January is marching on and many of us are scrambling to keep up our new years resolutions to improve our health and fitness. High on many people’s lists of aspirations for 2019 will be to lose some weight. For some of us it will be about looking or feeling better, for some it will be about decreasing medication reliance and for others it will be about managing chronic pain or avoiding surgery. Whatever the motivation to begin, we all find it hard to maintain the motivation to continue!
As a society we’ve become obsessed with weight loss and it seems we’re being told something different by everyone, everywhere we look. There’s a tonne of conflicting information out there, but the one thing all these fad diets, quick fixes and magic pills have in common… none of them really work because they all overlook our biological drive to maintain a homeostatic set-point. That’s right, your body is determined for you to maintain the weight that you are, it’s actively working to stop you from losing weight… it’s a protective mechanism, designed to enhance survival so it won’t budge easily!
What this sort of protective mechanism means is that anytime you lose weight, your metabolism will shift to ensure energy is conserved and fat stores maintained… the faster you lose weight, the stronger these counter-mechanisms will be…and there-in lies the key… slower weight loss will meet less resistance to weight loss. This means crash dieting is a no-no and dramatic reductions in caloric intake are unhelpful in the longer term. So what do you do if you want to lose weight?
Take a balanced approach… eat better quality foods, fresh and minimally processed is best but don’t worry too much about calorie counting. Try to choose fruit and veg more often but don’t heavily restrict fats or carbs. Avoid soft drinks and booze and add a sustainable increase in physical activity. Prioritise getting enough sleep and remember that fat metabolism requires water and oxygen so keep hydrated and try to get at least a little time outdoors each day.
Our Top Tips for Sustainable Weight Loss
1. Work out your why.
If you’re really clear on your specific goal you can focus less on the numbers and more on that. It’s great to drop weight if you need to but a better diet and regular movement will help you look and feel better, even if the numbers don’t budge quickly. Finding your why can also help you to stick to your plan when the going gets tough and motivation is hard to come by.
2. Set small, incremental, achievable goals.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the total sum of weight we feel we need to lose, especially when we hit plateaus and progress becomes painfully slow. Breaking down your goal into smaller amounts can help you celebrate the wins along the way (they’re hard earned).
It’s also really useful to set behavioural goals like walking to work 3 x weekly or limiting take away dinners to only 1 x weekly – these are the things we actually struggle with and when we master these, the numbers will often change seemingly on their own!
Remember that a healthy recommended weight loss of .5-1 kg should be the maximum per week.
3. Keep a ‘food, movement and feelings’ diary to track your progress.
Evidence suggests that food and activity diaries both result in more and longer lived weight loss so it can a helpful addition to your game plan. It’s worth monitoring how many serves of fruit and veg you’ve managed to get in and how many minutes of high and low intensity activity you manage to get.
It’s also really helpful to track how you feel day to day as sometimes we become so fixated on our weight goal that we fail to notice we’re actually achieving our real goal of looking, feeling and moving better!
In trying to monitor and measure your success, remember that your body must change internally to create the change you want to see externally. So even when progress seems glacial, there is much change happening beneath the surface and slow change is likely to meet less resistance and is more likely to stick than fast change so embrace the slowness of the process. Try to zoom out and focus on the big picture, only take your measurements periodically (not every day!). Don’t just track your weight though, take a photo and set a fitness test to see how your body copes with exercise and recovers.
4. Get your friends and family on board.
Let’s face it, keeping active can be tough and when we prioritise exercise it can feel like we’re missing out on time with our loved ones so why not make active social plans and kill the two proverbial birds with one stone? A regular walking coffee catch up, a hiking holiday or even a roller skating date are all fun ways to get your daily minutes of movement and burn calories. You’re also more likely to stick to an exercise plan when someone else is counting on you – no one wants to be the one that cancels!
5. Aim for progression – not perfection!
We tend to get call caught up in following a plan perfectly but an activity plan shouldn’t be a short-term, quick fix but rather a routine we aim to maintain for the long-term… years, decades even so when you miss a session, a week or even a month… zoom out, shift your attention to the big picture a see the potential of what you can achieve over the longer term, even when the wheels fall off for a bit. Remember consistency is key!
6. When the going gets tough – don’t give up, get help!
Take a step back and reassess – scale back if you need to, prioritise and target the low hanging fruit and don’t if you don’t know what to do, seek the support and guidance of a professional. Getting a registered health professional on board can help you develop a plan that reflects your specific health priorities and takes advantage of changes most likely to yield results. Evidence suggests that you’re more likely to stick to a personalised plan that is developed collaboratively between you and your exercise physiologist than if you go it alone.
Want some help to achieve your health or weight goal?
Why not book an appointment with our Exercise Physiologist today? Click here to book
If you can’t find a time that’s convenient or you just want more information – give us a call on 8370 3044 and we’ll be only too happy to help you.