One of the biggest mistakes (among many, but I’ll only discuss this one here for the sake of time and space) people, who try to lose weight make is making weight loss a goal. Yep, I’m not kidding – weight loss should not be the primary goal of a process that is long-term and non-linear in nature. In order to achieve weight loss one has to undergo lifestyle and dietary modifications – and that’s what the primary goals of a weight loss journey should be, with losing weight as a positive side effect.
- Physiological aspect.
As I mentioned, weight loss is a long-term and non-linear process. If we only take into consideration calories in vs. calories out approach, all we would have to do is either burn through physical activity or cut from our diet 3500 cal/week or 500 cal/day to lose 1 pound of fat per week. Easy, right?! Not quite so!
The type and quality of calories matter – protein takes more energy to digest while highly processed carbs are much faster absorbed and many are stored as fat. Our hormones would dictate our metabolic rate on a particular day – whether we are slow or can actually get away with a few extra calories due to higher energy requirements. Some days we retain more water due to overindulging in salty foods, hormonal changes or inflammation, and that affects our total weight greatly. Water content in our bodies will also go up with higher carb intake since we store every gram of glycogen (the form of carbohydrate storage in the body) with 3 g of water. We all different genetic design, gut microbiomes and the ability to handle carbs (some are more insulin sensitive, than others… lucky them!)
Non-linear weight loss means that it could be a “2 steps forward/1 step back” process. Our weight is so volatile, we can easily gain and lose anywhere between 1 to 7 pounds in a 24 hr period! Mind you, that’s not fat mass, but mostly water weight. So, if you’ve been losing steadily for a few weeks and then gained a couple pounds back – that’s either water weight or your slowed metabolism (due to reduced caloric intake) is making your body claim some of the weight back.
- Emotional aspect.
Now that we know how unreliable the number on the scale could be, imaging its effect on our mood?! We’ve been trying so hard for so long to lose the weight and are now somehow gaining it back! We start feeling like a failure, frustrated and upset with ourselves for lack of willpower/mental strength/desire to achieve the goal. Next thing we do – reach for the ever-comforting doughnut/candy bar/bag of chips/ice-cream thinking “I failed to lose the amount of weight I planned, might as well eat whatever I want now!”
But the truth is, the actual methodology of the goal setting for weight loss is wrong. While the weight could easily bounce up and down from factors that are not under our control, the strategies we use to achieve the goal are oftentimes underappreciated. Shifting our focus from weight loss on to changing what and how we eat and adding more movement and mindfulness to our everyday life are the key goals that need to be achieved on daily basis to bring on lasting weight loss.
- Set new realistic goals.
Now we can reassess our goals and take the pressure off ourselves from not “delivering” 2-pound weight loss per week in a steady fashion. Because now we can focus on adding so many new foods and exciting activities to our lives, knowing that the long-term effects are vitality and weight loss (as a side effect – almost effortless!)
What’s even worse than making weight loss the primary goal, is making a big amount of it in a short period of time – that will definitely put the most pressure on the person and make it most difficult to achieve and very easy to fail. One study found that the best predictor of failure in sticking with the weight loss program was high expectations for a lower BMI (body mass index) (1).
Eating the right foods – lots of vegetables, fruits, quality animal products and avoiding highly processed sugary foods will inevitably lead to a reduction in inflammation, improved detoxification processes and increased metabolic rate. Same with adding exercise – with a purpose of not just to burn calories but to improve insulin sensitivity, increase blood flow with all the nutrients to your muscles and rev up your metabolism. These changes in turn fire up your fat-burning mechanisms and produce lasting weight loss.
This is not to say that dietary and lifestyle changes are easy goals to set and achieve. However, while weight loss is not necessarily an indication of getting healthier, implementing a diet and exercise plan and sticking with it certainly is! And a healthier body will naturally start shedding excess weight. It will also lead to a healthier mindset, improved sleep, reduced stress and cravings – and the virtuous cycle of health and subsequent weight loss goes on!