It doesn’t pay to make drastic changes to your lifestyle in too short of a time. Small changes are more manageable, and sustainable too. Too many people go on “diets” and hope the pounds will melt off with ease and never return. Yet studies show 80% of people who lose 10% or more of their body weight gain it back, and sometimes more.
Dieting simply isn’t a sustainable approach to long-term weight loss and weight control. The perfect weight-loss diet plan doesn’t exist, and if it did, you probably would find it hard to stick with beyond a few weeks. You might have experienced the frustrations yourself.
An approach more manageable is to make small changes that lead to more modest weight loss over time, but don’t require a major lifestyle overhaul. Big lifestyle changes are intimidating and hard to stick with, which explains why so few people are successful. The small step approach is more sustainable and can lead to satisfying results with a little patience. The changes will be slower, but you’re more likely to maintain them.
Let’s look at some small changes you can make to your lifestyle that will help you lose weight with less frustration and more sustainable habits.
Let Go of the “Deprivation” Mindset
Diets imply deprivation. When you think of “going on a diet,” you probably have visions of giving up your favorite foods–even pizza! Most diet programs claim the bigger your weight loss goal, the greater the deprivation needs to be. But this isn’t a path to success. You might succeed for a few weeks, but you’ll miss that gooey cheesiness a piece of pizza offers. Here’s the good news? You don’t have to give up all the foods you enjoy, but instead, eat them in moderation.
Even thinking about giving up all indulgent foods causes stress for some people. As soon as they ponder missing out on their favorite foods, the cravings set in. It’s as if committing to dieting triggers cravings! That’s why deprivation and calorie restriction don’t work for many people. The stress it creates can make it even harder to lose weight by elevating the stress hormone cortisol and increasing cravings.
Focus Less on the Scale and More on Health
Don’t let the scale rule your life. Too many people obsess over their weight and will do anything
to reach a certain number on their scale. To get to that hypothetical number, they do unhealthy things, like eliminate complete food groups from their diet or restrict calories so much it’s not healthy. It’s this type of obsession that fuels eating disorders. Unfortunately, the diet industry encourages this way of thinking. It’s not healthy, sustainable, or productive.
The alternative? Focus on health and eating a nutrient-dense diet, rather than eating less. You will naturally consume fewer calories and optimize fat loss hormones by replacing ultra-processed carbohydrates and sugar with fruits, vegetables, lean sources of protein. Focus on the healthy foods you can eat, rather than what you’re taking out of your diet. Explore new healthy recipes that use simple but satisfying ingredients. You can lose weight without feeling hungry if you add more protein to your diet, and avoid refined carbohydrates and sugar. It’s a simple step you can take that will leave you feeling more satisfied.
Address the Problem of Emotional Eating
It’s difficult to get to and maintain a healthy body weight without working on the problem of emotional eating. Many people eat not because of physiological hunger, but emotional hunger. Dietitians often say if you’re hungry, eating an apple may be appealing to you, but you won’t satisfy emotional hunger by eating an apple. Instead, you’ll crave foods that are higher in fat and sugar, like comfort foods. The next time you’re hungry, try the apple test. If an apple sounds tasty and satisfying, you’re hungry, but if it doesn’t, it’s probably emotional hunger.
Conquering the problem of emotional eating takes time and willingness to identify the triggers that cause you to eat when you’re stressed. Once you know the triggers, you can replace the eating you do when you’re stressed out with healthier activities, like taking a walk outdoors or doing something else that relaxes you. Make sure those other activities are good for your mental and physical health.
Shift Your Meals to Earlier in the Day
The quality of what you eat is important, but there’s growing evidence that when you eat matters too. Intermittent fasting helps some people lose weight, but you may not have to go to that extreme to lose weight. Changing how you structure your meals is helpful too.
In one small study, researchers divided subjects into two groups. One group ate breakfast 90 minutes later and dinner 90 minutes earlier than was customary for them. The second group ate their meals at their usual times. The participants had no dietary restrictions and could eat as much as they want. The results? After 10 weeks, the first group that ate within a narrower period lost double the boy fat of the control group, and all they did was eat dinner earlier and breakfast later.
Eating dinner earlier is also linked with improvements in blood sugar control based on preliminary studies.
Finally, be patient. It takes time to reach a healthy body weight, and you’ll have periods where your weight loss plateaus. Be consistent with your healthy lifestyle, and you’ll likely see the weight loss restart. Be sure that you’re staying physically active. Add strength training too, since building muscle tissue will subtly boost your metabolism. You’ll get there!
- com. “Can simply changing your meal times help you lose more weight?”
- “Research Sheds Light on Why People Who Lose Weight Gain It ….” 14 Oct. 2016, webmd.com/diet/news/20161014/how-your-appetite-can-sabotage-weight-loss.
- “Maintenance of lost weight and long-term management of obesity.” .ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5764193/.
- “Boosting Metabolism to Get More From Your Workout, Lose ….” webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/get-more-burn-from-your-workout.
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