“I know what I need to do to lose weight, I just don’t do it.”
When I’m working with my patients, this is the number one thing I hear them say and the answer as to “why” is always the same: weight loss is hard and requires discipline and time. I’m not here to tell you it’s easy, but it doesn’t have to be extremely difficult, either. You don’t have to completely change your life overnight to lose weight or become healthier. Making small, positive modifications in eating habits can be as simple as choosing the small order of french fries at a fast food restaurant instead of the large order. The point is, it’s not about how much is being done to lose weight; it’s about what is being done and how consistently. You have to keep yourself accountable for the changes you make and consistently practice those changes to achieve long-term success.
Let’s say your goal is to lose 10 pounds in the next month. How are you going to do that? Currently, you eat fast food or take-out at every meal because it saves time and you hate cooking. You don’t exercise because you work long hours and have children to care for after work. You wish you could eat healthier but it’s just too hard. You think to yourself, “I know if I exercise for one hour daily and cut out fast food completely, I will lose weight. It has worked in the past but after a few weeks I become stressed, lose momentum, and the weight comes back.” Although exercising for one hour daily and completely omitting fast food from your diet has helped you lose weight in the past, it is not the most effective option because it’s not sustainable. Eventually, you will eat fast food again and stop exercising. You tried making too many changes too fast. You might be better served to choose ONE or TWO things to change and work from there.
Let’s try this again: “I would like to lose 10 pounds in the next month…”
- On Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays my kids have soccer and tennis practice and are out of the house for 2 hours. During this time I will walk for 40 minutes.
- Instead of leaving the office to grab McDonald’s every day for lunch, I will bring a frozen meal to work on Tuesday and Thursday.
In this hypothetical, you’re only making one change daily. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday you walked for 40 minutes and burned about 200 calories. On Tuesday and Thursday you ate a frozen meal for lunch consisting of 300 calories instead of the usual 800 calorie burger and fries. In total, you reduced your calories by 1600 calories that week! If you practiced these changes consistently you would lose half a pound a week. While that doesn’t seem like much, you would be on track to lose 26 pounds in a year. Even if you need to lose more than 26 pounds, making small changes over a long period of time will make losing weight and keeping it off more manageable.
Now, I want you to think of two small changes you can make daily to reduce calorie intake and improve your health and stick to them for a week. After you’ve completed a week, see if you can keep going for another week and then work up from there. Good luck!
-Crysta Baldwin, MS, RD, LD
photo credit: Stuart Miles, freedigitalphotos.net