When most people talk about losing weight, they immediately associate this with dieting. It is commonly thought that in order to lose weight you must go on a diet. By the term diet I mean a temporary restrictive eating plan. The vast majority of people that go on a diet do not lose weight permanently. In fact years of research backs it up that for the majority, diets don’t lead to permanent weight loss. This is not surprising really, given that by its very nature, a diet is a temporary thing. What happens once you have finished the diet?
For sure quite a lot of people do lose some weight when they go on a diet, but how many times do you hear that they put it all back on again? Why is this do you think?
It is because these diets are difficult, if not impossible to to sustain. A planned diet controls us, when what we really need to do is gain control of our food intake ourselves. They may tell you to eat 6 meals per day, or deny you of all your favourite foods. This is difficult to sustain for the rest of your life. Eventually a time will come when you have had enough, and will return back to your old ways. Then what happens – your weight returns to its old level.
A diet only works for as long as you are on it. The majority of people get bored with strict eating plans and go off the rails from time to time. Many people perceive a lapse like this as a sign of failure, and end up with feelings of inadequacy.
A lapse like this can cause them to overeat as a way of dealing with these negative feelings. Many over weight people over eat to help them deal with emotional problems, rather than because they are hungry. A diet can be the catalyst for a vicious cycle of losing weight, going off the rails, feeling bad, and gaining weight again.
Many people go from diet to diet, hoping to find the one that will stop them from failing. However such a diet doesn’t really exist, and they may end up increasing weight each time they try.
Professor Traci Mann, from the University of California, Los Angeles, analysed 31 long term studies that followed people on a range of diets from two to five years. Her results, published in the April 2007 issue of the journal American Psychologist, concluded that most people would have been better off not dieting at all.
Prof Mann found that although the dieters lost up to 10% of their starting weight in the first six months, around two thirds of the people on diets regained more weight than they lost within four or five years.
So instead of dieting, you should look at maintaining a healthier lifestyle. Contrary to popular belief, a healthy lifestyle does not have to be difficult, and it does not have to be painful or time consuming. Making a few small and simple changes to your lifestyle can make a massive difference in the long term. All you need to do is reduce the number of calories you eat every day, but you do not need to be left feeling hungry and deprived.
You must make permanent changes if you want permanent weight loss. They must be realistic if you are to stick to them. Here are some very simple things you can do to permanently change your lifestyle in order to permanently lose weight.
1. Buy slightly smaller plates, and give yourself slightly smaller portions with every meal.
2. Consciously try to eat a little slower. You will actually enjoy the food more, plus you will feel more satisfied when you have finished as it takes time for the brain to register that you have eaten.
3. Get into cooking more home made meals. Enjoy the process of buying the ingredients and making the meal. These more nutritious meals will satisfy you for longer.
4. Leave something with every meal. Even if it is just a tiny amount. Keep yourself in the habit of not letting the portion sizes control how much you eat.
5. Write a shopping list when you next go shopping and stick to it. You don’t have to be a monk and ignore all your favourite foods, but be sensible. A little of what you fancy is fine, but tone down the unhealthy snacks.
6. If you have a sweet tooth, then try sucking boiled sweets. They take far longer to eat than other sweets and chocolates, meaning you consume far less, but they still give you that sweet fix.
7. Reduce alcohol consumption. Beers and wines in particular are full of calories, but don’t provide any real nutrition. If you must drink alcohol, find lower calorie beers and wines. Better still, switch to spirits with low calorie mixers.
8. Stop drinking sugary drinks. You can consume a lot of calories per day in what you drink. Try to wean yourself onto drinking more water. There are no calories in water, and it is good for you Stop adding sugar to hot drinks, and switch to low sugar soft drink alternatives.
9. Find a physical activity that you enjoy. It could be walking, swimming, tennis, dancing, anything at all that gets you moving. You are not aiming to be an Olympic athlete, so a bit of enjoyable exercise is all you need. Set regular days and times, and stick to them.
10. Be patient. If you are managing to lose a pound or 2 per week, then that is great. There is no rush. Even losing just one pound per week will give you a total weight loss of 26 pounds in 6 months.
So try these tips to reduce your overall calorie consumption. It may be a good idea to print this list out and keep it in a prominent place as a reminder. You do not need to live a life of denial, but you do need to make changes if you wish to lose weight. Think more in terms of lifestyle changes than quick fix dieting. It may be slower to lose the weight, but it will stay off. The more realistic and sustainable these lifestyle changes are, the more likely you are stick with them in the long term. Good luck!
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