How I Stopped Emotional Eating
Our news feeds are filled with programs selling us the promise of fast-weight loss results. There are 12 week body challenges, 7-day detox diets and now the most recent program making headlines is from personal trainer and ex-bachelor star Sam Wood's 28:28 plan selling us the appealing dream that "28 minutes, for 28 days. It's all I need to change your life".
Admittedly, programs like this will no doubt deliver on what they promise (quick weight loss) but will they deliver on long-term weight loss results?
Don't get me wrong - I'm an eternal optimist. But I also believe in science. And I'm not going to lie to you just to try to sell you something.... So let me share with you the totally unsexy, unmarketable reality that the big weight-loss players don't want you to know.
The skinny on fast-weight loss plans
In our society, we are obsessed with everything being fast and instant. We want things yesterday. We buy into sensationalised weight-loss programs which show fast body transformations, using before and after photos to intrigue us to buy in thinking: "They seem normal, like me. If they can do it... I can too"!
Excitedly, we start the program. We buy all the fancy health foods. We get the gym membership. Spend a bomb. And quickly, we lose weight and we feel amazing. It feels so good to get the compliments from people who say things like you look so great and OMG, you're so skinny!
But the results typically don't last (more on why later). Sadly, research confirms that only 5% of diets work in the long term.
The biggest issue is that instead of blaming the program for failing us, we blame our selves for having 'poor willpower'. Disappointed in our inability to stick to our good intentions, we either give up or do yet another fast-weight loss program and the cycle will repeat itself.
The sad truth is that the alluring marketing pitches and money-making programs failed you... not the other way round. This is the yo-yo dieting trap.
Can you relate?
I used to be a yo-yo dieter. For more than a decade. In fact - I had lost the same 10kg over 10 weeks - 10 different times (at least)! I got the short-term results, had the before and after photos and was so proud. A couple of months later though, my weight would steadily return back to normal as I struggled to keep up with my new eating aspirations. In fact, I'd end up gaining more than what I weighed before. The word 'frustrating' doesn't even come close to explaining how it makes you feel.
But thankfully, I quit dieting 4-5 years ago and it changed my life. Phew.
I'm quite vocal about the fact that I've now lost 20kgs+ for good. Wanna know how I did it? Well - firstly, the 'big secret' is that I I didn't lose it over 12 weeks. Nor did it take me 6 months to lose. My weight loss, like most other people who successfully maintain long term weight loss results, happened over years. About 4-5 years to be exact.
I remember reaching a point where I had been dieting for a decade but I was overweight and overwhelmed by anxiety. Finally I realised that one of the reasons I hadn't been successful in losing the weight is because I was impatient. I was always dieting instead of changing my lifestyle. So I made a deal with myself. If it takes me a whole year to lose 5 kg - but I would never gain it back, then the year will have been well spent. And that is what I did.
Then what? Well, I changed my lifestyle - bit by bit. I changed my habits slowly. Every few weeks, I'd find another way to improve my habits. Like - eating more vegetables for lunch and dinner. Or getting 10k steps a day. Or cutting back on my portion size of meat. Or buying less processed junk food. Or having fruit instead of chocolate. Baby steps.
After a few weeks of adopting the one habit, I'd eventually forget that I was trying as it became second nature. When I was ready, I'd take the next step forward. Because the process was so slow, it never felt tiresome or arduous. And over time, naturally my preferences changed.
So I never had to be 'strict' or watch everything that went in my mouth. There was no sudden lifestyle overhaul where I ate completely new foods and exercised in a different way all of a sudden, so it didn't feel like a struggle.
Because it wasn't fast, I was able to rewire my brain and changed my entire approach to health - but it took time and patience and literally required me to have my cake and eat it too, to avoid feeling deprived. It was slow and I wanted fast, but trial and error has taught me better.
It seems that when we make a lot of big changes really quick - all at the same time, it's far less likely that they will stick around.
Dieting yourself fat...
There is one more thing to consider. After going on an intense meal plan (calorie or other restrictive eating diets), your body adjusts and out smarts you at your own game.
Your body doesn't want you to lose too much weight too quickly because it thinks it's in famine. So, to prevent death by starvation (it can't tell the difference), your body increases your craving for high-energy foods like ice-cream and hot chips whilst slowing your metabolism (so you'll store more calories than you did before).
After an intense weight-loss plan when you do finally "treat yo' self", you are likely to do so with more gusto than before (you feel deprived), except now your body has become really good at storing the energy.
And that is how you diet yourself fat.
The Big Weight Loss 'Secret'
Losing weight isn’t about speed. In fact, it seems that the faster you lose weight, the more likely you are to put it on again. So it seems that the secret of losing weight is patience.That’s just the way the sugar-free cookie crumbles.
There are exceptions to this rule, of course. People who just naturally change habits and lose a kilo a week, happily without cutting out food groups, obsessively weighing themselves or counting every gram of food they eat. But they are exceptions (even less than 5%).
So my advice is this:
Accept that forming new lifestyle habits takes time and happens gradually.
To lose weight really quickly, you need to track your intake with ninja-like precision and guard everything that enters your mouth. Because you metabolism slows, you really do have to be 'strict'. Is that really how you want to live for the rest of you life?
Ignore the temptation to control every morsel of food that goes into your mouth. Some weeks you will lose weight, and some you will regain some of your weight loss. The difference between people who successful lose weight and keep it off is acceptance than weight loss is not fast, and weight loss is not linear.
Don't even focus on weight loss! Just focus on eating well. The rest will follow. Focus on the habit and how good you feel - not a number on a scale.
Don’t expect to lose a kilo a week. Personally, I would much prefer to lose a kilo a month (or every 3 months), and never put it back on again then to constantly yo-yo diet. Fast weight-loss and then the inevitable regain is not good for your body... or soul.
If you have lost weight quickly, do not wear it as a badge of honour until you have kept it off for 2+ years. It may come back to bite you in the bum.
Be weary of anyone trying to sell you FAST weight loss. If I were you, I'd call their bluff. Don't give them your money. It's a waste.
Let’s all stop idolising fast weight loss and start rewarding patience, kindness and a devotion to eating better and exercising for healths sake alone.
Are you ready?
I'm definitely not the first person to tell you that the secret to sustainable weight loss is making lifestyle changes - not going on a crash diet. And I certainly won't be the last.
I'm just hoping that at some point you come to realise that maybe this totally unsexy, unmarketable and totally free reality is the best option for long-lasting results.