Keeping Weight Off is Actually NOT like Running a Marathon…Posted: Nov 19 in Weight Management Strategies by Dr. Lazarus
The most common questions I get from my patients are “How much weight can I lose?” and “How quickly can I lose it?”
For decades, the recommended answer to these questions has been “It’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon.”
However, I need to tell you that these are the wrong questions, and this is the wrong answer.
In reality, losing weight and keeping it off has nothing to do with running marathons (for most people). The thing about running is that there is a finish line. To compare weight management with running a marathon is not a good comparison because with weight management, there is no finish line.
Think about it – running is hard! Whether you run a 5k, a 10k, a half marathon or a full marathon, you know when it will end! No matter how hard it gets, you can keep putting one foot in front of the other knowing that before too long, you can stop, sit down, stretch out and cool off. But with losing weight, there is no finish line. In addition, there is no predefined reasonable mile limit (goal weight).
There is no finish line
Imagine the joy of reaching the finish line of a marathon. There are markers every mile so you know how close you are getting. There are throngs of people lined up cheering you on. There are other runners on either side of you giving you words of encouragement. There are support stands and crews to help you on your journey. And when you reach the finish line, you are done!
This is not the way with weight loss. As we lose weight, our bodies respond by slowing metabolism and increasing hunger (metabolic adaptation) making weight loss maintenance even harder than losing it. Once we get to the “Finish Line,” we can’t sit down, stretch out and recharge – our bodies are fighting against us to try and get back to the starting weight.
There is no predefined reasonable mile limit (goal weight)
Imagine finishing the marathon, but that is not enough. You are “Not satisfied” with running only 26 miles. You feel like you need to do another marathon – right now! Instead of 26 miles, 52 miles. What are your odds of success? Your body has biological limitations – can you really run 52 miles? This thinking may result in serious physical and mental harm!
But with weight loss, there is little acceptance of the body’s biological limits. Many people believe that if they can just eat right and move more, they can achieve any “goal” weight they have in mind. Unfortunately, this magical thinking is not in line with reality. The body is only willing to give us so much weight – biological processes kick in and the body protects itself against further loss.
Another example would be believing that “If I have enough willpower, I can be any goal height (or goal body mass index / BMI) I desire.” It is simply not true.
The real magic of keeping weight off
So if there is no finish line and no “Goal” weight, how can we succeed in keeping weight off?
Keeping weight off is more like being in a loop in the middle of the marathon. We have to keep moving forward and don’t want to go back to the starting line. We have to keep putting one foot in front of the other. But we have to go at a pace we can sustain – indefinitely.
Keeping weight off is not about enduring a lifestyle that we can tolerate. This may work to get the weight off, but eventually we will run out of steam. Rather, it is about learning a lifestyle we can actually enjoy. We need to eat in a way that is healthy, controls our calories, and helps us feel satisfied. We need to avoid foods that trigger cravings and binges. We need to find ways to be active for an hour or two every day. We need to change the things in our environment that were causing us to gain weight in the first place. We need to control stress. We need to get enough sleep.
And, we still need a support crew! We need people cheering us on our journey, to help us keep moving forward when the going gets tough.
The journey of keeping weight off should be enjoyable. We should find ourselves less hungry and more energetic because we have restructured our lives to support a healthier weight. If we feel great and improve our health and happiness, isn’t that better than a finish line?