What this article covers:
- Do we have a weight loss problem
- How to stop the yo-yo diet cycle
- Why being able to maintain weight is the most important factor
- Finding your why, and what that looks like
Today, we are in the midst of an obesity epidemic that has been getting increasingly more prevalent across the western world.
What is the issue here, and why, despite many people’s best efforts to lose weight, do populations as a whole seem to be getting fatter?
The key, probably, is realizing that for the most part we don’t have a weight loss problem, what we definitely do appear to have, is a weight maintenance problem.
Diets work, we see people losing weight and improving in their specific goals successfully all the time from the vast array of dieting and training methods available today. We also see an overall upwards trend in obesity despite this year on year – so what’s going wrong here?
Whilst weight loss is often seen, we don’t often see those people successfully keeping that weight off for long periods of time afterwards, or managing to stabilize their weight at a defined point.
What tends to happen is a swift return back to the original pre-diet weight, if not greater as there has been no improvement in education or habits during the dieting process. Over time this lose-gain (yo-yo) cycle steadily spirals upwards, resulting in overall weight gain, despite repeated dieting.
Why is this?
The ability to maintain your weight, strength, mobility etc. is a massively undervalued skill in the current environment of weight loss. With all of the focus being shifted towards the constant pressure to diet and lose weight, what we tend to see is the rise of the yo-yo dieter, following the same cycle time and time again in a vain attempt to lose weight for good.
Yes, progress is great and we should strive to improve when we can, but there is a lot to be said for the ability to relax and maintain what you have gained. This ability will originate from building solid positive habits during or before your periods of dieting, to enable you to maintain the resulting effects.
The aim should be to achieve relatively effortless maintenance, where we don’t have to worry or think about what we’re eating all the time and whether we’ve trained enough this week. We want to get to the point where we are comfortable with our habits and they naturally support your health and ability to maintain your current position.
If we have the ability to maintain at will, the process of losing or gaining weight becomes significantly easier to control.
Because, if we are really comfortable in maintenance, we don’t have to make drastic changes from our norm to achieve change, and we can more easily identify the areas of life that we can easily manipulate to effect the result we want.
When most people decide to embark on change, it often involves a complete lifestyle overhaul, which entails a huge change from their baseline, resulting in a large challenge to willpower and often leads to significant stress. Whilst this may have a net positive effect in the short term, after a few weeks of high stress, the likelihood is to burnout and gives up.
In order to be successful with change, you have to be in a stable position to begin with, and have a solid foundation to build from.
No wonder we see so many people giving up and returning to their previous state, as the importance of this step is often completely overlooked.
If you are someone who has struggled with weight in the past, and keeps trying and failing, it might be worth taking a breath before you rush into the next fad diet and ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I understand how to maintain my current position weight wise?
- Can I maintain my weight for the next 4 weeks without stressing over what i’m eating and drinking every day?
- Am I happy being this weight/size and if not, why not?
If you answer no to questions 1 and/or 2, you are probably not ready to think about trying to lose weight and need to take time to understand how to maintain your current position first, or at the very least, identify the areas of your diet/lifestyle that are holding you back.
If you are happy with your current weight/size, then ask yourself why you are thinking of dieting, ask this a few time’s until you get to the real reason – it’s unlikely to work if you aren’t doing it because YOU want to.
Often people start to try and lose weight as a result of being advised by their GP/ healthcare professional that this is what is needed to avoid health problems in later life.
I’m sure most people reading this are aware of the health risks and co-morbidities associated with being overweight and obese (stroke, diabetes, joint issues, cardiovascular issues to name a few), but translating what that means for you can often be a challenge, as its hard to imagine what that means for your future.
This disconnect often makes it challenging to stick with the dieting process, because it’s difficult, and at present you probably don’t feel any of the negative effects that you have been warned about.
This is where looking at relatable negative outcomes can be useful, maybe it means not being able to play with your kids/grandkids, to walk the dog every day or climb the stairs when you’re older. It might mean having hip and knee replacements or worse.
Losing weight and improving your fitness will help with all of these negatives in the long run. But you need to identify the thing that motivates you the most.
Whatever the reason, identifying your why, will help.
Having people around you to support you and provide good, evidence backed advice can also be a game-changer in the long run.
If you need help and advice, just ask – I can point you in the right direction!