Last summer I went on vacation with my family and took a beautiful photo of the local architecture. I posted this picture on social media and watched as the likes and comments rolled in. It made me feel good. That was the dopamine hitting my brain.
Dopamine is that popular chemical that gets released from the brain in response to anything that brings you pleasure. It reinforces itself by getting you to seek out whatever behavior brought on this feel-good chemical cocktail. The same thing happens when you follow a fast weight loss plan and see quick results. But as you may know, these results don’t last. Many studies have come out to show that 90-95% of dieters regain the weight within 5 years. So then how do you lose weight and keep it off permanently? It comes down to execution. Let me explain.
3 Ways To Make A Change Stick
Eating is something you do every day. Therefore, changing the way you eat is a pretty big deal. There are plenty of ways to lose weight. You can choose to follow an exercise plan, an eating plan, a psychological plan, or a combination of three. However, there are only a handful of ways to execute these different weight loss plans in a way that will give you permanent results. Researcher and author BJ Fogg discovered that there are only three ways to induce long-term change.
1) Having an epiphany
Having an epiphany can be brought on by a cataclysmic life experience where you reevaluate your priorities. This could be a near-death experience (either yourself, or someone close to you), a job loss, or even a global crisis. What an epiphany does is it forces you to look at your values and see if your behaviour matches. Having an epiphany can help you change your diet because to maintain a new way of eating you have to change the way you think about food.
2) Changing your environment
Changing your environment, like moving houses, jobs, or rearrange and redecorate your space makes it easier for you to form new habits. Many of our habits are linked to the different cues in our environment. So if you go into a new environment with the idea that you want to change your habits then it becomes easier to adopt them. What and how you eat is a habit. Changing your eating habit cues can help to change your eating habits.
3) Taking baby steps
Taking baby steps, like changing one thing about your diet per month is another way to solidify new habits. It takes roughly 60-70 days to fully integrate a new habit into your daily routine. Making these small changes is another way to change your eating habits. If you combine the environmental cues with making small changes, you’ve got yourself a double-whammy.
You could have all three in play. One can lead to another. The emphasis of all these examples is the idea of going slow. You can have a life-changing epiphany and integrate the changes you want to make slowly. You can move houses and change your routine slowly. A drastic change in lifestyle is rarely maintained. Gradual change allows you to integrate something new into your life.
Trying to do something fast will get you fast results but how long do you want those results to last for? If you want to lose weight for a special event and don't mind regaining it then a fast diet is the right match for you. If you want to lose weight indefinitely then you need a slow long-term diet. The length of time that you follow a diet for is how long you can expect those results to last. There is no diet you can do now or for a few months or even years and expect the results to last a lifetime. Countless studies tell us the best and proven way to lose weight and keep it off permanently is to make slow changes.
Why Going Slow Is Important
Have you yo-yoed recently? I’m referring to yo-yo dieting. The diet yo-yo effect looks like this; you try a seven-day juice cleanse which leads to a quick weight loss. Then you go on vacation and regain the weight. Then you follow a thirty-day meal plan and lose weight fast. Then you go back to old eating habits and gain weight. Then you do keto and lose weight. Then you go back to previous eating habits and regain the weight. I don't have to be the one to tell you that this cycle is not fun. This cycle can give you a temporary sense of accomplishment but in the long term, it affects your self-esteem, body image, motivation and, general emotional state.
Your emotional state affects your ability to lose weight. For example, stress releases cortisol, which causes inflammation in the body. Chronic stress and inflammation have been shown to predict future weight gain. The opposite is true too. When you experience a state of elation, the hormone oxytocin is released. New research is finding how oxytocin contributes to eating behaviours and improved metabolism leading to weight loss.
Taking it slow is important for you to feel good! To feel empowered, capable, and worthy on your weight loss journey. I’m all about helping you understand that you can lose the weight, you can keep it off, and you can feel amazing. One piece of that puzzle is talking it slow.
1% Better Every Day
James Clear author of Atomic Habits explains, “if you can get 1 percent better each day for one year, you'll end up 37 times better by the time you're done. Conversely, if you get 1 percent worse each day for one year, you'll decline nearly down to zero.” Imagine applying this idea to your eating habits.
Day one you add one extra veggie to your dinner. Day two you swap your afternoon soda for water. Maybe you don't lose 10 pounds in 30 days, but within a year you learn how to lose weight in a way that doesn't have you hating on yourself. Within three years you develop a different mindset and see yourself in a brighter light. In seven years you look back and your old ways make you chuckle. You feel compassionate towards the version of you stuck in the yo-yo cycle and you are proud of how far you’ve come.
Where To Go From Here
I’m here to set you up for success. That means ditching the fast diets for fast results. There is nothing wrong with you if you’ve been trapped in the yo-yo cycle. Remember, our brains reinforce this pattern of seeking out quick hits of satisfaction but there is a way to break free.
Imagine you had to help a small child learn the alphabet. You wouldn’t start by trying to teach it all 26 letters at once. You’d start by teaching it maybe two or three letters a day. And you’d repeat this over and over again until it sticks. Pretend you are a small child that you want to help. Start small and easy. Choose one thing that you can do (that you actually would do) and start there.
Make one tiny, seemingly insignificant change and stick with it. Remember it takes about 60 days to form a habit. Also, remember that anchoring your habit to an environmental cue will help make it stick. Then give yourself praise. Mentally (or physically) pat yourself on the back for doing what you said you would do. This positive reinforcement will help to solidify your habit and you’ll be more likely to stick with it.
Then take it easy on yourself when you fudge up (because that’s part of the process) and pick up where you left off the next day. As adults, we seem to know of all these tricks to help others but we don't use them on ourselves. We hold ourselves to such a high standard and then guilt trip ourselves for not meeting our standards. You’re doing okay. You’re doing just fine. Start small and go slow.