From time to time, I’m asked about “jump-starting” weight loss”. What does this mean? Well, you’ve aimed for a jump-start if you’ve ever thought like this: “It’s so hard to lose weight….I want to go away to some program (or start a liquid diet, or do something else far removed from routine) and just get it off. It would be easier for me to keep it off after that.”
It’s a very appealing idea. Is it realistic? Well, sort of. But not necessarily. Here are two major problems leading to “not necessarily”. First, as countless studies have shown, when we reduce calories—which we certainly do in a two-week program or any lose-quick diet—our bodies compensate by lowering our metabolic rate. That is, eat less, and then the body uses less. Now you’ve got to work even harder to lose or maintain. It’s hard to account for this when thinking, “Then I’ll only have to keep it off.”
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Next—and this is at least as big a challenge—you must remember those stresses and habits and routines and cravings that caused trouble in the first place. It takes time, effort, and practice to deal with these effectively. There’s no way around it. If you’ve never tried to avoid regain after a diet, just ask someone who has. The experience is pretty universal. We regain weight if we haven’t learned new behaviors and coping skills. And these do take time and effort and practice to sink in.
So where does “Well, sort of” come in? How can a weight loss jump-start work? I don’t think a radically restrictive diet can work unless you can somehow keep those restrictions in place forever. On the other hand, some concentrated programs (“boot camps”, spa weeks, etc.) can help, if done right. The ones that work do stress the new learning you’ll need forever after. And they insist on an ongoing plan of support to protect you from pitfalls--metabolic, behavioral, or other.
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You can also consider creating a home jump-start. So maybe you won’t go away to a spa or “fat camp”. And you won’t start a liquid fast. But you can add or change a significant day-to-day routine. For example, introduce scheduled exercise hours into your week. Or, recruit your mate to help you plan more frequent home dinners. If you already exercise, bump up the intensity. If you often eat at home, add more vegetables to every meal, or decrease portion sizes overall. These kinds of changes can lead to weight loss, or interrupt a weight loss plateau. And the more days you stick to them, the more they’ll settle into your repertoire of habits.
While you’re planning, consider how you’ll keep your new routine in place. Ask yourself what challenges you’ll face, and what could mess things up. Brainstorm some solutions. Write everything down. Talk to others about your plan. See how the first week goes, then the second, and make adjustments as you review what worked and did not. These steps will jump-start changes that can run for a long time.