"Although both man and dog walked faithfully every day, the food in the dog's bowl remained the same, while the man rewarded his own exercise with extra calories,” says Blake, who is clinical associate professor at Boston University. This story illustrates one of the most common obstacles to weight loss — you need a weight-loss plan that allows you to burn calories as you count calories. Read on for more about common weight-loss obstacles and how to overcome them.
Overcoming Obstacles in Your Weight-Loss Plan
1. Not Exercising Enough for Burning Calories
"Most of us think that we have to go to a gym or walk on a treadmill in order to make exercise count. The simple truth is activity is what counts,” says Debra J. Johnston, RD, director of nutrition services at Remuda Ranch in Wickenburg, Ariz.
"A 45-minute workout on a treadmill feels like a lot of work, but it is easy to overestimate how many calories you burn," says Blake. Both Blake and Johnston suggest picking an exercise you can enjoy and stick with over the long haul. Here are more exercise tips:
- Have fun. "If we concentrate too much on the what, where, and how long of exercise, it becomes more of a job and less of a joy," says Johnston.
- Relieve the stress. Choose exercise when you feel bored or stressed instead of snacking.
- Know how much you’re eating. Count calories: Keep a journal of calories in and calories burned, but pay more attention to calories in.
- Get a pedometer to log steps taken every day. Aim for 10,000 steps. Logging steps is a good indicator of calories burned.
2. Added Hunger From Skipping Meals
Hunger is a big challenge in most weight-loss plans. "Many of us nibble or snack through the day and then overeat at dinner. Deprivation leads to craving, and craving leads to overeating," says Johnston.
"Skipping meals increases the risk of unplanned, impulse eating, such as eating from a vending machine. You need to stay ahead of hunger," says Blake. Here are some mealtime tips:
- Try eating six small meals each day. These should be small, balanced meals containing some carbohydrate, fat, and protein.
- Schedule mealtimes. Set an alarm that reminds you when to eat during the day.
- Pack snacks. Bring healthy snacks to work so you don't end up feeding your hunger with junk food.
3. Underestimating Portion Size
"I don’t like to talk about calories or fat content. Portion sizes are more important. When we focus too much on calories we can become obsessive about our diet," says Johnston.
"You can have a healthy portion as long as you add healthy food,” advises Blake. Fill up your plate with fruits and vegetables instead of rice and potatoes. Here are some weight-loss tips on paying attention to portions:
- Meat, fish, and poultry: A healthy portion is about the size of a deck of cards.
- Pasta: A healthy portion is about the size of a tennis ball. A cup of pasta is about 200 calories, while a cup of vegetables is about 50, so substitute a cup of vegetables for a cup of pasta.
- Appetizers: Have a salad or a cup of soup before your meal to fill you up.
4. Doomed by Diet Impatience
A good weight-loss plan takes time. People who lose weight gradually have a better chance of maintaining their weight loss over time. "Research shows that a weight loss of just 10 percent of our body weight will significantly increase our health status. By focusing on health as the motivating factor, weight loss can be easier and more meaningful," advises Johnston. Here are some motivating tips:
- Let your clothes be your scale. "Most people will start to look better and feel better in their clothes before they see much change on their scale," notes Blake.
- Frame your transformation. A photo log that shows an improvement in your appearance over time may be more motivating than a weight-loss journal that just lists numbers.
- Keep it slow and steady. Remember that a good weight-loss plan is more of a healthy journey than a destination. It is not a race.
5. Frustration From a Weight-Loss Plateau
"Plateaus often make us give up. When we hit a plateau it is important to stay with it and focus on improved health instead of the numbers on the scale," says Johnston. Here are some weight-loss tips for the plateau:
- Know the changes. Understand that when weight loss slows down, it’s due to fat being replaced by lean muscle. "This is a good thing. Your weight may not be changing, but you are looking better," says Blake. Weight loss will resume, but at a slower pace.
- Scale back on trips to the scale. "Weight fluctuations are normal and they can be discouraging. So, if you are going to weigh yourself, select one day of the week as your weigh-in day and stay off the scale the rest of the week," says Johnston.
- Stick to your plan. Even if weight loss slows, health benefits, energy level, and self- confidence will continue if you stick to your weight-loss plan.
The best weight-loss tip is to remember that a weight-loss plan is not just about counting calories or reaching a magic number on a scale. The best weight-loss plan is a journey to a healthier, more-rewarding lifestyle that can last a lifetime.