Why Losing Weight Is So Hard

Why losing weight can feel like a never-ending battle.

Posted Mar 29, 2010

First, the good news: The CDC found this year that the record high weight gain among Americans is finally tapering off. But don't delve into a pint of ice cream to celebrate just yet. The report also states that two-thirds of Americans are still overweight to obese.

Yup, we may not be gaining, but the battle to lose weight is as hard as ever.

Even though the secret to losing weight is straightforward and tried-and-true (exercise more, lower your caloric intake by at least 500 calories a week), the real challenge comes from figuring out how to permanently change your behavior so these two antidotes become habit.

Thomas Goetz, the executive editor at Wired magazine and author of the new book, The Decision Tree, may have an answer. Group dynamics have a lot to do with changing behavior, says Goetz. So does keeping a food diary or log. Both work really well because it allows people to track their own behavior. This, over time, can turn into a new habit. So why is it still so hard? Goetz argues that it's that extra effort, to pick up a pen and paper after each meal, for example, that's harder to do. "It requires two levels of compliance: first, a commitment to behave differently, and then a further commitment to track and monitor our behavior. This extra step," argues Goetz, "is, for most people, just enough of an obstacle to make feedback difficult to obtain."

It's refreshing to think that it's not the cravings or feelings of deprivation that is at the root of thwarted diets, but, rather, a problem with getting to a fitness class or writing down your caloric intake.

Goetz goes onto to say that it's the Internet that can help (he is an editor at Wired, after all). We've gotten used to Facebook, Twitter, and phone texting. So why not use those support systems to also change our eating and exercise behaviors too? Some companies are already working on this. The phenomenally successful Nike+ system, for example, allows runners to log and share info about fitness online.

Goetz also says it apparently works really well to keep its users on track, according to their data. Once users input five consecutive runs, they're magically more likely to have turned their whim into a habit.

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