If you’re struggling with your weight, think back to how you put on the extra pounds. Actually, think about “when” you gained them. Was it a slow a steady gain, or a periodic jump? Did it correspond with a certain time of the year? Was it mostly a side effect of the holidays? Your birthday? Vacations? Tax season (for accountants), or exam time (for students)?
In some cases, the individual’s weight is stable 95% of the time, and it is only during 2 or 3 weeks per year that the weight is gained. That means that this person can maintain their weight, most of the time. It also means that there is a pattern of excess consumption (or to be more exact, “energy imbalance” or “energy surplus”) during certain brief periods. Unfortunately, since there is no equal and opposite period of weight loss, the weight gradually increases over time. Often, the gain is so gradual as to be almost imperceptible. Especially among young and healthy individuals, it is possible to gain quite a lot of weight before any serious consequences are felt. Without any sort of negative feedback resulting from progressive small gains, there is nothing to stop the pattern from continuing.
What is the difference between maintaining a weight of 150 pounds and maintaining 160, or 180, or 200? For a woman, the energy requirement at 200 is about 200 to 300 calories per day more than at 150. That means that as the 50 extra pounds was gained, the person could eat 200 – 300 calories more and stabilize at the new weight. It also means that if they were to reduce their intake by the same number of calories that they would lose about 35 pounds in the next 5 years. By cutting outr 250 calories per day, with no change in physical activity, the person would lose 10 pounds the first year, 9 pounds the second, 6.5 the third, 5.5 the fourth, and 4.3 the fifth. Notice the decelerating rate of weight loss given the same intake, due to the reduction in metabolic rate due to the weight loss. Now if we add in an increasing amount of activity year to year, we can increase the weight loss, so that it is realistic to expect to lose the 50 extra pounds in 5 years.
Now, we know that most people reading this will have the predictable reaction, “5 years, that’s so long!!” They want to lose 50 pounds this year. But step back for a second and ask yourself how you would feel to be 50 pounds lighter 5 years from now? Great, right? On the other hand, how would you feel if you lost 50 pounds this year, regained it in the following 3 years, and then had to do it again in year 5? Not so great. This is certainly not to say that one “should” or “must” take 5 years to lose 50 pounds. It is often possible to decrease intake more than 250 calories per day, and who knows what the upper limit on physical activity is. It will take as long as it takes, and the ONLY thing that matters is that habits are improving, well-being is increasing, and the weight is moving in the right direction.
One of our patients is a 73-year-old woman who started at a weight of 184 pounds, hoping to lose about 35. She was somewhat active, but partly constrained by certain physical problems. Bad eating habits included snacking at night, a general tendency to eat “mindlessly,” and eating in response to stress and negative emotions. Over the course of a few months, she made excellent progress in changing her habits, and was feeling better, even though she had only lost 7 pounds. She had a hard time seeing the positive in all this, thinking she was “failing,” because she wasn’t losing “fast enough.” She needed help to keep shifting towards a more positive view of the process, to be able to see and value the progress she was making. At some point, she wondered if she needed to see a psychiatrist and to go through a full psychoanalysis to understand herself better. In the next breath she said that she really did already know why she was so self-critical and realized that she was better off working on practicing her new habits and giving herself a little more credit.
Whether you lose 7, 17, 27, or 37 pounds in the next 3 months, it’s important to acknowledge the progress you’re making, and to build on it. Whether you sprint to your goal weight, or stroll there in a more leisurely manner, it’s fantastic! Just keep moving forward!!
Zero Excuse GO is a comprehensive approach to weight control that can help you understand the causes of your weight struggle and to develop effective strategies to achieve your health and lifestyle goals. Our program combines an expert multidisciplinary team with innovative technology that keeps us connected daily, so we can help you be your best self. If you’re looking for the optimal help and support throughout your weight loss journey, do not hesitate to contact us at Zero Excuse GO.