Q: I just got done having kids and don’t plan to have more. I am 5ft 1in and 180 lbs. I want to lose 60 lbs. Seems impossible! How can I reach my goal?
A: As promised, I have 10 answers to any weight loss question you ask. This lady has picked a doozy! Let’s begin at the beginning… I was involved in the launch of a weight loss program at the University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center back in 2004 and have been seeing patients in that program ever since. I also conduct clinical trials testing behavioral weight loss strategies for people with various challenges including depression, type 2 diabetes, and binge eating disorder. Of the hundreds if not thousands of people I have encountered through my clinical and research work, I can tell you, losing 60 pounds is possible. People do it. But not everybody does it. Which group of people do you want to belong to? Here are 10 steps to being amongst the people who do it.
1. Believe. The first step to long lasting weight loss is believing two things 1) that it is hard work and 2) that you can accomplish hard work. You cannot lose weight without exercise and healthy dietary control. A lot of forces are going to try to lure you away from believing in yourself: junk food, fad diets, pills, supplements, and anything else that says, “you can’t do this.” You do not need temptations, short-cuts or false promises. You must believe that you are capable of the hard work of lifestyle change. Are you? Say YES because you ARE.
2. Time Is On Your Side. You didn’t gain this weight overnight, so you will not lose it overnight. The goal of 60 pounds is a lot of weight, literally 1/3 of your body! Count on it taking at the very minimum about 18-24 months to get close to this goal. People too often given themselves short periods of time to work toward their goal and then give up when they haven’t reached it. Give yourself PLENTY of time. I would also urge you to NOT focus on the 60 pound goal, but on smaller, shorter term goals, such as 5 pound increments. Think of it as 12 five-pound steps to 60 pounds. Allow yourself 4-6 weeks to lose each 5 pounds. Some will come off quicker, some may take more time.
3. Know What Thyself Puts in Thy Mouth The necessary evil of weight control is keeping a journal of what you eat. (insert BOOs and HISSES) Yes, it totally sucks BUT it is the single most effective weight loss strategy. A recent review of 22 weight loss studies found that diet journals consistently predicted weight loss outcomes (Burke et al 2011). Users of www.MyFitnessPal.com mobile application swear by it as a very handy diet tracker and it also factors in your exercise and includes a social network.
4. Fall in Love. Someone once said to me, “There are 2 kinds of people, those who love exercise and those who hate it.” WHAT!? Stop saying “I hate exercise.” It’s simply not possible that you hate all forms of bodily movement. When people say they hate exercise, they are usually referring to what they believe is exercise (e.g., walking on a treadmill, going to aerobics class, etc). Yes, you might not like certain exercises, but stop saying you hate them all because this is affecting your ability to develop an active lifestyle. The objective is to find an exercise that you enjoy. Only you know this, go out and try a few different things out. Pick the one you like the most. Learning to embrace exercise is essential to long lasting weight loss. You are wasting your time without it. Look how much these guys love it! (ok, you don’t have to love it THAT much).
5. Race for Your Cure. Another common denominator I see in “big losers” is that they do races. Not because they are trying to win, but as a motivational tool. I highly recommend that you sign up TODAY for a distance walk or run (5K, 10K, etc). By doing this you have a fitness goal to strive for, and it will help you stay on track with your exercise. If you sign up for 3 or 4 of these a year, you will always be in training. Go to www.active.com to find races near you. Find races that are for a charity close to your heart to make it even more meaningful. Be sure to increase the distance of races over time (e.g., after 2-3 5Ks try a 10K) and strive to beat your previous race time at every race. Explore your physical limits, I promise you they are FAR beyond your imagination. Cross that finish line, it’s one of the biggest highs in life.
7. Rocky Road is Not Just An Ice Cream Flavor. Your weight loss trajectory is not going to be a straight line. Expect many bumps in the road (see graph of a real person’s weight loss, notice the bumps!). You might have a week where you gain a couple of pounds, and weeks in a row where you plateau. Expect that the bumps are all part of the process, NOT a sign of failure. Too many people get frustrated at the first sign of slowed weight loss and then quit their efforts. Big losers do NOT do this, they forge ahead. These people are unstoppable!
8. Develop a Regular Eating Pattern Never let 3 hours go by without eating something. Appetite control involves avoiding extreme hunger. Never skip meals and plan snacks for times when you start to get hungry. By avoiding extreme hunger your tendency to overeat will dramatically decline. Check out the hunger scale below, the goal is to always keep yourself between 2 and 7.
9. Conquer your sleep and stress issues. If you are chronically sleep deprived or overstressed in your life, weight loss is going to be extremely difficult to impossible. Sleep deprivation stimulates the hormones that increase your appetite. You know what also does? Stress. These are the arch enemies of weight loss (along with Ding Dongs). Talk with your doctor about your sleep. For stress, I highly recommend cardiovascular exercise. It is AS effective at reducing stress and depression as antidepressant medication and psychotherapy, and much cheaper.
10. Power to the People. Start building your “community” because you cannot do this alone. Support and accountability is essential to this process and needs to come from people who are on the same road. Your spouse may be awesome but if he/or she is not on the same road, then you still need more support from others who are. My Fitness Pal has a function where you can be “friends” with other users and see each other’s progress, support each other, and chat. Also, take advantage of social networking, Weight Watcher groups, or blogs to build your community. Here are 4 great blogs written by people who are on your road. Check them out, comment frequently. Consider also starting your own blog.
Cubicle Dad, lost over 100 lbs http://www.chicagonow.com/blogs/cubicle-dad/
Tyler, lost 140 lbs counting calories http://www.344pounds.com/
Joanna, lost 88 lbs, Diary of a Mad Fat Woman http://diaryoffatwoman.blogspot.com/
Fat Girl Fights Back, lost over 50 lbs http://www.fatgirlfightsback.com/
Buy 10 get 1 free! 11. Subscribe to my blog. Speaking of blogs! I eat, drink, and sleep weight loss research. My mission is to share with you all that I know. And I guarantee you a 100% BS-free zone. I have tons of previous posts on weight loss, please take a look.
Burke, L. Wang, J., & Sevick, M. (2011). Self-monitoring in weight loss: A systematic review of the literature. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 111, 92-102.Share on Facebook