Intelligent ways to sustain a healthy lifestyle. Ditch the Diets. – Dr Heather McKee
The truth is, weight loss needs be gradual in order for it to be maintainable, and it needs to be achieved through positive, daily, sustainable changes in your lifestyle.
In my final insight I will share what is often the most difficult mindset shift to adopt (given that many of us have spent years doing it!). However, letting go of it can have a profound effect in helping you to build healthier weight loss habits – not just for a couple of months but for life. It may seem completely strange for someone who runs a weight loss program to say this but I suggest you…
Give up dieting
Why? Because it’s bad for your long term success. Researchers have found that merely telling people they are going on a diet the following week caused them to overcompensate and eat significantly more than others who were not told that they were going on a diet (Urbszat, Herman, & Polivy, 2002). Simply using the word diet conjures up all sorts of feelings of deprivation – images of surviving on lettuce leaves in addition to grueling daily workouts. Since dieting (and some diet products for that matter) has been linked to over-consumption and ultimately weight gain over time, it’s time to ditch the word diet and take a healthier, long term mindset instead.
Some of my own research examined a vital question that helped us understand more about how to get this long term mindset; what made some people successful at long-term weight maintenance? We found that successful individuals tended to focus on weight loss as a lifestyle change rather than a diet. They viewed dieting as something that was temporary, whereas they were making consistent daily changes, in their words ‘simply leading a healthy lifestyle’ (McKee, Ntoumanis & Smith, 2013). In fact the evidence has shown that often those who are successful in weight maintenance experience a shift in their identity – rather than feeling restricted or deprived by their weight control practices (i.e. through dieting), they feel more liberated, both in their lifestyle and also in how they think and feel about themselves (i.e. through leading a healthy lifestyle) (Epiphaniou & Ogden, 2010).
The key factor that these successful weight maintainers had in common was their focus on the process (the daily changes they needed to consistently make for success to occur) rather than the outcome (kg/lbs lost on the scales).
These findings teach us that success should not be about going to the gym 7 times a week for a month and then never returning again. The truth is, weight loss needs be gradual in order for it to be maintainable, and it needs to be achieved through positive, daily, sustainable changes in your lifestyle.
Give up dieting! Focus on health gain rather than weight loss. How do you do this? You can start by taking up small but consistent healthy changes to your lifestyle. For example on my programme my clients set themselves one small change that they intend to make each week with regards to their weight loss. This is intentionally tiny so it doesn’t feel too punishing or restrictive. For example things you could do to get started with could be;
- putting half a spoon full of sugar less in your daily tea or coffee
- making sure all coffees you get are a size smaller
- walking 50 more steps on your fitness tracker a day.
These may seem like insignificantly small changes but cumulatively they can have a BIG impact on your long term success. For example; if your goal is to have a smaller size latte per day, this can result in… 50,000 less calories consumed per year. Together with my clients we work through ways to add to these small changes in a way that suits their lifestyle, slowly growing the combined effect that these changes can have, ultimately insuring their long term weight loss success.
To finish this blog series I am going to leave you with a quote from a fellow Girl Crew member who posted in response to my original question on ‘What frustrates you the most about weight loss?’ This is a living, breathing example of the mindset for success in action;
‘For so long I thought it was what’s on the scale that matters, but it’s more about doing activities and eating things that make me happy and give me energy. I could see this radiate from the outside in and accept how I look much more by appreciating small physical changes e.g. more toned arms from yoga, rather than punishing myself for being 0.5kg heavier this week than last.’
If you have enjoyed this blog series and would like to learn more Heather is currently offering 50% OFF in October for her online evidence based Intelligent Weight Loss Signature program. Click the enrol now button here to enter your name and the code OCT50 to get 50% OFF and start building healthy habits for life.
Dr Heather McKee is a Girl Crew Dublin and London member and a behavioural weight loss specialist with expertise in evidence based, intelligent but kind weight loss, helping people build healthy habits for life. If you’d like to know more about your own habits and which ones you need to build for success Heather has created a FREE personalised habit insight report. Click here to get it now.
Urbszat, D., Herman, C.P., Polivy .J. (2002). Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we diet: effects of anticipated deprivation on food intake in restrained and unrestrained eaters. J Abnorm Psychol. 111, 396-401. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12003461
McKee, H. C., Ntoumanis, N., & Smith, B. (2013) (2013). Weight maintenance: Self-regulatory factors underpinning success and failure. Psychology and Health, 28, 1207–1223, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08870446.2013.799162
Epiphaniou, E., & Ogden, J. (2010). Successful weight loss maintenance and a shift in identity: From restriction to a new liberated self. Journal of Health Psychology, 15, 887–96. doi:10.1177/1359105309358115 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20472607