Losing weight is easy; it is just a case of making sure that the calories that you take in is less than the number of calories that you burn, right? Well, in theory, yes, but anyone that has struggled to lose weight will know that life just isn’t that simple. It is likely that most people who say weight loss is easy have never been seriously overweight, or never tried to lose weight.
Weight loss is more than just eating less or moving more; if it was that simple then there wouldn’t be so many people struggling with their weight, and the diet and weight loss industry wouldn’t be so huge. Many people have tried every diet going: low carb, low fat, low calorie, fasting, HIT regimes, daily yoga, running challenges and even weight loss drugs such as Orlistat and even weight loss surgery. For some, these measures are successful; in fact, people who combine a calorie-controlled diet with weight loss medication such as Orlistat are more likely to lose weight and keep it off, and those who resort to bariatric surgery usually see alarming results. However, for many people who find themselves on a continuous cycle of diet, weight loss, disillusionment, weight gain, diet, the process can be disheartening and, in some cases, unhealthy. So, why exactly is it so difficult to lose weight?
While your diet and lifestyle are significant factors when it comes to your weight, there are some things that are out of your control. Age, ethnicity, race and good old genetics play a part too and three is not much that you can do about that.
It seems obvious: burn more calories to lose more weight. But there are a few things that many of us do when we are trying to lose or control our body weight that can actually have a negative impact. One thing is seeing exercise as a trade-off: go to an exercise class or go to a run and you have earnt yourself a slice of cake, fish and chips for supper or a glass (or four) of wine. The problem with this is that the short term calorie deficit created by the exercise is completely negated by the calories that you load on, because you exercised once. There is a school of thought that claims that you are better to be slow and steady with exercise; little and often, as a sustainable part of your daily routine. This is more achievable and is possible to maintain for weeks, months – even years! Rather than intense daily yoga or HIT classes that you will soon tire of.
Walk the dogs! If you have dogs, regular walks are a brilliant way for you to get your steps up. And a 3-mile walk, which may take an hour or so, can burn up to 500 calories. By making that a part of your regular routine you could burn 3,500 calories a week (that is the equivalent to 1lb a week fat loss!)
In case you were in any doubt, yoyo dieting doesn’t work. If a diet promises you that you will lose 10lbs in a week, then you can guarantee two things: you are going to be thoroughly miserable for that week, and you are likely to put all of the weight (plus a bit extra) on in the week or two when you start eating normally. Just as with the exercise, sustainable, achievable, small goals will help you to stay on track and make positive healthy lifestyle changes that you will be able to stick to for years.
A great place to start is, instead of cutting out carbs, fat, cheese, chocolate, start weighing them so you get a good idea of their calorific value and can make an educated decision. You’ll be surprised how small a portion of cheese really is and even more shocked at the difference between 50 calories of mayonnaise and 250. Obsessively weighing isn’t a great idea in the longer term, but it is an excellent way for you to make informed choices and will allow you have a little bit of that cheese, chocolate or mayo, and fill your plate with healthy alternatives such as fruit, veg and lean protein.
Mental health doesn’t just impact the way you feel, it can affect your hormone production too. There is a strong connection with your emotions and your food cravings, and ability to resist them. Often people who are suffering with anxiety or depression will reach for food to alleviate those feelings and it can be hard to recognise that reaction at the time. If you notice that you can be “good” most of the time but then you feel the need to binge, it could be worth seeing if you can identify these behaviours and work out a way to avoid your reactive eating. Of course, there is nothing better to distract us from our emotional and mental health concerns than a four-legged friend; if you feel yourself spiralling and reaching for the treat cupboard or the takeaway menu, a half-hour walk with the dog may help you to resist the urge as well as helping you to clear your head and burn off a few calories.
Be kind to yourself
There are few things worse than looking in the mirror and hating what you see, while knowing that it is going to take a very long time to see the difference you want. Be realistic with your goals; if you are unrealistic, you will soon give up as you will never be able to achieve the milestones that you have set for yourself.
Remember that the longer it takes for the weight to come off, the longer it is likely to stay off; set yourself a weekly goal and don’t look at the long game. Losing a pound a week is much less scary than losing 30 lbs in 6 months. As well as setting achievable, small goals it is important that you allow yourself to fail occasionally have the occasional blip; you may even put on a little weight here and there, but by accepting that and being kind to yourself you will find upping your step count and getting back into routine much easier than if you beat yourself up over it. And remember, your dogs love you no matter what size you are…