It’s that time of year where we all decide, once again, that next year is OUR year and we’re going to lose weight; tone-up; get in shape!
Unfortunately, the sad truth is that, once again, most of us will fail!
I don’t mean to be pessimistic but it seems to be in our nature to go all gung-ho, just to burn out and give up before we’re barely off the start line. You may have already lined up the latest diet-du-jour that, come the 1st January, is going to be THE solution you’ve been searching for. But, whether you put your faith in Atkins, Paleo, the 5:2 or any of the other cult diets out there to choose from, whilst there is a good chance you may initially lose a decent amount of weight, the disappointing probability is that this will be near enough impossible to maintain and the weight will be back on before the beginning of Spring.
So why don’t diets work?
In the context we are talking, a diet is defined as: “A special course of food to which a person restricts themselves, either to lose weight or for medical reasons“. The problem above lies in the definition itself: a diet is seen as a deviation from the norm of eating which we psychologically commit ourselves to for a period of time in order to achieve a certain goal. In reality, all weight loss diets that have been dreamt up over the years leave people counting down to the end so they can go back to eating as they normally would, at which point they undo any of the success they had during their time of restriction. It is for this reason that diets don’t work for long-term weight loss, and instead are likely to lead to people yo-yo dieting their entire lives.
So what does work?
Small, habitual changes to our eating habits and lifestyle are what really do work for long-term weight loss. Rather than choose a ridiculously strict or restricted diet that will leave you hungry, miserable and begging for the end, try making small, gradual and incremental modifications to how you currently eat. A very minor change to your eating could shave a couple of hundred calories from your daily intake which, over time, is enough to kick-start some sustainable weight loss. At the most basic level this could simply mean having only one chocolate bar instead of two for your mid-afternoon pick-me-up, or switching your cappuccinos for Americanos throughout the day. As you adapt to each small change, try to find other simple improvements you can make to your food choices each day. Over the following weeks and months, slowly aim to eat a few more vegetables, switch in leaner protein sources and snack on a few less sweets and cakes, all the time mindful not to sacrifice everything that you love. This gradual approach to improvement will undoubtedly lead to weight loss, but more importantly will do so in a way that you will not rebound from so that the weight is kept off for good.
Adopt some other good habits!
Although improving your eating habits alone is likely to see some weight loss, if you combine it with moving a little more and improving other lifestyle habits you are going to see far better progress. So, below are some other habits to try and slowly work into your life:
– Sleep more! Sleep regulates your hormone levels, makes you feel better and will also lead to a more productive day. In turn this will lead to you making good decisions that day in terms of food and exercise.
– Move a little more! You’ll be surprised how quickly the little things add up; walk rather than stand on the escalator; cycle or walk to the local shops rather than drive; make a conscious effort to get up from your desk and walk around every couple of hours. Recently step counters have become all the rage and I’ve seen them first hand make people move more just to hit their target number of steps (a little bit of friendly competition with a loved one always helps too!).
– Try and find a sport you enjoy. Doing something active because we enjoy it, rather than doing something because it is active are two very different things and we approach them with completely different psychological barriers. If there’s a sport you used to enjoy, or a style of class at the gym that you like, start with these: you’re far more likely to stick with it if it’s done for enjoyment rather than necessity.
– Incorporate a social element into your training wherever possible. Most of us are social beings and will enjoy something much more with friends, there is also an element of accountability when you commit to do something with someone else. Our personal training scheme has a few shared options, allowing you to train with a friend, or be matched up to others with similar goals so you can make new workout buddies!
– Be realistic about your training. Don’t decide you’re going to work out every single day, you’ll end up hating it, or worse, injured! Two to four times a week will be plenty, particularly when combined with the other lifestyle improvements to lose weight.
So why are you going to be one of the ones that succeed in 2017?
This new year you are going to ignore all the ‘New Year – New Me’ diet fads. Instead, you’re going to approach 2017 with a sensible and realistic mindset, looking for long term results! You’re going to slowly change your lifestyle, exercise and eating habits, without cutting out all the things that you love. You’re going to start by moving more and find a few things you actually enjoy doing. You’re going to seek some expert advice and help: this could be the best thing you ever do for yourself, so invest some time and money in doing it right! Hopefully a few months down the line you will have started to bed in some really good habits such as exercising on a regular basis and eating sensibly without ever having put yourself on a ‘diet’. There will no longer be a start and finish line, there will simply be your life in which you are healthy, fit, looking great and happy!