Studies have shown that over 80% of individuals who try to lose weight either fail or regain it all within one year. I recently spoke to two ladies battling with weight-loss and picked up a few reasons why their journey to the “ideal” definition has been fraught with disappointment. 6 of these reasons have been outlined below, and some, if not all, may apply to you.
- You think starving or skipping meals is the same as dieting
This is by far the biggest mistake people make. When you starve or skip meals, especially breakfast, your body switches to a low energy-using state, in a bid to conserve energy for the nutritional lack it thinks will continue. When you eat after such a long period of starvation, the body will store more than it usually does in wait for the next stretch of starvation. The other problem with deliberate starvation is that you are likely to “reward” yourself with a very heavy, most likely unhealthy meal, at the end of your “ordeal”; this just brings you back to square one, or below.
Don’t starve yourself, eat regular meals, at appropriate times; it is the amount and mix that matters.
- You have the right proportions, but not the right portion sizes
I’m sure everyone who has gone on a diet in recent times has seen the healthy diet plate, which has vegetables occupying about 35% of the plate, fruits occupying about 15% and the remaining 50% shared equally between healthy proteins and carbohydrates. Some follow this plan religiously, but still don’t see results. Well, the size of the plate may be to blame; the portion sizes matter. Filing up a 9-inch dinner plate in these proportions is definitely not the same as filling up a 14-inch buffet plate in same proportions; you will obviously be taking in more calories with the 14-inch plate. Unfortunately, some are hooked on to large meals and reducing the portion sizes abruptly is near-impossible.
Instead of trying to drastically reduce your portion sizes overnight, do it in a gradual manner over e.g. 4 to 6 weeks. This allows your body to adjust to the reducing sizes. Another way is to fill up on vegetables- which provide little to no calories- so that you have the sensation of fullness even with an accompanying small meal.
- You think one candy bar will not make a difference
Check the packaging; one 100g bar of milk chocolate provides about 300 to 500 calories, making up about a fifth to a quarter of your total daily requirements. It is this same attitude of “it will not make any difference” that emboldens some to go for a large bowl of fufu instead of two fingers of roasted plantain and take 2 chicken thighs when they can go for the healthy breast. In the face of such unhealthy choices, the individual’s best attempts at weight loss, from regular exercising to reduced portion sizes, may produce no benefits. That one bar of candy can make a huge difference.
Taking a healthy snack, like a small apple, or a finger of banana, or a bowl of nuts will do you much more good than that harmless-looking, but weight-loss setback-ing bar of candy. Also keep your unhealthy cravings out of the house; out of sight, out of mind, out of mouth.
- You pretend to exercise
Exercise is one of the most important factors in the weight loss cycle and a minimum of 4 30-minute sessions per week is advised. Some instead of exercising only pretend to; you allot 30 minutes for exercise, yet spend 5 minutes donning your running shoes, another 5 stopping and checking this or that, and take 2 breaks that each last 5 minutes; in the end, you’ve only done 10 minutes of exercise, which was probably just a stroll on your compound. Don’t expect to get much from these sessions.
Some also think one 3 hour session on Saturday is equivalent to 6 30-minute sessions. No, it is not; you can see it will be very difficult to exercise continuously for 3 hours, and you will use about half of the time to rest, chat and engage in other non-exercise activities. Moreover, condensing the week’s exercise sessions into one robs the other 6 days of the other benefits of exercise, which include, but not limited to, mental clarity, stress relief, mood lightening and better sleep.
So, dedicate at least 30 minutes to ACTUAL exercise every day, and you should start seeing the benefits soon.
- You change your weight-loss plan too often
In desperation to lose weight some people want to try everything they hear, whether scientifically proven, only anecdotally supported or just pure “trial-and-error”. You may not see improvement immediately you start, but that does not mean the plan has failed. It may be slow, but consistency and dedication are what you need to make it work, not trying a bit of everything yet doing nothing well.
Stick to your diet and exercise plan. Having a dietician or health coach can help you stay on track. Also set realistic weight goals. You cannot lose 10 kilos in 2 weeks, but you can aim for half a kilo each week; in 20 weeks you would have lost the 10 kilos, without stressing yourself into depressive failure.
- You get discouraged by minor setbacks
Your quest for a healthy weight may be plagued with several setbacks: twisting an ankle, a haphazard work schedule that makes planning difficult, discouragement from family and friends, weight gain while implementing your strategy, but do not be discouraged. You need to shake off these setbacks and function in spite of them
Try to be flexible with exercise; if you cannot do 30 minutes do 10, and do it wherever and whenever you can. It’s better than nothing. Keep a food journal and note your food setbacks and work on them. Stave off wet blankets and keep those who spur you on close; you can have an exercise buddy to keep you both on your toes.
Losing weight is not always easy and maintaining the eventual weight is even more difficult, but with dedication and focus, and a good weight-loss plan, anyone can do it. Achieving a healthy weight is not an event, it is a process, usually a lifelong one; to be successful you have to make it a lifestyle.
By: K.T. Nimako (MB ChB)
Dr. Kojo Nimako is a private medical practitioner with an interest in public health and Citi FM’s Chief Medical Correspondent. He is also the Executive Director of Helping Hand Medical Outreach, an NGO focused on health education.
E-mail: [email protected]