“You cannot exercise your way out of a bad diet.”
Are You Ready To Commit?
Are you ready to drop nagging weight that has been haunting you for weeks, months, or even years? Do you know the first step in developing a weight loss plan? Today I want to share with you the “Yeti Path to Weight Loss.” It is a plan that I created for myself while embarking on my own weight loss journey. It takes into account the bio-psycho-social nature of change, and honors whatever level of commitment you are ready for today. The only decision you have to make right now is, “Yes!”
New Year’s is just around the corner, a time when everyone gets on the weight loss bandwagon. Make your decision today! In fact, why not get a head start!? I do not believe in setting a future start date for change. How ridiculous! Your transformation starts today, right now in this very moment.
Stepping Off My Destructive Path
The following weight loss plan is based on my personal experience, both as someone who has lost significant weight since revamping my lifestyle, and as a clinician working with clients seeking change. I have a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology, and have worked almost twenty years in community mental health and addictions with a clinical focus on behavioral medicine. I am not a dietitian or personal trainer, both excellent choices to round off your weight management strategy.
Before I jump into the specifics, allow me to provide you a personal history. In my mid-thirties, for various reasons, none that by themselves cause a problem, but cumulatively add up to a dangerous cocktail, I stopped all physical activity and piled on the weight.
My diet shifted to drive through fast food and more pizza binge evenings than I would like to admit. By my early 40s, I was almost 300 pounds. One day I saw a picture of myself taken at my partner’s birthday party. I had no idea that I had gained so much weight; the denial was over!
That day, was the first day of the rest of my life. That day I hit my lifestyle reset button. I have never looked back.
You cannot exercise your way out of a bad diet. The good news is that even the smallest changes to diet will show significant results. Following are changes to consider:
- Eating habits – Adopt a mindful approach to how you eat. Slow down and enjoy your food. When you eat on the run, you tend to consume more calories. Eat with the intention of fully experiencing what you are putting in your mouth.
- What you eat – If your goal caloric intake per day is 1800 calories, those calories must be nutritious. In other words, if you eat 1800 calories of table sugar, your body treats that differently than if you eat 1800 calories of unrefined whole grains (complex carbohydrates). Various foods trigger different hormonal responses, some that promote excess storage of energy into fat (insulin). The message? Eat a balanced diet with a variety of foods; it is not a simple matter calories, but the specific nutrients you are consuming.
- Portion size – One way to control spikes in insulin is to eat several small (micro) meals a day, spread throughout the day. Starving yourself until dinner leads to more calories than you body can process at that given time, and thus your body attempts to store those calories. Spreading out your calories also assures mental acuity and increased energy, energy that you will need to exercise.
I believe that the key to weight loss is in your diet. The key to weight maintenance rests in physical activity. Thus, it is true, “Diet is king!”
But, does this mean that exercise has no place in a weight loss plan? No! The magic of increasing physical activity from your baseline is that weight will come off faster, and you will be able to keep it off. Exercise helps you avoid the weight yo-yo. Add exercise and you will no longer have to experience sharp increases and decreases in weight. With exercise you will be able to keep it off, permanently!
When you first start engaging in physical activity, the benefits are quite apparent. Putting your body in motion increases mental acuity, makes you feel more energized, and can improve muscle tone and mass, thus, increasing your metabolic rate. However, your body quickly adapts to new activity levels and the changes level off over time. As your activity level changes, following are items to consider:
- Adaptation – Allow your body to get accustomed to increased activity level. Aches and pains are normal. Injury is not. It takes months for your body to fully adapt. With each passing week, you will notice an increase in strength. Your tendons and bones are getting stronger, your cardiovascular system is becoming more efficient, and your body is learning to burn stored fat. But again, this all requires time.
- Frequency – Start with exercising three times a week, even if you are exercising ten minutes for each session. Slowly build the amount of time you are exercising during each session, along with the number of days. In general, only increase your week-to-week activity by 10%. This is the runner’s rule for distance, and it works regardless of the activity you are engaged in. Avoid fad workout plans that require you to engage in activity every day. You will know when you are ready to move from three days of activity, to four, and so forth.
- Effort – Your perceived effort should balance between feeling more challenging than the last, but not so challenging that you cannot complete the task. In other words, feel like you are pushing yourself, but not beyond what is sustainable. With that said, it is important to also enjoy the activity that you are engaging in. Sometimes that long walk can be a stroll. Even a long stroll is better than sitting down in front of the television all evening.
Self-concept takes a hit as we struggle with weight. We learn over time that the goal is to not avoid being fat, but instead to be healthy. However, years of struggle can leave us feeling like we don’t, and cannot, match up. Consider the following as you evaluate the intra-personal aspects of transformation.
- Head space – A mind consumed with a negative focus, is a mind that requires much more healing than your diet. Once we realize that, “It is not all about me,” we understand that everyone is struggling. Everyone is trying to find their way through the chaos in life. Everyone has doubt. However, doubt does not translate into self-hate. Understand your head space, and there is no turning back.
- Emotions – Food is dopamine. Well, not literally, but food, some more than others, cause a “dopamine hit” when you eat. Dopamine makes you feel calm and provides a sense that “everything is going to be okay.” However, turning to food to sooth complicated emotional states is the source of obesity for many people. Be aware of your intention around food; is food your tool to cope?
- Commitment – There will be many times on your path that you question the reason for making change. I encourage everyone to question their intention. However, have a prepared answer for yourself. It is not a time to argue. You are on your path and have committed to it. Know why today, and make it your mantra.
Biology Is Your Roadblock
Biology is a bitch! That’s right, the facts are that weight loss, when you are young, is a snap. Folks in their twenties usually just have to think “weight loss,” tweak a few habits here and there, and watch the bulges melt away. As we age, metabolism changes significantly. The amount of both time and effort required to shed those extra pounds increases. Discouraging? Yes…but only if you are not up to the challenge!
Second, no matter what plan you use to drop weight, you will notice that weight comes off slower as you become more fit. Doesn’t make sense? Think about it this way – As you drop weight, not only are you moving around less mass, your resting heart rate decreases. Your cardiovascular system becomes more efficient! This means that if you do not increase your efforts as you get into better shape, you will experience a plateau. For some, this is quite discouraging. For others, it simply means that you have to set new challenges to reach your weight loss goal.
You have embarked on a transformation, not for a day, a month or even a year. You have embarked on a lifestyle transformation that you will carry with you until your last day. Embrace the lifestyle concept, and you will feel less betrayed by the natural changes your body goes through as we age.
- Planning: This is the start to your lifestyle transformation, a transformation that requires setting effective short-term and long-term goals. Your transformation starts RIGHT NOW! The changes you are making today will be changes that you can sustain for the rest of your life. Your journey will be long, but fruitful. I suggest that you start by learning about goal setting, the SMART way. Check out my podcast on how to set-up your first SMART diet and exercise goals. It works!
- Track Your Progress: I recommend that you know exactly what calories and macro-nutrients you are putting into your body every day. Know how much activity you are engaging in. Record it! There are many tracking methods out there. I suggest you simply track, even if it is on paper. If you are tech oriented, use a tool like, MyFitnessPal. Those that track intake consume less.
- Consider a Plant-Based Diet: At Svelte Yeti, we promote the adoption of a plant-based diet for your own health, and the health of the plant. We also believe that any amount of change you make in this regard is a positive contribution. Thus, if you find the idea of going completely plant-based (vegan) difficult, start by deciding if you can do a “Meatless Monday.” Also check out my article on transitioning to a vegan diet.
- Practice Stimulus Control: Behaviourism is the study of how our actions both contribute and predict outcomes (in this case weigh change.) Practice controlling the stimuli that you engage with. In short, this is simply the skill of not putting yourself in a situation where you will not be able to say, “no”.
- Get Support: Engage with your supports. You are strong, but we all need affirmation along the way. There is no need to make this life journey on your own.
At core, we all want change, or support to sustain the changes we have already made. I hope the above path to weight loss suggestions will help you get started. Feel free to contact us with any questions you may have (email@example.com) or drop us a note through our contact page. Better yet, we have an amazing supportive community at Svelte Yeti. Feel free to leave a comment below.