As a nation, we’ve been getting fatter for a few decades. Around two-thirds of the adult population in the UK is overweight or obese. So it’s no surprise that our most popular request from prospective clients is to lose weight.
Most prospective clients come to us after trying various ways to shed the pounds. They may have had partial success and put the weight back on, or they may have seen no progress. They don’t understand why their efforts haven’t worked or what they need to do differently.
Losing weight is difficult in today’s world. Many more jobs are desk-bound or seated these days, and we have a much higher availability of convenient, calorie-dense and moreish food, which is heavily promoted. We have less time to do the things that would help us lose weight, such as exercising. Our environments have become obesogenic, and our lifestyles indulgent and comfortable.
So, it’s no wonder people struggle to lose weight. But what’s the answer? The clue is in the previous paragraph. The biggest weight loss mistake that people make is that they simply don’t change their lifestyles. Either they are not prepared to, or they don’t know how to change it sufficiently.
In this post, we look at some lifestyle factors contributing to weight gain and suggest changes that will make a big difference.
What is lifestyle?
In the context of weight loss, lifestyle is the collection of activities, habits and food preferences that are prevalent in your life. They are regular or default choices which, over time, add up.
Many people – possibly two-thirds of the adult population – have created lifestyles that are causing them to be overweight or obese. And their biggest weight loss mistake is not associating their lifestyle with their weight gain. Or perhaps turning a blind eye. Let’s look at some lifestyle factors that might sound familiar.
You’re good during the week. It’s five days out of seven; it feels like a good amount of sacrifice. You can afford to relax a little at the weekend, right? The reality is that you can easily wipe out any weight loss you’ve achieved during the week and actually gain weight. If you were to plot your weight, you’d see a sawtooth effect. We’ve seen it before!
But what sort of things are we talking about? Do any of the following seem familiar?
Beers and nibbles on a Friday and Saturday
You’ve worked hard all week; this is your little treat. You have crisps, a couple of beers and a catch up with the other half. That’s 500 calories.
Takeaway on a Friday night
To follow your nibbles, you have a takeaway: pizza and garlic dough balls. The beers have made you peckish. Go on then; I’ll have a large. Yeah, meat feast, please. Hmm, maybe 2000 calories there.
Cheese and a glass of red wine on a Saturday
That’s your little treat; you only have cheese on a Saturday. And maybe a glass of wine. Sometimes port. Oh, and cheese biscuits.
Wow, it’s so delicious, so moreish! You chalk up 600 calories.
Carvery on a Sunday
You always go to the carvery on a Sunday, or maybe have a pub lunch. Roast dinner with the trimmings and a greasy gravy. And a pint or two. Oh, go on then, I’ll have a pud. Ummm, cheesecake, please — boom!; 1500 calories.
Other weekend treats
Maybe you like a full English on a Saturday morning. Or you’ll have a family roast dinner with creamy cauliflower cheese? You don’t drink during the week, but you’ll make up for it at the weekend. Perhaps you always go to the pub with the lads on a Friday night; five or six pints maybe. Or your little Sunday treat is a bag of Haribo or a tube of pringles.
You go on holiday to relax, after all. You drink every night, enjoy ice-creams, eat out every night and choose rich calorific food.
What’s more, you’re a lot more inactive. You lie about for hours a day, occasionally sloshing about in the pool with the kids. And that’s about as active as you get!
You’ve gone from calorie parity to a surplus of around 2-3000 calories per day. It’s easy to put on over half a stone on holiday. And people do.
You love socialising, chatting and sharing food and a drink. Let’s look at some typical occasions.
Going round for dinner at the neighbours
When you’re entertaining, you want your guests to feel like they’ve had a treat. So you put on a good spread just like your neighbours. There might even be a little bit of competition to see who can lay on the best spread.
You’ll be greeted with cheese straws and creamy dips. The beers and wine will be free-flowing, and you’ll be topped up regularly. You’ll get a starter, main course, pudding and cheese course, with more wine. And you may even get port or Scotch at the end.
You could easily pack away 3000 calories at each dinner party. That’s your week’s losses gone, and some!
Beers with the lads or wine with the lasses
You always enjoy a beer with the lads on a Friday night. A beer. Or two, wink wink. Yeah, you get hammered. And ladies, you’re just as bad, guffawing away in the corner there, getting through bottles of wine and talking about willies.
And if you’ve got the munchies afterwards, you’ll go for a doner kebab or a curry. Let’s call it 3500 calories for the evening.
You meet with friends for a catch-up and a chuckle. You’re not going to go to a healthy restaurant, are you? It’s the steak house; a big ribeye with chips and onion rings. Oh, and a pudding (you decline the starter, you’re on a diet). And quite a few beers. So, adding that up, it’s probably 2500 calories.
You might have habits that you don’t see. They’re little things, so you don’t take too much notice of them, and they don’t factor in the calculation of your calorie allowance.
- Have a few squares of chocolate in the evening; that’s your little treat.
- Pronounce that you are too tired to go to the gym. Or say you don’t want to go when it’s raining. Or complain that it’s always crowded at this time. Whatever your excuse, you don’t go.
- You’re offered a biscuit or a doughnut or a piece of cake at work. Oooh, go on then, it’d be rude not to!
- You go to the gym, but you’re not sure what you should be doing; you just go through the motions. But, the main thing is, you’ve been to the gym! You can allow yourself a little treat now!
- Every time you pass the cupboard where the biscuits are kept, you sneak a biccy into your mouth.
- The kids have left a bit, well, quite a lot, of food on their plate. Mmmm, that’s tasty, why don’t we have that for dinner, you joke.
The problem is that if you do these things habitually and regularly, they add up.
Poor food choices
Lots of people grow up eating a certain way, and they simply don’t know any different. But they also don’t know how to change. They don’t know enough about food to be able to craft a new diet for themselves. So, they end up following a popular or faddy diet plan that gets them poor results.
Examples of poor choices might be
- Ready meals
- Processed foods
- Snacky ‘diet’ foods like cereal bars, crackers and baked crisps
- Oily condiments
- Excess cooking oil for roasting or sauces
- Battered or breadcrumbed food
- Assumption of few calories for healthy foods like nuts, seeds, avocado, houmous and olive oil.
- The ubiquitous use of staple foods like cheese and butter
And then there are addictions. Many people become addicted to sugary drinks, chocolate, cake, salty snacks, ice cream, etc. They can’t imagine not having them.
Why don’t people succeed?
Many people feel they make a lot of changes and cannot understand why it’s not working. They may lose a few pounds, but the weight loss stops. Is that you?
- Perhaps you go for a walk every evening. But everything else stays the same.
- Or maybe you’ve cut down on <insert naughty food>. But everything else remains the same.
- Maybe you’ve joined a gym. You go twice a week, you walk on the treadmill for 30 minutes and then aimlessly have a go on the weights machines. Then you sink into the jacuzzi. Everything else stays the same.
- Perhaps you’ve stopped having wine with your meals during the week. Everything else remains the same.
Am I being harsh or embellishing the story? I’m afraid not. Being in the weight loss industry, I hear many different accounts of what people do to try and lose weight.
So what do you need to do?
The truth is that you need to make wholesale changes. You need a radical rethink of your life if you’re going to shed the pounds, hit your target and maintain a healthy weight. And you need to work very hard.
Think of it as giving back. You’ve borrowed a lot of calories, and now you need to give them back. If you’re two stones overweight, you’ll need to give back 98,000 calories. If you manage to give back 500 calories a day, you’ll need over six months to complete your task. You can’t just go for a walk every night, burn 100 calories extra and expect to make progress. And neither can you just cut down on your naughty habit, save 100 calories a day and expect to lose a lot of weight.
You have to change a lot of things about your life.
What things? Here are some ideas
Learn about food and overhaul your diet
If you don’t know how to change, then read up about it. Get to understand what constitutes calorie sparse, healthy food and research recipes that are calorie conscious.
Start logging and weighing your food; that’s one of the best ways to educate yourself about the food you eat. Ditch the calorie-dense food and choose satisfying, high fibre, nutritious, calorie sparse alternatives.
Get fit and work hard
You have to get fit if you want to lose weight and keep it off. If you say you don’t like exercise and you avoid it, then you can’t expect to lose weight. You won’t get very far. And if you do lose some weight, you’ll shed a lot of muscle, lose your resilience to calorie excess and put the weight back on.
Not knowing what to do should not be an excuse. Ask the gym staff or research it. Then, once you know what you should be doing, aim to get better at it. Get stronger and fitter. Just accept that you’re going to have to learn to love exercise.
Cut out your bad habits
Do you keep hold of your bad habits because they are ‘your little treat’? This is simply perpetuating a craving that is going to keep you coming back for more. You need to go cold turkey on your bad habits and addictions.
Either replace the object of your habit for something healthy, like chocolate for fruit, for example or find something different to do when you feel the urge. There’s a technique called ‘urge surfing’ which may work for you.
It’s too easy to skip the gym if you’re only accountable to yourself. Either find a gym buddy who depends on you or hire a personal trainer to whom you can become accountable.
Make your weekend lifestyle the same as your weekdays
You can avoid the sawtooth weight gain chart by creating a new weekend lifestyle. If your weekday lifestyle is healthy, then just make your weekend lifestyle the same. But you need your weekend indulgence, you protest. What do I have to look forward to if I have to give up <insert indulgence>?
What’s more important? What do you want more? I’m afraid you can’t have your cake and eat it. Not if you want to lose weight well.
Exercise on holiday and be sensible
If you like to indulge on holiday, then you’ll need to exercise hard every day. After all, you’ve got time for it. Book a hotel with gym facilities. Or find a local gym. Or walk everywhere. But don’t indulge and then laze about all day. You can expect to gain a lot of weight if you do.
And be sensible with your calorie intake. You don’t need over indulge to enjoy yourself.
Drink water when socialising
What!? Don’t be ridiculous. I’ll be laughed at. Why not try it and see what happens? I was mocked once by work colleagues, but after that, it was just expected of me. I’ve gone on a stag do and a lads’ weekend in Majorca, drank water and received respect rather than ridicule. You never know; you might be admired for drinking water.
When being entertained, be calorie aware
Don’t eat the nibbles, drink water and decline the cheese course. You’ll be about 1500 calories better off at the end of the evening.
Losing weight and sustaining it requires an investment of time. You need time to exercise and time to prepare the right food. If it’s important to you, you’ll find the time. But if you let indulgence or sloth take priority, you’ll achieve very little.
The biggest weight loss mistake people make is not changing their lifestyles. If you’ve previously attempted weight loss by tweaking a few small things, then the solution to weight loss will feel quite radical. You have to make significant changes if you want to succeed.
Put a lot of thought into it before you start. Plan it. What are you going to change, and how are you going to make time for it? What will your new diary look like? How will you need to change the schedule for your kids and partner to accommodate your new lifestyle? What will you tell your friends and colleagues?
Are you prepared to make radical changes to your lifestyle to achieve the yearned-for weight loss? Do you want it enough? Or are the elements of your current lifestyle too important to you? Trust me when I say you can’t have both. You can’t keep up an obesogenic lifestyle and hope to lose weight. You simply have to change.