Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Why You're More Likely to Fail With a Weight Loss Only New Year's Resolution

Since we’re still in New Year's Resolution season, let’s talk about a common goal: weight loss. While many of us would like to be healthier and look better by losing some weight, I think it is critical NOT to set that as the only measure of success. Doing so can make it much harder to stay motivated and stick with your resolution.

Why? Your body weight is affected by a myriad of factors, making it difficult to control precisely. How much you eat, drink, and exercise can certainly affect weight. But some factors are out of your direct voluntary control, such as how much and when your intestines decide to empty. Your body weight will normally vary a couple of pounds in either direction throughout the course of a day. Across the days of any given week, it can go up and down significantly even if you eat, drink, and exercise the same amount every day.

If you only use your weight as the sole measure to see if you are making progress each day, you’re going to be in for a lot of disappointment. Your weight is just not going to trend down smoothly day after day even if you are doing the right things. Sometimes you’ll be frustrated when it won’t budge for a while. Other times, you’ll be excited when it drops a few pounds in one day, but then devastated as it creeps back up several pounds as it normalizes over the next few days. All of this can make you want to give up before you’ve made enough progress to see a consistent trend toward your goal.

Instead, I suggest setting goals that include several different kinds of measurements. For example, try to improve your running pace or distance in addition to losing weight. You can also try increasing your strength or flexibility. You’re inevitably going to have good days and not so good days. On a good day, you’ll see improvement in many, if not all, of those measurements. But even on a down day, you’ll still likely see progress in at least one of the measurements. You’re much less likely to have a day where progress in all measurements stall or regress. Seeing progress in even one measurement will help keep your motivation up and keep you from becoming discouraged by the apparent (but false!) lack of progress.

I’ve personally been using this technique for years and find it very helpful in staying on track. Give it a shot and let me know how it works for you.

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