Editorial: The key to weight loss is to have a plan

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The key to successful weight loss and maintenance is planning.  

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” – Benjamen Franklin

Have you ever been really excited to so to a new restaurant to store? You leave the house without a map.  If you don’t have a map or use a GPS system,  it will be a tough trip to get there.  Chances are you will make a wrong turn or get lost you will end up with no idea how you got there, and you will be unable to repeat it. Weight loss is no different.  Flying by the seat of your pants won’t get you to your goals.  For years, I’ve been telling my patients that the key to any successful exercise or weight loss plan is to have a plan.  Far too often today, the adlib the big ideas in our life.  This method usually does not end in success.  I am certain that you do not start your projects or plans with intent of failing.   No contractor would suggest that build a building without a blueprint or plan, so stop living your life like this.  Weight loss or new exercise plan is no exception, so I recommend a three-step program: Research before you start, build a plan and update it regularly, and keeping a daily food journal as you go.  

Plan

Plan

In the army, if you fail to have a good weight loss plan, you end up getting a little extra help in the form of the Army Body Composition (ABC) program.  The ABC program consists of nutrition education and remedial physical fitness training.  If is funny that they treat obesity as a personal choice and instill the punishment in the form of extra exercise.  

Steps for planning:

  1. Researching the diet that you plan to start.  There ate plenty of options for diets to undertake.  Pick one that will work for you and do your research before you start.  If you know the process and understand the steps and potential pitfalls before you start, you will be more likely to succeed.  I usually take a three weeks research process so that I empty and refill my refrigerator before I begin.  I have found that emptying my cupboard and fridge of tempting foods that do not meet my new lifestyle a being one of the keys to successful planning of a new diet.  If I do not empty them, the expiration dates are too tempting to make me violate my plan.       
  2. Build your plan step by step.  You need to plan out your food and fitness.  Making a goal to eat more healthy or be more active isn’t enough.  Create a menu for the week of what you’re going to eat every day. Not only do you have a plan for what you’re going to eat that week but what you’re going to buy at the grocery store.  Same goes for fitness. If you want to go to the gym plan your workout ahead of time and set a time frame.No matter the type of diet you pick, you will need to decide a plan to implement this diet.  It will need clear and concise goals that meet  S.M.A.R.T. goals.  If you have a step by step plan that makes sense and you can maintain, you will be able to achieve your goals.  You need to build a plant with each of the following:
    • S. M. A. R. T. Goals

      Conceptional chalk drawing – S. M. A. R. T. Goals

      Make realistic expectations.  You can pick any diet you like, but if you expect to see any significant results in a day or even a week, you have set yourself up for failure.  Unfortunately, you won’t get that kind of instant satisfaction, and if you do, it will not last long.  All diets take time and commitment to maintain the restriction even when you don’t see results quickly. I recommend that you focus on 1-2 pounds per week or less.  

    • Build a plan you can sustain.  Making a plan that is too restrictive or includes foods you do not like will not last long.  You can not approach a diet successfully without knowing how you relate to your food.  You need to know which foods you can limit and remove without creating cravings and you need to know which foods you cannot have without binging.  You need to understand what foods you like, what foods you don’t, what foods you can expect to crave.  If you truly know yourself and are honest without yourself, you can build a plan that will maximize your chances of success.  Your personal needs play a huge role in the way you will react to the changes you make, so you have to know yourself well in order to pick a program you can maintain.  These changes need to be a lifelong change and to sustain them is key to maintaining the weight loss for a lifetime, so do not make a change that you do not think you keep continuing.  
    • Chose a diet that builds healthy habits.  I am sure you have seen the pizza, doughnut, or ice cream diet on the front the throwaway magazines at the grocery store.  I usually shrug my shoulders and keep walking.  On occasion, I pick them up and read them.  Trust me because you should just keep walking.  These diets do not build healthy habits.  Even if you can sustain them, these are not the best option, and they are not healthy.  Before you a new plan, however, you ought to consider if it is also building healthy habits.  The whole purpose of choosing a plan is building better and healthier habits.  The best way to lose weight this is with consistent and healthy habits.
    • Be prepared for road bumps.  Make achieving the goals is not easy, but it is easier than maintaining them.  Each step, including maintaining weight loss, is complicated by the potholes in the road toward success. You need to plan for them and prepare your healthy snacks and lunch ahead of time.  If something comes up to mess up your routine, you will have them in your toolkit.  This way, when you’re hungry, you will be prepared for the inevitable hunger spikes.  Healthy choices are the way to avoid binging.  
    • Plan everything!  The more in-depth you plan your diet and exercise plan, and the less you are to take a detour that will derail the plan.
      • Breakfast of Pancakes Bacon Eggs

        Breakfast of Pancakes, Bacon, and Eggs

        Meals:

        1. Breakfasts: Morning meals are a foolproof way of keeping your full if you choose wisely.  I sometimes plan for breakfast 0n the go.  Even if you don’t plan breakfast, you can still be successful, but breakfast sure makes me more likely to stray from my plan.  Good choices include eggs, oatmeal, or a smoothie. 
        2. Lunches: Mid-afternoon meals can be a savior or a huge mistake.  Meetings can lead to a late lunch and huge cravings.  You need to avoid grazing the lunch room or candy bowls.   You must plan for a meal and try to stick to the schedule.  The key to lunch success is must be planned the night or week before. If you make them on-the-fly, it is like shopping for groceries on an empty stomach.
        3. Dinners:  This meal is the largest source of overindulgence.  If you do not have a plan, you will be more likely to stray through the drive-through or stop at the grocery store and end up buying a cart full of Twinkies.  These pick up mistake son the fly and the worst mistake you can make.  Have a plan and if you have to work late, bring your dinner with you.  I have a freezer full of back up plans just in case.  
        4. Snacks: Snacks are not needed.  Do not feel obligated to have them, but if you feel a need, pack them. If you do not pack them, do not graze on them.  I pack a few servings of snack that have a long shelf life.  Beef jerky, dried fruit, and nuts are excellent choices.  
      • Exercise:  Planning is essential when it comes to exercise. Without a plan, you will rationalize away any chance of complete a days exercise.  You need to individualize the plan.  I am more likely to complete it if I do it in the morning.  If I wait till evening, life gets in the way.  I do not make excuses, and I work out at the planned time.    
  3. Keep a journal.  A journal that tracking your diet and exercise is a key to lasting success.  Keeping a food diary helps people track their caloric intake and exercise so that they are more aware of what they are doing and eating from day to day.  I have found that journaling your diet does more than this because if I record my successes and challenges in a diary or journal that I can avoid future potential challenges and repeat my successes.  These diaries have worked well to help me both lose weight and maintain my weight loss. Today, there a lot of robust online options available for us to use.  I especially like Lose it, but i also use a paper journal.  

The bottom line:  Remember the quote above: A failure to plan is planning to fail. If you want to succeed at anything planning is essential, but so is following the plan step by step.  Follow through with the plan.  Stick with the plan you have built.  With a little bit of foresight and preparation, you can reach your goal of better health.  The process is to follow the plan step by step.  If you take a detour, turn back to the path.  Once completed more steps toward the goal,  detours will become unlikely and less likely to derail your path.  The key is building confidence.  

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About the Author

ChuckH
I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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