Thinking Yourself Thin Brings Five Times More Weight-Loss, Study Says

Think yourself slim: the simple technique which brings five times more weight loss

Thinking Yourself Thin Brings Five Times More Weight-Loss, Study Says

© Provided by Shutterstock (Representative image) Slimmers can lose up to five times more weight by imagining how much better their life would be if they were thinner, a new study has shown.Slimmers can lose up to five times more weight by imagining how much better their life would be if they were thinner, a new study has shown.

Researchers found that overweight people who used the new Functional Imagery Training (FIT) intervention lost an average of 4.3 centimetres (1.7 inches) more from their waistline, and continued to lose weight after the intervention had finished.

The therapy works by encouraging people to not only imagine being slimmer, but also what the weight loss would enable them to do.

Researchers at the University of Plymouth and Queensland University of Technology in Australia compared results from 141 people using two different weight loss techniques, Motivational Interviewing (MI) technique where people are encouraged to develop and talk about their needs, or FIT.

Study leader Dr Linda Solbrig, of Plymouth's school of psychology, said: “It's fantastic that people lost significantly more weight on this intervention, as, un most studies, it provided no diet or physical activity advice or education.

Gallery: 25 Reasons You're Gaining Weight (Other Than Your Diet) (Eat This, Not That!)

“People were completely free in their choices and supported in what they wanted to do, not what a regimen prescribed.

“Most people agree that in order to lose weight, you need to eat less and exercise more but in many cases, people simply aren't motivated enough to heed this advice however much they might agree with it.”

People who used the FIT intervention lost an average of five and a half times more weight after six months, dropping 9lb (4.11kg) compared with just over 1.5lb (0.74kg) among those using MI techniques.

Six months after the intervention had finished, the FIT group continued to shed pounds dropping an average of one stone (6.44kg) compared with 1.5lb (0.67kg) in the MI group.

© Provided by Shutterstock Researchers found that overweight people who used the new Functional Imagery Training (FIT) intervention lost an average of 4.3 centimetres (1.

7 inches) more from their waistline, and continued to lose weight after the intervention had finished.

Trisha Bradbury, a study participant who was allocated to the FIT study, went from 14 stone to 12st 2lbs thanks to the technique.

She said: “I lost my mum at 60, and being 59 myself with a variety of health problems, my motivation was to be there for my daughter.

“I kept thinking about wearing the dress I'd bought for my daughter's graduation, and on days I really didn't feel exercising, kept picturing how I'd feel.

“I've gone from 14st to 12st 2lbs and have managed to lower the dosage I need for my blood pressure tablets. I'm so delighted with the mindset shift.”

Video: The healthy reasons why you should eat grapefruits (Cover Video)

FIT co-creator Prof Jackie Andrade, from the University of Plymouth, said: “It uses imagery to strengthen people's motivation and confidence to achieve their goals and teaches people how to do this for themselves, so they can stay motivated even when faced with challenges.

“We were very excited to see that our intervention achieved exactly what we had hoped for and that it helped our participants achieve their goals and most importantly to maintain them.”

The study was published in the International Journal of Obesity.

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Yes, you really can think yourself thin!

Thinking Yourself Thin Brings Five Times More Weight-Loss, Study Says

Published: 23:27 GMT, 12 November 2018 | Updated: 10:06 GMT, 13 November 2018

Trish Bradbury was reading the paper one morning in 2016 when she saw an advert for a weight-loss study.

At 5ft 3in and 14st, the 59-year-old retired dispensing assistant from Plympton, Devon, felt weighed down by more than a few extra pounds.

She was also coming close to the age her own mother had been when she died of a heart attack.

‘I didn’t want history to repeat itself,’ says Trish. ‘My mum died suddenly when I was 21. She was in the bathroom when she collapsed — my dad kicked the door down, but it was too late.’

Would you try it? Functional Imagery Training harnesses the imagination to motivate people 

Throughout her 20s and early 30s, Trish weighed around 10st 7lb, but reached 14st at her heaviest. ‘My weight started to go up after being pregnant with my daughter, Stephanie, now 24.

‘I have a sweet tooth and would nibble on chocolate, cake, sweets, biscuits — and the pounds crept on. I would also comfort eat when I was stressed.’

Trish yo-yo dieted for years in failed attempts to slim down, and her weight led to acid reflux and knee pain.

‘When I saw that ad, I had already decided it was time to take my health in hand,’ she says. ‘I wanted to be there for my daughter.’

The study was based at the University of Plymouth and involved an approach called Functional Imagery Training (FIT). FIT harnesses the imagination to help people stay motivated — they are taught to use ‘multi-sensory’ visualisations to see themselves succeeding, creating a shift in attitude so they exercise and eat healthily because they want to, rather than feel they have to.

FIT proved very effective for Trish, who lost 2st and 10in from her waist on the year-long trial. Other participants lost on average a stone and 3½in, according to the study results, which have been published in the International Journal Of Obesity.

So what does it involve? At an initial face-to-face session with a counsellor, you talk about what needs to change in your life — in this case, weight loss — what barriers might come up; and what you would the outcome to be.

YOUR counsellor then teaches you to use mental imagery.

Weigh to go! Participants lost on average a stone and 3½in, according to the study results, which have been published in the International Journal Of Obesity

‘We first ask people to imagine a lemon,’ says Jon May, a professor of psychology at the University of Plymouth and co- creator of FIT.

‘See it, touch it, squeeze the juice from it, taste the juice and accidentally squirt some in your eye (this helps you imagine the physical sensations).’

Once you’re confident with this image, close your eyes and conjure up an image of the weight-loss outcome you’d to achieve, and fill it with sights, sounds, smells and feelings.

It’s not just seeing yourself thinner, but perhaps imagining something you’ll be able to do once you’ve lost weight. You could be confidently striding into the gym or running around with grandchildren.

For Trish, it was imagining attending her daughter’s graduation a year later, wearing an outfit that showed off her figure.

‘In my first session with Linda [Solbrig, a research fellow who led the study], I learned to bring my imagery to life,’ she says. ‘A large part of my imagery was feeling the happiness of being at the event and not dead from heart disease.’

The results of the study were impressive. The 141 participants were split into two groups — one used FIT with motivational interviewing (MI), a form of counselling; the other group had MI only.

During the first six months, everyone had 15-minute follow-up phone calls every two weeks. After that, there was no contact until the 12-month point. After six months, the FIT group had lost on average 9lb and 2 ¾in from their waists, compared with 1.6lb and 1in in the MI group.

Synced: Researchers found that mental imagery can distract from a craving and cement motivation towards a goal

People in the FIT group continued to lose weight and reduce their waist circumference, losing on average 1 st and 3 ½in in total, but those in the MI group did not, showing that FIT helps people sustain motivation.

‘This is because they’re taught to become their own therapist,’ says Professor May.

FIT was developed after two decades of research by Professors Jon May and Jackie Andrade from the University of Plymouth, and Professor David Kavanagh from Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia.

It was devised to help combat the intrusive thoughts that come with substance addiction and has since been shown in small studies to reduce snacking and increase gym attendance.

 I didn’t want history to repeat itself. My mum died suddenly when I was 21. She was in the bathroom when she collapsed — my dad kicked the door down, but it was too late.

The researchers found that mental imagery can distract from a craving and cement motivation towards a goal. Creating the image and feeling the associated sensations is demanding for the brain.

‘This strengthens the motivational thoughts related to the image,’ says Professor May.

It’s important not to choose something negative. ‘ the scary pictures on a cigarette packet, it might work when you’re forced to look at it, but it’s not something you’ll want to revisit.’

The key is to practise your imagery briefly every day so it becomes easier to access in times of temptation.

Un other interventions, how you reach your weight-loss goal is your decision — no advice on diet or exercise is given.

‘Any kind of healthy changes will result in weight loss,’ says Professor May. ‘The role of FIT is to strengthen motivation, not dictate how you get there.’

Trish opted to cut her daily calorie intake to 1,400 and start walking every day, counting her steps with a Fitbit Tracker.

‘I cut down my portion sizes and sugar consumption,’ she says. ‘It felt much more sustainable than the crash diets I’d been on because I could support myself whenever I was tempted to eat rubbish.’

After a year, Trish had a final session with Linda and wore a black two-piece suit she had been unable to wear for years. ‘It felt great to have lost that weight in a positive way, and I was so excited to be back in clothes I thought I’d never wear again,’ she says.

Soon after, she went to her daughter’s graduation ceremony, wearing a beautiful navy dress and feeling proud — of her daughter and of herself.

‘I’m going to lose more weight,’ says Trish, ‘but what I’ve lost so far has already improved my health. I’ve been able to halve the medication I take for my reflux, and my knees feel much better.’

The FIT scientists are running workshops to teach professionals how to use it and have created an app called Goal In Mind.

Dr Ian Campbell, a GP and obesity expert, thinks FIT has a positive role to play. ‘Weight loss almost always proves difficult,’ he says. ‘Eating less and moving more sounds simple enough, but the same psychological drivers that lead to poor lifestyle in the first place continue to dominate.

‘Any effective approach to weight loss has to include some form of psychological therapy. What FIT does is bring about emotional and psychological change, so the weight loss is better maintained.

‘Incorporating methods such as FIT into a traditional weight-loss strategy could really help people regain control of their health.’

For more information, visit

English children are fatter than ever as official data yesterday revealed a record number of 10 to 11-year-olds are now severely obese.

NHS figures showed the proportion of children who are severely obese has risen by more than a third since 2007.

It is now at 4.2 per cent, the highest ever level – 24,437 children in England fall into the fattest possible category.

The London borough of Brent has the highest level of severely obese children, with a rate of 7.8 per cent – more than five times higher than 1.5 per cent in the lowest, Richmond upon Thames.

And more than a fifth of children of school-leaving age are obese, as well as 9.5 per cent of four to five-year-olds, which experts have called 'totally unacceptable'.

Childhood obesity rates in the most deprived areas are more than double that of those in the least deprived areas, the figures also show.

Data from NHS Digital has today revealed more than 24,000 10 to 11-year-old children in England are severely obese, and the problem is worse in poorer areas (map showing the percentage of severely obese Year 6 children in local authorities across England)


Is Permanent Weight Loss a Myth?

Thinking Yourself Thin Brings Five Times More Weight-Loss, Study Says

Source: LightField Studios/Shutterstock

Why is it so hard to lose weight?

Anyone who has seen the reality show The Biggest Loser knows that it offers a cash prize to the contestant who manages to lose the highest percentage of weight over the course of a season.

 Along with controversy over the various weight loss methods used on the show, including diet pills, unhealthy diets, and aggressive exercise regimens, there was also the simple fact that this approach doesn't seem to work very well.

 Not only have studies shown that contestants often gain back the weight they lost, but some gain even more weight afterward. 

Even for contestants who did manage to lose weight, their metabolisms rarely followed suit. As a result, permanent weight loss becomes virtually impossible.

 According to one New York Times report describing one of these studies, “What shocked the researchers was what happened next: As the years went by and the numbers on the scale climbed, the contestants’ metabolisms did not recover…

It was as if their bodies were intensifying their effort to pull the contestants back to their original weight.” 

Even for people losing weight using medically approved diets and exercise programs, research into their long-term success has rarely been positive.

 For that matter, schools and workplace settings, often alarmed by reports of an “obesity epidemic,” frequently implement programs aimed at getting children and employees to lose weight, usually through such strategies as encouraging better nutrition and more exercise.

 Unfortunately, such programs aren't effective and accomplish little more than stigmatizing the obese even more than they already are. 

As for the multibillion-dollar diet and fitness industry, its overall track record is little better.

 According to a 2005 overview of research into the effectiveness of commercial programs, only a few studies are available and they tend to have serious limitations due to high attrition rates and the tendency of participants to regain lost weight relatively quickly. Even for programs showing positive results, actual weight loss tends to be modest at best.

 A 2017 cover story in the New York Times Magazine, “Losing It,” discussed research looking specifically at Weight Watchers which found that people rarely lost more than 5 percent of body weight over six months, and much of that weight was gained back within two years. 

Even in studies looking at medically supervised very-low-calorie diets, patients who succeed in losing 15 to 25 percent of body weight tended to be the exception and, as with other commercial diet programs, many of them regained that weight fairly quickly.

Despite these failures, commercial weight loss programs remain popular, largely due to aggressive advertising featuring success stories of people losing an astounding amount of weight (often with before and after pictures). That these success stories are outliers and that the vast majority of customers either lose little weight, drop the program after a few weeks, or regain the weight soon afterward, is typically glossed over. 

Attrition remains a particular problem in weight loss programs as many people often drop out for various reasons, but since the dropouts are rarely counted in actual weight loss claims, the numbers provided by these programs tend to be overinflated. More disturbing, studies looking at the health consequences of frequent dieting suggests that frequent weight loss and weight gain could potentially lead to long-term metabolic damage.  

What is it that drives our perpetual obsession with becoming thinner? Esther D. Rothblum explores these questions in an intriguing new review article published in Archives of Scientific Psychology.  A prominent feminist author and professor of women's studies at San Diego State University, Dr.

Rothblum is an outspoken critic of the impact that the cultural obsession with thinness can have on health. She is also co-author of the Fat Studies Reader which focuses on the regular discrimination faced by people who are overweight.

 The multibillion-dollar diet industry is the chief beneficiary of this anti-fat obsession.

But she's hardly alone in condemning weight loss programs and the often disastrous effect they can have on health.

 In her article, Rothblum cites a number of recent critiques of dieting, including studies published by the American Psychological Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institutes of Health, which suggest that being obsessed with losing weight is often counterproductive. And yet, despite ample evidence to the contrary, people continue to persist in the belief that they will be the exception.   

In discussing the reasons why people choose to ignore the evidence that dieting doesn't work, Rothblum makes the following points:

  • The idea of “calories in, calories out” sounds perfectly logical and, while this is certainly true, at least in theory, there are some important caveats. Our bodies have a way of adapting to changes in caloric intake in a very short time. After as little as two days, our metabolisms correct for a drop in the number of calories we take in. And this altered metabolism also helps ensure that we regain that lost weight relatively quickly, even after a year or more of dieting. For that matter, exercise is rarely that effective, since losing a single pound of fat means exercising enough to burn 3500 calories. This means that the standard formula of diet and exercise are never going to be enough to lose more than a minimal amount of weight.
  • The claims made by commercial weight loss programs tend to be wildly exaggerated. Though we've all seen the ads featuring before and after pictures portraying once-obese customers having become thin and attractive, the suggestion that success is guaranteed usually places all the blame for failure on customers for lacking “willpower.” What makes these claims so believable for many people is their own tendency to accept evidence that supports their beliefs while rejecting anything that contradicts them. For those desperate to lose weight, this often means setting aside their natural skepticism to accept often fantastic claims.
  • Nonstop media images that represent thinness as being an essential part of attractiveness. For women in particular, the typically underweight paragons of beauty shown in movies, television shows, and advertisements can make even average-sized women feel fat. And this message is increasingly accepted by men and children as well. That it often drives people to engage in unhealthy binge diets or even develop eating disorders is rarely addressed.
  • Many health professionals, including physicians, psychologists, and dietary specialists, continue to lend their names to diets and weight loss programs that have little proven value. Though doctors often urge their patients to lose weight, the question of what constitutes a “healthy weight” is a loaded one. While it may be true that losing weight may provide health benefits, the risks associated with yo-yo dieting often exceed any possible gains this weight loss might produce.
  • There is also the problem of how to define obesity in the first place. While use of the body mass index (BMI) remains popular, largely because it is so easy to calculate, health and statistical experts have issued warnings about its limitations. Not only does BMI ignore the natural range in body size in the general population, it also ignores the difference between muscle mass and fat mass. Studies suggest that most people labeled “obese” or “overweight” according to current definitions (such as having a BMI greater than 25) are in good health without any of the risks that have been associated with excessive weight.   
  • The diet industry encourages people to keep dieting no matter how ineffective it is. In the United States alone, more than $66 billion a year is spent on products and services associated with weight loss. This can include memberships in weight loss programs, weight-loss products (low-calorie foods, cookbooks, artificial sweeteners, and diet sodas), as well as expensive medical procedures such as liposuction and bariatric surgery. Although most of these products and services end up being useless, given that most people gain the weight back, customers continue to be drawn in by promises of quick weight loss and the belief that being thinner will make them attractive and more desirable. Perhaps more important, when a weight loss attempt fails, dieters typically blame themselves for lacking “willpower” rather than questioning the product or service.

So, is permanent weight loss possible? And why do so many health professionals ignore existing evidence that suggests otherwise? The diet industry is unly to go away anytime soon, but there are encouraging signs that sanity may eventually prevail.

The Health at Every Size (HAES) movement has become more popular as a way of encouraging healthier alternatives for people of all body weights. Since its creation in the 1960s, HAES discards the “only thin is healthy” myth in favor of encouraging healthy eating and exercise for everyone.

 Not only does this put less pressure on obese and overweight people to try losing weight, but it also encourages them to develop a healthier lifestyle appropriate to their regular body weight.

The anti-fat stigma pushing people into unhealthy diets is pervasive in society, but groups HAES promote a saner message that is beginning to be heard. Overcoming the anti-fat stigma and helping people accept themselves as they are represents a major challenge, but it is a challenge worth pursuing.


Can You Lose Weight Doing Yoga? Types, Exercises, and More

Thinking Yourself Thin Brings Five Times More Weight-Loss, Study Says

The practice of yoga supports physical, mental, and spiritual development that allows you to create the best version of yourself.

Yoga may also be an effective tool to help you lose weight, especially the more active forms of yoga. And you may find that the awareness gained through a gentle, relaxing yoga practice helps you to lose weight as well.

Many experts agree that yoga works in different ways to bring about a healthy weight. Let’s take a look at a few of those ways.

The mental and spiritual aspects of yoga focus on developing mindfulness. This increases your awareness on many levels.

It can make you more conscious of how different foods affect your mind, body, and spirit.

A 2016 study suggested that people who develop mindfulness through a yoga practice may be better able to resist unhealthy foods and comfort eating. They may also become more in tune with their body so that they notice when they’re full.

Yoga is thought to be especially beneficial for people who are struggling to lose weight in other ways as well.

A meta study from 2017 reported that mindfulness training has positive short-term benefits regarding impulsive or binge eating and physical activity participation. There was no significant effect on weight loss directly, but it’s thought that weight loss is associated with longer periods of mindfulness training. Further studies are needed to expand on these findings.

Since you’re advised not to practice yoga on a full stomach, you may find that you make healthy eating choices before doing yoga. After a yoga session, you may be more ly to crave fresh, unprocessed foods. You may also learn to chew each bite more thoroughly and eat more slowly, which can lead to less consumption.

Practicing yoga can help improve the quality of your sleep. You may find that you’re able to fall asleep more easily and sleep more deeply when you have a consistent yoga practice. Ideally, you should sleep between six and nine hours each night.

Quality sleep is often associated with weight loss. A 2018 study found that people who had restricted sleep five times per week lost less fat than the group that followed their normal sleeping patterns. Both groups were limiting the number of calories they consumed, suggesting that sleep loss has an adverse effect on body composition, including fat loss.

Yoga nidra is a form of guided relaxation that you do lying down. The practice may help you to sleep more deeply and increase mindfulness. You can also set intentions during yoga nidra, which may help you to develop weight loss goals.

A small 2018 study found that healthcare workers who did yoga nidra for eight weeks increased their levels of mindfulness. This mindfulness included acting with awareness and not judging inner experiences.

Their levels of sleepiness weren’t significantly different at the follow-up. However, this score improved the longer people did the practice. Larger, more in-depth studies are needed to expand on these findings.

While yoga isn’t traditionally considered an aerobic exercise, there are certain types of yoga that are more physical than others.

Active, intense styles of yoga help you burn the most calories. This may help prevent weight gain. Ashtanga, vinyasa, and power yoga are examples of more physical types of yoga.

Vinyasa and power yoga are usually offered at hot yoga studios. These types of yoga keep you moving almost constantly, which helps you to burn calories.

Practicing yoga may also help you develop muscle tone and improve your metabolism.

While restorative yoga isn’t an especially physical type of yoga, it still helps in weight loss. One study found that restorative yoga was effective in helping overweight women to lose weight, including abdominal fat.

These findings are especially promising for people whose body weight may make more vigorous forms of yoga difficult.

A review of studies from 2013 found that yoga is a promising way to help with behavioral change, weight loss, and maintenance by burning calories, heightening mindfulness, and reducing stress. These factors may help you to reduce food intake and become aware of the effects of overeating.

More in-depth, high-quality studies are needed to expand on these findings.

Practice yoga as often as possible in order to lose weight. You can do a more active, intense practice at least three to five times per week for at least one hour.

On the other days, balance out your practice with a more relaxing, gentle class. Hatha, yin, and restorative yoga classes are great options.

If you’re a beginner, start slowly and gradually build up your practice. This allows you to build up your strength and flexibility and prevent injuries. If you don’t have time for a full class on certain days, do a self-practice for at least 20 minutes. Allow yourself one full day of rest each week.

Combine your yoga practice with activities such as walking, cycling, or swimming for added cardiovascular benefits.

As part of your routine, avoid weighing yourself directly after a yoga class, especially if it’s a hot yoga class, since you may lose water weight during the class. Instead, weigh yourself at the same time each day.

Here are a few yoga poses you can do at home if you don’t have time for a full session.

Sun Salutations

Do at least 10 Sun Salutations. You can increase the intensity by holding some of the positions for longer periods or by speeding up the pace.

  1. From standing, inhale as your lift your arms overhead.
  2. Exhale as you swan dive down into a Forward Bend.
  3. Jump, step, or walk your feet back into Plank pose.
  4. Hold this position for at least five breaths.
  5. Drop your knees down and lower your body to the floor.
  6. Extend your legs, turn the tops of your feet to the mat, and place your hands under your shoulders.
  7. Inhale to lift partway, halfway, or all the way up into Cobra pose.
  8. Exhale to lower back down and then push up into Downward Facing Dog.
  9. Hold this pose for at least five breaths.
  10. Exhale as you jump, step, or walk your feet to the top of the mat and stand in a Forward Bend.
  11. Then inhale to lift up your arms overhead.
  12. Exhale to lower your arms back down by your body.

Boat pose

This pose engages your whole body, especially your core, and helps to reduce stress.

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs together and extended in front of you.
  2. Bend your knees and lift your feet off the floor so that your thighs are at an angle to the floor while your shins are parallel to the floor.
  3. Extend your arms in front of you so that they’re parallel to the floor.
  4. If you can, straighten your legs while keeping your torso lifted.
  5. Hold this pose for 30 seconds.
  6. Repeat at least five times.

Plank pose

Spend 10 to 20 minutes doing variations of Plank pose.

  1. From tabletop position, step your feet back with your heels lifted.
  2. Bring your body into a straight line. You may want to check your body in a mirror.
  3. Engage your core, arm, and leg muscles.
  4. Hold here for at least one minute.

Make a commitment to yourself and your practice if you want to use yoga to lose weight. Make small, gradual changes and set modest goals so that you’re more ly to stick to them.

As you deepen your practice and your awareness, you may find yourself naturally attracted to healthy foods and ways of living. While it’s not guaranteed that you’ll lose weight, it’s definitely ly. Your positive results may extend far beyond weight loss.


A Saner Mindset For Weight Loss

Thinking Yourself Thin Brings Five Times More Weight-Loss, Study Says
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About 10 years ago, I wanted to lose some weight. So I found this cabbage soup diet. Twice a week, I would just eat cabbage soup all day long — breakfast, lunch and dinner. And after all that, I didn't reach my goal weight. I lost some weight, but eating this cabbage soup just drove me nuts. After a while, I gave up, and the weight I'd lost came back.

Which brings me to this: The way many of us think about weight loss is totally counterproductive. Here are some tips on approaching weight loss in a different way — a saner way — that might help you achieve and maintain a healthier lifestyle while being a little kinder to yourself.

1. Forget about short-term crash diets.

There's a typical pattern to weight loss. And if you've ever gone on a diet, you've probably experienced it. Basically, people lose weight for the first four to six months, and then they hit a plateau. And then slowly, they start to regain some or all of the weight they lost. And sometimes they end up heavier than they started.

“It's hard to be restrictive for a very long time,” says Gary Bennett, a psychology professor and obesity researcher at Duke University.

Research suggests that people tend to rebound after being on a really strict diet — even if that diet is more balanced than an all-cabbage approach.

“We do try this all-or-nothing approach, where all or nothing, you know, almost always brings you back to nothing,” says Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, an obesity medicine clinician and an assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa in Canada.

Keeping weight off long term means liking the lifestyle that helped you lose the weight in the first place.

In other words, instead of starving yourself or eating nothing but baby food or grapefruit juice (both, alas, are actual fad diets), make changes that you actually enjoy and want to stick with over the long haul.

So if daily spin classes aren't your thing, how about long morning walks? Or if you just can't quit dessert, can you learn to be satisfied with a small piece of dark chocolate as a post-dinner treat? The goal, says Freedhoff, is to focus on lifestyle changes you enjoy and want to live with.

“Unless you the life you're living while you're losing your weight, you're probably not going to keep living that way,” says Freedhoff. “And as a consequence, that weight that you've lost will come back.”

2. Don't aim for weight goals. Instead, focus on behavioral goals.

Our bodies, our genes, our job demands, our environments and our caregiving responsibilities are all different. All of that can affect our weight-loss efforts — and in many cases, they are factors we cannot change. So aiming for a specific number on the scale can set a lot of us up to fail.

“The scale measures the gravitational pull of the Earth at a given moment in time,” says Freedhoff. “The scale doesn't measure health, happiness, success, effort or self-worth.”

Instead of setting specific weight-loss goals (such as losing a pound a week, for example), Freedhoff recommends setting behavior goals that are in your control. For example, he often recommends trying to cook at home more often as a goal.

Bennett gives his patients a simple list of changes to choose from. For example: stop sugary beverage consumption, reduce alcohol intake, avoid snacks with no nutritional value, quit fast food. “You do, , four or five of those, and you'll get pretty close to [a] 500-calorie deficit each day,” he says.

A calorie deficit just means you're taking in fewer calories than you burn, and that's how you lose weight. But the weight loss isn't the focus here. The idea is that making these changes can make you healthier regardless of how much weight you lose — or even if you don't lose any weight at all.

In other words, they're goals worth pursuing in and of themselves, and they're less ly to make you obsessive. Of course, changing our behavior is easier said than done — which brings us to our next takeaway.

3. Don't try to overhaul your behavior all at once. Instead, start small and let those changes snowball.

For a lot of people, Freedhoff says a good place to start is to just figure out what you're eating.

“I am a fan of using food diaries,” says Freedhoff. “I realize that's not for everybody. But doing it for a few weeks would be a very eye-opening thing for a lot of people … what they're eating, when they're eating, how much they're eating.”

Food diaries, as Freedhoff says, are not for everyone. If you have a history of eating disorders or tend to become obsessive about counting calories, stay away from them because this could trigger you. But if you can look at the data dispassionately — without self-judgment — food tracking can help you get to know yourself and your habits.

For instance, maybe there's a food you can cut back on. A couple of years ago, I started food tracking. I quickly realized that I was pouring about 400 calories' worth of creamer into my coffee every morning. That was a real epiphany, so I cut back and eventually realized just a spoonful was enough.

But a lot of people find tracking their food to be tedious. That's why Bennett tells his patients to track their goals instead. One good reason to focus on small goals: They're actually achievable, so they set you up to be able to celebrate small victories.

One of the simple goals Bennett s to offer his patients is brisk physical activity. He remembers being approached by a patient at a health center where he worked. “She was shaking a pedometer in my face … saying, 'Look at my steps. Look at my steps. I hit 13,000! I hit 13,000!' And then she immediately started voguing.”

Small goals are going to look different for different people. It could be cooking most of the food you eat yourself or running a marathon or playing kickball with your kid after school.

4. Studies show small weight losses can bring big health benefits.

“Weight loss of just about 3 percent of your body weight can really meaningfully improve your health,” says Bennett. “It can change your blood pressure. It can improve your diabetes. It can keep prediabetes from becoming diabetes. It can reduce your cholesterol. So even smaller weight losses than most people imagine can really meaningfully affect health. And I think that's a real win.”

But of course, a lot of the pressure to lose weight in our society is about looking a certain way. And these small, behavior-based strategies probably won't get you dramatic weight loss. “A safe amount of weight loss is one to two pounds a week. … And, you know, people aren't always satisfied with that, I'll be honest,” says Bennett.

“The challenge that we have at a societal level is that most people are thinking about losing weight for aesthetic reasons,” says Bennett. “And those types of weight losses people often want to be much larger than what's required to improve health.”

But studies show that roughly 90 percent of people who set out to lose weight don't end up losing more than five to 10% of their body weight long-term. Bigger losses do happen, but they're not the common experience.

5. Your best weight is the one you reach when you live the healthiest life you can actually enjoy.

The healthiest life you can enjoy, according to Freedhoff, is going to vary from day to day and from one person to the next. For example, the healthiest life you can enjoy on your birthday is going to be different from the healthiest life you can enjoy on any given Thursday. Me, personally? These days I typically avoid cake. But when my kid turned 5, yeah, I had a slice.

“Food's not just fuel. Food is comfort. Food is celebration. Food literally reduces our body's stress hormone levels. Food is the world's oldest social network,” says Freedhoff. “And to suggest that we need to exclusively eat in the name of health denies the importance of all those things. And I think those things are hugely important.”

Freedhoff suggests this: Think about your life. Think about the healthiest foods you can eat and still be happy. Think about the kinds of exercise you truly enjoy. And just do that.

“I've used the analogy before of the Boston Marathon, where, you know, to qualify … you need to be a very, very fast runner,” says Freedhoff. Though he's a runner, he admits he would never qualify for the Boston Marathon. But that doesn't mean he's going to quit running — because he actually enjoys it.

“In weight management,” Freedhoff says, “we are all programmed to believe we should all be qualifying for the Boston Marathon of weight loss. That's just not reality.”

So even if you never get to a weight that the BMI charts say you should be at — or some goal weight in your head — that doesn't mean you should stop doing things that will make you healthier. Just make sure you actually doing those things.

As for me, I could probably drop a few more pounds if I went on some super-restrictive diet. But I'm not going to do that because I refuse to be miserable. This is my life, and I plan to enjoy it.

Alissa Escarce produced the audio portion of this story, which was originally published on May 3, 2019.

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