Losing weight–I know it’s not easy because like you, I’ve also found my jeans to be a bit too tight and the scale creeping up. (If you are trying to conceive, it’s especially important for you and your partner to be lose weight if needed. Just a few pounds can make a difference!)
From my years of experience in counseling women to lose weight, I’ve found that the women who take the slow but steady approach are the most successful.
Changing Habits is Important for Losing Weight
According to some experts, people need almost six months to truly change their habits, perhaps because it actually involves changes in the brain. Yet many expect to do a major over-haul of diet and lifestyle in two weeks!
When people change their diets drastically (and adopt quick weight loss diets), they may at first drop pounds quickly. Much of that weight loss is water. Then, when weight loss tapers to 1 pound (0.5 kg) or less per week, people feel they’re failing and give up. What they forget is that 1 pound (0.5 kg) per week adds up to 52 pounds (24 kg) a year! That’s a lot of weight!
Learning from Others: Habits, Not Diets
Some people find that the key to losing weight permanently is figuring out which eating or lifestyle habits need changing, then altering those eating habits, setting realistic goals, and choosing an exercise program that you can stick with for life.
Temporary changes result in temporary weight loss!
Following are some of the characteristics I’ve observed in people who are most successful in losing weight. Many of my personal observations have also been confirmed in research studies, such as the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) The NWCR is an ongoing, university-based study which tracks over 5,000 people who have lost 30 pounds (14 kg) or more and kept it off for at least one year.
People who lose weight successfully…
- Exercise regularly. Ninety-four percent of participants report increasing their physical activity; the most frequent activity being walking. Ninety percent exercise, on average, about an hour a day. (See the next chapter, Fitting Fitness In for more about exercise.)
- Watch their sugars and carbs. Protein and fat are better at helping you feel full.
- Fill their plate with non-starchy veggies and eat their whole grains. Will half your plate with veggies and I promise you’ll eat fewer calories!
- Keep track of what they eat. This may mean keeping a food diary, tracking the amount of fat eaten in a day, weighing themselves regularly, or logging their exercise hours each week. Seventy-five percent of NWCR participants weigh themselves at least once a week. In the first week of my weight loss classes, participants are asked not to change their eating habits, but just to write everything down. Without exception, everyone loses some weight that week, just by being more aware of what they eat. And, knowing you have to write it down keeps you honest!
- Eat their main meal at lunch. This is a commonly held belief that was shown to be true in at least one recent study.
- Have social support. People who complete a weight-loss program with friends or family lose more weight and are more likely to keep it off. Research confirms that people who have the support of friends or family, or that of a support group are more likely to lose weight.
- Are motivated to lose weight for internal reasons rather than external reasons. For example, Judy used to lose weight to fit into her old size-ten jeans. Now she is losing weight to make sure she sticks around long enough to see her baby graduate from college.
- Concentrate not just on the bathroom scale, but on some positive outcome For example, focus on having more energy, being able to bend over to tie a child’s shoe lace, or climb up a flight of stairs without being out of breath.
- Have conquered emotional eating (eating when bored, angry, depressed, or stressed) or are working on it.
- Have learned to eat sensibly at restaurants, at parties, while traveling, and so on.
- Control their diet; they don’t let their diet control them! They make educated, conscious choices about the food they eat. If they want to splurge for a special occasion, they do. They are honest with themselves about the reasons they eat.
- Sleep enough. Being short on sleep not only makes you make bad eating decisions (B & J’s Chunky Monkey, perhaps?) Unfortunately, it also changes hunger and fullness hormones that make it harder to control what you eat.
- Reward themselves. In my weight loss classes, participants always had a weekly reward planned for small goals. It could be something tangible or intangible. For example, if your goal is to walk 5 days this week and you do it, you could reward yourself by giving yourself an hour to browse in the library, or perhaps a movie rental (NEVER food)! Rewards are also a recommended habit by the National Institutes of Health, along with many of the things listed here. (You can find a lovely post on healthy & frugal ways to reward yourself here.)
An Unlikely Ally for Postpartum Weight Loss: Sleep!
Could the amount of shut-eye you get affect your weight? Yes! Researchers have recently uncovered the association between lack of sleep and increased risk of heart disease, obesity and diabetes. New research shows that it also makes a difference to postpartum weight loss. Women who slept less than 5 hours in 24 hours at 6 months postpartum were more than twice as likely to retain at least 11 pounds at 1 year postpartum. Also, women whose snooze time decreased between 6 months and 1 year postpartum were also twice as likely to hold onto a significant amount of pregnancy pounds. Sounds like a good excuse for a nap to me!
Choose Healthier Fast Food!
Need grab-n-go with a side of healthy? Grab our fast food guide to help you navigate the drive-thru!