Losing Weight: Measuring SuccessPosted: Oct 01 in Weight Management Strategies by Dr. Lazarus
- Do you feel successful when you lose weight, but then feel like a failure when you gain weight?
- Do you feel successful only when you hit a weight loss goal, but feel like a failure if you lose weight, but not all the way down to your goal?
If the above questions describe you, you are falling into a trap that makes sustaining weight loss nearly impossible. Read on to learn how to avoid falling victim to this!
Why is losing weight important to you?
Before we address this, it is important for you to understand why losing weight is important to you. Do you want to lose weight just to be a lower number on the scale? To improve your health? To lower blood pressure / cholesterol / blood sugar? To lower your health risk for diabetes, heart disease or cancer? To have less pain in your knees, hips, ankles or back? To have more energy? To look better / fit in clothing? To be more attractive to your significant other? To be more comfortable traveling? To be happier?
Weight Loss vs. Mass Loss
During the pandemic, I had a telehealth visit with a patient and asked about his weight loss goals. His answer surprised me – he said, “I don’t really care about the weight number. I care about my body mass – I want to fit into my clothes!” As we continued to talk, he told me he was reading a book about gravity – he asked if I understood the difference between weight and mass, and then went on to explain to me, “I want to lose fat mass to improve my health. My clothes fitting better tells me I am losing fat mass. If I just wanted to lose weight, I’d take a trip to the moon!”
Before reading on, please write down the 3 or 4 reasons you want to lose weight.
- To decrease my risk for type 2 diabetes because I lost a loved one to that disease, and had a mildly elevated blood sugar at my last physical exam.
- To improve my energy levels.
- So that I can hike easier without being so out of breath.
- To look amazing for an upcoming event.
Having weight loss as the goal, we are sidestepping the reasons why we want to lose weight. For example, it might take a different amount of weight loss to lower diabetes risk vs. to improve hiking vs. to look a certain way. And, weight loss goals ignore biology – as we lose more and more weight, it becomes exponentially harder. The human body resists weight loss by slowing metabolism and increasing hormones that make us hungry. To set weight loss goals that don’t appreciate how our body works is likely to lead to a failure to achieve those goals.
Instead, why not focus on your progress towards the reasons you wanted to lose weight in the first place? For example:
- A 6% weight loss (~12 pounds for a person who is 200 pounds) lowers diabetes risk by two-thirds.
- Energy levels improve as a result of reducing stress, improving sleep, getting on a routine, and eating healthy. This is not directly related to the amount of weight lost, but rather with the lifestyle structure needed to lose the weight.
- Lower extremity joints perceive each pound of weight lost as 4-6 pounds. Further, weight loss can have an anti-inflammatory effect for arthritic joints. Losing 10 pounds feels like 40-60 pounds on your knees! Usually for somebody with more severe osteoarthritis, losing 10-15% of the body weight (~20-30 pounds for a person who is 200 pounds) will provide the majority of the benefits.
- Events are a great motivator to get to a great weight! However, understand that you may get to a lower weight for the event than the sustainable weight, and that this is okay. Further, don’t set a goal that it’s impossible to achieve, or so that your face starts to look drawn out and sunken, as can happen with excessive weight loss. Setting a goal of getting to your high school weight from 30 years ago is not generally achievable for most people. Instead, set a goal of getting to the best weight you can for the event, maybe the best weight you’ve been at in the past 5 years, but not going overboard with a starvation diet, unsustainable exercise routine, or other strategies.
Oftentimes by redefining success in this way and getting less hung up about the number on the scale, people feel better about their progress instead of feeling like a failure for not losing enough weight, or that “The juice isn’t worth the squeeze.”
Experience has shown that people who feel successful are more likely to be successful over the long haul and keep the weight off. On the contrary, people who feel like failures are likely to prove themselves right and regain all of the lost weight as they tend to blame themselves and stop the effective treatment strategies.
Office visits with the professional staff at CNC are a great way to remind ourselves what these goals are, build a mindset of success and victory, and avoid feelings of failure.
So, set goals of why you want to lose weight, and measure success through achievement of those goals. After all, isn’t that why you are trying to lose the weight in the first place?