A study published in the journal Obesity sheds some interesting light into the question why weight loss is so difficult, investigating success rates of the famous reality show “Biggest Losers”. The study found that contestants, on average, lost 128 pounds each over the course of the 30-week show. But it get’s interesting afterwards. The stunning effect turned into a debacle that many know too well: Losing the weight is easy, keeping it off is the problem.
“Losing weight is easy. The true challenge is to keep it off.”
After the tremendous success of the “Biggest Losers” contestants, ALL BUT ONE gained it back. The study shows that only ONE of the 14 contestants was able to keep the weight off. All others gained their original weight back, with four of them even more than before the show.
The reason seems to be our metabolism. When we lose weight, metabolic rate slows down dramatically and once the weight is lost, it needs to be maintained in that state – meaning eating much less per day than before the diet. For many, the real problems start here, facing everyday struggles with food, cravings and portion sizes. Eventually, many revert back to old habits and within days the body returns to what obesity researchers call the body’s preferred weight. The study suggests that the bodies of obese people work against them, making it much harder to get in shape even when medically necessary.
A key component seems to be the speed of diets. Or with other words, speedy weight loss has a negative impact on our metabolism – causing speedy weight gain once the diet period ended. In many cases with additional weight gain.
But obesity is more than just eating the wrong foods or the lack of willpower. Almost always, overeating has emotional roots and is influenced by complex environmental, biological and hormonal circumstances. Here are some key factors to consider when losing weight:
1) Forget (short term) approaches
How quickly we lose weight plays a fundamental role. The quicker we lose, the faster we gain if old habits remain after the diet. Aim for slow, but steady weight loss with a new way of eating AFTER the diet. And avoid extreme diets, fasts, detoxes and other programs altogether. The frustrating weight is back before you know it without any health effects.
2) Focus on the WHY and HOW
Many over-focus on WHAT to eat. Additionally, evaluate WHY cravings happen. Is there a trigger moment? And why do you crave a certain food? Also, celebrate eating by paying attention to the HOW. Prepare home meals in a comfortable environment. Eat slow and chew instead of rushing through a sandwich in the car or between meetings. Enjoy and pay attention to your food. Cut portion sizes in half.
3) Consult a specialist
Obesity should be discussed at your checkups at the regular Dr office. But there are also medical specialists available with options you might not aware of. Search for an obesity specialist in your area and make an appointment. Maybe hormonal imbalances, food allergies or other medical issues keep you from losing weight. It’s worth investigating.
4) Look for accountability and educate yourself on foods
Working with a coach can help. Finding the root cause of your cravings, learning new tricks and foods is paired here with a strong accountability effort. If working with a coach is not an option, join a group, either in person or via social media. Remember, you are not alone and others struggle too. At many occasions, merely talking to other people can start a healing effect.
5) Ditch deadlines – forever
The biggest problem with diets (and the likes) are deadlines. When on a diet, we count the days and when it’s over, revert to old habits. Instead of falling into this gap over and over again, make a long term plan. Once you decide to lose weight, consider yourself on a PATH without an end. Entering into an “open-ended” transformation rather than going through a short period of starvation will help you not to fall back into bad habits after the “deadline” has ended. And don’t despair if you fail once in a while. We all step off here and then – because we are human. When that happens, re-adjust without blaming yourself, return to your path and continue with your journey to a new health.
6) Don’t compare yourself to others
Some people gain weight by merely looking at a piece of chocolate, while your best friend effortlessly munches a box of nougat truffles without consequences. Don’t compare yourself to others, every metabolism, body composition and biochemical setup is different. Instead try to find what is good for you without depriving yourself. Which foods do you tolerate well? Which foods cause problems? How often do you eat and when? When do you feel best? Track your emotions, foods, not-so-good-times and events daily for a while in a journal and review your notes once a week. A pattern will emerge that can really help you, your coach or Doctor in learning more about what triggers your cravings and can help to decipher the complex system of your very own metabolism.
7) Don’t miss out on the fun of eating
As important healthy eating is, don’t overdo it. When thoughts about healthy foods occupy your mind constantly, try to let go. Remember, extremes never make for a happy outcome. Indulge once in a while and enjoy life without a bad conscience. Have that glass of wine, piece of chocolate or whatever it is you like. The key is to know your limits, convert situations of indulgence into enjoyable moments and re-adjust after. At the end of the day, we all want to be happy and if healthy eating does the opposite, it’s not so healthy after all. It’s all about the balance, a happily enjoyed cookie is healthier than unhappily wolfing down broccoli.
8) Eat together
Americans rarely eat together these days. The average American eats one in every five meals in the car and one in four Americans has fast food at least once every day. An analysis from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found that students who eat irregularly with their parents were significantly more likely to be truant at school. And children not eating dinner with their parents at least twice a week were 40 percent more likely to be overweight. And according to a study conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, children who eat dinner with their parents five or more days a week had less trouble with drugs, alcohol, and eat healthier, have better academic performance and reportedly are being closer with their parents. Healthy eating habits starts early!
8) Weight management is not about looks. It’s about health.
Many still neglect the thought that being overweight and obese can make us seriously sick. Carrying too much weight, especially around the belly, is a serious health problem and not a cosmetical issue. Maintaining a healthy weight is not about a bikini figure or fitting into skinny jeans, it is about preventing devastating diseases and quality of life. Realizing that life expectancy is severely shortened by carrying too much weight is the first step to implementing changes for a healthier future.