By Bruce Burke
When most of us consider weight loss and dieting, we want to start big. We are highly motivated when we start a new diet plan and often make drastic changes: meal replacement shakes, low-carb diets, salads three times a day, skipping meals, etc. We seek out revolutionary change in search of revolutionary weight loss. However, thirty years of helping people realize their health and fitness goals at One on One has shown us that fad diets and other extreme changes don’t work for the long term. They may help you lose weight, but they won’t provide the lasting, meaningful weight loss that most are looking for.
I’m sure that hearing “fad diets don’t work” is hardly news to most of you. What might be new, however, is a simple idea that can help channel enthusiasm for weight loss into minor but long-lasting changes: the concept of “less is more.”
Our experience is that those who have lasting success at losing and maintaining their weight do so by committing weekly to small, manageable changes. Consider replacing your afternoon candy bar with a piece of fruit each day, or try low-fat milk instead of whole milk for a week. The short-term nature of these commitments makes them significantly less daunting and prevents the potential discouragement that can come from overly ambitious diet plans. Part of this “less is more” strategy is to re-evaluate each week whether you want to continue your changes and/or make additional changes. This process of checking in has another advantage: it reminds us to review and adjust our habits regularly.
Keeping the commitments small is key. What can you commit to and be 99% certain of success? If you don’t drink enough water, decide to drink an extra glass at each meal. If sweets are a problem, find a healthy substitute to replace half of your desserts. If over-eating at meal times is a problem, set a well-defined beginning and end to your meal rather than snacking while cooking and cleaning up. None of these changes are revolutionary, but all are achievable and will significantly impact your health and body composition.
In order for “less is more” to work for you, commit to not letting yourself feel deprived. We often feel deprived when we change too much about our lifestyles at once, or when we focus too much on our desire for something we’ve given up. By committing to small changes and making a conscious effort to focus on the good feelings of increased health, you can avoid the feelings of depravation that often accompany extreme diet plans. (We have heard successful clients share many times that “nothing tastes as good as healthy feels!”) Let your friends or family members know what you’re doing so they can help you set reasonable goals and stick to them, even reminding you to focus on the good feelings that come with being healthy.
Finally, don’t take your food for granted. We are extremely fortunate to live where we live and have what we have. Focus on and be thankful for what you have, not what you are missing. Often you will find that the more thankful you are, the less you will tend to feel deprived.