I approach weight loss from a background in psychology. I’m willing to bet that people need the most help with their thinking as it relates to eating and exercise.
Imagine a common scenario - you find a diet, cleanse or a meal plan online. You follow it strictly for the first week, somewhat less strict the next and then abandon it altogether the third. You were probably pretty successful at losing 10 pounds in a few weeks, but then what happens when you backslide into your old ways of eating? You gain the weight back and maybe some extra for good luck.
This is an all too common experience for most people. If you’ve experienced this before, you may have been quick to label yourself a failure. You are not the failure, rather the diet (or cleanse or meal plan) set you up for failure. People are great at making big changes short-term, when excitement and motivation are at an all-time high, but when the work becomes hard and monotonous or you’re just tired of feeling deprived, it’s really easy to give up or even rebel.
Those people selling you the diets and lose weight quick schemes know this fact and they have been capitalizing on it for decades. They want you to think that it can be easy and the implication is that if you can’t stick with it, you’re a failure.
But I know that’s not true. We sadly just do not have an endless supply of willpower to resist all the temptations we’re bombarded with on a daily basis. This is one reason it can be incredibly difficult to maintain changes in our eating and exercise behaviors in the long-term.
In the field of behavioral weight loss, this is called sustainability. Sustainability is the capacity to endure or to continue a defined behavior indefinitely. Imagine a recent diet you attempted and think about whether it was sustainable. Would you have been able to stick with that diet indefinitely? My guess is probably not. Most diets are not sustainable long-term, especially the ones marketed in the for-profit health and wellness industry and even some marketed in the medical community. It would be great if we could stick to a low carb diet indefinitely or a specific meal plan for the rest of our lives, but this kind of thinking is just plain unrealistic.
Instead of cutting out carbs for 2 weeks, here’s what I want you to do instead. Think about ways you can reduce your overall intake of food. Here are a few examples:
These are just a few very general ideas to get you started. There are, of course, many more strategies you can use to reduce your overall intake of calories. Notice I didn’t suggest eliminating any foods completely.
It’s all about sustainability.
The overall goal is to find changes you can make to your eating that you can maintain indefinitely. So each time you think about making a change, I want you to ask yourself “Is it realistic to think I can keep this going long-term?”
For example, it may be realistic to think that you will plan the majority of your dinners in advance, but it may be unrealistic to think that you will never eat sweets again (or even for a short period of time). You need to evaluate this yourself instead of letting someone else tell you what you should and shouldn't eat.
That is the only way to ensure you’ll be able to keep weight off because as soon as you backslide into old behaviors, the weight will come back as well. Never will I tell anyone what they can and can’t eat because I know that’s not realistic. Every person is different and has different cravings and tastes.
So it’s up to you to decide what’s realistic and sustainable!