“I really just want to lose weight.”
I hear these words almost daily. With the majority of our country overweight or obese, almost all of us could stand to get a little trimmer. With all the diets, diet pills, and weight loss programs, why do so many people struggle to lose weight?
We sometimes expect there to be effortless solutions when it comes to weight loss because of the amount of money spent on advertising all kinds of pills, workouts, and diet programs. On top of that, we are constantly bombarded with the too good to be true stories and transformations we see on social media. There are no tricks to weight loss. The magic fat burning pill won’t work. The 5 minute ab program won’t work. The give up on food and only drink shakes for the rest of your life program won’t work. Want to know the only thing that does work? Really, truly putting in the work. And, the “trick” to that is making your way of eating not feel like work. You do this by working to form new habits and becoming educated about proper nutrition.
So where do you start? What’s the first step when you know you desperately need to make a change but the internet is a whirlwind of confusing and conflicting information?
Here, I’ve put together 3 important tips for creating lasting changes.
1. Become Aware!
90% of clients come to me with just one goal: weight loss. My clients almost always have a number in their head that “just feels right.” A number on the scale where everything fits well and feels great. And that’s awesome! But we can be totally blinded by the scale. Of course, I want to see my clients reach their goal weight, but more importantly I want to see them living their best lives, i.e. more energy, better digestion, restful sleep, reduced sugar cravings, less inflammation, a clearer mind, improved mood. What we often uncover in just a few minutes with a client is what their goals *should* be. For example, around 50% of the clients I see suffer from digestive issues...diarrhea, constipation, acid reflux, gas, bloating. These are often clues to what is going on with weight loss. So, as you attempt (or re-attempt for the 10th+ time) to lose weight, I ask that you pay close attention to your body. Have you gotten used to an afternoon crash, bowel irregularity, terrible sleep, uncontrollable cravings, inability to concentrate, or poor moods? Is being too tired to hit the gym, cook dinner, or play with your kids the norm for you?
Acknowledge these things. Write them down and become aware of what you are feeling on a daily basis. When we are focused on more than just a number on the scale, progress becomes more meaningful and motivational. For most of my clients, the easiest way to do this is by starting a new Note in the app on your phone and writing down a few words on how you’re feeling throughout the day. Check out this example below. Super simple and takes maybe 5 minutes over the course of the day.
2. Don’t Rely on the Scale as Your Only Measure of Progress
To elaborate on my first point, let’s talk about tracking progress. We track weight as an easy measure of progress (AND failure), but these other things aren’t quite as straightforward to track. If you complete the above recommended exercise and spend a few days becoming mindful of your day-to-day, you’ll probably notice some areas that could use serious improvements in your life.
So, what goals do you have besides weight? More energy when you play with your kids or grandkids? Coming off the blood pressure meds? A better, stronger workout at the gym? Not running to the bathroom after eating a meal out? Seeing a sizeable increase in your HDL cholesterol? Sliding into a pair of jeans that have been hiding in the back of your closet for the past 5 years? Lowering your statin dosage? Getting off the laxatives? There are so many ways we can measure wellness, and we need to stop focusing on the scale as the only important one. I’m not saying to never weigh yourself, what I’m saying is that weight is just one part of a much larger picture.
When measuring client progress, I take into account the following:
Measurements - chest, waist, hip, thighs, arms
Progress photos - taken from front, side, and back
Food Journal - Is this week’s intake better than last week? That’s a win!
Blood Work - HA1c, glucose, cholesterol, CRP, etc
Digestion - Incidence of digestive issues over time
Energy and Sleep - less waking during the night, faster fall asleep time, no crashing during the day, less caffeine needs, etc
Pain - How are joints feeling, less stiffness, more activity with less pain
Other measures depending on client - stress, anxiety, mood, inflammation, cravings, etc
I think the simplest way to track this is by creating a questionnaire with a 1-5 scale for the things that are ailing you and filling it out once a week. Some people are naturally very self aware. They feel and see changes without needing to take note of anything, while others find it very motivating to see these changes on paper and to be able to compare to previous weeks and months. I have one client whose progress tracking consists of weekly measurements, food journaling, miles walked per week, and trying on a specific dress that has been too small for years. Find what works for you and stick with it!
3. Make it Manageable
Small, manageable changes are the most effective when it comes to forming new habits. I really can’t stress enough that losing a ton of weight fast is not healthy, and diving head first into a diet plan usually isn’t healthy either. Some people are so fed up that going all in and changing everything makes sense for them, but most who try to do this tend to burn out and revert back to old habits. Everyone wants to see changes fast. However, in order to ensure that at this time next year you’ll be living a better, healthier life the best thing to do is start slowly eliminating what isn’t serving you and make room for what is. So for the majority of people, the answer is NOT to jump into the keto diet, to completely cut dairy, or to go gluten-free and buy only organic and grass fed and local products. While these changes might be healthful, for most is it biting off more than they can chew. Below are some super simple examples of changes my clients have incorporated.
Overcoming fear of the gym and Incorporating one weight lifting session weekly into an exercise regimen.
Using an almond milk based creamer in morning coffee rather than International Delight.
Finding new, enjoyable chicken recipes that don’t call for BBQ sauce and teriyaki sauce which are so full of sugar.
Making sure to get a 20 minute walk in 5 days a week.
Experimenting with low carb foods like cauliflower rice to replace some carb heavy foods in dinner meals.
Ordering a small french fry rather than large with lunch at the Chick Fil A drive thru of Tuesdays and Fridays.
Adding a vegetable to every dinner prepared at home.
Starting to order a “half sweet” coffee or tea drink at Starbucks instead of the normal full sugar versions.
Watching a 30 minute TV episode on the treadmill or elliptical at the gym rather than sitting on the couch at home twice a week.
When it comes to incorporating changes like the ones above, keep track of when you started that change, celebrate the small victories along the way, and challenge yourself to go a step further when you feel ready. I’d suggest stepping it up every 2 weeks or so to give yourself time to form new habits, but don’t get too comfortable and stuck with that new normal. There are hundreds of small changes you can incorporate at home and on-the-go that would improve health. Just choose a few and run with them. Now is the time to start making small and meaningful changes to improve not only your health, but your life!
Looking for some guidance on where to start? Contact me to set up a nutrition consultation appointment.