This is a question is hear from new clients all the time. I see so many women of all ages who have been struggling with their weight for such a long time. This endless battle leaves them frustrated and unhappy. They tell me stories of all of the different diets they’ve been on, about the roller coaster rides of weight and mood, and ultimately repeated failures. Of course, the first thing these clients tell me is, “I know what to do. I just don’t know how to do it.” Aha! Now we’re ready to do some work and finally get somewhere.
I like to call this kind of syndrome the “Knowledge-Action Gap” – you know what you’re supposed to do to lose weight, you just don’t know how to apply the actions to your life and be successful. Of course, you know you’re supposed to make better food choices, eat a little less, and exercise a little more. But how are you going to make that happen? Do you have a plan for success? And, is that all there really is to losing weight?
Have an Action Plan
Any successful business has an “Action Plan.” This is the blueprint or business model that is followed to ensure success. If you don’t have an action plan to make sure you implement the behavior changes required for weight loss, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. Some of the things to consider in your action plan include planning out when your meals/snacks will occur, whether or not you’re going to prepare or buy your food, packing a cooler or lunch box of food to take with you for the day (to work, school, or on-the-go), adding to your calendar your scheduled time to exercise, making sure your workout clothes are laid out or packed for later, and placing your food journal in a location that reminds you to record your food intake as soon as you’re done eating. There are so many more things you could put into your action plan; these are just a few to get you started. Working with a Registered Dietitian who is also a Health or Wellness Coach is a great way to help you craft a personalized action plan for weight loss success.
But that’s not all you need to ensure success. It’s not just “calories in and calories out.” There are many more factors to consider for breaking out of your dieting rut:
Are you Sleeping Enough?
Researchers have shown that people who do not get enough sleep each night struggle more with their weight. The recommendation is to get at least 7-8 hours of shut-eye, but I know that some people can get by on less and some require more. The reason why inadequate sleep is so harmful is that it disrupts the normal balance of hormones crucial to appetite and thus weight. Lack of sleep increases the amount of ghrelin (think stomach growling), which makes you hungrier, and decreases the amount of leptin, which sends “full” signals and prevents you from overeating. With these out-of-whack, you’re constantly hungry and have a hard time feeling full. Of course, sometimes we don’t listen to those “Full” or “stop eating” signals from the brain, which leads me to…
Listen to Your Body
It’s time to start paying attention to your body’s signals and follow the message it’s sending. The best example I can give is that of a baby. Babies are really in- tune with their hunger and fullness sensations. When they’re hungry they turn toward and readily open their mouth for food. But when they’re full, they clamp down their mouth and turn their head away from mom who’s trying to cajole them into “one more bite.” Likewise, we have to listen to the signals our body is giving us. Are you craving something in particular? How hungry are you when you sit down to eat? Why are you eating when you’re not even hungry? What else is going on? Give yourself permission to eat the foods you like, but eat them slowly, in a relaxed environment, and don’t wait until you’re ravenous to eat.
Write it Down
You’ve heard the advice over and over again – keep a food journal. There’s plenty of evidence out there that people who track their food intake and exercise are the most successful at losing weight and maintaining the weight loss. You can do it the old-fashioned way, with a pen and paper (notepad or journal) or go high-tech and record it in an on-line tracking system, such as the dailyplate.com. The most important things to remember are to record what time you ate, what you ate (including quantity), how hungry you were when you started and when you finished. Use the journal as a tool for feedback and to help you spot unhealthy patterns, so that you can make smart changes that will keep you successful.
Tomorrow I’ll finish up with more ways you can make changes so that you are successful with losing weight for good.