Mathematically speaking, weight loss is a simple equation. Approximately 3500 calories equals one pound of body weight. Eat less. Exercise more. Lose weigh. Either way, by taking in less calories than you burn, you will lose weight.
So if losing weight is a simple equation, why arenʼt more people doing it? Why donʼt those who lose weight keep the weight off? If being healthy, and looking good, feels so good, why is it so difﬁcult? Letʼs look at some recent statistics.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in 2009-2010, 37.5% of all adults in the United States were obese, as were 16.9% of all United States children and adolescents. Reports show that Americans spend approximately $40 billion yearly on weight loss products. Yet, estimates show, despite the billions spent, dieters can expect to regain two-thirds of their lost weight within a year of completing their diet program, and all of it within ﬁve years.
So is attempted weight loss merely an exercise in futility? Perhaps not.
There are those who lose weight and keep it off. However, the successful losers do not rely solely on the mathematics of weight loss. They do not rely on fad diets or weight loss products. They do not use a short-term ﬁx for what is in all likelihood a long-term problem. Instead, these people ﬁnd a way to ﬁx not only their mathematics, but their mentality. In other words, they ﬁnd a way to change how they relate to food.
So, yes, to lose weight, you do have to burn more calories than you take in over time. You still have to do the math. However, if you neglect doing the work that will change your mindset toward food, you will probably fail in the long run.
Thatʼs why fad diets do not work. They serve only to limit calories, but do nothing to change your mentality.
Here are four suggestions for improving your weight loss mentality:
1. Manage Your Expectations. You didnʼt gain your weight in a month, so it is not realistic to expect to lose it in a month. Decide upon healthy, practical goals. Set short-term goals in ten pound increments, and aim for 1-2 pounds a week.
Achieving small goals will give you a genuine feeling of success and motivate you to continue. Also, donʼt divorce yourself from the foods you love. Be pragmatic and learn to cook them using healthier methods, or choose to eat smaller portions. Fad diets restrict speciﬁc foods, lifestyle changes do not.
2. Map Out Your Menu. Much of healthy eating is simply being in control. One way to maintain this control is to map out your menu. Schedule time for shopping and preparing healthy meals and snacks. Make time to prepare lunches and snacks for work, or educate yourself about healthy options that are available at the restaurants which you frequent. Plan for time to eat your meal, and then eat your meal only.
Do not allow yourself to multitask by doing things such as reading the paper or watching television. Plan your food, focus on the food, eat slower, and you will feel fuller longer.
3. Make Your Intentions Known. Tell your family and close friends about your plan for a healthier you. Explain that you need their encouragement and support. Many people fear doing this because they are already embarrassed by their weight. They fear they will fail and embarrass themselves even further. However, those who love you will support you, and may even surprise you by wanting to partner with you, providing you with some much needed accountability.
4. Motivate Yourself. Remind yourself daily how important this is to you. Remind yourself that you are worth the time and effort. Paste a picture of a healthier you on your mirror, or place one on your desk. Create new habits in the way that you think about both yourself and food. For example, do not reward yourself with a dessert for good behavior. Do not allow yourself to think that you “deserve” it. Instead, eat the dessert mindfully, as part of your meal plan. However, do reward yourself!
Find non-food related ways to acknowledge goals, such as a massage, or an afternoon in the park. Finally, remind yourself that you can do this, and do not allow an indiscretion, or one day of poor eating, to derail your efforts.
These suggestions should help you begin to develop a new relationship with food. They will help you to change not only the mathematics of your weight loss program, but also your mentality. In conclusion, remember to following a healthy eating plan and increase your exercise. Remember to consult your doctor before starting either. Finally, If you have other mental health issues, such as depression or unresolved traumas, losing weight alone may not be sufﬁcient, and you should consider seeking professional counseling.
Kim Cartwright is a writer, speaker, and researcher who is passionate about helping people with issues such as self worth, eating disorders, and relationships. Check out her personal blog, (She)ology, and find her on Twitter @kimbrly63.