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Four Positive Evidence-Based Steps Towards Weight Loss

Ditch the static schedule.

Key points

  • Ditch the restrictions.
  • Focus on recovery.
  • Consider a procedure, surgery, or medical intervention.

The CDC recently reported that almost half of Americans were on a diet at one time or another in the last 12 months.Few of them are reaching their goals, with even less sustaining them. Why is that? Why do mainstream weight loss plans fail so many well-intentioned people?

Weight-loss physicians and researchers have studied the phenomenon of diet attrition and identified the ways through. Here are four things you can do to make weight loss plans work for you and reach your healthy weight loss goals.

First, ditch the static schedule. The majority of marketed “diets” or exercise programs are presented as a schedule with tasks on this day and that day, to be completed and checked off. Because our lives are fluid and individualized, we inevitably miss a day or get off-track, which leads to quitting. For example, when we miss our Wednesday because our child got sick or we worked late, we find ourselves backed up on Thursday. Then our tasks pile up while our life influences persist. Shortly thereafter, we chuck the whole plan with the intention to start another day.

Instead, consider a "No Restart" principle. Pick any diet and or exercise program you want, but superimpose a No Restart rule. It means that when you get off track, you don't quit, you simply come back when you are ready at exactly the point where you left off. Treat it like you are a collector of coins. If a few days went by during which you could not add to your coin collection, you wouldn’t throw away everything you collected and start over. You would come back to where you left off when life allowed. The same is true with weight loss plans. Come back in where you left off so you have something at the end of a given time period vs. nothing because you quit. You’re much more likely to succeed when you progress from this new point, vs. the same starting point every few weeks.

Second, ditch the restriction. Early calorie restriction sets off a variety of survival-based resistances from the body, including hunger hormone spikes, metabolism slows, inflammation, anxiety, food-seeking behaviors, and more. To change your body, you must provide the right nutrients. Supplement early on and exercise. Don't restrict. Staying full leads to longer times on the program, a change in your exercise capacity, and more tools to succeed in the long run.

Third, focus on recovery. Many of the would-be dieters that "start on Monday" and try to white-knuckle through to the end find themselves quitting. This approach is like planning to climb a mountain and sprinting the whole way. It won't work. In the mountain analogy, you have to stop and acclimate to the altitude, stop and rest to eat and recharge to make it to the top of the mountain. The same is true for weight loss: if you are going to reach your goal, you have to focus on the "in-between days." Those are the days when your body is recharging, refueling, and restructuring to stay the course. Instead of a straight sprint until you run out of energy, double down on active and passive recovery strategies between diet and exercise tasks, such as massage, meditation, and mindfulness.

Finally–and this isn’t for everyone–consider a procedure, surgery, or medical intervention. In 2021, the FDA approved a weight loss medication for appropriate patients. Minimally invasive procedures such as bariatric artery embolization, duodenal sleeves, or cryo vagotomies are gaining traction and popularity because they can change patients’ lives. In selected populations, bariatric surgeries have even led to the reversal of associated diseases like hypertension and diabetes. For the right candidates, there are effective available interventions.

Instead of thinking of your diet or exercise plan abandonment as a failure, consider it an opportunity. It may be the plan itself that’s causing you to quit. Now is the time to employ evidence-based principles to your weight loss goal, and get somewhere.

References

the CDC reported that almost half of Americans were on a diet at one time or another during the previous 12 months, and precious few are reaching their goals – with even less sustaining them https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db313.pdf

biases, depression, and outright shaming https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1038/oby.2001.108

despite billions of dollars spent by consumers chasing the dream https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/index.html

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