Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Cut down, not out

It’s that time of year again. 

Health clubs are alive with the sounds of grunts and groans from New Year’s Resolutioners, determined to stick with it and lose weight this time.  Notice the emphasis on “this time”.  It has been well documented that eighty-five percent of diets fail.  Actually, diets don’t fail, people do, but why?

Believe me, I have experience with weight issues, both gains and losses, and in my “expert” opinion, most people fail to lose weight for at least one of the following reasons:

  1. The weight-loss goal is too aggressive.
  2. The weight-loss plan calls for a radical change in lifestyle.
  3. The weight-loss plan does not include physical activity.

Structuring a plan that defends against these pitfalls will increase your chances of losing the weight, and more importantly, keeping it off.

I want a quick fix

As human beings, we want it now and we don’t want to have to wait for it.  I know a lot of people who have set out to lose 25, 30 or 50 pounds only to fall off the diet wagon when progress seems too slow and in their minds, no longer worth the effort.  If twenty-five pounds is the goal, take a longer-term view and aim for a half-pound to a pound of weight loss each week.  A plan that is structured to allow you to meet your weekly goals will be more successful than one that calls for a 2 to 3 pound loss each week.  Make your goals attainable.

I’ll just join a gym

We’re busy people – most of our waking hours are committed to our jobs and we like to use our remaining free time to relax with family or perhaps a hobby.  I don’t know many people who lift weights either as a profession or as a hobby; there are such people, I just don’t know them.  That said, taking the little bit of enjoyable free time we have and sacrificing it for arm curls and squats is a recipe for failure.  I’m not slamming gyms or weightlifting for that matter, quite the opposite, but this type of activity needs to complement your plan, not form the basis of it.  There’s a reason why gyms are over-full in January, and looking for new members in March.

Pass the remote

To put it bluntly, I was a big frigger’ – 351 pounds at my best and the day I decided I had to lose weight (a little slow on the up-take heh?) I just needed a plan, a way to get there. When I began my weight-loss journey, no-carb diets were at their peak. It seemed everyone you talked to was on the 'Atkins' plan, some with good results, most with no results. The no-carb approach wasn't going to work for me.  Let me be frank - I don't believe in the Atkin's diet, I don't believe in the South Beach diet, I don't believe in the Slim Fast diet. The formula for losing weight hasn't changed since the Flintstones lived in Bedrock - you have to burn off more than you consume. As a society, we went nuts in the nineties looking at fat content on labels and trying to reduce as much as possible from what we ate; today, we're carb crazy trying to do the same. Both of these approaches, and many more, appeal to us because we think we can lose weight while remaining on the couch with our thumbs on the remote.  The problem with this approach is the minute you stray from one of these plans, the weight begins to pile back on with a vengeance. How many diet shakes can you consume for breakfast and lunch before you begin to start hating meal times?  Hear me - you want to lose weight?  You have to get your butt out of the chair and get your legs in motion. If you only added a little activity to your daily routine and kept eating the same way you always do, you would lose weight (or at least slow your weight-gain), slowly, surely and safely.

I must admit, I have an ulterior motive for writing this article.  A few people have come to me with a keen interest in counting calories, getting active and losing weight; this is in support of them.  We can get there, together, if we’re smart and patient.  The math hasn’t changed:

More calories burned than consumed = Weight loss

Knowing this formula will keep you more aware of what you’re eating and what you’re burning off.

Everything in moderation – just be sure to count it.


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