Most often, when someone decides to lose weight, they set a really big goal. Sometimes this goal is not realistic, or simply overwhelming. One may think, “I need to lose forty pounds”. Well that’s great, but nobody loses forty pounds overnight, despite the many magazine and television advertisements that seem to portray it this way.
Successful weight loss takes time. The more gradual the weight loss, the more likely the weight loss will be maintained over time. The longer the excess weight stays off, the more it benefits your health. As you complete specific goals that you set, you are gradually achieving the weight loss. If you shift how you view your weight reduction program as one that is a “journey” as opposed to a temporary burden, you will find long-term success.
The National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) is an observational study of individuals successful at long-term maintenance of weight loss. Individuals are eligible for participation in the registry if they have maintained a loss of at least 30 pounds for one year or longer. The Registry points to several common factors in successful weight loss: Ninety-eight percent of Registry participants report that they modified their food intake in some way to lose weight; Ninety-four percent increased their physical activity, with the most frequently reported form of activity being walking; While there is some variety in how NWCR members keep the weight off, most report continuing to maintain a low calorie, low fat diet and doing high levels of activity; Healthy habits include eating breakfast daily, self-weighing once per week, watching less than ten hours of television weekly, and exercising one hour daily on average.
Numerous studies have shown that these key components to a successful weight loss program: Calorie reduction, regular exercise, support, and self-monitoring. Some individuals are able to do this on their own, but most need some support. Self-monitoring is important, but it can be even more meaningful when a professional is also guiding you.
You also want to enjoy eating. One study showed that successful subjects who kept weight off for longer periods reported less effort and attention was required to diet and maintain the weight. Duration of weight loss was associated with greater pleasure of weight maintenance. Could this study suggest that participants actually “thought less” about their weight loss program? Perhaps they did not obsess about it, but instead just took small steps toward a long-term goal? Often individuals become fixated on the need to lose weight, and the feeling that they are being deprived of foods they enjoy can manifest into negative feelings that are then associated with the attempt to lose weight. Perhaps individuals who make smaller changes and do not focus on weight loss, but instead on specific goals (to eat more fruit or to walk sixty more minutes a week, for instance) achieve results and feel good about themselves.
So when it comes to weight loss, you are in charge. If you choose to lose weight, you can lose weight, when you are ready to do so. Realize that this is going to take some time, but it will be worth it. Find a registered dietitian or nutrition coach to help you set and achieve your weight loss goals, and you will be one step closer to a healthier you.