Your ultimate guide to setting and achieving your weight loss goal…
Obesity can rob you of 20 years’ worth of good health, and cut your lifespan by eight years. If you are just overweight, your life can be three years shorter.
In 2017, obesity was linked to the deaths of 4.7 million people. Why did these people not just lose weight? Why is it so hard, and what can we do to succeed?
Why is it so difficult to lose weight?
It’s as simple as eating less and moving more, right? Apparently not.
An interesting discrepancy comes to light when we consider the number of overweight people in the world and the efforts they take to lose weight.
At the time of writing there were 1 703 519 320 overweight people in the world, according to Worldometer. This number grows steadily.
On the same day, Worldometer reports over $66 million being spent on weight loss programmes. This amount grows so rapidly that it’s impossible to write down a specific number.
If so much money is spent on weight loss, should the number of overweight people not be going down? Why are overweight people failing to save their own lives?
Let’s take a closer look at a few reasons why losing weight can seem impossible. Some of them might surprise you:
- Your body doesn’t want you to lose weight. The body is built for survival, and if, all of a sudden, it gets less food, it might think there is a crisis.
Then, biology steps in to prevent you from what it perceives as potential starvation.
Once you’ve lost some weight, you will produce less leptin. This is the hormone that tells your brain that you are full.
But wait, there’s more. You also produce more ghrelin, the hormone that tells you that you are hungry.
Even if you manage to reach your goal weight, this hormone imbalance continues, and therefore so does your fight against fat.
- Fad diets might sabotage you. Every so often a new diet promises to help you shed large amounts of weight in a short time.
This kind of diet quickly gains popularity, with those who lost weight singing its praises. But there is a catch.
These diets tend to have strict rules that require the dieter to cut out whole food groups or drastically restrict what they eat.
This makes it difficult to keep up with such diets. Often the restriction becomes too much, and the person ends up binge eating.
The point is to teach your body to burn fat for energy, instead of sugar and carbs. But when all of a sudden you remove these, the body needs to adjust.
The intensity and length of keto flu varies between people. You may experience symptoms such as severe fatigue, headaches, dizziness, irritability, nausea and sugar cravings.
These symptoms do go away, but sometimes they are enough to completely discourage the dieter.
Some people make the mistake of thinking that they can quickly lose weight using the fad diet in question, and then return to eating the way they used to.
That is a recipe for regaining weight.
You will have to stick to your diet, but then you risk developing nutritional deficiencies, especially if you are cutting out whole food groups.
- Miracle products don’t exist. Over-the-counter diet pills don’t work, period. In most cases they are merely supplements that may or may not be good for you.
The pill that makes you lose weight without eating right and getting exercise is nothing but a fantasy.
- Fat cells stick around, ready to make you fat again. Body fat gets stored in their own cells, created especially for it when you gain weight.
Upon losing weight fat cells become empty, but they don’t disappear. These cells contain sensors that notify your brain when you lose fat.
Your brain then responds by making you hungry, so that the lost fat can be replaced. The more fat cells you have, the more sensors there are to send signals to the brain.
This leads to some intense cravings. The secret to beating this phenomenon is to be sneaky about your weight loss.
Lose weight slowly and gradually, and those sensors might not notice the change.
This explains why it is harder for women to lose fat and also why it takes them longer than men.
- You have unresolved trauma. If you tend to overeat, it’s important to explore the reasons for this behaviour.
If you eat for comfort during stressful times or due to unresolved emotions, it’s a good idea to get professional help.
In therapy, for example, you can learn healthy coping skills which eliminates the need to turn to food.
- Too much or too little exercise Losing weight without exercise is possible, but not the best way to go about it.
A lack of exercise can bring on a weight loss plateau, not to mention the physical and mental benefits of exercise.
The problem comes in when we start an exercise programme only to find that it borders on torture.
You gasp for breath while rivers of sweat run down your chubby face. It’s embarrassing, and it feels terrible.
You push through your workout while longing for the couch, and often, giving up just becomes too easy. This is why it is vital to find something that you enjoy.
On the flip side, some dieters make the mistake of relying on exercise to slim them down.
It’s impossible to lose weight by exercise alone. What you put in your mouth will always matter.
The above information paints a pretty grim picture. The struggle is real, in fact, it doesn’t get much realer than your own body working against you.
There is more bad news. About 90% of people who lose weight, gain it back again. Are you beginning to wonder if it’s even worth it to try?
Take a deep breath. You’ve got this.
Armed with the correct strategy, it is possible to lose weight and keep it off. There are plenty of people out there who did just that.
You already took the first step by reading this far. You faced up to some harsh truths – and knowledge is power.
Understanding what is happening in your body – and why you are feeling so hungry – puts you in a stronger position to say no to that piece of chocolate.
Planning for weight loss success
You’ve already learned in this article that there is a lot more to fitting into your smaller clothes again than simply eating less and exercising more.
Use this article as a starting point, and do even more research. Arm yourself with science, and enter your battle with realistic expectations based on facts.
These are some factors apart from food and exercise, to keep in mind as you start your weight loss programme:
- Learn to distinguish between fact and fiction. The internet is crammed full of information, and not at all true. Do not stress about something that might be just a myth.
- Set realistic goals before you start.
- Losing weight is as much a mental process as it is a physical one. Knowing what challenges to expect and how to handle them is properly preparing yourself.
- Avoid common diet mistakes.
Let’s take a closer look at these.
Weight loss myths debunked
Myth: You need to starve yourself to lose weight.
Fact: Don’t skip meals. In fact, it’s better to snack quite often, provided you snack on small, healthy foods. This helps to prevent irritability and extreme hunger which will lead to your failure.
Also, the body will once again try to prevent starvation by holding on to any fuel it gets and slowing down your metabolism if you don’t eat enough. This could actually slow down weight loss.
Myth: Always buy products labelled ‘low fat’.
Fact: Be careful of these, and read the label before you buy. Many low fat products contain large amounts of sugar. Yoghurt is a good example.
It’s not necessary to completely avoid fat either. Healthy fats, such as those found in avocado, can actually aid in your weight loss. Key is always not to overdo it.
Myth: Carbs cause weight gain.
Fact: Well portioned, properly chosen carbs definitely have a place in a healthy diet.
Carb-rich vegetables, fruits and whole grains are good for you, and contain much-needed fibre. If you want pasta or rice, opt for small portions of brown rice or pasta.
Myth: Healthy food tastes bad.
Fact: It might appear that way, because sugar alters your taste buds, influencing the way you experience flavour.
Your taste buds do recover after you ditch the unhealthy stuff. Healthy foods will start tasting better. It’s worthwhile though to cook your own meals.
This allows you to experiment with preparing food in such a manner that it still feels like you are giving yourself a treat. Go online too, you’ll be surprised at how good veggies can be.
Setting realistic weight loss goals
What sounds easier? “I need to lose 20kg in five months” or “I am going to do my best to lose 4kg per month”?
According to WebMD it’s fairly common for dieters to set almost impossible goals for themselves.
A University of Pennsylvania study found that dieters on average aim to lose 32% of their body mass – three times the amount needed to be healthier.
It’s important to set goals. They keep you on track, and nothing beats the sense of achievement when you reach them. But be clever about it.
Divide your goal into smaller, more achievable parts. Not all of your goals need to be related to how much you weigh either, think a bit further.
A list of short term goals could look something like this.
- Go to the gym four times instead of three times this week.
- Learn how to make a new healthy snack.
- Plan and prepare next week’s meals.
Is weight loss all in the mind?
One of the biggest traps that dieters fall into is thinking about weight loss the wrong way.
Typically, we tend to decide to go on a diet, lose all the weight we want to as quickly as possible, and then continue with life as before.
For successful, sustainable weight loss, you need to stop thinking about how good you want to look in a short amount of time.
There are no quick fixes. Instead, living healthy for the rest of your life should be your goal. Don’t think of it as losing weight, start focusing on simply becoming a better you.
What follows is a mental health checklist for your journey to a healthier you. Because it will be hard, even when you are doing it the right way.
Keep it near, and tell yourself these things when you struggle. You can even add your own:
- I am feeling hungry and uncertain if I can do this, but I know that I need to make sacrifices. I will be rewarded in abundance with feeling healthy and proud of my efforts.
- The days drag past, I work hard on myself, but it feels like nothing is happening. But this is normal. I have to be patient, because healthy weight loss is supposed to take long.
- There is no need to get depressed because I weigh a kilogram more than yesterday. Daily fluctuations in weight is normal. I have not failed.
- I am human. Giving in to having a small treat is not the end of the world. I can still continue with my plan and be successful. There’s no need to be perfect.
- Exercise WILL start feeling better, I just have to push through. I will be so grateful that I did.
- I will prove to myself that I can do this, and I will be kind to myself in the process.
- It might not always feel like much, but I am constantly making progress. I am proud of what I have achieved so far.
- It’s normal for motivation levels to go up and down. I am not a failure on the days I don’t feel quite as motivated.
7 ways to stay motivated and achieve your goals
1 – Remind yourself of everything that will change for the good when you reach your goal weight. Keep a picture of your future self in your head.
This is a person that feels good, she is light on her feet and moves easily. And she doesn’t have to return a beautiful outfit to the shelf because it’s too small for her.
2 – When things get rough, think back and remember the feeling that caused you to do this in the first place.
It was no doubt an emotion strong enough to make you decide to change your life. Recapture that emotion and hold on to it.
3 – Do you have a family? Children? Remember that a healthy body sets an example for them.
Instilling in your children a healthy relationship with food can go a long way in saving them from having to ever struggle with weight problems.
Your own healthy lifestyle leaves you feeling more energetic, allowing you to devote more of yourself to the ones you love most.
4 – Celebrate your successes. There are many ways to celebrate that don’t involve food.
Spoil yourself with a manicure, time out watching your favourite movie or a soothing bubble bath.
This also gives you something to look forward to, which does wonders to improve your mood on difficult days.
5 – There is no need to only rely on yourself for motivation. Tell the people closest to you about your plans, and ask them to support you.
You can even use social media for this. If you are followed by friends you trust online, a post about your progress every now and then will elicit the support you need to keep going.
6 – Keeping a food journal is a powerful tool in your path to getting healthy. Be creative, and do this any way you want.
As weight loss happens over a long period of time, it’s easy to forget some of the observations we make about our journey.
Jot down what you eat, how you react to certain foods, how you are feeling, what obstacles you face and what you do to overcome them.
Not only will this help to keep you motivated, but according to a study in the Journal of Nutrition and Dietetics people who keep a diary achieve better results with their diet.
7 – Stay positive. If you catch yourself in a negative thought, stop and deliberately change it into a positive one, even if you don’t believe it.
The beauty of how the brain works is that it will start believing those positive thoughts in no time.
Lesser-known tips and tricks
Ensure that you sleep well. The body needs sleep to function optimally and a lack of sleep causes stress. According to a study on sleep and obesity, this stress could increase your appetite.
Plan every single meal. This allows you to stay in control of what you eat. If you don’t do this, the temptation grows to quickly grab something unhealthy during a rushed lunch hour. Preparing meals in advance where possible makes your life much easier too. Having a prepared meal on hand keeps you out of trouble.
Keep your kitchen clean and organised, as this will increase your ability to make responsible food choices.
One study showed that people with cluttered homes were more likely to carry extra weight.
- Remember to hydrate. Water is an essential part of a healthy diet. Be careful of hidden calories in drinks such as fruit juice and some alcoholic beverages.
- Ditch the scale. The scale is the source of many a woman’s misery – and often for no reason at all.
Resist the urge to weigh yourself daily, no matter how excited you are to see progress. The number on the scale can fluctuate daily, even monthly for women who menstruate. This is because we don’t always have the same amounts of food and water in our systems.
If you are exercising, the number on the scale might not even go down at times. You are building muscle and not necessarily getting lighter, but definitely leaner and healthier. Weighing yourself once a week is fine, but do so at the same time of day every time. If the scale makes you anxious, ignore it completely.
Measure your progress by the way your clothes are fitting looser, the way you keep feeling better, and the increasing number of compliments that will start coming your way.
In conclusion to set weight loss goals for success
The idea of losing weight can seem overwhelming. There are so many factors to consider.
But one thing stands out like a sore thumb: the healthy way is best.
Eat balanced, healthy meals. Eat regular small portions. Allow yourself a treat once in a while. Exercise regularly.
Most of all: be patient. You can and will get there.