The Only Weight Loss Secret You Need to Know

Like most people, I’ve contributed my share of hard-earned dosh to the dieting industry’s billions of pounds. I bought magazines, “diet” foods, pedometers and hand weights that languished under the bed. But you don’t have to spend a penny on dieting. There’s only one way to lose weight:

Use more energy than you take in.

That could mean eating less, or exercising more – or, ideally, both! The only two numbers affecting your weight loss are calories in and calories out. You take calories in by putting food into your mouth. Not by looking at food, not by sitting near food, not by having someone offer you food. This was hard for me to accept (it meant I could no longer put the blame on other people) but it’s undeniably true.

No-one is forcing food between your lips.

Anyone, however difficult their circumstances, can eat less. The vast majority of people can also move around more. When I first started to lose weight, I was a shy, very self-conscious eighteen-year-old who “hated exercise” and thought that the ten minute cycle ride to school and back each day was more than enough.

But however shy you are, however reluctant to join a gym or go for a swim or a jog, everyone can walk. Even half-an-hour a day will make a big difference. If that’s too much, start with five minutes and work up gradually.

You just have to put one foot in front of the other, and repeat.

Wake up thin?

No-one can wave a magic wand and make you three stone smaller overnight. I’m sure you, like me, get dozens of those spam emails about lose thirty pounds in a week – but even if those products were safe and worked (they’re not and they don’t), how much help would they really be?

Here’s a thought-experiment. You wake up tomorrow at your goal weight, look in the mirror and think “wow, I look great!” Magically, as you slept, all that extra weight vanished.

What do you eat for breakfast?

  • A full English?
  • Bran flakes and skimmed milk?
  • Fruit salad?
  • A whole packet of crumpets dripping with butter and jam?
  • Last night’s leftover pizza? Nothing?

Whatever you answered is wrong. Essentially, you either:

  • Ate exactly what you do now
  • Ate something different from usual

In the first case, I have bad news for you. You’re going to put on all the weight you just lost overnight. In fact, you might well become even heavier than you are now (such are the effects of yo-yo dieting.)

In the second case, I have more bad news. You know how to eat healthily, you want to eat healthily – but you spent years accepting a weight you didn’t want to be.

It takes time

The point of losing weight is not, however much you might think it is, to reach some particular goal on the scales. So maybe you could get down to eight stone by eating nothing but cabbage soup. This will not endear you to anyone who shares your home, and it will not set up good habits for life.

The point of losing weight is to have a life-changing journey. Discover amazing new tastes you never knew about. Learn to cook. Become fit and strong. Find out how your body works best.

If you wake up tomorrow at your goal, you’ll have learned nothing. Accept now that losing weight will take time. It took time to gain that weight, and you’ve probably put up with it for a while already. Now you’re going to give yourself the time to lose it properly.

Maybe it’ll take six months. Maybe it’ll take a year, and you won’t be at your goal until the start of 2009. Isn’t it worth investing a year in being fit and healthy for the rest of your life?

Staying motivated

I know it’s not easy. Especially when I started losing weight, I’d look in the mirror and see no difference, and I wondered why I bothered. But slowly the weight did come off. I still remember the first moment I caught sight of myself in a full-length mirror whilst out shopping and realised, for the first time I could remember, that I wasn’t fat.

Tracking your progress helps: weigh yourself at the same time each week and record the result. Don’t worry if there’s the odd week where you maintain or gain (you are not allowed to use this as an excuse to “give up this stupid diet” and scoff a family-sized box of chocolates, as I frequently have to remind myself.)

But don’t just think about the number on the scales. Record your waist size every fortnight or month. Write down the food you’ve eaten and the exercise you’ve done – and look for progress.

I found reading other people’s weight-loss stories really motivating. All the various slimming magazines publish these, and there are loads of weblogs written by people undertaking their own weight-loss journey.

Each weekday, there’s a new post (short article) on The Office Diet – it might be a tip about coping with colleagues, a new packed lunch idea, or some thoughts to inspire you. Make The Office Diet your homepage, and start each day heading in the right direction.

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