Did that know that in research, weight loss is only considered permanent after five years? That means all those before-and-after pictures you see on the internet likely don't qualify.
But that's the goal, right? When on a weight loss journey, we want to lose it once and for all.
Four years ago, on my fortieth birthday, I was overweight...again. I spent the previous decade going up and down in weight; I'd have a skinny year, then a fat year, then when I couldn't take it anymore, another skinny year. Up and down over and over again. It was exhausting.
Then after my fortieth birthday at the end of September that year, I started down the familiar weight loss path once again. Losing weight was always the easy part for me, keeping it off was the hard part. By Thanksgiving I ran in a turkey trot, and the picture we took afterward was one of the first times that I liked the way I looked. The weight was coming off, but I learned a lot of lessons from my mistakes over the years, and I knew if I wanted permanent weight loss then I would have to act differently and most importantly, think differently.
10 FUNDAMENTALS OF PERMANENT FAT LOSS
GET OFF THE DIET TRAIN
Forget diets. Diets end. A healthy lifestyle is forever. Find a healthy way of eating that you can sustain for the rest of your life. Extreme diets are rarely sustainable. When someone asks me if I think a particular diet will work, I always say, "Yes, if you do it forever." It's not the diet; it's the consistency. It's going on and off diets that get people in trouble. Some people do well with low carb, some with low fat, keep your calories in line with your activity level, figure out what works for you and stick with it.
FORGET ALL-OR-NOTHING/ STRIVE FOR BALANCE
For me, finding balance was the key to success. I learned not to deprive myself of anything, but to be mindful and make healthful choices most of the time. If 80% of your diet is made up of whole food from nature, there's some wiggle room for treats. Unless you are dealing with a food allergy, there's no good reason to entirely give up your favorite foods, cut out major macronutrient groups or suffer in the name of weight loss. Be mindful, of course, and strive to make healthy choices most of the time, but allow yourself the indulgences you enjoy. It's the sane and sustainable path to permanent weight loss.
Get off the couch. Find creative ways to keep moving. Take short walk breaks throughout the day. Park farther away from the entrance. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Sign up for 5K. Walk for charity. Invite friends out for a hike. Take an exercise class. Hire a coach. Join a running group. Find a trainer; Whatever it takes to keep you moving.
FORGET ABOUT THE SCALE
The scale is a liar. The essential lesson that I learned on my weight loss journey is scale weight is irrelevant. When you get too emotionally attached the number on the scale, you lose sight of the big picture, and could potentially sabotage your results. Lower is not always better.
The ultimate goal is to lose fat, not weight. The scale only measures weight. When we lose weight, we want to lose fat and maintain or build muscle. If we end up losing muscle with the fat, then we lower our metabolism and our chance of gaining the weight back increases. Work hard to maintain muscle with resistance training and consuming adequate protein. When we push for a lower and lower number on the scale and disregard muscle mass, we are setting ourselves up for failure.
Muscle is denser than fat, so while a pound of muscle and a pound of fat weigh the same, muscle takes up less space in the body. If you lose fat and gain muscle, you may have the same (or higher) scale weight but will wear a smaller pant size. Muscle requires more energy to maintain at rest, so the more muscle tissue you have, the more calories you burn each day, even when sitting on the couch watching Netflix.
Muscle is the golden ticket to permanent fat loss. You won't look like a bodybuilder (that's extremely difficult anyway), simply perform some form of resistance training several times a week. Everything changed for me when I started lifting weights.
READ FOOD LABELS
The food industry is tricky. They mislead well-meaning people into making poor food choices with deceptive food labels. Here's a quick overview: The word 'natural' on the package has no meaning. 'Organic' on a label does not necessarily equate to healthy (case in point: they make Organic Doritos). Buzzwords like Gluten-free, sugar-free, fat-free, diet, low-carb, vegetarian, Keto, Paleo and natural have no bearing on whether the product is a healthful choice or not. For example, a gluten-free cupcake is still junk food, a fat-free yogurt loaded with sugar is not a healthy choice, and a vegetarian protein bar is full of processed ingredients. Ignore marketing buzzwords and read the nutrition facts label and examine the ingredients.
The ingredient list is in order of volume, so if sugar is the number one ingredient, it has more sugar than anything (and look for sneaky names for sugar: syrup, fructose, or evaporated juice). If the ingredient list is long and you have a hard time recognizing anything, it's probably a highly processed food, best enjoyed occasionally, instead of regularly.
Then review the serving size. Name one person over twelve-years-old on this planet who ever ate a 1/2 cup of cereal as a serving. You can't because it's never happened. If a package claims 100 calories and five grams of sugar, but the serving size is unreasonably small, calculate how many calories and how much sugar you would consume with a normal-sized portion, or limit yourself to the portion sizes on the product.
Be aware of what you are eating. Make smart food choices based on the facts, not marketing.
DON'T PUNISH YOURSELF WITH EXERCISE/REWARD YOURSELF WITH FOOD
Exercise is not a punishment. No matter what that internet meme says, you don't have to pay penance for your Halloween candy with burpees. Exercise should be enjoyable, and no one enjoys punishment. Move your body in a way that feels good to you, because you want to. It's the only way you will ever stick with it. It may take some experimenting to find a form of fitness that you love, but don't give up, it's out there.
If you reward yourself with food, then you may be sabotaging your results. It's great to celebrate and enjoy an occasional indulgence, but a cupcake to treat yourself for making it through another workday without stabbing anyone will surely backfire. Healthy living is its own reward, or a get a massage to relax.
SLEEP 7-8 HOURS PER NIGHT
Sleep plays a significant role in stress levels, recovery and regulation of hormones. Regularly disrupted sleep can inhibit fat loss. If you are eating well and exercising, but not seeing the results you desire, lack of sleep may be to blame. Permanent weight loss is not just about exercise and nutrition, but your whole lifestyle. Rest and recovery is an essential piece of the puzzle.
FOCUS ON HEALTHY HABITS
When we stop obsessing over the scale and start focusing on our daily actions we can make massive changes over time. Focus on the activities you can control. You can control what goes into your mouth, and you can control how much you exercise, and how much you sleep. If any of those things fall out of your control due to life's circumstances, then let it go and only focus on the things you can currently control. Do the best you can with what you have available to you today. Circumstances will never be perfect, just get started with something today.
The beauty of habits is after taking the time to cultivate them, eating healthful foods, exercising and sleeping well all become automatic, no longer requiring willpower or motivation. They are all just the activities you do because they are a regular part of your day. It takes hard work to get there, but it's worth it when your healthy habits turn into a full-blown healthy lifestyle.
MAKE HEALTHY LIVING A PART OF YOUR IDENTITY
Becoming a trainer helped me see myself differently. I wasn't going to be a yo-yo trainer. I had to get my shit together so I could more effectively help other people reach their goals. My identity as a trainer helps me stay focused and on track. I'm not suggesting everyone should run out and get certified as a trainer, but examine how you see yourself. Are you the "healthy one" at work? Do your friends ask you for fitness advice? Or think you're that "crazy runner?" Act like the person you want to become. If you identify as a healthy person, you're more likely to make healthy choices and decisions.
We are approaching my 44th birthday, and I'm almost amazed it's been four years since I lost the weight once and for all. I have confidence that the mindset that got me here will help me sustain my weight loss for life. I need to get another year under my belt before I pass the five-year threshold of permanent weight loss, but after all I learned, I got this. I think you do too.
Questions? I'd love to help.
Did you like this post? Know someone who might benefit from it? It helps me when you share with your friends and followers.