Weight Loss Tips
By Melissa Horowitz, Psy.D.
According to a CDC study, more than two-thirds of Americans are trying to lose, or maintain their current, weight. Unfortunately many seemingly effective weight loss plans fail. This may trigger feelings of depression, embarrassment, shame, and -over time- diminished motivation. With the vast array of weight loss methods being advertised, it is difficult to know which approach is best. But regardless of the method chosen, it is well established that the key to losing weight is comprised of several factors, three of which are caloric balance, physical activity and psychological preparedness.
- Caloric Balance. Imagine driving along the highway and seeing that your gas tank is low. Your car will signal when the gas levels are dangerously low because at some point your car will no longer be able to operate. Just as a car requires fuel, so do humans, and our form of fuel is called the “calorie.” With few calories in their bodies, people generally describe experiencing disorientation, mood changes, and low energy. Similarly, eating an excess of calorically dense meals and snacks increases physical discomfort, low energy, and possible moodiness, not to mention the risk of weight gain. So it comes as little surprise that balancing the calories one consumes with the calories one burns is critical in both weight loss and maintenance.
- Physical Activity. Any activity is better than no activity. The luxuries of living in an advanced society may be catching up with us. Elevators, escalators, easy access to public transportation, food delivery, online purchasing….these services make our lives more convenient, but they unfortunately take away the reason to walk, run, or take the stairs. Daily physical activity can help jump-start early weight loss efforts and, over time, can also help maintain lost weight. More specifically, one should aim to exercise at a moderate physical intensity level– this means it might be time to dig the old running shoes out of the closet.
- Psychological Preparedness. The effort involved in changing the way we eat, the way we view our weight and body shape, and the way we exercise can be daunting. Success is more likely to occur when realistic goals are established – for overweight/obese individuals, behaviorally based weight loss approaches typically yields a total loss of 5-15% and, on average, it is common to lose approximately 1-2 lbs. a week during the weight loss phase. The ability to lose weight and keep it off requires dedication, motivation, and changing one’s thinking in and around food and weight. Weight loss achievement takes time– do not rush the process. Practice patience, celebrate small triumphs rather than focusing only on the end goal, and validate your efforts whenever possible. Remind yourself often why it is you are making this lifestyle change in the first place and what those short and long term goals are—such as improved self-confidence, a new relationship, improved medical/psychological health, the ability to travel and see the world, or simply to have the energy to keep up with your children or grandchildren.
Cognitive behavior therapy is an effective approach to setting realistic targets and achieving weight loss or management goals. Your therapist will help you manage and maintain the psychological preparedness it takes for personal success.