I’ve just wrapped up a 10-week weight loss program at the corporate fitness program where I work. Some participants were able to capitalize on the lessons and tools offered in the program and lost weight, others merely managed to grasp the concepts, but were not able to consistently apply them. We call the difference between knowing what to do and doing it ‘the gap.’
Weight loss involves simple math: eat less, move more. But it’s anything but simple to accomplish, at least with enough consistency and without too many slips to make a dent. Our program focused on the ABC’s of weight loss: Actions, Behaviors and Context.
A: Weight loss depends on the actions of eating and exercising. But we’re not robots able to just program certain ‘if-then’ clauses into our brains. We’re emotional and intellectual and creatures of habit, too. However, facts are facts; to lose weight, you must eat less and move more.
B: The behaviors that support those actions are also straightforward. They are anything that set your life up to enact the principals of exercise and healthy eating. Some behaviors are logistical: join a gym, buy proper attire/shoes, wake up earlier, eat slower and more consciously, practice healthy stress relief such as deep breathing or yoga, and shop for good food. Other behaviors involve increasing your knowledge base in the pertinent areas of exercise and nutrition. Are you rushing too much in the morning and skipping breakfast? Do you lack basic exercise knowledge? Do you wolf down your meals, unconsciously, still hungry afterward? It is difficult to change from the comforts of a life you know. But if you want to lose weight, then changing some aspects is non-negotiable.
C: The deepest support for the behaviors and actions of weight loss is context. A context of self-care supports healthy eating and exercise. Without it, you will easily fall off the wagon. Consider healthy eating and exercise not just as a means of losing weight, but as a means of taking the best care of yourself. Think of it as you would a deposit into your 401K. If it’s not given that same level of importance, you may feel your interest/motivation waning. Be realistic and honest in your assessment. It may not be as important to you as you wish it were! At the onset of this program we offered a session titled “Are You Ready to Lose Weight?” That was not a marketing ploy; it was really designed to weed out people who were merely motivated (I want to lose weight) from those who were really ready to work the A, B and C’s.
Our results: Of 20 participants, 11 lost a total of 56 pounds (avg 5.1 lbs). Seven gained 22 pounds (avg 3.1 lbs). One participant remained the same and one did not lose any weight. In reality, only two participants lost weight at the expected rate of 1-2 pounds/week (10 and 12.75 lbs lost, respectively).
Were we successful? I say yes. Research shows people who lose weight and keep it off have tried numerous times before finally getting on top of the issue. They finally became able to incorporate the actions of eating healthy and exercise to be good. Take a look at this quote from the National Weight Control Registry success stories (www.nwcr.ws). This person had been overweight her entire life and had tried numerous times to pare down, without success. After coming to the place she describes below (traversing the gap), she lost 60 pounds and has maintained that loss for the last 20 years:
“It took refusing to continue enslaving my life to bingeing and obesity, as well as recognizing my own unique irreplaceable value. From there, I learned to make my health un-negotiably important. Following that, it took little to no effort to apply what I had known all along but was unable to persist in doing.”