“E’erybody wanna lose weight, ain’t nobody wanna eat vegetables”- Ronnie Coleman
Ok, the actual quote is a bit different but the principle is the same. If you want something, you have to do what’s necessary to achieve it.
Weight loss is a popular conversation topic, but it’s pretty rare to find someone who has actually lost weight and kept it off. When it really comes down to it, weight loss is pretty simple:
- Consistently consume less calories than you burn
- Lift heavy things
- Get 8-9 hours of sleep per night
That’s it. But if that’s all you have to do how come more people don’t do it?
While there are a number of reasons people might fail, the root of it is that people are not building healthier, sustainable habits. Instead they attempt to get everything “perfect” instantaneously. When perfection is inevitably not achieved or sustained, people throw in the towel, binge on junk, and say they will try again on Monday. The driving feeling here is one of inadequacy, which leads to the conclusion that more willpower and effort is needed.
False. Less willpower and effort is needed. To take a line from Dan John: A reasonable diet is…well, reasonable.
The key is to build new habits. This can be tricky. Remember the Pink Elephant Rule!
WHATEVER YOU DO, DO NOT THINK ABOUT A PINK ELEPHANT!
You thought about a pink elephant didn’t you? Telling ourselves NOT to do something immediately leads us to dwell on it more than we would have otherwise. It’s like when you tell a kid not to go looking in your closet for Christmas presents. Where do you think the first place they look will be?
The goal is to sidestep cravings for problem foods by removing triggers. The implementation of this approach really depends on the individual as the best strategy takes into account one’s lifestyle and tendencies.
Here I have outlined a few tips to trigger better habits in common scenarios:
1. Keep problem foods out of the house, and stock your fridge/pantry with your favorite healthy foods
The more convenient healthy foods are, the more likely you are to eat them. On the same note, making problem foods inconvenient will result in less consumption while still following the pink elephant rule. This strategy tends to make healthy eating easy by removing temptation altogether. This is easier and more effective than mustering up enough willpower to say “no” anytime you open the fridge.
2. When you know you are going to be in a tempting, unavoidable situation, strategize for it.
The whole point of getting in shape is to make life better. It would be silly to say that you should become a dietary recluse and barricade yourself in a fortress of broccoli and salmon to reach your goals.
Although some social settings can make healthy eating difficult, that doesn’t mean that they cannot be navigated in a way that doesn’t deplete your willpower. Go into these situations with a plan to do something that makes navigating the temptation EASY. Get creative, the step you choose will depend largely on your lifestyle and why this event triggers you to eat poorly.
3. For god’s sake get some sleep!
Everyone seems to think they are the exception of the millions of years our species has been evolving. Yes, you are a special snowflake, but not that special. We are designed to be diurnal creatures that should get around 8-9 hours of sleep a night. Not only will this decrease your risk of chronic diseases later on in life, but will help you lose weight.
A few things happen when you are sleep deprived. For one, you are more likely to make worse decisions. Turns out your brain works better when rested..hmmmm. The lack of energy also results in a slower metabolism and less activity throughout the day. This is a lose lose for weight loss. Humans just function better on a good nights rest. Losing weight is a difficult journey, and can’t be done easily without the body and brain working optimally.
These are just a few ways to make your ways loss journey easier and more effective. Of course none of these strategies are mandatory, however I have found that they are helpful for the vast majority of people I work with. The key is to figure out what steps make it easier for YOU to change the way you eat. That is what will ultimately make your weight loss successful and sustainable.