Science and Sensibility

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No-Diet Weight Loss

Lose fat without dieting

As many as 70 to 90 percent of those who lose weight, gain back more within a year or two. If you want to count yourself among those who get off this frustrating weight cycling treadmill, try the no-diet plan.  Choose your own diet and include ideas from this healthy eating series. I'll help with the psychological part.

The no-diet plan is simple. Given the amount of exercising that you do, you figure out what you'll need to eat to maintain your ideal weight. Eventually you level off where you want to be. Once you've developed this new habit, it's easier to stay at your right weight level. However, vigilance is critical. Shedding extra pounds is rarely easy. Keeping it off is the bigger challenge.The more primitive regions of your brain have a magnetizing tendency to default back to old habits of consumption. How do you start on the right weight-loss track?

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Suppose you are a 5' 5" tall, forty-year-old woman who weighs 150 pounds who does moderate daily exercise. It takes about 2100 calories a day to maintain your weight at 150 pounds. It takes about 1919 calories a day to stay around 125 pounds.  By starting now and taking in roughly 1919 calories a day, you'll gradually level off at your goal weight. Sometimes this change involves a simple omission. If you daily eat two slices of enriched bread with a tasty spread, cut this from your diet and you may lose a pound in 15 days. This rate of loss will level off by the time you meet--and sustain--your desired weight.

You are a 40-year-old 5'10" tall male who does light exercise. You weigh 190 pounds. You find that 170 is a healthy weight for you.  On a calorie calculator, type 170 for both your current and goal weight. Input your age, height, and physical activity level.  Here is a free calorie calculator: http://caloriecount.about.com/cc/calories-goal.php You'll find that it will take about 2320 calories a day to maintain your weight at 170 pounds.

You'll initially take longer to meet your goal weight with the no-diet plan. However, reaching and maintaining your goal weight reduces your risk of cycling through diets and regaining weight. You will also have developed new eating habits by the time you reach your goal, and you are less likely to revert back to your old weight-gaining ways. (Note: I first published the no-diet plan in Change Your Life Now, John Wiley 1994, and later in The Procrastination Workbook, New Harbinger, 2002. You'll find an extensive discussion of the no-diet plan in both books.)

Like most personal change strategies, a no-diet approach has limitations.  Weight loss efforts rarely follow a smooth calorie-counting path.  Along the way, your natural eating urges and cravings will get in the way. It may even seem like reason shuts down when you're consuming tasty food. You'll deceive yourself into thinking that an eating binge is a one-time event, so you need do nothing to change.  That's rarely the case. Old dysfunctional eating habits tend to keep coming back. You pass that bowl of chips, take a few extra, then circle back for more. As you repeat this snacking pattern, instead of losing weight, you gain. So, how do you get off this treadmill and onto a healthy eating track?

Your Process Goals

Setting weight-loss-goals and executing the necessary planned actions are critical to achieving positive results.  Here are four questions about your goal:  (1) Is my weight loss goal reasonable for me to achieve? (2) Have I a way to measure my progress? (3) Can I objectively achieve the result I seek? (4) What foods are healthy and enjoyable for me to eat that will help make my new eating routine pleasurable? You fill in the blanks.

We often set endpoint goals of, say, losing 15 pounds by a certain date.  However, goals without plans are like beached boats.  If you want to lose weight and keep it off, keep your eyes on the process for attaining the goal.

A process is a series of procedures, functions, and actions geared to produce a predictable result. In short, your plan is for what you do to lose weight and keep it off. The chances are that yo will have to tinker with your plan. Few plans are perfect from the start. Most evolve through trial and error, insight, and experience.

You can break a process down into separate goals.  Weighing yourself weekly is a process goal.  Making a public announcement about your weight-loss intent is a process goal. Adding or deleting a food from your diet is a process goal. These goals provide a scaffold for a plan.

As a byproduct of meeting process goals, the dial on your scale goes down.

Prepare yourself to avoid procrastination or backsliding. This is a major psychological hurdle that practically everyone who diets encounters. It's easy to rest on your laurels as you gradually regain weight. Procrastination comes easy. Before you know it, your weight is out of control again. To combat procrastination, I've got you covered. See: Stop Fooling Yourself about Weight Loss

Beyond the visible benefits of having a slimmer appearance, making healthy life style change in your eating habits has a big added value. You reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease and Type II diabetes.  Stabilizing and nutritionally balancing your diet is a useful remedy for depression. (See The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Depression and The Tomato Effect.)

(c) Dr. Bill Knaus

 

 

Bill Knaus, Ed.D., is the author of more than 20 books; one, "Overcoming Procrastination", was co-authored with Albert Ellis.

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