Ask them to help you figure it out. They will. Tell your family and friends what they can do to support you. Do not expect they will figure out it by themselves. For example, if you need some extra time to work-out, ask them to help you with that. Or if you need to cook at home more, ask if they would do that with you instead of eating out. Sometimes support could even be giving you more space to take time for yourself. Whatever it is that would make you feel more supported, figure out what it is and ask for it. People around you are much less likely to derail you if they know how much you want something and how hard you are working toward it. Don’t be afraid to tell them. It just might ensure your success!
Happy 2013 from TOP Smart Nutrition!