- Not accepting from the start that there will be hiccups, and weight loss is unlikely to be linear:
Many people make the mistake of setting unrealistic expectations for the amount or rate at which they will lose weight. Many expect to follow a weight loss plan for a week and to then look dramatically different. Many also expect that they should lose a certain amount each week. As soon as this doesn’t happen, they decide that this is not working for them and go back to old familiar habits. Expect setbacks. Even when you are doing everything right. Weight loss is a complicated physiological process and you may not change a thing and suddenly weight loss stops for a week. If you understand from the get-go that this can and probably will happen, the disappointment when it does is not enough to throw you off your path. This is why it is so important to have other goals, other than the number you want to reach on the scale: aim to be able to run a local 5 km race, aim to quit smoking, aim to get more sleep each night. By nurturing these good habits you find that they are easier to keep going with even on the weeks you don’t lose weight. By keeping them up, the weight will start to decrease again.
- Having a short term goal
Having a specific event or function is for many people a weight loss motivator. Unfortunately it is not a good one. If you have a wedding, a cruise, a beach holiday or a school reunion coming up in a few months’ time that you want to look good for….then there are hundreds of quick-fix fad diets out there that can probably get you to your goal. Just be prepared to pile the kilos back on once the social affair is over.
The golden key to long-term successful weight loss is seeing it as a complete lifestyle change. This goes hand-in-hand with the first point: because you are accepting this as your new lifestyle, you need to be open to the fact that “life happens” and you will have minor setbacks along the way. This is not a sexy as dropping 12 kilos in 4 weeks or whatever the latest fad diet offers but it is a lot more realistic.
- Seeing exercise as a reason to eat more
There are no two ways about it: exercise is a vital part of an overall weight loss and health programme. But it should not be a reason to have carte blanche in the food department. Putting in a vigorous workout at the gym doesn’t really buy you a ticket to have that McDonalds meal. Your exercise and diet needs to go hand-in-hand for your weight loss to be successful. Another thing to keep in mind is the use of sports drinks while exercising for a relatively short period of time: many people make the mistake of thinking that a gym workout requires the use of a sports drink to maintain hydration. Bear in mind that these were designed for endurance athletes who are exercising for more than several hours non-stop. They are high in calories and an hour gym session definitely does not warrant their use!
- The over-whelming feeling of a new routine
New foods to shop for. Different ways of cooking, or perhaps learning to cook. The worry that the rest of the family won’t be happy. With all these concerns over a new eating plan, it is easy to see why many people give up quite soon or don’t even attempt to begin.
It is important to aim for progress rather than perfection. New habits take time to develop and new mind-sets don’t arrive overnight.
Start with one change: cook more at home rather than eating out or getting take-away. Get the family involved (if your husband / partner tells you he doesn’t cook tell him to get himself into the 21st century: he is just as capable as you). Find a new recipe each week and try it out. Once you are used to doing that, focus on getting in more exercise: make it routine to go for a walk/bike ride every second day once everyone is home for work or school.
- The constant hunger
A huge barrier for many people wanting to lose weight is the fear that they are going to be hungry all the time. This should not be so! Yes, you may have to get used to eating less than what you are used to but once you are eating the right proportion of macronutrients and good quality food, your hunger actually lessens and you may find you can quite happily go longer in between eating.
- Losing focus over time
Nothing in life ever comes easily and the same applies for weight loss. It certainly shouldn’t be unattainable but it is important to keep your eye on the prize. Find a way to keep yourself focused. A way to do this could be to sit once a week and jot down all the positive steps you have taken so far. Then have a think about what else you can do. Perhaps enter a cycle or running race so that you have something to work toward.
Many people are concerned about becoming a social pariah if they don’t take part in certain things – such as the coffee and cake at work, the all-you-can-eat pizza night with friends or the cocktail hour on a Friday night. Unfortunately, sometimes there is no easy way around a hurdle and you just have to learn to stand the awkwardness that saying no may bring. Don’t be indignant or insist on lecturing everyone on your new health kick, just keep it simple. The more you simply say “no thanks”, the easier it becomes. People who truly care about you will be happy that you are trying to be healthier. Just bear in mind that life is about balance though – don’t be too hard on yourself, and once in a while say yes instead!