Everyone knows how to lose weight: eat healthier and exercise more. Yet, over two-thirds of America is overweight and 91% of women are unhappy with their bodies.
Knowing that all it takes is “to just eat healthier and move more” is obviously not working. The majority of people are still overweight and unhappy. There is a disconnect between what we know and what we do.
If you really want to lose weight, it’s imperative to look into the gap between knowledge and action. These are some common reasons that people are not losing weight despite their knowledge, and I’ll tell you how to overcome it.
Remember the question: if your friend jumped off a cliff, would you? Of course you wouldn’t. But what about if your friends go out for pizza and beer while you’re trying to watch what you eat? That might be a different story.
Most adults’ diets are very influenced by social pressure. If your friends are going out drinking this weekend, you are more likely to go out. If your coworkers eat out for lunch, chances are higher that you’ll go as well. If your girlfriends are bingeing on chocolate and wine, you’re more likely to indulge. Alright you get the idea.
It’s a fact: social pressure can influence your eating.
So how do you overcome this pressure?
- First of all, remember that your body is yours. Just like when you were taught in middle school to “just say no”, you can still say no to social pressure! If someone’s trying to get you to consume things that you don’t want to, practice having the confidence to decline. You might feel momentarily uncomfortable, but most likely everyone will move on and forget about it anyways. You might worry you’re offending people by declining their food offers, but when it comes to your health, it’s ok to put yourself first. You shouldn’t feel guilted into doing something you don’t want to.
- You can still go out with your friends, just order something healthy. (And maybe skip the booze). Look ahead at the menu so you can be aware of what meals are best for your health. Sometimes you think that salad is healthy, but in reality it can be higher in calories and saturated fat.
- Be the instigator and plan the social events yourself. Choose a restaurant that has options that fit your diet. Plan a potluck where you can make something you’d feel good about eating. Invite your friends out for a hike or day at the park, instead of always going out to eat.
- Bring your own food. This might not be for everyone, but I’ve definitely had friends come to outings with their own food. This way you can still enjoy the social events, while not ruining your diet.
Merry Christmas, Here’s 15 Pounds
Holidays and special occasions are a huge reason people overeat in our culture. Did you know one of the biggest reasons people gain weight is because they pack on extra pounds over the holidays, but then never lose it?
You can see in this graph the the majority of weight gain happens during holidays.
That has a lot to do with the fact that most of us all suffer to some degree from FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).
Have you ever told yourself, I can’t start my diet until after Thanksgiving because I can’t miss out on the turkey! Or “it’s my birthday, I’m just obligated to eat cake!”
The thing is, every day can be a holiday or an excuse if you start letting yourself think that way. You know that if you want to lose weight, you need to eat less and exercise more. but so many of us let these “special occasions” constantly knock us off the course.
What to do: if you want to lose weight you need to replace this way of thinking.
- Find other traditions to celebrate the don’t involve food.
- Get over your FOMO. Realize that food is always there, just because you miss this chance doesn’t mean you’ll never get it again. If you are full on Thanksgiving, don’t still eat that pie because it’s a holiday. You can make that pie any day.
The last time you had your heart broken, did you go for your favorite flavor of Ben & Jerry’s or a fresh bag of carrots? Ice cream, right?
It turns out, junk food can literally be as addicting as cocaine. When you eat food, your brain releases dopamine which makes you feel good. (Just like cocaine and other drugs release dopamine in the brain to make you feel good). It can give you a feeling of happiness and distract you from other emotions.
That’s why when you’ve had a sad day, your brain wants you to eat food, to trigger that dopamine response to make you feel better. This is an extremely common reason people don’t stick to eating healthy even though they want to lose weight.
No matter how much you want to lose a few pounds, everyone has bad days. And it’s second nature for a lot of us to self medicate with food. It truly has a numbing effect.
The good news is: there are other ways to release dopamine that won’t add to your waistline! Think of things you can do when you’re sad or stressed instead of eating, such as:
- Talk to a friend
- Do something nice for someone else
- Go somewhere beautiful
- Take the first step in solving the problem that’s stressing you out
- Go outside
- Listen to music (or play music if you have an instrument!)
- Play with a pet
- If all else fails, sometimes it helps to just take a nap
If you are stressed, try to do something else besides eat to feel better. It takes a lot of awareness, but it is possible to overcome this habit!
However, for some people emotional eating becomes more than a bad habit, it’s uncontrollable. There is a real disorder called Binge Eating Disorder and if you believe you have this disorder, seek professional help.
Have you ever gone a long day without eating? What happened at the end?
Something like this, right? So many people think they are on a diet, but in reality are over-restricting and essentially starving themselves. And that is just not sustainable. So then often, they end up bingeing and feeling like a failure.
I’ve been there! It’s easy to get excited and pumped about a diet and start to strong, only to get way too hungry and end up eating even more.
If you’ve fallen into this cycle, here’s what to do:
- Count your calories and make sure you’re eating enough. At LEAST 1200 calories a day.
- If you exercise, compensate for those calories. If you want your diet to last longer than a week, you need to be eating enough! And if you’re burning extra calories from exercise and you don’t replace them (with healthy foods) then you’ll feel sick, tired, resent exercise, and eventually give up. Trust me, for a lasting diet, you need to be nourishing your body and fueling your workouts. The weight will still come off!
- Eat your meals. You don’t necessarily have to eat breakfast right when you wake up. But don’t starve all day and then consume your entire day’s worth of calories at night. Keep it spread out, don’t let yourself get too hungry. This will help you develop self control and a healthy life style much more than starving all day until dinner and then bingeing on your favorite foods.
- It takes a lot of patience to diet reasonably rather than crash diet. But remember the tortoise and the hair- slow and steady really does win the race! You will see results when you diet reasonably. It takes patience, but you will be much more successful.
- If you do binge, realize that it’s just food. You don’t need to obsess about it or punish yourself. You are human and you’re learning! Think about what you can do to help prevent it from happening again and then move on.
Binge Eating and cycle of binging and restricting can be serious eating disorders. If you feel you are out of control, seek professional help.
Choosing Free (or Cheap) Food
Wouldn’t it be nice if free food also meant free of calories? Unfortunately that’s not the case.
Food is getting cheaper and cheaper. Americans are only spending about 10% of their disposable income on food. Fast food chains are constantly battling it out to give you the biggest meal for the cheapest price. And we’re constantly bombarded with people offering free food at company parties, business meetings, or marketing schemes.
It can be extremely hard to say no to something yummy, free, but unhealthy.
What to do about it:
- Remember that nothing is ever free of consequences. Free food still gets stored in the same fat cells as the food you paid for.
- Grocery shop. If you buy all of your food at a grocery store, you can stock up on a whole weeks worth of healthy food at a low cost. A head of lettuce is under $1. Apples and oranges are under $1. You can get a whole carton of eggs for under $3! Eating healthy does NOT have to be expensive. If you get your food at a grocery store, you can eat nutritiously and affordably.
- Your health also has value. When you’re hungry and on a budget, it’s tempting to get the dollar menu burger. Only $1 for a whole meal! But that burger is probably very over-processed, high in saturated fat, and cholesterol. If you plan ahead all of your meals and snacks, you can eat healthy on a budget. But if you have to eat out, remember that your health is worth potentially spending a few extra dollars. If you find yourself needing to eat out, check out this list of the healthiest options at every restaurant.
- If you’re full stop eating. You don’t need to worry about “getting your money’s worth”. If you order a dish of pasta and can’t finish it, box it up! Even if that’s not an option, it’s better to leave the pasta than shove it in your already full belly. You already paid the money for it. Now the rest of that pasta is going to end up in the trash one of two ways- you can throw away the extra now. Or you can force it through your body….end up in the trash but you also gained weight in the process.
Just because food is free (or cheap) doesn’t mean it’s free of consequences. Free food still causes weight gain so think twice before eating.
Are You Straight Up Dieting Wrong?
This is one of the saddest to see- people who think they’re being healthy and are actually not. If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “I am eating healthy and following my diet but nothing is changing!” You, unfortunately, might be dieting wrong.
The main thing with weight loss that you need to understand is calories.
So many people think they’re eating healthy, but really they are still unknowingly eating too many calories.
How to fix this:
- Measure out your food. (All your food). You might think your bowl of healthy of cereal is 120 calories, but you actually are unknowingly eating 3.5 servings (so 420 calories). When you’re trying to lose weight, it helps so much to actually measure out your food. You don’t have to do this forever, once you get the hand of what “2 TBSP of dressing” or “3/4 cups of cereal” looks like, you don’t have to measure it out every time. But if you’re trying to lose weight, measuring out your food is one of the most helpful things you can do.
- Healthy food doesn’t automatically mean weight loss. So you switched your overly processed pasta for some whole grain noodles? That’s awesome! And while that change is better for your digestive health and blood sugar, it’s honestly not going to change your weight if you’re still eating too many calories- even if they are “healthier calories”. If you’re trying to lose weight, it’s imperative to be aware of your calories.
- Look up the nutrition info before you choose what to eat. Especially at restaurants! You might be surprised how many calories are in “healthy” meals like salads or soups. It doesn’t seem fair if you miss out on your favorite burger for a salad- only to find out the salad had more calories than the burger! It’s going to change your weight loss game when you actually understand and know how many calories you’re eating.
- Tracking calories is the surest way to success. Every time I download a calorie tracking app on my phone, I lose weight. And that’s not just me- it’s a proven fact that tracking your calories helps you lose weight. A big reason for this is awareness. When you are tracking your calories you are so much more aware of what you’re eating. You’re less likely to grab a handful of snacks here or there, because you’re more aware! And tracking can be kind of a pain in the butt, so it makes you think twice before eating something you don’t really need.
Now, calories are not bad. It’s fine to eat calories! It’s fine to have bacon in your salad or full fat dressing. But it’s just important to be aware of what you’re eating (and how much).
If you chose to splurge and eat fruit snacks, that’s fine! But if you do so under the pretense that it’s a health food, that’s when you’re going to have trouble.
Just don’t Care? (I’m calling BS)
Some people say they just don’t care about all this.
Here’s the truth. You might say you don’t care about your weight, you don’t want to eat healthy, or you just want to be how you are.
But deep down, you know that you do care.
I have a friend who adamantly proclaims he is completely unconcerned with his health. But I know he wants to be alive at his daughters wedding and doesn’t want to die of a heart attack. I know it scared him when the doctor diagnosed him with diabetes. I know he’s uncomfortable when the topic of weight comes up so he makes a joke before anyone else can. I know he cares, even though he acts like he doesn’t.
Some might think, “Why”? Why not just diet and exercise?
We all know it’s so much more than just that. Depression can be a big factor in why people don’t lose weight, though for some that can be very hard to admit.
If you are like my friend and you’re not losing weight despite your unhappiness and fear for your health, know that you’re not alone. Food is comforting. Food can biologically make you happy. And change is hard. Exercise takes a ton of energy. There are emotional factors that may be stopping you from changing.
What to do about this: It’s up to you to decide that your life is worth it. That your long term happiness is worth it. That there are people who love you and want you to stick around. It can be hard, but it is worth it. If you believe you are clinically depressed, seek professional help.
Here are a few ideas if you are feeling like you don’t know how to start:
- Start small. Even a 10 minute walk a few times a week can help. Heck a 5 minute walk is better than nothing! It can be overwhelming to try and just start juicing kale (gross!) and practicing yoga tomorrow. Improvement doesn’t have to be dramatic. In fact, it will most likely be more sustainable if it’s not. If you tell yourself every weekend, “I’m going to start running on Monday” and then never do, maybe it’s time to set a new goal- something smaller. Maybe:
- Take a 5 minute walk
- Eat 1 serving of vegetables
- Do 5 knee push ups before bed
- Park farther away at the grocery store
- And then work your way up from there. Start small, you do not need to start training for a triathlon! Any progress is going to help.
- Enlist a friend. Weight can be a sensitive topic. Is there someone you know who you feel comfortable opening up to? IT helps to find someone to join you on your journey rather than doing it alone. Whether it’s a jogging buddy, someone to cook healthier meals with, or just someone to talk with that helps motivate you…having support absolutely makes a difference!
- Reward your efforts. (Not with food though). Find a reward system that works for you. Maybe if you reach your goal, you can buy that gadget you’ve been wanting to get or treat yourself to a manicure. Find a way to encourage yourself!
- Remember that anything is better than nothing. Get in the habit of moving your body, even if it’s only 5 minutes. You might not always feel like working out (no one does) but any little thing you do is better than nothing.
- You are worth it! If you don’t feel that way, consider talking to a professional. It’s common for people to have clinical depression or underlying reasons why they don’t feel valuable enough to take care of themselves.
Make a Change
Don’t let this just be another article that you read, relate to, then go on living your life. Commit to change one thing today. No more sitting and wishing you were different, like 91% of the women in the world. You deserve to be happy with yourself and you can!