How to Create a Diet Plan and Lifestyle Change That is Both Sustainable and Helps you Lose Weight
The Plan: eat clean, cut out sugar, make smart food choices, lose weight. Reality: oops.
Why? What happened?
Cause and effect.
It sounds so simple. Eat less, move a little more, lose weight. But the plan to eat less, move a little more, and then lose weight is not so simple because of the amazing chemistry that allows us to turn food into energy, and the reward system of the brain that makes us want to eat to keep us alive. The system for just about all of us is broken and needs to be fixed.
If you are like most Americans, your diet has plenty of hidden sugar and probably has too many calories for how active you are.
To digest this kind of diet lots of insulin must be secreted to store what you cannot immediately use. Your body does not feel “full, sated, done, blissful, happy” until you have that insulin surge. Not only that; sugar (it can be from many sources and hidden in foods) lights up the pleasure center of the brain reinforcing the desire to have that hormonal response again.
Hijacked. Your hormones and neurotransmitters want what they want. They are powerful players in weight loss efforts. Any change in your dietary habits is alarming to your body; expect your body to resist your initial changes in your diet. In order for your plan to work, it must be a lifestyle change. Resetting these hormonal and neurotransmitter levels is hard work; losing weight on a restrictive diet that is not sustainable will cause a rebound effect; you will gain the weight back, plus more. A lifestyle change that is healthy and sustainable will allow you to get to your goals and stay there.
The road to becoming a successful loser!
There are some common themes among successful losers. They have habits and practices that they share. Adopt as many of these habits as possible to increase your chances of success.
- They make attainable weight loss goals.
- They prepare and plan for the times it might be hard to stick to their weight loss plan.
- They exercise every day. They average about 60 minutes per day.
- They track their progress. Some journal, some use apps, some use devices like pedometers or wearable fitness trackers.
- They eat real food, i.e. they don’t diet.
- They believe they can do it.
- They manipulate their environment to make it healthy (get rid of junk in the pantry, put their exercise clothes in the car for the following day after work).
Other habits adopted by Successful Losers:
- They eat breakfast daily
- They weigh themselves at least once a week. 44% weigh themselves daily.
- They limit television time to 10 hours a week.
- They maintain a consistent diet on the weekends.
- Important enough to repeat: they exercise on average 60 minutes per day. They also report adding physical activity into their daily routine. Walking a little more adds up over time!
- They track food intake. They track their progress (see above) but in the initial months, they use food journals. Some report doing this for months beyond hitting their goal weight. Additionally, they measure their food.
- They plan their meals for most days of the week.
- They set goals, both long and short term.
For more on habits of successful losers, click here.
Prepare and plan for hunger and cravings!
Since food is constantly available and cues in the form of advertisements flood our world, when you change your dietary choices and/or decrease the total number of calories ingested, there is a disconnect between your senses: you see lots of food, but are not eating enough to satisfy the hormonal and neurotransmitter triggers that you have created. It is difficult to tolerate highly motivating chemicals that trigger the desire to recreate the pleasure surging from the stimulus of ______ (fill in the blank for you: sugar, chocolate, French fries, excess calories, alcohol, etc.).
You can do this!
Losing weight (and keeping it off) is possible! It is a challenge that you should walk into with your eyes open and strategies ready. Understanding your hormones and neurotransmitters should help you deal with the cravings (see Sidebar: Hormones and Neurotransmitters. Who they are. The Players).
Your previous diet had a chemical effect on you. You can reset those levels through consistency. This means embarking on a lifestyle change that is sustainable….and it needs to be something you really want to do.
Steps to being a successful loser.
Understand the players
When the cravings start, stop. Quiet your mind. Remember who the players are in your body initiating the cravings. Understand what is going on physically; it will help you manage the cravings and hunger. You will feel hungry. Rather than trying to avoid it, listen to the hunger and try and ride it out like surfing a wave.
Later your body will like healthy choices, but for now, it will crave the extremes.
Understand the goal of the process
The goal is to reset the hormonal and neurotransmitter levels of our bodies so that the body gets used to a moderate amount of insulin and so that the pleasure centers of the brain are stimulated with the correct levels of dopamine. This will probably play out much like withdrawal symptoms: hunger, irritability, hard to concentrate, edginess, cravings, anxiety, etc. and the symptoms will taper off within a few days. Attitude at this point is key; if you know you can do it, you can.
Once lower levels of insulin and dopamine are established, leptin will join the battle: when fat cells become smaller leptin will be secreted to push you toward doing something to fill them back up. Ghrelin is going to scream that you are hungry. Leptin will make your mind feel that you are not full, even though you just ate.
Hormones are going to try and hijack our progress at every turn.
And when this happens, you are close to success. You have done all this work to get to this place of full-on rebellion and emergency in your body. There is not much more that your body can do to motivate you to quit your
resolve. If you give up now, you are going to have to go through it again. This is the worst time to give into cravings and get off track because it is the best time to make real progress toward resetting those chemical levels. Hold on to your goal; you are almost there!
In nature, time and effort activate the reward system (as opposed to chemicals like addictive drugs, alcohol or sugar). When sacrifice is involved, pleasure and rewards are truly real. There is usually difficulty, sacrifice, hard work, and time involved in reaching a goal. When we actually get there, the pleasure centers are activated the way they were meant to be; happiness is real and intense.
By understanding the process, our intelligent brain can tell our instinctive/primal brain to be quiet.
Most diets claim that you will not be hungry. Some include pills and supplements that claim to get to your goals and that they can bypass cravings and hunger and make it easy. Statistically every single one of those strategies fail.
We want you to win. We want you get to your goals. We know it is a hard process and are not going to pretend that it is easy to lose weight. But we CAN make it fun! We can provide strategies for you to re-frame hunger and cravings so that they become a process, rather than battle. And we can provide support so that you don’t go through it alone.
If you have any questions or want to talk to one of our certified trainers about your weight loss strategies and goals, give the front desk a call today and set up your appointment.