I have helping clients lose weight for almost 30 years. And, focusing on staying healthier for longer for about the last 8. And there is one common theme among those who achieve their weight loss goals; not one of them followed the same path.
Merely suggesting that there is a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to weight loss would immediately dethrone you to the ranks of the pseudoscientific and quite frankly, would lose you all credibility in the world of health and nutrition. (Although, this does not seem to be stopping the next wave of charlatans fill-up the Waterstones bookshelves with their celebrity diets and the like.)
While there may not be a single approach for everyone, I have observed some common themes, some underlying attributes, so to speak, that appear to single out the individuals who successfully lose weight, and more importantly, keep it off.
While there may not be a single approach for everyone, in my work I have observed some common themes, some underlying attributes, so to speak, that appear to single out the individuals who successfully lose weight, and more importantly, keep it off
1. The Why
When Apple almost vanished into the abyss in the mid-1990s, they turned to Steve Jobs to save their sinking ship. The company had not released any products of worth in a while and more importantly, they became a company without a mission
No one at Apple knew why they were doing what they were doing, and this was mirrored in the public’s perception of the brand. What were Apple? What were they trying to achieve? What did they value as a company? In August 2020, Apple became the first publicly traded U.S. company worth $2 trillion. Steve Jobs re-energized the staff at Apple, he reminded them of their purpose and their new mission statement read “To make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind.”
It was not the fact Apple makes arguably the best computers or the best smartphones. Their re-emergence as a digital superpower stemmed from Jobs giving everyone at Apple a purpose, a reason to come to work, and a mission to get behind. He had reminded his colleagues why they were doing what they were doing, and because of that, they cared more about the how and the what.
You can apply the same strategy to weight loss and health. To achieve weight loss, you have to be sure that the reason why is strong enough to get behind. If you want to care enough about how and what [you do to lose weight,] you need to identify your why. This is actually harder than it seems, but you should consider doing what most companies do; write a value-focused mission statement based on the question “why do you want to lose weight?”. An example could be: “I want to lose weight because I value my independence, I don’t want to be looked after in a few years, or require a carer to come and help me get in the shower every day. I want to be able to look after myself and still be active in the community
Identifying your values as a human being and inserting them into a mission statement like this, will provide you with a lot more intrinsic motivation and determination to stick with your new lifestyle compared to extrinsic motivations based on appearance or public perception.
I am no fan of rules or restrictions when it comes to weight loss and a healthy lifestyle. A review of 25 studies investigating the effects of dieting on weight gain, found that dieting, or consistently following more rigid ‘rules’ with food, did not result in weight loss and was actually more predictive of future weight gain
Don’t get me wrong, some people can live happily and healthily following more restrictive dietary approaches (popular diets such as the keto or paleo diet have a strong following), however, for most individuals it only heightens the ‘forbidden fruit’ aspect.
Research has shown that when people choose to avoid a specific food or food groups, they seem to spend a lot more time thinking about it. Now, whether you will then overindulge on that desired food is a matter of your individual resilience and state of mind. But who wants to spend the rest of their days thinking about foods or food group they feel is out of reach to them?
The individuals I have worked with who have sustained weight loss have allowed all foods into their diet. By utilising my knowledge and support they develop an understanding of how different foods impact them, both physically and mentally, and they start to make a conscious decision to prioritise foods that make them feel better. (I.e. a diet based primarily on whole foods.)
Then when they fancy a bacon sandwich at the weekend? Go for it, I have mine with HP sauce, please.
Change is difficult. It is a classic human trait to follow the path of least resistance, but it is an essential evolutionary trait. We are designed to stay within our comfort zones, avoid challenges, and seek the safety of our four walls where we have control. While this is sometimes necessary, it can lead to low resilience when faced with a change in our lives. If we do not have the mental resilience to cope with difficulties when they come along, then we are more likely to avoid taking the positive steps necessary to achieve our goals due to fear of failure, or of the unknown.
However, new research has started to unravel the importance of resilience in health. A study found that people who were more resilient were much less likely to experience ill-health. They were more optimistic and viewed all situations as useful learning experiences, to quote directly from the study: “Resilience is a positive adaptation after stressful situations and it represents mechanisms of coping and rising above difficult experiences, i.e., the capacity of a person to successfully adapt to change, resist the negative impact of stressors and avoid occurrence of significant dysfunctions. It represents the ability to return to the previous, so-called “normal” or healthy condition after trauma, accident, tragedy, or illness. In other words, resilience refers to the ability to cope with difficult, stressful and traumatic situations while maintaining or restoring normal functioning.”
You will experience ups and downs in a weight loss journey, your weight will go up on some days, it will plateau for weeks on end, and you might get sick of putting all your effort towards a goal without getting your just rewards. But nothing worth having in life is ever easy to come by. The sooner you accept this, the sooner you will start to face new challenges in the future with a more positive outlook.
There is a great video with 5 simple steps to build your resilience below:
4. Learn to cook
This does not need much of an explanation. Nutrition starts in the kitchen (you could argue it starts in the shopping trolley) and every successful weight loss story I have had the pleasure of supporting, has unsurprisingly coincided with the individual’s ability to dedicate more time to prepare their food from fresh ingredients.
A few tips help: – Start with one new recipe each week and slowly build up your repertoire
5. Have hope
Finally, and possibly the most important of all (in my opinion), is hope. Coaches and doctors have been trying to use the game of fear for decades to promote a positive change in their patients. Indeed, research has shown that negative health warnings can promote greater dietary control, compared to positive health messages.
However, in my experience, the fear of negative consequences about your health is what gets you onto the pitch, but it is the hope of a brighter future that gets you playing well and scoring goals. Sit back and visualise your future for a second; imagine a life where you have achieved your weight loss goals, you have more energy, you can keep up with your grandchildren in the garden, and you jump out of bed with more gusto than a cheetah hunting a gazelle on the savannah. I promise you, this is what will keep you going on those dark days. Isn’t life a little bit sweeter when we can look forward with optimism rather than spending our days fearing a future not yet fulfilled? Just ask yourself, what does success look like to you?
Losing weight is probably one of the most difficult challenges you will ever face, and I hope the tips above help you on your journey to a healthier, happier you.
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