How to lose weight: How I am starting (and failing) weight loss
I know how to lose weight, hypothetically. And I always thought, should I ever need to shed some kilos, I would be good at it.
Well, now I need to.
And, turns out, I’m not so good at it.
Lately, I have been thinking a lot about losing weight. However, the scales are not reflecting all my hard work thinking about it.
I understand the basic principles of weight loss: eat less, exercise more. Energy output must exceed energy input. Maths 101. Yes, many people, including experts, argue about the details of this equation, but I’m sticking with simplicity for now.
Let’s start with the first part of the equation, eat less.
Food, glorious food. How to lose weight, the ‘less calorie intake’ way.
I ran into my friend, Kristie, at Dolly’s Donuts.
‘I’m trying to lose weight,’ I said.
‘Me too,’ Kristie said.
As we bit into out hot cinnamon donuts, I asked her if she had had any dieting success in the past. She said she had dieted a lot, but after six weeks, always slipped back into old habits.
That’s the thing, I realised: we know what to do, we just find it hard to do it.
‘What’s the point of life,’ I asked, licking the sugar off my fingers, ‘If we can’t eat nice food?’
Substitute delicious food for less delicious food.
Two years ago, my GP announced that my cholesterol, while in the healthy range, was edging into the unhealthy range. I was shocked.
I quickly identified the culprit: cheese. Most nights, I dug into a wheel of double brie or a wedge of soft blue while watching Netflix. So, I put myself on a cheese ban — apart from when at parties — and switched to homemade popcorn.
My friend, Nicole, sent me a Weightwatchers cookbook, written by a woman who halved her size. As I read through it, my thoughts went something like this: Oh yum, pancakes… But I will replace the low-fat milk with full cream milk (what sort of masochist eats low fat dairy!) and I will top with maple syrup, not low fat yoghurt (see previous point about low fat dairy).
Substituting works, but perhaps I need to go slowly, as the thought of cutting out all full fat diary makes me too sad.
As it turns out, I’m not so good at controlling my eating.
Get moving, fatty. How to lose weight the ‘burn more energy’ way.
I turn my attention to exercise, reasoning that I am an active person who enjoys physical activity.
And yet, I do very little of it.
I was fit before I had kids, but the journey into unfit has been steady since then.
I value the benefits of exercise. It feels good to be fit and strong – I can chase down a bus or run around a netball court keeping up with someone half my age for an hour. My mind is calm and buzzing with feelgood hormones after a cardio workout. I come up with great ideas for client campaigns while on a run. My skin looks better, my waist is slimmer, my clothes fit me better. I have more energy.
Yes, exercise is the way to go.
But it can be hard to find the time to exercise in-between the juggle of work and small children. It seems there is never a spare 15-minutes in the day, certainly not a whole hour or more to drive to and from a gym class.
I have talked to many friends about how they find time to exercise. Most don’t. Those that do have created space in their busy lives, and made it a habit.
The ‘get up early’ approach to exercise
My friend Sarah is a single mum who works full-time. She looks toned and slim. She tells me she gets up at 5:30am every day to do Cross Fit. She arrives home at 7am to get her 6-year-old daughter ready for school. (Don’t worry, her daughter is not left alone. Sarah lives with her brother.) She is at the point in her fitness journey, where she loves and craves her exercise time.
My brother, Michael, a CEO at a finance company, also gets up early and does a home gym session before he starts his work day. He also walks daily at 1pm, and has this time blocked out in his calendar. However, he has a huge amount of hired help with other aspects of his life, such as domestic duties and child care, which are out of reach for most of us.
Inspired by Sarah and Michael, I tried the ‘get up early’ approach, but it doesn’t suit my life. It’s not sustainable unless I change my sleep patterns – but doing this means I would cut my relaxation time at the end of the day, and I think that’s important too.
Exercise is all about habits
I agree with Sarah and Michael — and the research. The best way to make movement part of our lives is to turn it into a habit. This could be: signing up to a weekly team sport, going to a regular gym class, meeting a friend on a weekly basis to exercise, joining a running or walking club.
I am also motivated by working towards goals, like running in the City to Surf. I like creating a running schedule that works up to the 14km distance over time and being ‘rewarded’ with a fun run.
Today, I will make a list and schedule exercise into my next week. And I will heed the advice of my physio to start slowly. I always get overly motivated when I relaunch a fitness regime, and this often results in injury.
This is a good article from The Conversation if you’re getting back into exercise after taking a break.
Let me know how you’re going with your weight loss journey.
Kate is a health writer and communications professional. She is the founder and editor of The Healthy Life. She lives in the Blue Mountains with her husband and two kids.