So what’s that headline all about? Seems outlandish right? Perhaps, but it’s probably correct. All the data surrounding long-term weight loss shows (overwhelmingly) that those who do manage to lose weight will simply put it back on again. You probably already know some people this would apply to.
Having lost a significant amount of weight myself (and managed to keep it off) I often have people say “Oh well it must be easy for you to keep the weight off because you’re a personal trainer”. This irks me. It can actually be hard to find time to train around clients, and after training people all day it can be hard to find the motivation to train myself. But I do it. Being in a gym all day doesn’t give you some magic powers when it comes to not putting on weight or skipping training sessions.
But I digress, let’s have some fun with numbers to bring into perspective just how unlikely it is that you will lose weight and manage to keep it off.
http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/74/5/579.full.pdf+html <——– If you like boring research papers
This meta-analysis of various studies(a meta-analysis is a study that takes the results of all of the data on a subject matter and gives an overview of the results), involving almost 4000 people, shows that the average maintained weight loss after 5 years was 3.2% of their initial body weight. So an obese, 300lb man could typically expect to be 290lb 5 years after attempting to lose weight, regardless of how much he loses initially. Hardly inspiring is it? Not likely to produce a great before and after photo.
How about this one… The figures concerning Weight Watchers show that two out of every thousand members achieve long term weight loss. Therefore you are 25 times more likely to survive being shot in the head (5% chance) than you are to permanently lose weight with Weight Watchers. (0.2% chance)
So we know that it’s possible but hugely unlikely. With that in mind, what should you do now? Go back to the couch and inhale a packet of Oreos, safe in the knowledge that you’re always going to be overweight so it doesn’t matter? No. If you want to be one of the small few who actually succeed, you’re going to have to wake the fuck up and take this seriously.
You need to realise that it’s a permanent lifestyle change. You will never lose weight and keep it off if you view this as some kind of temporary change in habits. Stop and think about it for a second. How could that work? No matter what you do to lose weight, it’s simply moronic to think you can return to previous habits and behaviours and not put the weight back on.
You need to make changes that are actually enjoyable – changes that you can stick to indefinitely. There is virtually no point torturing yourself for a few months with severe calorie restriction and spending endless hours violating the treadmill. Whatever weight you will lose will return once you start “eating normal” again.
You have to embrace this new lifestyle. Sure it would be great to be able to eat whatever shit you wanted, whenever you wanted. It would be great to be able to flake out on the couch instead of hitting the gym or going for a walk in the evening.
Or at least, it seems like it would be great.
The interesting thing is, these behaviours genuinely lose appeal once you start replacing them with healthier ones. Healthy, clean, well-made food can actually taste amazing and won’t leave you feeling stuffed and sleepy. Pushing yourself in the gym and hitting personal bests feels much better than trying to stay awake on the couch while watching shit TV shows.
If it’s not enjoyable, you won’t stick to it. Simple. If you constantly have to fight with the thoughts of training and eating good food, you will eventually lose.
The people in my Lose100lb class who get the best results and stick to it are the ones who arrive in with a smile on their face, excited to actually be there.
It’s also important to be accountable to someone other than yourself. It’s too easy to convince yourself that you deserve that packet of cookies or bag of chips. It’s not as easy to convince someone else. If you have to meet someone for a weigh in once a week or once a fortnight you are far more likely to stick to a food plan. Or if you have a training partner you will be less inclined to miss a session to lie on the couch for the evening, you won’t want to let them down.
Another vital step is defining your goal. If you have a lot of weight to lose you need to break this down into smaller, manageable steps. Maybe you want to fit into your jeans from last year that have recently become too tight. Make that your first step. If you simply look at the big picture it will overwhelm you and you will surely fail. Once you have reached your final goal, you need to come up with goals to keep you there. If you view it as a finish line then you will inevitably revert to old habits and start putting the weight back on.
John Weldon CPT