Why is weight loss difficult?
If, like me, you've struggled to maintain a healthy weight, you may well have asked yourself just why it can be so difficult. The answer to that question is that the human body is designed to cope with shortages of food and protect itself from starvation. It does this in two ways:
The body lays down fat in times of plenty. The body slows down its metabolism when food is short so less fat than usual gets burned.
In most of the western world, every day is a day of plenty! If you regularly give way to the temptation to eat too much of the tasty, fattening food available, the inevitable happens and you end up with a fat belly (hips, thighs...)
The body's trick of slowing down its metabolism has sabotaged many a diet! You cut out too much food, the body takes this as a sign of famine and its starvation response is triggered. It doesn't realise that you are trying to shed that fat and tries to conserve it for you. It doesn't know that the 'famine' will end with your next meal. This slowed metabolism means that you have to eat even less food to get the desired result. Cutting out even more food really sends the body into a panic, and the metabolism slows further. You become listless and lacking the energy to do the exercise which would help burn that fat. What's more, you feel terrible. Worst of all, you aren't even losing much weight...
So, how can significant weight loss be achieved?
Some people would suggest achieving weight loss through drugs or surgery. Effective, healthier, safer, cheaper and more pleasant alternatives exist. These make far more sense for most people.
It is possible to lose weight without suffering, it just requires an understanding of how to go about it and the patience to see it through.
People have been successfully controlling their weights for many years, and these are the people you need to copy.
The greatest weight loss secret of them all
If I told you that the secret was to sit and watch your favourite movie with an ice-cold beer in your hand, and you had to do that at least 5 times a week, do you think that you could manage that? I thought so -- I could do that too!
Unfortunately, that is not the secret of losing weight. It's the secret of how a lot of us put it on. There is, however, something that we can learn from that -- we like doing certain things, we don't make excuses to avoid doing them, and those things have consequences. We need to turn that principle around so that it works for us instead of against us.
We all know that losing weight involves eating healthy quantities of healthy food, and getting plenty of healthy exercise, so that isn't the secret either.
No, the secret to lasting, effective weight loss is... (drum roll)... PLEASURE!
It is no use going on some crazy diet because it will drive you mad, and at the first possible opportunity you will give it up and go back to eating what you love. It is no use spending 3 hours a day in the gym if you hate going to the gym! As soon as you hit your weight loss target, you'll start finding very good excuses for why you can't make it to the gym this week, or even this month!
Believe it or not, In the huge array of foods available to us, there are lots of good, healthy non-fattening options that you can get great pleasure from eating. You just need to use a bit of imagination and look for them.
Believe or not, healthy exercise doesn't have to be boring. If you hate the gym, don't go to the gym.
Love playing golf? Play golf, but remember -- this is supposed to be exercise, so carry your own clubs and walk briskly between holes. No golf buggies!
Love dogs? Get a dog. A border collie, or some other breed that needs a lot of exercise -- for this job, lapdogs need not apply! Take the dog down to your local park as often as you can and chase him about, throw frisbees for him. You'll both have a great time, you'll boost your metabolism and burn fat.
Hate dogs, but love cycling? Buy a bicycle and ride it as often as you can! Commuting by bike (if you live within, say, 8-10 miles of where you work) is a great way of losing weight and saving money at the same time.
I don't like golf. I do love dogs, but I can't commit to one -- I travel about too much. I also love cycling and that is my weight loss exercise secret. You need to find something energetic that you love too -- dancing, swimming, hiking... there will be something. Keep looking until you find it, then do it, regularly and with enthusiasm.
Remember, the weight loss secret is to replace the unhealthy things that give you pleasure with healthy things that give you just as much or more pleasure.