It’s important to find a healthy way, not just any way to lose weight. I often have to convince my clients that lifelong health is far more important than quick weight loss. This principle makes intellectual sense for most people, but our dominant cultural training and reinforcement is about “fast, amazing, extreme results!!!”
You may already know that the vast majority (over 90%) of people who go on a diet and lose weight quickly will ultimately fail, gaining back the lost weight within 2 years. Yet you may still be attracted to the idea of fast weight loss. It’s pervasive.
Dieters often lose muscle mass along with the fat, which hampers their metabolism and may partially explain why repeat (“yo-yo”) dieters find it increasingly hard to lose weight. People who lose lots of weight quickly can end up with a greatly reduced metabolism, meaning it will be much harder to prevent weight gain in the future.
My health and nutrition coaching is specifically NOT based on sudden, severe dietary changes and fast weight loss. Instead, it’s based on practicing healthy habits, setting achievable goals, and having accountability along the way. It takes time and that’s a good thing: the idea isn’t to briefly change how you live. Rather it’s to gradually build up a healthier and healthier lifestyle, so 5 (or 10 or 20) years from now, you are slimmer, healthier and happier than you are now.
For example, let’s say you want to lose 10 pounds of fat this year (and hopefully gain some muscle too!). If you enroll in a rapid weight loss program, you could do that in 4-10 weeks. Sounds great, right? The problem is that you are very, very likely to regain that weight within 1-2 years. The chances are good that your rapid weight loss program did not create a sustainable lifestyle for you, and did not retrain you into enjoying healthy habits that also keep you lean. So within a few weeks, months or years things will be back to the normal that you’re currently trying to escape. But perhaps you’ll have less muscle.
Choosing to follow a super restrictive diet or take up an intense exercise program that’s barely manageable are great for short-term goals, but will have little effect on your long-term leanness (and health!). What matters most is what we do the most.
I like to joke with my clients that “It’s always Bikini Season somewhere!” While this is literally true, the embedded wisdom is that dieting for the next summer season (or vacation or wedding) won’t help you for the rest of the year. And it won’t set you up for a balanced life.
Until you take the time to develop healthy habits, you may feel that you’re always chasing your weight loss dreams. Instead, you could be building up an armada of information, strategies, habits, and confidence that help you feel and know that you are making progress toward your health goals. You are in charge of your health destiny!
Instead of going for rapid weight loss, try breaking up your goal into small, incremental steps. How about aiming to lose 10 pounds of fat 10 months from now? Or 5 months from now? This rate of 1/4-1/2 pound of fat loss per week is extremely achievable, meaning you have a great chance of making it happen if you have a consistent approach. Most Americans gain 1-2 pounds per year. Over decades of adulthood, this leads to obesity and many health complications. The fact that Americans tend to gain weight as they age means that if you lost only 10 pounds over the course of the year that would be a huge success versus your ever-widening friends. What if you did that for 3 years?
After 3 years of slowly losing weight and taking on healthy habits, don’t you think you might have a better shot at success over your lifetime? Like maybe you wouldn’t seriously backtrack and regain all the lost weight 6 months later?
Adopting healthier eating and better exercise habits over 5-10 months also makes more room for you to explore your options, get educated by reading quality books or hiring a professional, and build up your own healthy habits so your health actions are not a matter of willpower, but rather something you do to feel normal and happy.