Do you have a friend or relative who wanted to lose weight, has successfully lost weight and kept it off? I bet you asked them for their secret? They told you there isn’t one, right? Or they tried to tell you about some awesome diet which means they can only ever eat expensive pre-prepared meals or drink meal replacement shakes for the rest of their life? I’ll let you into the secret – there is one but it isn’t a magic pill, juice cleansing detox program, diet plan or fitness regime. The secret is as simple as shifting your focus.
I’m betting your current focus is on a number – the number on the scale or the number on the label in your clothes, am I right? Therein lies the problem. The focus needs to be on health and feeling good, rather than looking good. So, first step, throw out the scales or cut out the labels from the dress that you are desperate to get into! You don’t need to weigh x number on the scale, that isn’t going to make you feel good – believe me, I know you think it will but it won’t! Everything isn’t just magically better when you get to that weight goal and if you have been following a restrictive diet or gruelling and unenjoyable exercise regime to get there, chances are that you will “fall off the wagon” before you get there or not long after. What happens then is an age old story – you gain back that weight and more on top and then you feel even worse about yourself than you ever did. I know this because like almost every other woman (and probably many men) in the world, I’ve been there, numerous times!! However, now I know the truth I have gotten rid of the excess weight, got fitter and healthier and continue to improve rather than sinking back into old ways.
First let’s think about why you want to lose weight. Is it to look great naked or in that beautiful dress you haven’t been able to wear for years? Is it to be healthier and prevent the onset of lifestyle related disease such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and osteoporosis? Is it because you simply want to be able to run around after your kids or Grandchildren or keep up with your mates on the footy pitch? All of these are valid reasons but instead of focusing on that reason, you have inadvertently decided that you need to stand on the scales every week (or every day!) or that you need to get to a magic number by tomorrow (or like yesterday if at all possible). We all put so much pressure on ourselves to achieve quickly or to look a certain way. What needs to happen is that we actually focus on the reason and realise this is a lifestyle that we want to achieve rather than an end goal. If you want this weight to be gone forever then you need to learn how to live a life without it.
In case you need a little extra motivation, let’s look at the problem on a bigger scale. Obesity is a growing concern in the Western world. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) obesity has tripled since 1975 with nearly 2 billion adults being overweight and 650 million of those falling into the obese category. Why is this a problem? Well, obesity is preventable and more people die from obesity related conditions year on year. Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle (which is likely what led you to be overweight) can lead to cardiovascular diseases (mainly heart attacks and strokes – two pretty big killers), hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol, type II diabetes (which if poorly managed can lead to many serious complications such as limb amputation), increased risk of some cancers, musculoskeletal conditions such as osteoarthritis and increased risk of injuries and fractures and also social isolation, causing a decline in mental health (particularly depression and dementia). You already know all this right but it’s still just too difficult to lose that weight and change your life for the better? Well, think about the sad fact that aging is a natural process which happens to us all and if you are over 20 years old then your body is already past it’s peak and beginning to degenerate. You will be losing muscle mass, gaining body fat, have a decreasing bone mineral density (eventually leading to osteoporosis), joint degeneration is starting to happen and your cardiovascular endurance is ailing. It’s not all bad, we can slow this down if we take control and start to live that healthier lifestyle we really want to live in order to lose weight. Still too difficult? Let me explain how to make it easier..…..
…..First step: acceptance.
This doesn’t mean you accept where you are at and give up. It means you find peace with yourself in the here and now but remember why you want to lose weight and get fitter and healthier. Then you make a plan to become the best version of yourself; yourself and not someone else – this is why acceptance has to come first, you need to want to be you, just a better version. Stop treating yourself like a project and stop setting unrealistic goals. Think about all the things you know you need to do to live that healthy lifestyle and work out how to do them to fit in with your life. It won’t be the same for you as it is for me or for the guy down the street or the person you sit next to at work. It is as individual as you are. The one thing that will be the same though is that it is a long journey and really there is no end point. It can be a pretty enjoyable journey though – there is some awesome stuff along the way and you will learn so much. Like any journey, it starts with the first steps and the steps need to be a sensible size.
Diet: No, you do not need to join a slimming club or only ever eat lettuce and kale! If you are trying to completely change your diet by cutting out all the things you love, those steps just get steeper and steeper until you can’t climb them anymore and the only way to go is back down where you came from. Make small changes – switch your white rice and pasta for wholegrain, eat smaller portions at each meal (get small plates, it really does trick the mind!) and drink more water. Think about why you are eating, are you eating because you are hungry or are you bored or sad. If it isn’t hunger then don’t eat – do something about why you are bored or sad, it’s much more effective because the answer isn’t in the bottom of a box of chocolates no matter how hard you look!! I personally found the app My fitness pal very helpful to start me off on the right track because when I started weighing and logging my foods I could see exactly how much too much I was eating (if you’ve ever weighed out a serving of your favourite cereal you will know what I mean) and where I needed to make changes. It also made me really consider everything I was eating and often make healthier choices. I say often there because I didn’t always and this is important too – you aren’t going to give up your favourite meal out or your favourite beverage forever so don’t beat yourself up about consciously deciding to fit it into your life here and there. This just can’t be every day. I don’t like the terms cheat meal or treat day etc because they reinforce the idea of good foods and naughty foods which in turn leads to those feeling of guilt and upset when we choose to indulge in something we enjoy, thus removing some of the enjoyment. Now obviously there are food categories and some are not so nutritious and we need to be aware of how many of these less nutritious options we are consuming in order to successfully lose weight but as long as you achieve a balance then you will lose weight and it will be sustainable in the longer term. Many people recommend an 80/20 balance but I think you have to work out what works for you personally and it’s not helpful to get too hung up on the numbers here either! Now, I said that I used my fitness pal app which I did in the beginning of my journey, but now I have switched vehicles and I do not track what I eat. I have not gained weight and I eat what I want each day, how is this possible? I learned over the course of time, to nourish my body with good foods and I learned about portion sizes so that I no longer need to weigh everything out. I learned to go for that glass of wine on a Friday evening or eat the donut on Sunday but to drink more water, move more and ultimately enjoy my food and drink when hungry but to replace those boredom snacks with activity and to eat chocolate because I wanted it and not because I was feeling low. You can do this too, just start small and build on what you learn each day. Take small steps and initially there will be struggles but eventually you reach the top of the hill and the view becomes immediately clear. Just remember step one, acceptance. Don’t try to jump the steps, accept where you are at and focus on where you are going.
Exercise: The theory behind weight loss is simple, calories in needs to be less than calories out. This means eat less, move more. I know that in life it just doesn’t feel that simple and how do you fit in that extra movement when you are super busy, hate the gym, feel too unfit to start an exercise program etc etc? Again, make those steps small and easy to manoeuvre. Get off the bus a couple of stops early and walk. Try to walk to work instead of driving. Take the stairs rather than the elevator or escalator. Find something you enjoy doing, it might be the gym or it might be dancing, running, playing tag or footy with your kids, yoga, trampolining, swimming……..the possibilities are endless and it doesn’t have to be arduous. Much the same as the diet changes you are making, the best type of exercise is the one you will actually do and if you hate every second of it then it’s very easy to choose the extra half an hour in bed. I started going to gym classes to try out all sorts of different things. I hated being the fat girl at the back of the class who couldn’t do half the exercises but I enjoyed the feeling of being part of something and I enjoyed seeing progress. I found after a while that I really enjoyed HIIT training because it was effective and achievable in a short amount of time. I enjoyed spin classes for the same reason. I discovered a love of lifting – first in body pump classes and then out on the gym floor with heavier weights. I was a ballet dancer as a child and once I had lost some weight and regained some confidence I went back to this and really enjoyed rekindling my youth and feeling graceful for an hour a week (I am far from graceful most of the time!!). I like walking with my husband and always chose to walk over taking the tube (I lived in London) because it made me feel more alive. I found that I hated running and I wasn’t a fan of swimming (or rather the hassle of wearing swimwear and stinking of chlorine) and that I was absolutely not co-ordinated for aerobics or Zumba! I was lucky that I fell in love with fitness and the way that training hard made me feel, but if you don’t like the gym there are so many other options, just make an effort to move rather than settling in on the sofa after work. Ditch the video games and get your walking boots on or switch your Thursday night drinks for fun on the tennis court with a friend. Once you do find what it is you enjoy then it is relatively easy to stick to it. However, we all have days where we just can’t be bothered and it would be so easy to stay in bed rather than go for a run or to go straight to the pub rather than hit the gym. Those are the days where you need to remember what you are trying to achieve and ask yourself whether you really need a rest or whether you are just being lazy and reverting to old habits. If the answer is that you really are tired or sore then take that rest but book yourself in for something the following day. If the answer is laziness then employ some little tricks to get yourself active – get your gym bag ready the night before, get straight into your gym kit at the end of your working day, book yourself into a class which will cost you money if you cancel late or book a PT session which you will feel obliged to turn up for. Once you get going you will enjoy it and feel better about yourself for committing. Accountability is key here too, tell people what you are doing, post it on social media, write yourself a tick list of activities for the week – whatever it is that will keep you on track.
Finally: learn to love yourself and your new healthy lifestyle. Congratulate yourself when you do something really well and reassess your goals from time to time. Be grateful for what your body can do rather than what it looks like, but also enjoy the changes you are seeing in the mirror. You have thrown away the scales so you have no idea how much you weigh but you can see those changes to your body in photos (I am a big advocate of private progress pictures – take them for yourself so you can see the changes, no-one else has to see them if you don’t want them to) or the way your clothes fit. Write down what you could/couldn’t do that you wanted to at the start of your journey and be thankful for the progress you make (did you nail that first push up or can you now run for the bus without getting out of breath). Let’s go back to the start – this was all about that secret, the secret of shifting focus to how you feel rather than how you look. Will you feel better once you’ve changed your life for the better, hell yes!!
Contact me today to start your journey!