OK, I know I trot this statistic out a lot, but apparently I have not said it enough for some of my readers:
Of people who have lost weight via dieting, only 3% will maintain that new weight for longer than one year. 97 out of 100 people gain back what they lose, often with extra.
So, as a coach who helps many people with weight loss, I spend a lot of time reading studies on the 3% who ARE successful. It helps that I myself am one of the 3% and understand just what it takes from my own personal experience. In this post I will share with you some of the “secrets” of the 3% who succeed:
One of the reasons I believe people gain the weight back is that they lose it too quickly. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, your body is designed to see rapid weight loss as a survival emergency. Your thyroid will dial your metabolism WAY back to conserve energy. You often become tired, lethargic, you exercise less, you MOVE less. All the while, your brain is in overdrive encouraging and pushing you to eat more, to crave more, to give in to your rumbly tummy, and faced with the buffet of calories we face each day, to eat, eat, eat.
When I lost 70lbs for the very last time, I did it fairly slowly. It took me a year to lose the first 50, at a rate of less than 1 lb per week, and the next full year to lose the final 20! The third year was the most intense of all, as I struggled the most with the factors I mention above. I had to focus harder than ever before to learn to keep my balance.
But when most people start a diet, they want it off FAST! They have lived with their creeping overweight by denying it for years, but when the curtain of reality is ripped back, they cannot WAIT to jettison their fat asap. Thus begin the calculations: ”OK, I have a wedding in 5 weeks and I need to lose 20 lbs, so if I can just lose 4 lbs each week, I will be fine”. Of course to lose 4 lbs per week you need to generate a 2000 calorie deficit per day and if that doesn’t start ringing your body’s alarm bells, I don’t know what will!
That’s an extreme, but true example. Most people come to me wanting to lose 1-2 lbs per week (.5-1kg roughly). STILL, in order to do that, you need to generate either a 500 calorie deficit each day to lose the .5kg, or a 1000 calorie deficit per day to lose the 1kg per week. I still hear alarm bells clanging my body’s homeostasis. That’s a lot of calories to cut and requires you to be in caloric deficit EVERY day – no days off, no special occasions.
In the last month I have received 2 letters from former clients, thanking me for teaching them to live healthier lives, and in both cases, the women reported having lost 10 lbs over the course of the past year “without even really trying.”
Did you realize that if one were to just cut 100 calories from their maintenance level, each day, either by eating one less snack, one less slice of bread, a few less spoonfuls of ice cream, soda or alcohol, OR by burning just 100 calories through a daily walk or a restful yoga class, one would lose 10 lbs in one year! That’s all it would take!
When I work with a client, we make tiny changes each week. So tiny that we are both certain they can be accomplished. Things like, take a 20 minute walk every day. Or swap one apple for one candy bar. The clients who succeed in this approach stick with their small changes and have the big picture vision to understand that, over time, it is these small changes that will create major shifts.
But every once in awhile I get a client who says “No, that’s not enough. That will never work for me. My body is so messed up that I have to make DRASTIC steps like going from zero exercise to 2 hours in the gym everyday. And 1500 calories?? I can’t lose unless I keep my intake at 1000.”
Yet, 97% of the time, these changes are so big and so hard that the client will abandon them within a few weeks, (or never even get them started in the first place!)
And most often, without even realizing it, they eat a surplus of just those same 100 calories per day, and in reverse, instead of losing 10 lbs that year, they GAIN it. Then I hear ”I gained 10 lbs last year and I barely eat anything! I swear, I don’t eat half of what my friends eat and I just keep gaining!”
That’s right. You ate only 100 calories more than your friend did each day. That’s one candy bar instead of an apple, that’s one soda instead of a glass of water, that’s one daily walk you didn’t take…
Small changes, done every day, lead to big differences over time.
But remember that this theory works in both directions!
Don’t be in such a pants-on-fire hurry to lose weight that you set yourself up for failure right from the start. We don’t say Slow and Steady wins the Race, for nothing!
Oh, and the TOP habit the 3% of successful maintainers usually credit their success to? Daily food logging. You can’t know how many calories you are eating – deficit or surplus – if you don’t record what you are eating.Pin It