Weight loss as a hobby instead of a chore

Posted: Aug 05 in Weight Management Strategies by
Remembering Tomorrow

Many people embarking on a journey to a healthier weight view this journey as one of deprivation, discomfort and self-torture. Imagine not being able to eat the foods you like and being hungry all the time. Or, imagine getting yelled at by a personal trainer, being told to exercise for hours and hours a day at an intensity that you don’t enjoy.

Weight loss should not require self-deprivation

This model of weight management is based on the old idea that a person’s body weight is mainly determined by how much they eat and how much they move – a belief that has little merit. These days, science has demonstrated that body weight (including eating behavior and physical activity) is strongly influenced by genetics, biology and environment.

What does weight loss have to do with hobbies?

I was thinking of this model of will-power driven weight loss through self-deprivation today after a discussion with my 7 year old son Sean about whether or not he wanted to keep doing his music class. He has often complained about music – “I hate music class. I don’t want to go. I don’t want to practice.” Yet, when he actually sits down to play, he often has a lot of fun. When relatives come over, he loves running to the piano to show them his new skills playing “Up on Stilts,” “Jazzy Car” and “Boom boom!”

I think this Dr. Jeckyl / Mr. Hyde relationship between Sean and music is not too dissimilar from what many of my patients experience around weight loss. “I hate diets” and “I don’t want to exercise,” coupled with “I lost weight! I love how I look and feel. I’m getting a new outfit and love all the complements!”

Music for most is a hobby – something we do for fun. How can I make music more fun for Sean?

Turning the CHORE of music into the FUN of music:

  1. He doesn’t have to do it alone – I can practice with him.
  2. Give him a reason to do it – a talent show, playing for the grandparents, or a solo at class.
  3. Don’t force him to do it – he needs to choose to do it.
  4. Give him options – Piano? Guitar? Cello? Singing?
  5. Discuss the benefits of music with him – stimulating his brain, something fun to do with mom and dad, ability to be creative, relaxation.
  6. Don’t be a perfectionist – mistakes happen and are just part of music. No worries!
  7. Set reasonable goals – don’t expect him to practice for 2 hours – maybe 10 minutes is all that is fun for him.
  8. Reward him for doing music – not candy, but perhaps after we do music for 10 minutes, let’s play a game.

Here is Sean having FUN playing music!

Turning the CHORE of weight loss into the HOBBY of weight loss

How could we apply these same principals to weight management?

  1. You don’t have to do it alone – work with your Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Dr. Lazarus or Heather Thomas PA –c, work with a friend or family member.
  2. Find a reason to do it – to feel better, be healthier, get around easier, wear your beautiful clothing, look better, live longer, do more stuff.
  3. Choose to eat healthy and engage in healthy lifestyle – don’t do this because somebody else told you to. You need to want to be healthier!
  4. There are many tools that can be helpful for weight loss – structured eating plans, meal replacements, support visits, weight loss medications. Pick the tools you are most comfortable with.
  5. Understand that there are benefits to weight loss besides what the scale measures – improved energy, mood, less risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer, less stress on the joints, and improved longevity of nearly a decade!
  6. Don’t try to be perfect! It is fine to have a treat now and again, or even to not follow your program for special occasions.
  7. Set reasonable goals. Most people I work with set unreasonable weight loss goals. Medical science has shown that losing 5% or more of your body weight provides significant benefits to your health. It is reasonable for many of our patients to shoot for 10-15% weight loss with more intensive treatment. But 20% or more is really tough – with current tools, few people lose and sustain this amount. Yet most of my patients set a goal way higher than this, believing that if they just try hard, they can do it. This would be like Sean deciding to play Chopin’s Fantasy Impromptu perfectly, and anything less he would throw in the towel. He may play it someday, but this should not be the only goal!
  8. Reward Yourself. There needs to be frequent rewards for engaging in healthy behavior change – a new outfit, a new fitness watch, 10 minutes of relaxation listening to music, going for a nice walk at dusk. It can’t just be a reward after getting to the finish line. Sean gets a non-food reward for every practice. How do you reward yourself for working on your health?

By treating your weight loss program as a hobby similar to music, you can reap the fruits of your labor without all the feelings of being overwhelmed and feeling deprived.

You can feel better, lower your stress, get healthier, do more stuff and make both short and long-term progress. After all, isn’t that what this is all about?

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