One of the reasons many of us fail at weight loss is that we try to use a short-term approach to solve a long-term problem. We secretly believe we can begin a diet, lose weight and then resume all our old bad habits.
Weight management is a lifestyle challenge that can be achieved with permanent changes — not by “dieting.”
If it sounds too good to be true, it is. There’s no magic cure, pill, or potion — but don’t tell that to chronic “dieters!” According to BusinessWire.com, the U.S. weight loss market is now worth a record $72 billion!
So, how can you maximize your chance for success and make this the last “diet” you need to lose weight and keep it off?
Make a commitment: Maybe you’ve “gone on a diet” and lost weight before? But you regained the weight, maybe more than you lost, to begin with. Hey, you’re not alone. Most people think that someone else’s diet will be the perfect solution for them. Keto, Paleo, low carb, low fat, Whole 360, vegetarian, vegan. I just ‘Googled’ ‘diet/weight loss’ and see 266 million unique URLs in just .77 seconds.
Permanent weight loss means permanent lifestyle changes. And it’s got to be for the right reasons. No one else can make you lose weight. In fact, external pressure – often from people closest to you — may actually make matters worse.
You are your priority. Make diet and exercise changes to please yourself. As you’re planning to launch new weight-related lifestyle changes, try to resolve any other problems that may be in your life because you’ll be investing your mental and physical energy to change your behaviors.
This is not a temporary fix: it’s a lifestyle. YOU are your project. Take a look at your schedule, and plan to simplify your life, to prioritize yourself, something that many of us fail to do. Keep in mind that no matter how prepared you may be, you’ll occasionally overeat or eat foods that you really don’t want, but maybe it’s a habit. Rather than let a setback derail your efforts, accept that it happened and get back on track. Don’t expect to be perfect.
You say, “I need motivation.” What is motivation? It’s internal — it’s thinking, “Hey, I have a choice! Wow, I don’t have to eat that!” Focus on all of the benefits of losing weight, such as having more energy, feeling stronger, fitting into your clothes comfortably, and improving your health.
Draw on support from others: Of course, no one can do it for you, but sometimes sharing your goals with a really good friend can help you succeed. Say, “Hey, are you with me on this?” Sometimes you can get your best friend or your spouse on board. But don’t be afraid if they’re not there with you. You can only change you. Sometimes your example can be a motivation for others! Join a support group, find healthy recipes on YouTube, buy a multi-purpose cooker, join a gym, a dance class.
Set realistic goals: What are your primary goals? Is it just that number on the scale? Or is it health? Appearance? Energy? Set realistic goals. People who have seen me present about weight loss and health here in Cuenca know I have a riddle about weight loss goals. It goes like this.
Question: How do you lose 20 pounds?
Answer: One pound at a time.
You didn’t gain the weight in a month, it will take a while to get to your goal. Hey, set multiple goals and make them weekly and monthly goals — track your progress. Remember that you’re in this for the long haul. You’re not in a competition for weight loss; you’re doing this for life — a healthier life.
Make your goals “process goals,” such as eating better and exercising regularly, rather than “outcome goals,” such as losing 50 pounds. You are ‘your project,’ think about weight loss and health the way you decided to move to Cuenca.
Moving was a project. You know how to get projects done. You broke it down — what are the resources you need? What is your timeline? What do you need to do to get there? Do you need a personal trainer? Do you need to join a group? Get those resources. That’s how you succeed.
Really think about it. Write it down. Achievable goals are realistic, specific and measurable. For example, I’ll walk for 30 minutes a day, five days a week. I’ll buy chicken and vegetables and stir-fry enough for dinner and lunch the next day.
Learn to enjoy healthier foods: Liquid meals, diet pills, and fad diets aren’t magic bullets — they won’t lead to long-term weight control and better health. Instead, you choose to eat a variety of whole foods. Unprocessed foods. Foods that haven’t already been pre-digested and put into a box for you, alongside tons of preservatives and additives. Cuenca is one of the best places for eating well that I’ve ever lived. It’s so affordable! Whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans. They can’t make you eat junk food! You have a choice. Changing what you eat doesn’t mean less taste or satisfaction from food. It means saying, “They can’t make me eat that junk!”
Yes, it takes some planning — but you’re worth it. The outcomes are worth it.
Emotional health: It’s not enough to eat healthy foods and exercise for only a few weeks or even several months. You have to incorporate these behaviors into your life. To do that, you have to change the behaviors that helped make you overweight in the first place.
This shift in thinking away from a negative, “I was too tempted” to a strong and positive mantra, “I get to choose!”
It begins with taking an honest look at your eating habits and daily routine. Assess your own habits, ask yourself if you tend to eat when you’re bored, angry, tired, anxious, depressed or socially pressured. Look at your eating style and shopping and cooking techniques. Were you taught to clean your plate? Do you eat too fast? Do you eat while watching TV? See if any patterns emerge to identify possible triggers for overeating.
After assessing your personal challenges to weight loss, write out your strategy to gradually change habits and attitudes that have sabotaged your past efforts. Simply admitting your own challenges won’t get you past them entirely. But it helps in planning how you’ll deal with them and whether you’re going to succeed in losing weight once and for all.
Celebrate your victories with fitness: Set small reachable goals — more than just weight loss. Fitness is fun! Get that exercise band and make your arms stronger — stretch those legs, feel your muscles. Sky Fit in Cuenca is an example of a place where all expats and locals can find classes to fit their beginner, intermediate, or even advanced fitness level. Beginners will feel comfortable, especially if you’re rusty at doing exercises. Yoga is another wonderful activity, so are the exercise machines in the parks. I walk every morning with my walking sticks and see the same wonderful locals each day. “Buenos dias!” It makes my morning.
Reward yourself at least once a week. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it could be splurging on those fresh blueberries or a really good piece of salmon. Maybe buy a fitness tracker/step counter, or use your phone – my smartphone counts my steps. Treat yourself to a massage. Or buy a new novel or book-on-tape and really pay attention to it.
Change your definition of “diet.” Diet is not a four-letter word signifying deprivation. In fact, I challenge you to look up the word “diet” in the dictionary! The primary definition is “the kinds of foods that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.” That is HUGE! Make your diet a healthy one, full of whole and fresh foods — ditch the processed junk foods, and never “go” on a diet again.
No more excuses, fad diets or junk food. Join in! Our Cuenca Diabetes Support Group is open to all whose goals are to eat better and beat disease. Contact me for more information!
Susan Burke March, a Cuenca expat, is a Registered Dietitian and a Certified Diabetes Educator who specializes in smart solutions for weight loss and diabetes-related weight management. Join the Cuenca Diabetes Support Group to get healthy! Do you have a food, nutrition or health question? Write to her – SusanTheDietitian@gmail.com