An encouraging new study on obesity and weight loss published in the journal, Cell Metabolism, shows that losing and keeping off just 5% of your body weight gets you the biggest “bang for your buck” in terms of positive changes to your health according to senior study author Samuel Klein, of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis (link to study info below).
The operative words are “keeping it off”. Yo-Yo dieting does more harm than good and you weaken your metabolism every time you do this. Lose less and keep it off!
Keeping it off requires constancy which is another word for habit. If you initiated new behaviors around exercise or food coinciding with New Year’s your motivation may be waning. There’s a lot of momentum around long term goals in the New Year but staying on the path requires you to change your thinking not just your behavior. To keep yourself motivated you have to find the carrots.
Recently, I was driving home after a day of skiing and I “hit the wall”. I wasn’t sleepy but I was dragging. I started to play a mental game when Waze (favorite GPS app) indicated I had 99 miles to go. Singing was one possibility but my husband was sleeping so I focused on the 11’s times table and tried to catch and “record” for myself 88 miles to go, 77, 66…all the way down to the last 11. I was simultaneously listening to the radio so the double digit spotting – just a little carrot. Mental games keep you interested and pass the time quickly. If you find the treadmill, stationary bike or doing laps in the pool to be incredibly boring perhaps you need a mental game to break up the monotony?
When we’re trying to reinforce a desirable behavior (or get rid of an undesirable one), we’re left with carrots and sticks.
Sticks are things like going for an annual physical and learning that your blood test results haven’t improved or they’ve gotten worse. But what happens when you decide to stay in bed, instead of getting up to work out? For getting your bum out of bed early it’s carrots all the way.
Sometimes I catch the sun rising on my way to the gym…a carrot (accompanying photo). Some people belong to a gym or attend classes where someone notices if you don’t show up – carrot. Some take an early morning walk with a friend, this has both: leaving your friend hanging is a stick and the carrots…being outdoors, getting support and friendship.
When it comes to eating well, the scale can be a stick or a carrot but it’s mostly about noticing how you feel. Instead of letting travel bump you off the path use a trip to notice how you feel when you eat poorly. Paying attention to this motivates you to eat better. When you feel subpar all the time it becomes your “normal” but eating well consistently and then stopping makes the comparison harder to ignore – don’t let yourself ignore it! Feeling better reinforces itself but it works the other way around too. If you don’t acknowledge your carb hangover (stick) the morning after you binge, you lose the incentive to not repeat it, you miss the carrot.
The carrots are all around us – we just have to notice them and savor the rewarding crunch.