Learn how to overcome obstacles to weight loss by understanding your true diet personality. From Escape Your Shape: How to Work Out Smarter, Not Harder by Edward J. Jackowski, Ph.D.
To attain your weight-loss goals, you must first accept the fact that you can't take off those unwanted pounds, much less keep them off, without proper and regular exercise. But don't despair, once you come to terms with this, you can explore options that fit your lifestyle and motivation level. You can lose weight without starving yourself or knocking yourself out mentally and physically at the gym.
When you're trying to lose weight, it's important to understand yourself and, more important, embrace what you actually do rather than what you think you're going to do. In order to lose weight, you need a plan that includes a doable exercise routine and reasonable limitations on what you eat. Are you really ready to embrace both? If not, make an honest self-assessment. Some of you love to exercise while others hate it. Some love to eat; others have little trouble saying no to seconds or dessert. Listed below are 4 diet types I have identified based on behavior patterns I've observed in my clients. Each type is characterized by the amount of exercise they're willing to do versus their willingness to change their eating patterns in order to lose weight. Which type best describes you?
RATIONAL INDIVIDUAL. You are someone who enjoys and chooses to exercise 4 or 5 days per week on a consistent basis and you're willing to make small dietary changes in order to see weight loss.
ACCEPTING INDIVIDUAL. You are willing to work out 2 or 3 days per week, but do it only because you know it is good for you, and you watch carefully what you eat on a day-to-day basis so that you can lose weight.
EXCESSIVE INDIVIDUAL. You are willing to work out 6 or even 7 days per week, but you want no boundaries when it comes to watching what you eat. You rely solely on exercise for weight loss.
CONTENTIOUS INDIVIDUAL. You loathe exercise and are willing to exercise only 1, maybe 2 days per week, but will follow a strict diet and watch every little morsel you put in your mouth. You rely on "diet" 90 percent to achieve your weight-loss goals.
These types represent the entire spectrum of weight-loss behaviors. Ideally, you want to imitate the behavior of the first type -- the rational individual. A combination of exercising and sensibly restricting caloric intake is the most effective way to lose weight, but the reality of the situation is that you may never be willing or able to exercise 4 or 5 days per week, and that's okay. However, you can't exercise one or two days per week, eat excessively and expect to lose weight. You can't even maintain your current weight with that plan. In fact, you'll most certainly gain. Accept your personality type and make the best of it. The reason I implore you to exercise with more frequency and to try to make small dietary changes is because over the long haul, it is the least stressful approach, and the one you are more apt to stick with.
THE NUMBERS GAME
I'm always fascinated and bewildered at the response I get when I suggest a plan to a new client that will yield them a loss of 1 pound per week. It goes something like this:
"Oh, Edward, that's not enough, I want to lose three or four pounds per week."
"Tell me, Karen,' I ask, "how long have you been twenty pounds overweight?"
"For about twelve years."
"Let me get this straight. For twelve years you have accepted yourself being twenty pounds overweight and I'm telling you that in twenty weeks you can be at a healthy and fit weight, and that's not good enough?"
Karen assures me that she's willing to do everything and anything I ask in order to speed up the process. The only trouble is that "everything" can't include extra workouts ("I have a really hectic job and I travel a lot.") or changes to her diet ("I'm a vegetarian so I'm already eating well!").
That's when I explain "calories in = calories out." That phrase describes the situation in which the total number of calories that you consume on a particular day is the same amount of calories you burn during that same stretch of time. And when that happens, you will neither lose nor gain weight, but rather break even. Your weight will remain the same. When your caloric intake exceeds the number of calories you are burning, you gain weight, and unless you do something to change that situation, you'll continue to gain. When you create a deficit (burn more calories than you consume), you lose weight. Understanding the formula is the easy part. The real challenge is to maintain a deficit until you reach your goals. And by the way, I don't care how well you think you eat, if you take in more calories than you expend, it doesn't matter if you are eating carrots or Snickers bars, you will gain weight. Your body doesn't discriminate when it comes to calories. It doesn't matter where they come from. Sure, if you eat carrots, you'll be healthier, but not thinner.
Then comes my favorite part. I follow up with clients like Karen, who claim to be willing to do "anything," by asking whether they're planning to move, change jobs or their everyday routine in order to help them meet their deadline. Of course they're not. I'm quick to enlighten them that the odds of their exercising more than 3 or 4 times per week given their other commitments are not good. In addition, due to the travel and stress they endure, it will take some time after establishing the food adjustments necessary to achieve their weight-loss goals. After a few minutes, most recognize that there's a gap between what they want and what they're willing to do to get it. The truth is, losing 1 pound per week, week after week is a tremendous achievement.
Remember, it's not just a pound of weight that falls away, but inches as well. No scale can measure that. Say after the first week on your new program you weigh yourself and the scale hasn't budged, though you feel thinner and your clothes feel looser. Are you going to let the fact that you didn't "lose weight" that week set a negative tone that may last for days? That's why I tell everyone to take measurements, because for some people, it's not weight they need to lose as much as fat and inches. In fact, I recommend that unless you have more than 15 pounds to lose, you weigh yourself no more than once a month. For those who need to lose more than 15 pounds, no more than once a week. Use scale weight as a checkpoint, but don't beat yourself up over what the scale says. Whether you lose weight, remain the same or gain weight during that time period, you can reflect back on your behavior and make whatever adjustments might be necessary. Maybe you worked out often but did not watch what you ate, or maybe you carefully watched your food intake but worked out very little or not at all. Perhaps you simply need to ramp up your intensity. Whatever the weight loss or gain, there is always a behavioral reason behind it.
Be patient with yourself. Just as it takes time to develop "bad" habits -- like not exercising properly or consistently, or eating too much -- it takes time to make proper exercise a consistent part of your life and to adjust your food intake to match your lifestyle.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Edward J. Jackowski, Ph.D., author of Escape Your Shape: How to Work Out Smarter, Not Harder (Copyright © 2001 by Edward J. Jackowski, Ph.D.), is the CEO and founder of Exude Inc. (www.exude.com) based in New York City. It is the nation's largest motivational and one-on-one fitness company.