If you’re one of the many Americans trying to lose weight, you know it’s hard.
The math seems so simple: Expend more calories than you eat and off come the pounds. But it doesn’t always work that way. When it does, the next challenge is keeping those pesky pounds off. Seems that more often than not they find their way back to you.
The process is rather complicated. First of all, the less you weigh, the fewer calories you require. This means that once you’ve lost 10 pounds, you’ll likely gain weight if you go back to eating the same amount you did before this loss,
Next, your metabolism shifts in a way that is not helpful. To sustain your new weight, you have to eat less than someone who’s been that weight their whole life.
Finally, as you lose weight, your appetite increases, a gain that can last for up to a year.
The weight loss equation is a bit longer. Food and fitness, the physical factor, add up to about 16% of your long-term success. A number of factors make up the balance and help you maximize your quality of life for years.
Weight loss and overall health are affected by:
- How connected you feel to others and your ability to be authentic in your relationships
- Whether you have a sense of purpose to your life and work
- Your ability to express varied emotions in a way that is appropriate
- Being alert, competent, focused and able to solve problems
- Living in an environment that is safe and contributes to your well-being.
That's what makes losing weight about more than just what you eat. But when you positively affect one dimension of your overall health, everything else adjusts accordingly.
For example, you may have an extremely stressful and demanding job. The long hours cause you to be away from your family (hard on relationships); you often eat on the go and rarely remember what you ate for lunch or whether you even ate lunch (poor nutrition); and are no longer fulfilled (sense of purpose). Perhaps having a meal service a few times a week for lunch could help improve nutrition and mental acuity. This could then lead to enhanced productivity and a slightly shortened workday. Scheduling family time on the weekends would help ease relationship tension. Thoughtful consideration about a career move or helping a service organization once a month would help fulfill your purpose. These steps may seem small, yet over time, they can lead to a happier, more peaceful life that promotes lasting weight loss.
Other challenges include hormonal imbalances, pain when exercising, lack of restful sleep, side effects from medications, caring for others and more.
Losing weight and finding your definition of health is highly individual. This is the reason the same eating plan and exercise program doesn't work for everyone. These same factors may be applied to those individuals who are underweight and feeling frustrated with their results.
Creating a plan
Now that you have the scoop on weight loss, you are better equipped to figure out a plan. First, take a look at the entire picture. If an area besides food and exercise stands out to you, come up with one small change you could incorporate that is easy.
Rather than restricting foods (which is not fun), consider adding more of the foods that are nutritious and sustain health. For example, you could begin by making sure you are eating some lean protein (meat, chicken, fish, legumes, eggs, etc.) at every meal or adding an extra vegetable. As you consume more whole foods, you will need less processed foods. This doesn’t mean that you can never have a burger and fries, it simply helps you focus more on healthier options. This mindset will help you create a lifestyle that increases the odds of you reaching and keeping your long-term goals easily.
Besides, overall calorie intake declines when you reduce the amount of highly processed foods in your diet. Minimally processed foods — fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meat — are more satisfying. So, when you eat whole foods, you get full on fewer calories and don’t feel deprived.
The best part is that you don’t have to do this perfectly. Any level of consistency will help bring about positive results.
Carol Slager is a licensed pharmacist, author, blogger and health coach in Northwest Indiana. Follow her monthly in Get Healthy and at inkwellcoaching.com. Opinions expressed are the writer's.