Tuesday 6 January 2009

Losing Weight the 'expert' way

Overindulged at Christmas? Want to start the New Year by losing a few pounds?
Last year, James Sweetman (www.jamessweetman.com) undertook a project entitled Consistent Excellence in Nutrition. He interviewed many experts in the field several of whom appear regularly on TV, assisting people with health and wellness issues. This article is a summary of his findings and in it he shares 8 great strategies that the experts use.

1. Beliefs – getting your thinking right
Beliefs are statements that we hold to be true and we act in accordance with them. For example, people with religious beliefs usually try to act in accordance with them. Most of the time our beliefs are unconscious, that is, we are not aware of them and the power they hold over us. In the context of weight loss, a typical belief is ‘losing weight is very tough.’ If we belief that to be true, we will seek evidence to verify that belief.
The experts I spoke with did not have any limiting beliefs in terms of fitness and health. Examples of their positive, empowering beliefs included:

“Life will be immeasurable improved when attention is paid to a healthy diet.”
“How I feel is a top priority.”
“I don’t have to be perfect all the time.”
Write out the beliefs you are holding in this area. A good way to uncover them is to simply think about what you would like to achieve and write out all the thoughts that come into your mind. What thoughts are limiting and could hold you back? What could you replace them with?

2. Focus on the end result
The people who succeed at losing weight and maintaining the loss are motivated by a dream much bigger and more positive than just losing weight. They see themselves living a healthy lifestyle. They begin to act and think like people who are in good physical shape. They change their thinking (their beliefs) and the change in their actions follow automatically. It wouldn't be possible to effect and sustain such a radical change unless the person is motivated by a big dream that is positive in nature.

3. Planning
The bigger focus or dream is converted into results and achievements by having a future focus and planning ahead. Speaking with the experts, planning fell into two categories.

Firstly, having a goal focus. That could be completing the mini marathon in June or reaching a certain weight or dress size by Easter. The goal has to be specific and has to have a target date for completion, otherwise it is wishful thinking.
Secondly, all the experts recommended planning meals ahead. They suggested eating five small meals a day. To get started and to build good habits, they advised planning the week’s meals, all thirty five of them, at the beginning of the week. This will reduce the likelihood of finding yourself hungry with nothing in the fridge and making some less than good eating decisions.

4. Visualise your Achievements
Imagine in your mind how you will look and feel, and the life you will be living when you achieve your goal. How will you know you have achieved your goal unless you have determined what success means to you. So, take 10 minutes when you know you are not going to be disturbed and daydream about what you will look like when you have achieved your goal. Be specific. Writing out this description will make your goal seem much more real. Review what you have written every day and connect with your image of the new you. Connect with how achieving this result will make you feel. What will you be doing differently? What will you be saying and thinking when you have achieved your goal?

5. Measure your Results
To manage anything you have to be able to measure it. This is true in business, it is also true with diets. A simple technique is to get yourself a notebook. Each day write into your notebook what positive actions you are taking to make progress. It might be going for a walk or eating a salad for lunch. Also note what you are doing less of to reduce weight. For example, note that you didn’t have desert after dinner or resisted the cappuccino after lunch. If you want to note what the scales is telling you on a weekly basis or simply writing down how you are feeling, than that is also useful.

6. Values
One of the findings from speaking with the nutrition experts that surprised me was learning that their primary focus was not on themselves. They wanted to be the best they could be in the areas of health and nutrition to be an example to others, to inspire other people to make healthier choices. It wasn’t just about them. If you think about it, don’t we always do more for other people than we do for ourselves? If you can embark on living a healthier lifestyle in tandem with a friend or partner, then you can give each other support and encouragement as you go along.

7. Resisting Temptation – what to do when the going gets tough
It was Oscar Wilde who said ‘I can resist everything except temptation.’ One of the areas that I wanted to get specific knowledge on when I spoke with the nutrition experts was how did they cope with resisting temptation. That moment when your hand is on the packet of crisps, or you make the decision to order a chocolate desert. What was interesting is that they all approached this in the same way and it wasn’t what I might have thought beforehand.
When tempted to eat unhealthily, they remembered a time in the past when they over-indulged. Perhaps after Christmas lunch or when they had a few too many drinks. They associated with this past memory, that is, they experienced it again on the inside, how they felt, what they saw, what they said to themselves. Some would then think about what it is they wanted to achieve, so they would have a contrast between the two extremes.
So if you overindulged over Christmas you can use that sense of bloatedness as a motivating factor for overcoming temptation.
All the experts said that aiming for 100% perfection in this area is a recipe (again pardon the pun) for disaster. It is what you do 80% of the time that matters. Going from four lattes a day to none is extreme. Going from four to two to one over a few weeks is steady progress.

8. Persistence

How long do you stick with something difficult before you give up? For many people in today’s immediate gratification society, if something doesn’t happen easily, they will not persevere. In a study carried out over a 10 year period in the US by The National Metabolic and Longevity Research Center they found that persistence is the single most important aspect of any diet or fitness program. The study followed a group of people (Group A) who exercised and dieted very strictly, but sporadically and compared those results with a second group (Group B) who exercised mildly and followed a very basic diet, but this group never varied from their routine. Even though Group B exercised and dieted far less (but did so persistently) they got 68% better results than those who exercised and dieted strictly but infrequently.

As the saying goes ‘if nothing changes then everything stays the same.’ This is true for our thoughts as well as our actions. Wouldn’t now be a good time to start making those changes? The above eight strategies work, I use them myself. But remember, knowledge is only potential power you have to take action to reap the rewards of your knowledge.

This and similar articles are available on www.jamessweetman.com

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