Healthy Living Blog

Do’s and Don’ts of Weight Loss

DO!

Do track! Something! Anything! Every study on this topic that has ever been done — and every study done at Structure House — tells the same story when it comes to self-monitoring (the fancy term for tracking — logging food eaten, minutes exercised, steps taken, weight, anything). People who self-monitor any variable of their weight management efforts will lose more weight — and will keep it off longer — than those who don’t. Self-monitoring is actually the closest thing we have to a magic bullet for weight loss. There is a certain mindfulness and attention that comes into play when we are keeping track of any of these metrics, and we are more likely to be intentional about our choices and behaviors.

Do focus on your behaviors and what is in your proximal control. It can be easy to use the scale as the sole indicator of progress or success, but at the end of the day, you will have no control over how much weight you lose day to day and how quickly that number goes down. However, you have complete control of your behavior choices throughout the day when it comes to eating, movement, and self-care. Physics will never fail you — if you start making mass out of nothing, then we’ll have to call NASA! Focusing on controlling the controllables, and being able to check off how well you met your behavioral goals for that day, is a much more empowering avenue than focusing exclusively on any outcome measure.

Do continue to remind yourself WHY you are on this journey in the first place. Perhaps you are wanting to lose weight so that you can get down on the floor and play with your grandchildren into your 70s and 80s. Maybe you have been wanting to take that flight to Europe and sit comfortably in the airplane. Or perhaps you are wanting to get off your high blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes medications, and you know that losing some weight will help get you there. Whatever your “why,” keep that in mind when the going gets tough.

Do get support. Individuals who have supportive partners, families, and friends will have an easier time on their weight loss journey than those who don’t. If you don’t currently have like-minded people in your life who are supportive of your goals, then it will behoove you to seek them out. Of course, participants at Structure House make lifelong friends while they are on campus, and Structure House offers many ways to stay connected with participants and staff following visits. There are also weight loss support groups at some hospitals, churches, and recreational centers around the country. Be proactive in seeking these out.

DON’T

Don’t focus exclusively on the scale when measuring your success. Especially on a day-to-day basis, there are many factors that will influence the number on the scale (e.g., hydration, bowel movements, inflammation, menstruation), so relying just on that one piece of information will often tell a skewed story. Instead, take into account a variety of quantitative measurements (how your clothes fit, inches lost, changes to your cardiometabolic health via bloodwork and blood pressure) and also qualitative ones (your energy level, your mood, your self-confidence). There is so much to be gained by achieving a healthy weight and so many positive changes that are seen on the way there. Don’t lose sight of those.

Don’t compare yourself to others. No two people will have the same exact weight loss journey. Even if two identical twins were following the same exact eating and movement program, they would likely progress at different rates because both our genetics and environments will dictate how our bodies respond. Furthermore, because no two people have the same exact life circumstances, everyone’s challenges, barriers, and setbacks will be unique to their set of circumstances. For all these reasons, it makes no sense — and is just unhelpful — to compare your progress to someone else’s progress. Don’t get caught in that comparison trap.

Don’t be lured into quick fixes. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Over the past 50 years, countless researchers have been studying obesity and its treatments, and if there were a single quick-fix-easy-solution, it would not be kept a secret, and the obesity epidemic would have ceased long ago. Related, it can be tempting to undergo extreme measures (like fasting, laxative teas, diuretics) to cause the body to temporarily release glycogen stores and water. While this may lead to a decrease on the scale momentarily, the change you might see is not fat loss, and that number will return to your normal as soon as you stop these extreme practices. Weight loss is a marathon and not a sprint. Don’t be fooled!

Don’t get discouraged when you have slips and setbacks. Yes, WHEN you have slips and setbacks, because they will happen. In the history of weight loss, there has never been a single person who has lost weight without having periods of falling back into old habits, at least temporarily. It can be tempting to give up when things don’t go according to plan. However, what separates those who are successful from those who are not is NOT that the former never have slips. Instead, those who are successful take their slips as opportunities to learn, to reflect, to course-correct, and then to move forward. Those who struggle let the slip turn into a lapse, the lapse into a relapse, and the relapse into a collapse. Don’t give up hope. It is never too late to get back to healthy behaviors.

the light started coming back

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