What It Takes to Actually Lose Weight


Perhaps the biggest challenge for those of us wanting to drop pounds is coming to grips with the fact that it requires more than simply changing eating habits. Efforts to achieve meaningful weight loss need to address underlying hidden barriers, including physiological, behavioral and psychological factors.

Dieting: That Thing We Do

Many Americans define dieting as simply cutting back on portion size or eating special foods to lose weight. There’s not a lot of fun in that. The definition also has an inherent weakness: Starting a diet usually means you will eventually stop the diet. A more effective strategy is to focus on the long term and think of it as a new way of doing things.

While you are focusing on this new strategy, you may encounter resistance from an unexpected source. Your body may be working against you, fighting to regain the weight you are striving to lose. This requires permanent changes to maintain your lower weight. Examples of successful lifestyle modifications include lowering calories consistently (even on weekends), eating breakfast, self-monitoring, weekly weighing and daily exercise.

Weight loss also involves understanding internal and external cues such as hormonal signals and the “liking” and “reward” systems (eating dessert when already full). The goal is to find a variety of acceptable tweaks to create a plan that works for you.

It’s Not All or Nothing

Most weight-loss goals involve shedding a lot of pounds over a short period of time. The problem is that these ambitious plans are easily derailed by routine interruptions. Holidays, vacations or illness generally slow weight-loss progress, resulting in discouragement.

Instead, setting smaller goals increases your chance of success and creates a greater likelihood of maintaining the losses. A modest weight loss of 3 percent to 5 percent is not only achievable, but provides measurable health improvements, including lower cholesterol and blood sugar.

The BEST Weight Loss Method?

You can lose weight using a range of diet plans, including low carb, high protein, Mediterranean or low calorie. In the end, it doesn’t matter which method you choose, as weight loss usually occurs when calories are cut.

The key is finding a method that works for you and your family, and that works for the long term. Guidance from a registered dietitian can help ensure a healthy balance with whatever option you choose.

Exercise Is Necessary, but Not Why You Think

Exercise is an essential piece of the weight-management puzzle. But, you should understand that moderate levels (21 to 35 minutes a day) will yield only modest results.

However, physical activity does slow the loss of muscle mass and is necessary for creating a lifestyle that supports long-term weight loss. Physical activity is the key for weight maintenance, but should be done at least 35 minutes a day.

Important Pieces for Weight Loss

●      Find your motivation: Weight loss is most successful when the desire involves health over physical appearance.

●      Don’t be a dieter: Make life-long changes you enjoy.

●      Make reasonable goals: Set realistic, time-limited, attainable weight and behavior goals.

●      Be patient and consistent: Be kind and surround yourself with supportive friends and family. Most importantly, never give up!

Weight management is a life-long endeavor. Be prepared to make compromises for new and different behaviors that support your vision of a new you. Embark on a new phase of your life, with better health as the end goal.

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