Recently, I was interviewed on a radio program dedicated to the topic of living life regret free. I was disappointed I didn’t know about that program earlier. (Get it? See what I did there?) Anyway, who would think that when someone is interviewing me, the subject might shift to the topic of weight loss? What a surprise! The host asked a series of questions on all the psychological, physical, and even spiritual aspects of dropping weight and finally landed on the big Kahuna for anyone who has ever faced the battle of the bulge, “So, you’ve worked with literally tens of thousands of people in this area. What’s your guess as to why so many people regain their weight?”
It’s a sad truth.
According to an article earlier this year, nearly 65 percent of people who lost weight return to their starting point (or higher) within three years. That’s per the clinical director of the Weight and Eating Disorders Program at the University of Pennsylvania so one can take that stat to the bank. As for folks who try crash diets, defined as any unhealthy diet, from severe calorie-restriction diets to diets that consist of only a few kinds of foods; the outlook is even bleaker. Wellsphere, a website sponsored by Stanford University, reports that only five percent enjoy long-term success. That measurement also includes dieters who lose weight rapidly. For clarification, a sustainable (e.g. “non rapid”) weight loss is considered to be a long term average of .5 to two pounds a week.
So, back to the question; why do up to 95 percent of people regain their weight within a few years? I don’t have to guess to answer it. Pure and simple, their goal was misplaced. They mistakenly opted to lose weight rather than re-create their lifestyles. Said elsewise, they focused on how fast they could get the number on the scale to drop instead of developing habits to see how long they could a sustainable and reasonable lifestyle to support a healthy weight once they achieved it.
You see, the vast majority of people who decide to drop those extra pounds get trapped in the “how fast can I lose it/how long will it take” treadmill. Virtually every decision is aimed at speeding up the process, mistakenly believing that if they can get the weight off, everything will work its way out. They’re so stuck in the “now” that they don’t take time to realize there will be a “then.” It is similar to spending every single penny made during your career on what you want immediately without any regard for what you’re going to do upon retirement.
Those of us successful at long-term weight maintenance are neither smarter nor better nor luckier. Rather, after banging our heads against the wall several times, usually after several failed attempts similar to what was already described, it dawned upon us: What we weigh is a one reflection of the manner in how we lead it our lives. It is not only about what we eat nor is it random happenstance. We did this to ourselves, most likely unwittingly, but done nevertheless. Logically then, we have to rebuild our lives and the scale will automatically reflect those changes. The definition of what that looks like varies but usually includes developing patience, accepting setbacks better, realizing time is out of your control, eating and cooking in a healthier fashion, increasing activity, changing self-talk, and in general, learning better to enjoy the ride, rather than wait for the destination.
Once that becomes a lifestyle, a healthy, sustainable weight becomes an unavoidable result.