Weight Loss As A Process

Losing weight is not an easy task. In fact, it’s pretty tough, no matter how may times you undergo it! If you ask me, I don’t think anyone will ever tell you weight loss is a nice process to undertake. But sometimes, if you want to maintain optimal health, tweak exercise performance and improve the quality of your life, it’s one of those things that needs to happen at some point. However, whether you need to lose 1 pound or 20 pounds of fat, it always requires huge amounts of dedication, lifestyle changes, persistence and patience to make it a successful endeavour. Unfortunately, weight loss is not something that occurs overnight. It would be nice if it did! But our bodies are just not programmed that way.

How Do You Lose Weight?

The basics of weight loss start with calories. When it comes to weight loss, calories are the absolute foundation needed for your success. If you don’t consider your calories from the very get-go then your weight loss efforts will immediately fail. Simply put, calories are the driver of the entire weight loss process! Although a lot of weight loss gurus like to get highly technical when it comes to calories and weight loss, the concept is actually very easy to understand. You don’t need to get too scientific about it all!

When thinking of calories, think of them as small ‘pockets’ of energy. Energy which will essentially be used by your body to keep itself alive and functioning optimally in a range of circumstances. When you consume these calories (from the food you eat), your body will then have access to these pockets of energy. This energy can then be used to power your body (e.g. heart rate, kidney function, brain function, muscle activity etc.). Also, when your body is required to exert more effort (e.g. sports, repair), your body will need to find extra energy from somewhere. This can either come from stored energy in your body, or from the consumption of extra food. So far, pretty straight forward, right? 

When weight loss happens, it’s because your body is not getting access to this energy it needs from food consumption. If this happens, then it will have no choice but to tap into its stored supply of energy (e.g. from body fat). This is where calories come into play. Since your body is continuously working, when you reduce your food consumption (calories going in) your body find itself in an energy shortage state. This is called a calorie deficit. In other words, your body has to make up this energy shortage by breaking down its own stores. Thus, fat loss! After all, if you decide to eat less, your body is not going to just quit working! But it’s still going to need energy from somewhere to keep working. So this is where weight loss all begins: calories in (from food) and calories out (through body activity). When you take in less food and supply your body with less energy than it needs to carry on powering everything it needs to, it has no choice but to use its own stores. This is why you lose fat over time when you restrict your calories in. 

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Successful Weight Loss Tactics

If you know about calories in and calories out and what drives weight loss, then you are half way there to a successful weight loss journey. However, weight loss can only be successful if you can actually stick to the process itself. For instance, say you have figured out how many calories you need to consume each day to lose 1 pound of fat per day. Ok, great! But, do you know how you are going to stick to that over a period of time? What strategies work best in terms of ensuring that you adhere to your weight loss plan? These are also really important questions to keep in mind if you want to increase your chances of successfully sticking to your weight loss plan. 

In my experience, many fitness professionals will give their clients recommendations on what they need to do in order to lose weight over time (e.g. eat less, eat more healthily, do more exercise). However, very few will give any sort of guidance on what methods could be used to increase the chances of their clients sticking to these recommendations. It’s one thing telling your client to eat less to lose weight, but without any firm guidance on how they might actually stick to eating less, then over time your client is likely to gradually loose adherence to the plan and fall off track (or even regress!).  

Ultimately, recommendations such as eat less, eat more healthily and do more exercise will get the client started on their weight loss journey. But, if they are to stick to these long enough for them to observe significant results, then it’s also just as important to think about potential strategies that coaches could use to help their clients through the process. 

Painter et al. 2017: A Recent Review Of Successful Weight Loss Strategies

An interesting study popped up lately which explored potential strategies that could help increase successful adherence to a weight loss program. Given that more work needs to be done on potential weight loss strategies to increase adherence, this study could potentially prove very useful not only for those looking to lose weight, but for coaches as well. 

In this study Painter et al (2017) set out to analyse the effects of self monitoring behaviours on weight loss in 2113 male and female participants over the ages of 18, in a 6-month commercial weight loss intervention study. All participants of the program were given access to the same Fitbit activity tracker, WiFi enabled scale, personal exert coach and private dashboard. The private dashboard allowed the participants to keep a personal food and exercise log, review of their personal data as well as direct communication between their personal coach. All participants were encouraged to weigh in daily, wear their activity tracker daily, log all food and drink throughout the day and, achieve their personalised daily step goals. 

Results?

After 6 months, 51.87% of the 2113 participants lost 5% or more of their baseline weight. 

Those that achieved a 5% or more loss in weight from baseline, was highly correlated with at least 3 weigh ins per week. Those that lost the most weight, were also the ones with the most weigh ins per week. 

Those that lost the most weight was also highly correlated with the number of daily steps. 5000-7499 or more steps per day were associated with the highest levels of weight loss after 6 months. 

The greatest losses in weight were also significantly correlated with the number of highly active minutes per day. Higher-intensity activity of 60 minutes or more per week was correlated with significantly higher levels of weight loss. 

Higher levels of weight loss was associated with a greater number of food logs per week. The greatest losses in weight were associated with 3 or more food logs per week. 

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Painter et al (2017). Figure shows the outcome in weight loss over a 25 week period with the number of weigh-ins per week. 

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Painter et al. (2017). Figure shows the outcome in weight loss over a 25 week period with the number of steps per day.

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Painter et al. (2017). Figure shows the outcome in weight loss over a 25 week period with the number of active minutes per day

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Painter et al. (2017). Figure shows the outcome in weight loss over a 25 week period with the number of food logs per week. 

Conclusion?

Significant weight loss over a 6-month period is highly correlated with self-monitoring behaviours such as self weight-ins, daily step counts, higher-intensity activity and food logging. In other words, such behaviours were predictors of the amount of weight loss: it might be, that persistent self-monitoring will enhance adherence and motivation.

So, What Are The Potential Strategies?

If you are beginning your weight loss journey, then consuming fewer calories, adopting healthier food choices and increasing the amount of exercise you do, are still the best recommendations you can follow. However, successful weight loss means being able to adhere to these recommendations over the course of your weight loss program and not fall off track in the process. The good news for you is that it now appears that we have a few proven strategies at the ready to help you stay on track and increase your chances of successfully losing weight:

•Regular Weigh-Ins (~3 or time times per week)•

Encouraging clients to keep a track of how their weight is changing over time. Allowing clients to see how their weight is decreasing over time is likely to act as major motivator to allow them to push further.

•More Highly-Active Minutes (~ 60 or more minutes per week)•

Periods of being more active will help increase calorie burn, prevent you from becoming too inactive, and keep fat loss moving in the right direction over time.

•Food And Drink Logging (~ 3 or more days per week)•

By noting down what you eat and drink on a regular basis, it helps you to become more aware of the food and drink choices you make, and how you can easily maintain a tight control over your daily calories. It also helps you to be a little more flexible in terms of variety. 

 

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Successful weight loss is not just about doing more exercise, eating less and making better food choices, it’s about being able to adhere to a plan over a period of time. Although many clients start off a weight loss plan adopting more exercise and eating less, eventually, the lack of adherence strategies makes it difficult for them to continue doing this long enough to see seizable and lasting results. These simple strategies appear to be an effective way to allow clients to achieve, maintain and monitor closely their progress over time, providing a continuous source of motivation to keep them on track.