With just several days to go until the end of the year, many of us will be compiling our New Year resolutions soon. As always, weight loss is bound to be one of the most popular ones.
However, it is a well-known fact that most people will ditch their diet before the end of January, only to repeat the pattern again next December.
Why does this happen, again and again, year after year?
I don’t want to write yet another version of a perennial New Year article like “Top 10 Weight Loss Mistakes” and “How to Stick to Your Diet Resolutions” – every magazine, newspaper and blog will be writing about this over the next week. Instead, I will focus on just one factor which I believe is the worst enemy of weight loss – or indeed, of any lasting life change you might be dreaming about.
The biggest obstacle to change is unrealistic expectations
I think the reason most people will give up by the end of January is because they expect too much too soon. We are all far too used to instant gratification. Rich food and lying on a sofa provide instant gratification, whereas diet and exercise do not – it will take months of sustained, regular effort before you see any differences in your body composition.
When stuffing your face with food over Christmas, it is easy to fantasise about January, and how you will knuckle down, go on a strict diet, exercise six times a week, and will soon end up looking fantastic. The reality is, it will be very hard. You will need to keep going for weeks and even months, possibly without any encouraging signs. You will have to find the willpower and determination to keep going anyway.
Change happens in small steps over a long period of time
The best metaphor I can offer for this process is growing plants (if you never tried to garden, this won’t make any sense to you, sorry). Growing a big plant, for example, tomato or cucumber, from seed is the most amazing process.
At first, nothing happens for several weeks. Then you can see two tiny leaves on a small stalk. And then every day, the plant grows and grows – by the end of the summer, it becomes a huge bush with hundreds of leaves and eventually bears fruit. You won’t be able to spot the differences from one day to another, but the overall transformation from two small leaves into a mighty strong plant will be happening continuously – until it gets there.
Setting realistic weight loss goals
Weight loss is also a long process that happens over time. The standard recommended rate of weight loss is about 1 pound a week. Any weight loss faster than that is likely to be unhealthy and unsustainable (unless you are extremely overweight, in which case you could have a faster weight loss rate initially).
It is also likely that weight loss process won’t be linear – so you might lose two pounds one week and none in the next, or even gain some and then lose some.
The less weight you have to lose, the harder it will become. For the last stone or so away from your ideal weight, you will have to fight for every pound!
Low-carb diets can provide faster results
One of the benefits of going low-carb is that weight loss can be achieved faster than on low-fat or calorie-restricted diets. After the initial hard-core stages of some plans, such as Atkins Induction or Dukan Attack, you are likely to achieve several pounds weight loss in the first week – and some people report losing significantly more.
Although most of this weight loss at the initial stage is water weight rather than actual fat, it does provide the much-needed boost and encouragement to keep going.
Keep going until you get there
Here are some further tips on how to keep going until you get there.
- Define your goals precisely. Rather than vaguely saying that you want to be thinner, decide exactly how much weight you would like to lose and when by.
- Be realistic about the rate of weight loss. For example, if you would like to lose two stones, you will need at least 6 months to get there.
- Decide exactly how you are going to get there – choose a diet and exercise plan and do your best to stick to it. You will be more likely to succeed if you know exactly what you should be doing on a daily basis. If you “fall off the wagon”, just get back with the plan as soon as possible.
- Don’t weigh yourself every day – do it once every week or every two weeks. Watch out for other signs of progress, such as clothes fitting looser.
- Keep a food and exercise diary and record all changes such as any weight lost or gained.
- Believe in yourself and try to stay motivated!
Remember – there are no miracles. Change is possible but it won’t happen overnight, and it won’t be easy. The only way to get there is through hard work and determination.