What is Realistic Anyways?
When it comes to weight loss, we want it easy, and we want it fast. Unfortunately, this is not the best approach for long term results, or sustainable success. When beginning a fitness journey many people become frustrated and quit long before they reach their goals, simply because they are not achieving them fast enough, or seeing the (often unrealistic) progress they predicted they would see. This then poses the question, what is realistic, and what should I be achieving?
If you’re frustrated with slow progress, you can take comfort in the fact that losing 1-2 pounds per week is ideal for losing weight and keeping it off. While faster weight loss seems more appealing, the long term benefits of slow weight loss include decreased risk of disease, and improvements in health markers such as blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugars. These benefits are far more valuable when it comes to the achievement of “health” and the achievement of a healthy body composition, compared to fast and often unmaintainable weight loss.
What exactly is a pound?
Even if you’ve only lost one pound, you can take satisfaction in recognizing that each pound you lose equates to 3500 calories. Knowing this, you can also appreciate and respect that for each pound lost per week, you are averaging a 500 calorie deficit per day, through physical activity and/or caloric restriction. This is where the line between sustainable weight loss, and quick weight loss can often become blurred. There is conception and illusion that extreme caloric restriction and an abundance of physical activity will promote faster weight loss. While this may be true temporarily, it hampers long term progress, and typically results in a slowed metabolism and increased difficulty losing weight over time, or, unsustainable weight loss that results in regaining of weight lost. Or worse, gaining back more than the initial ‘quickly’ lost weight.
Knowing this, where should you focus?
Ideally, we have our clients focus on behaviours rather than outcomes. For example, if you can consistently eat 5 servings of vegetables per day, or achieve 5 workouts per week, you are training yourself to develop daily and weekly habits that will set you up for long term sustainable success that will persistent even after you accomplish your goals. This is imperative, as many people focus on achieving an outcome, and then fail to continue the habits that led to achievement of the outcome; often falling back into old habits only to find themselves back where they initially started. Thus introducing the ever so popular yo-yo effect.
Focus on consistency in your healthy habits, and the results should follow. It is your job to focus on your behaviours, and our job as coaches to focus on the achievement of the outcome using scientifically based research and techniques to guide you to the accomplishment of your goals.
Whether you have a coach or not, the following tips will help get you on the right path towards weight loss and better health.
- Journal your food: Studies consistently show that those who record everything they eat in a food journal lose twice as much weight as those that do not. This is the difference between losing 10, or 20 pounds in a 6-month period. In addition, you may become aware of food intolerances or sensitivities that you were oblivious to beforehand.
- Hire a coach: There is no shame in hiring a coach. In fact, the most successful people in the world hire coaches. Athletes have coaches, business professionals have coaches, and even coaches have coaches. If you want to achieve specific fitness and weight loss aspirations, hire a coach to provide you with a program to achieve your goal and keep you accountable along the way.
- Set goals: Without a clear vision of what you want to achieve, you will be ineffective in achieving something. Understand what is realistic, set a goal to achieve, and then set an action plan of behaviours to implement to help you achieve your goal.
- Commit: Simply wanting to achieve a goal is not enough. You must commit to your goals and ‘choose’ to make the choices that will ultimately lead to long term success. There is no ownership in simply wanting something. Choose to work towards this goal, every minute, of every day, until you are successful.
- Be consistent: Once you establish behaviours, be consistent in implementing them. One good meal, and one good workout will not get you to your goals, but consistent good meals, and consistent workouts will.
Now that you’ve got realistic expectations of what is achievable, take some time to sit down and set a clear and realistic goal for yourself; focusing on the action steps, or behaviours that you will implement to achieve this goal. Keeping in mind, to successfully lose 50 pounds, it could take you 50 weeks. Be persistent and relentless as you pursue your goals, keeping an open mind and giving yourself grace if you are doing everything in your power, but are not where you expected to be. Each journey is different, every body responds differently, and everyone is on their own journey. The most important aspect is that you remain on the journey.
Keep in Mind:
Your weight-loss timeline will play a role as well. Just because the scale tells you that you're not 'losing weight' it doesn't mean that you're not making progress. Even more than losing 1-2 pound per week, a more realistic and subjective measurement of weight loss should be based on weight loss percentage. A case-study performed by Precision Nutrition found that men should be able to lose 0.56% of their body weight (in pounds), and women should be able to lose an average of 0.50% of their body weight each week, for an average of 24 weeks. This also helps us to understand why weight loss slows over time; as we become leaner and weigh less, the percentage of our weight lost per week considering our overall weight will decrease.
Want to learn more about weight loss plateau's? Read our next blog post!