“I’ve done every diet out there. Some have worked, some haven’t. But in the end I gain the weight back. I am an expert yo-yo dieter. How can you help me? What’s going to be different this time?”
This is a quote from a 52 year old woman that emailed me. She wanted my help but she was highly skeptical.
And she is not alone. Many many women have tried to control their weight their entire adult life.
And science has shown us two reasons why people struggle with losing weight and regaining it, over and over again.
It’s not your fault. You are not given the right information and you don’t have the right expectations.
If you look at the incredibly vast universe of research on weight loss you will find 2 recurring themes:
#1 most diets don’t work long term
#2 most people think they’re going to lose a lot more weight than they will.
The truth is, weight loss is so unsuccessful that the standard definition of “weight loss success” by both the US and UK governments is when someone loses 5-10% of their weight.1
Most people embark on a weight loss journey hoping to lose a lot more. And the reality is, they don’t. And most gain it back.2
This is terribly depressing. But one researcher has elucidated TWO big mistakes most people make. And they are that:
#1 Most people expect to lose more weight than they can and then they get discouraged when the weight loss slows down.
#2 they give up because they do not know how to maintain their new weight.1
She suggests that if people would start aiming for a realistic weight loss of 5-10%, AND when they reach their goal they enter maintenance mode rather than being demoralized and eating their way right back to the original weight.
I think this is great insight!
So, if you are embarking on a weight loss journey I suggest you aim for 10% of your body weight. If you are overweight and you weigh 150 pounds, aim for losing ONLY 15 pounds. Once you reach 135 pounds, if things slow down, enter maintenance mode.
Maintenance mode is where you, continue to eat the same amount you were when losing weight or potentially a little more, you continue to exercise, and you weigh yourself once every week or every other week.
If you see your weight creeping up, you act accordingly. It not, you get to keep the weight off AND have some freedom around your food.
Now this is a mindset issue.
Because the cool thing is that you might very well continue to lose weight (if you need to). But if you don’t, it’s okay. Because you are not trying to. See how cool that is?
Because weight loss is all a mindset game. And you know when people are playing a game and they think they’re going to lose, they usually give up.
We don’t want that.
So, if you are trying to lose weight and you reach a plateau, remember that it may be that right at that time, that’s all you’re going to get.
And if you are short of your goal, rather than being disappointed, congratulate yourself on how far you have come and appreciate all the benefits you have gained. And then, rather than giving up, enter maintenance mode.
Maintain the new weight! Learn how to do that. And then maybe after a month or two or more, you will be an expert at staying at that weight.
And maybe you’ll start to see some weight coming off again more gradually.
But even if you don’t, even if you only lost 10% of your original weight, that would be an accomplishment.
That would be way, way, way, better than losing weight, plateauing, getting discouraged, giving up, and gaining it back again!
Especially because often people GAIN back more than they lost!!
So, be realistic with your goal-setting. You can always change it if you are wildly successful. And learn how to maintain your weight.
Then you will not have to go through that yo-yo cycle ever again!!
1. A new cognitive behavioural approach to the treatment of obesity . https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0005796700000656?via%3Dihub
2. Testing a new cognitive behavioural treatment for obesity: A randomized controlled trial with three-year follow-up . https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2923743/