Losing weight is one of the top New Year’s resolutions people set. According to studies, only 77% maintain it for just a week and only 8% meet their goals! Why is losing weight so hard? I have personally tried half a dozen or so different diet programs and unfortunately haven’t been as successful as I like.
When dieting, we equate weight loss with willpower, using self-discipline to eat healthier and exercise more. The problem here is that all of the responsibility falls on our shoulders. But there are some biological reasons such as genetics and exposure to chemicals that alter our metabolism. Studies have also shown that lack of sleep and boredom causes weight gain.
To add on to that, much of the food produced has ingredients (like high fructose corn syrup) that make it more addictive and adds to our weight. One dietician told me to look at the nutrition label and check the ingredients, which are listed in order by amount. If you see sugar in the top three, you should avoid it. I didn’t realize how much food I thought was healthy but was not!
Quitting smoking is also a top resolution. Through public health policy, smoking has become illegal in many buildings, restaurants, bars, and many areas. By making it harder to smoke in public, studies have shown it has reduced smoking overall, especially for teenagers.
By altering the way our environment is structured, it influences how we behave. It doesn’t necessarily persuade us to behave a certain way, but it makes it harder or easier to do certain things. This in turn can make it more difficult to live an unhealthy lifestyle. Making structural changes in our environment is more effective in keeping our resolutions than sheer willpower.
Take a snapshot of your home, workplace, and places where you spend lots of time. What habits have you developed that lead you to eat more? Those that have been the most successful in losing weight understand that changing our habits are very difficult.
Instead of going against our habits, we should use them to our advantage. Growing up, I had to eat everything off my plate to not waste food. So regardless of how full I am, I have the habit of leaving nothing behind. Instead of trying to change how much I eat, I use smaller plates, eating less despite keeping the same habit.
I also tend to eat anything and everything in my sight, so my wife wisely discovered to not have unhealthy snacks in the cupboard. She rearranged the pantry so the healthy foods were easier to find. She hid the unhealthy snacks elsewhere until like the Kung Fu Panda I found them and wiped them out. They aren’t there anymore so either she has a new hiding place or stopped buying them!
I got one of the stand-up desks, where with one simple movement I can raise my desk so I am standing instead of sitting. I have a habit of being very competitive. So I time myself and try to beat my score of standing. An accountability partner is also a way of changing our environment. Having someone hold me responsible for my goals is very helpful.
These small changes have helped significantly. As time goes on, you learn to develop better habits, ultimately reaching your goal of success!