Expert Opinion: The Most Important Ingredients for Lasting Weight Loss
In my work as a weight-loss expert, people often ask me which diet plan is the best. They’re usually surprised when I don’t have an answer. I think there are merits to most diet plans on the market today, and chances are, if you can adhere to any well-researched diet, you will lose weight.
The real challenge of weight loss, however, is not finding a good diet plan. Walk into any bookstore and you can thumb through hundreds of diet books; there’s no absence of advice in this area. The real challenge of weight loss, as any yo-yo dieter will tell you, is keeping the weight off for good.
One of my favorite writers, Leo Babauta, writes about how lifestyle change is the product of creating new habits. In his blog, Zen Habits, he narrates how he changed his health and happiness by making small changes in his habits over time.
I think the lesson applies to weight loss. So, if you think about your weight loss as a lifestyle change, instead of a temporary diet, you begin to realize that the keys to lasting weight loss are routine and discipline. Here’s why.
If you’re serious about losing weight, you must be willing to adhere to a structured routine. When changing your behavior, you want to eliminate unnecessary decision-making.
So as far as eating goes, it’s good to get in the habit of planning your meals in advance. (Editor’s note: We help you with this every week with our What to Eat This Week feature!). Take the time to map out a week’s worth of meals, then do one big shopping trip to gather all your ingredients. Multiple trips throughout the week not only waste time, they leave you vulnerable to unnecessary purchases.
To make your life even easier, try eating the same meals for breakfast and lunch during the workweek. You can mix it up on a week to week basis, of course, but the predictability of your set breakfasts and lunches will take a lot of the guesswork out of your daily routine. So, how to do it? Spend time on Sunday making make-ahead breakfasts or lunches. Or, simply commit to a no-brainer menu for the week like yogurt with granola for breakfast and a turkey sandwich and fruit for lunch. Doing so will leave you with fewer decisions to make, and therefore less stress. The goal is to simplify your routine as much as possible.
Exercise should be a routine as well. Ideally, you should exercise at the same time each day. It needs to be scheduled like a dentist appointment, and you have to set a rule that there is NO negotiating with yourself about changing the appointment. Period.
Once you’ve created a healthy routine, discipline is the glue that holds it together. Discipline involves doing what you know you need to do even when you don’t feel like it. This means that you go to the gym even when it’s pouring rain, and you pack your lunch the night before work even though there are a hundred other things you’d rather be doing.
For me, I find that I’m most disciplined when I get into a routine of taking regular fitness classes. I own a beautiful rowing machine but I rarely use it because I’m not disciplined enough to exercise when I’m alone. Put me in a CrossFit, spinning or yoga class, however, and suddenly I feel motivated to do my best.
Some people find that a personal trainer helps them to stay disciplined. Or, if it helps you stay accountable, you could announce your weight-loss plans on social media or register for a race. Some fitness studios, such as Flywheel, incentivize their members to stick with their plans by instituting a no-show charge if they do not attend a class they registered for. There are also apps where you can earn or lose money — that’s right: cold hard cash — for sticking to (or not) your gym plans.
Everybody’s different, so you should take some time to think about what would help you stay disciplined, then use that carrot to keep your goals — and routine — front and center.
The end goal here, of course, is happiness, and happiness is the result of having a healthy mind and body. Making a daily commitment to your health will help you to lead a happier and more energetic life.
Lauren Napolitano, Psy.D., is a licensed psychologist on staff at Bryn Mawr Hospital and in private practice in Bryn Mawr, PA. To learn more about her practice, go here.
Like what you’re reading? Stay in touch with Be Well Philly—here’s how:
- Like Be Well Philly on Facebook
- Follow Be Well Philly on Twitter
- Follow Be Well Philly on Pinterest
- Get the Be Well Philly Newsletter