Iâ€™m addicted to watching The Biggest Loser (donâ€™t worry, Iâ€™m gearing up for a loooong series of posts re: this show very soon â€“ later this week, actually, so sit tight.) I love watching the massive transformation that takes place in a relatively short time. It is amazing, donâ€™t you think? Off the show, people just like that are able to lose weight, and keep it off. They arenâ€™t famous, of course, like the contestants, but they should be. Keeping weight off is HARD work. So how do they do it? I want to know, donâ€™t you?
Fortunately, weight loss is a subject that colleges and universities spend a lot of time, and money, researching, which means the answers we seek are ripe for the picking, if you know where to look.
Cue Dr. Len Kravitz, Assoc. Professor of Exercise Science at The University of New Mexico. Iâ€™ve had the pleasure of attending a few of Dr. Kravitzâ€™s courses at various fitness conventions, and I simply adore him. I knew heâ€™d have the answers to this pressing question: How do you keep weight off successfully? It didnâ€™t take long to dig up an article on the University of New Mexico website written by Dr. Kravitz. Kravitz summarized (thank you Dr. Kravitz!) the results from The National Weight Control Registry. It turns out, those who are successful at losing weight, and keeping it off, have specific traits and habits. This is what I learned…
1. Make exercise a priority, and exercise more. According to Kravitz, women burn an average of 2,545 calories/week during planned physical activity. That is about 360 calories per day, or the equivalent of a thirty-minute run, or one-hour walk. The sad truth is, most people donâ€™t exercise. In fact, in all of the states but five (Washington, Oregon, California, Hawaii, and Alaska), less than 18% of Americans engage in sports or exercise on an average day. (http://www.bls.gov/spotlight/2008/sports/pdf/sports_bls_spotlight.pdf)
2. Eat healthy 80% of the time (or more), making low-fat, low-calorie foods the mainstay of their diets. Also, participants in the registry noted that their eating patterns were the same on weekends as they were during the week. Weekends can ruin otherwise healthy eating patterns, so Iâ€™m not surprised to learn that successful weight losers try hard to stick to their usual, healthy eating habits. Although, 39% did say they followed stricter diets during the week. Those that ate consistently healthy all week long were 1.5 times more likely to maintain their weight loss during the following year.
3. They live a healthier lifestyle for themselves, rather than for another person, or to fit into a social norm. In most cases (85%), there is a â€śtriggerâ€ť that sparks their weight loss journey, such as a medical condition (23%), reaching an all-time high in weight, or seeing a picture themselves. There were several contestants on this seasonâ€™s Biggest Loser that said seeing a picture of themselves â€śshockedâ€ť them into realizing how big they had gotten, and motivated them to start losing weight. I have also noticed the shock on the contestantsâ€™ faces when the showâ€™s doctor delivers the scary medical prognosis for each of them, if they donâ€™t lose weight.
4. They weigh themselves frequently. Self-monitoring is key to reaching any goal, especially weight loss. Read â€śSuccessful Self-Monitoring: Log and Chart your progressâ€ť for tips on self-monitoring.
(And I added 3 of my own traits, based on health behavior change paper I wrote in college):
5. They eat breakfast every day. This is SO important. Although, I know many people who just arenâ€™t hungry in the morning. I do wonder if, for people who this is the case, eating a regular breakfast would bump up metabolism enough that in time they would be hungry in the morning? Iâ€™ll research that bit some more. (Not sure what to eat? Check out the post: “The Best Breakfast is the one you’ll eat!”)
6. Donâ€™t focus on the short-term effects of weight loss. Instead, they view the changes theyâ€™ve made as â€ślifestyleâ€ť changes that will last a lifetime. This part is really important. To keep weight off, a lifestyle change is key.
7. Watch less television. Think about it â€“ not only is the sedentary behavior setting you up for a slower metabolism, but TV watching also promotes mindless snacking. And I suppose that for those who have to give something up in order to make time for exercise, TV is a logical activity to forego. Although, I have a dear friend that trained for a full marathon, on a treadmill mind you, by taping and watching her favorite shows while she logged mile after mile. I admire her focus. Even with my favorite shows to watch, I couldnâ€™t stay on a treadmill that long, but I say, if it works for you, by all means, DO IT!!
IMPORTANT STUFF: According to the NWCR study, those who kept weight off for 2 years or more had significantly higher odds of keeping the weight off, reducing their change of “regain” by almost 50%!!
If youâ€™d like to read the full article, here it is: Winning at Losing: Secrets of Long-Term Weight Loss
If you have successfully lost weight, please share your own Secrets to Success! Everyone struggling with weight loss or weight maintenance would benefit from hearing how others managed to pull it off, and keep it off.
1. Skipping a workout (or two). When you are focused on trying to shed pounds, you might think missing a workout is taboo. But, let’s assume you miss that workout not because you choose to skip it, but because something came up. Bad weather when you planned a run outdoors, or the power went out at the gym, or your 4 yr-old comes down with a fever and hour before your kickboxing class at the Y. Life happens. First off – this isn’t a mistake, but an opportunity to troubleshoot. Bad weather? Hike in the snow or go sledding with the kids. Gym is closed? Run outside instead. Kid is sick? Well, sometimes you just have to skip the workout. In this case, look at your calendar and see where you can work out a little longer, or if planned a rest day, work out on that day instead. You always have options.
2. Eating cake. Saying “yes” to a slice of your nephew’s birthday cake when you meant to say, “no, thank you.” And eating the whole piece. You are allowed to indulge in a sweet treat here and there. This only becomes a big mistake if you ditch your plan altogether and hitch a ride to the junk food wagon all the way back to from where you started. But you won’t do that. Know why? Because by eating the treat, you’ll learn that: A) one treat won’t kill you, B) one treat won’t make you gain even a pound, and C) one treat might encourage you to work out harder or longer to make up for it – but don’t make this standard practice. You might eat it and think, “yea, it is good, but not great and now I feel bad for having eaten it,” and be more apt to say no the next time. You might eat it and think, “Yeah! This is delicious and I earned it for having worked so hard yesterday at the gym. Tomorrow is a new day and I’ll be back on track.”
3. Letting a friend or family member talk you out of your workout. When you let someone else take your power away, you learn how to hang on to that power for dear life. Let this happen once, and you’ll learn that what you want, and what others want, are often different, and that’s okay. Let it happen twice, and you’ll learn that being a push-over only leads to more push-ups the next time you do workout. You’ll learn that saying “no” is okay.
4.Â Not working out while on vacation. If you have been working out diligently for several months, taking a few days off won’t hurt anything. In fact, it is good to give yourself a rest every now and then. This gives your muscles a chance to recover, and can often lead to better workouts when you return from vacay, because you’ll be rested and raring to go. You may find that you miss working out, and plan to take along a DVD to workout to, or resistance bands or light weights and your running shoes the next time so that you don’t have to miss your workout. Either way, this mistake can help you.
5.Â Trying a fitness class that is new, and clearly not your thing.Â Lots of times we don’t try things because we’re afraid we won’t like it, won’t be good at it, or won’t benefit from it. If you always do what you do and don’t trying something new, you’ll never know what you can do. If you don’t like to dance, but are curious about Zumba – give it a go. You might end up loving it. If not, what have you lost? Try spinning, rock wall climbing, boot camp, P90-X…there is no harm is trying something. So what if you can’t do twenty push-ups in boot camp and everyone else can do forty. Maybe you’ll walk away with inspiration and a new goal.
One of the reasons so many people have a tough time getting started with a weight loss plan is enormity of the project before them.Â It is like standing in front of Mt. Everest, with no idea how you got there, or how to begin scaling that monster.
Not to oversimplify the complexity of health behavior change, but sometimes the easiest way to tackle a mountain like that is to take just one step.Â Addendum: one step that leads to another step.
Samantha Szabo made small changes, took her time, and stayed focused on her goal. Ten months later, she got there. Here’s how:
* A former breakfast skipper, she began eating a healthy breakfast
* She then quit eating late night meals of fried foods and beer
* Portion sizes were scaled down
* She cut white bread and pasta from her diet and added whole grains
* She upped the amount of fish and vegetables she consumed
Alone, these steps aren’t game changers. But, combined, making one change at a time if you must,Â they have a profound impact.
She didn’t sit still either. She began walking 2 miles a day, then added cardio and strength training at the gym. One change at a time.
Making all of these changes at once would be daunting, especially if you aren’t sure of yourself and your ability to accept change. But think, where could you be 10 months from now if you started with one small change today, grew more confident from there and made more small changes en route?
You’d be where you want to be!
The 2012 Olympics ended, what, last night? Already I’m experiencing withdrawal.Â What event will I watch tonight? Who will I cheer on? I always forget how sad it is to see the Olympic games come to an end – it has been so much fun watching incredibly talented athletes compete in such spectacular displays of courage.Â Becoming an Olympian is something most of us will never experience, for many reasons having nothing to do with lack of talent even, but there is one tool that Olympians use that you can use too – Visualization!
Visualize your success.Â Practice the exact techniques that Olympians do. Hereâ€™s how:
With practice, you’ll soon feel more confident in your abilities and willing to take more risks. If you’d like to read more about visualization, check out these reads:
Mental Training for Peak Performance: Top Athletes Reveal the Mind Exercises They Use to Excel (paperback), by Steven Ungerleider -
You vs. You: Sport Psychology for Life (paperback), by Wayne Mazzoni
In Pursuit of Excellence (paperback), by Terry Orlick
Kind of reads like a magazine cover, doesn’t it? In all seriousness though, there really are some simple steps that will help you achieve a weight loss goal…but you can’t do just one and kinda do the other two, or only kinda do all three. Do all three, keep you eye on the ball, and you’ll hit a home run.
Ready? Here we go…
1. Record your food intake daily. Include in your diet a variety of fruits and vegetables at 6-9 servings daily; 2-3 servings of lean protein; 3 servings of dairy; and quality oils.
Why? Keeping track of what you eat for a few weeks (I’m not talking forever people), can tell you several things:
* how many calories you are really eating
* what nutrients you are getting enough of and which ones are lacking
* why you may be sluggish at certain times of the day
* why you feel lightheaded and shaking an hour or so after a meal of snack (i.e, the meal may have too much sugar in it)
Food tracking sounds very tedious. At first, it is. But most of us eat the same types of things over and over, so once recorded, the hard part is done. Also, there are some spectacular apps now that help with food tracking. On the short list: MyFitnessPal.com(Free), MyNetDiary – Food and Exercise Diary for iPad ($9.99), and Calorie Counterby FatSecret for iPad (Free).
2. Find opportunities throughout the day to move (walk, climb stairs, do squats while waiting for bread to toast, etc.).
Why? All movement counts, so why not move whenever you can? How many times do you stand in front of the microwave and watch it reheat your morning coffee? You could knock out a set of push-ups in that amount of time, or some jumping jacks. Once you are in the habit of thinking about movement, you don’t have to think about it anymore and you’ll automatically take the stairs at work, or park farther away from the front door of just about everywhere.
There is an app for this too! Check out RunKeeper (RunKeeper.com) and find an app for just about every activity you can think of. If you like to walk, jog, or cycle, then MapMyRun will track your mileage for you.
3. Make goal-setting a habit. In a notebook, list 5, health-fitness-related goals for 2008 and record them DAILY. Review them 1-2 times per day. For example, â€śI weigh ____lbs by _____(date)â€ť and â€śI eat ___ servings of fruit/veggies per day by _____(date)â€ť
Why? When you write it down, the goal takes on a new life. As long as the goal remains in your head, it is just an idea you are tossing around. Write it down, and you can’t ignore it. Take this one step further: add the goal as a reminder on your smart phone, plaster it on your calendar, update your Facebook status with it, Tweet it…you get the picture. Involving others in your goal helps to hold you accountable, so the next time you bump into Aunt Edna at a family gathering and she asks, “I saw on Facebook you are training for some running race. How is your training going?” You’ll either sheepishly admit you bagged that plan, or proudly say, “it is going great!” Don’t be afraid to tell others your plan. You’ll find you have way more supporters than naysayers.
Helpful Apps: Life Goals ($3.99, iTunes), and Unstuck, winner of the 2012 Appy Award for Best Lifestyle App, (for iPad, free).