The way many of us think about weight loss is totally counter-productive. Focus on healthy habits you can sustain instead of the numbers on the scale.

Here's what to remember:
- Forget goal weights. Instead, focus on behavioral goals.
- Start with small changes and let them snowball.
- A loss of only 3% of your body weight can meaningfully improve your health.
- Remember that your best weight is the one you reach when you live the healthiest life you can actually enjoy.
United States


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00:00:47about 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 I boiled some onions and cabbage obviously in garlic and vegetable broth and then I blended it up and that is all I ate
00:01:07yeah I did that and I'm sure all that I didn't reach my goal weight
00:01:15I lost some weight but I've never been able to lose weight fast and eating this cabbage soup just drove me nuts and after a while I gave up and the weighted lost came back would you try this all-or-nothing approach we're all or nothing you know almost always brings you back to nothing weight loss is all wrong back into the mindset that suffering is required long-term and that if you are not capable of suffering long-term it's because you personally are failure that you are not trying hard enough you don't want it badly enough you don't care enough and that's nonsense that just leads to failure and feeling bad about our self this is renpure life Catan rethinking weight loss I'm oregano and I cover health and science for NPR in this episode
00:02:15talk about why the way many of us think about weight loss is totally counterproductive and when managing weight in a healthy way might mean not thinking so much about your weight at all all of the Earth at a given moment in time the scale doesn't measure health happiness success effort or self-worth but if you want to hear what I've learned that help me figure out how to keep a weight I'm happy with long-term without being miserable and that's the key well stick with us
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00:03:30okay so 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 hit a plateau and then slowly they start to regain some or all the weight they lost and sometimes they end up heavier than they started there are a lot of biological reasons why weight loss is hard and we talked about those in episode 2 of this guy but there are some things we can control to an extent and those are the strategies in mind that we use When approaching weight loss one problem is that a lot of weight loss strategy start like my dad with that cabbage soup diet or the cayenne pepper diet yeah I remember that Queen Bey or some other crazy fad diet like I wasn't planning to eat cabbage soup forever just until the weight came off after about a month Pizza started to look real real good to me like whole pie good it's hard to be restricted for a very long time that's Gary Bennett he's
00:04:30psychology professor and obesity researcher at Duke University and he told me there's research showing that people kind of rebound after being on a really strict diet even if that diets More Bounce than what I did naturally We the People start to move back in the moderation and then sometimes that's it goes into a little bit more consumption and then you know things got a little bit off track things that are not done for good In The Name Of Way management lead to Temporary results and that's not generally what people are looking for only happens if you like the lifestyle that gets you to that weight so much so that you actually stick to it short-term crash diets there between not sustainable unless you like the life you're living while you're losing your weight you're probably not going to keep living that way and it's a consequence that weight that you lost will come back and it was that philosophical shift that led me to the practice I suppose the
00:05:30I run today which is focus not on particular bodyweight goals it's not on the body mass index it's not on a particular day but rather it's trying to work with patients as individuals to figure out the healthiest life they can honestly enjoy the first thing he would tell you is to stop thinking about weed itself like that number on the scale just don't worry about it we don't need people at any numbers whatsoever in our office as far as pounds on a scale or body medicine to seize or body fat percentages or clothing sizes I think all of the numbers are risky risky because our bodies and our genes are all built differently plus our job demands are different our environments are different are caregiving responsibilities are different and all of that can affect our weight loss efforts so aiming for a specific number can set a lot of us up to fail that's why you only says and this is take away number to forget goal weight instead
00:06:29focus on Behavior goals Ronaldo use regularly in my office is one of school so if you've got a kid in school you know that that kids best grade is going to be whatever great they get when they go to class do their homework and study their best but by no means does everybody trying their best in school Get an A+ that's just not how it works and so the goal said he needs to be around the going to class doing your homework and studying and also needs to be realistic Joanie Loves a good analogy and you're going to hear from him in this episode but in this case when he says doing your homework he means adopting healthy behaviors for example he really recommends trying to cook at home or off as for Gary he gets his patients a simple list of changes they can choose from for instance stop sugary beverage consumption is huge for most people reduce alcohol intake you know no more than one drink per night
00:07:29no fast food you do you do like four or five of those and you'll you'll get pretty close to that 500 calorie deficit each day 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 hear the idea is that making these changes can make you healthier regardless of how much weight you lose are even if you don't lose any weight at all another words their goals worth pursuing in and of themselves and they're less likely to make you obsessive of course changing behavior is easier said than done and this get stuff to take away number 3 don't try to overhaul your behavior all at once instead start small and let those changes snowball it comes to Weight Management specifically people are so Keen to suddenly have a black belt that they forget to get a black belt you start with a white belt in fall down a whole bunch and slowly slowly over time with a lot of repetition you build
00:08:29skill set and I think Healthy Living is the same and when people try to send Lee have a black belt without taking that time to build up to it you know they usually struggled and stop for a lot of people you only says a good place to start is to just figure out what you're eating a person can do just like they would be doing if they were unhappy with their bank balance at the end of every month trying to understand what they're spending patterns look like would be a great first step and I think the same is true about eating patterns and eating habits now I am a fan of using food Diaries I realized it's not for everybody but doing it for a few weeks would be a very eye-opening thing for a lot of people where people will be keeping track of what they're eating when they're eating how much they're eating said food Diaries are not for everyone if you have a history of Eating Disorders or 10 to become obsessive about counting calories stay away from them because this could trigger you but if you can look at the.
00:09:29dispassionately without self-judgment food tracking can help you get to know yourself and your habits that's when you can start taking stock of what you may or may not be able to change friends maybe we can cut back on a couple of years ago I started food tracking and I quickly realized that I was touring about four hundred calories worth of creamer into my coffee every morning that was really eye-opening so I cut back and eventually realize just a spoonful was enough but a lot of people do find tracking your food to be tedious even carry does that's why he tells his patients to track their goals that I once had a patient who just tracked every day she got a day planner and just put a smiley face or a sad face on the day planner each day and if she thought she was doing pretty well hitting our goals that day she would have happy face and if she wasn't she write a sad face and she's cheated wonderful and felt really good about our progress and you know she would tell you but I just look at the day planner and I can figure out all the trends
00:10:28and there's another reason to focus on meeting smaller goals there actually a Chiva Bowl so it sets you up to be able to celebrate small victories Gary remembers one day when he walked into one of the house energy works at and one of his patients we've come over this woman comes over and talk to.... And she was shaking this thing at me and I didn't know what was happening and I realized that she was shaking up and down my face and look at my Snaps look at my steps I had thirteen thousand thirteen thousand and then she immediately started voguing I mean she was like striking all the model poses in the whole thing and she's like I lost some weight but I still kept at Jack's and I got my Michelle Obama arms and do that she's just doing a whole thing and and you know I'm right so we sat and talked for a while and she just followed this really simple girls like to offer his patients as risk activity this patient certainly Embrace that and accomplishing it catch a motivated to
00:11:28going over time you can work your way up to Black Belt level lifestyle changes if you want and what those are are going to look different for different people that could be cooking most of the food you eat at yourself or running a marathon or playing kickball with your kid after school that's actually what my husband does the only says the key is to stick with the types of changes you most enjoy
00:11:51okay so doing all these things cutting out sugary drinks cooking more getting in your steps they can start moving the numbers on the scale but of course a lot of the pressure to lose weight in our society is about looking a certain way and these strategies probably won't get you dramatic weight loss than anybody come into your office looking for that kind of weight loss like 50 pounds or more or not oh yeah yeah yeah people to what do you tell them
00:12:20we usually tell them that is safe amount of weight loss is 1 to 2 pounds a week and I know what amount of weight loss that will improve your health is somewhere somewhere in that 5% range and end people people aren't always satisfied with that I'll be honest and there's some people who are utterly relieved by it but others aren't aren't really satisfied with it don't end up losing more than 5 to 10% of their body weight long-term bigger let's do happen but they're not the common experience level is the most people are thinking about losing weight for aesthetic reasons and those types of weight loss has people often want to be much larger than what's required to improve how we also know that their Physicians will tell them that they hope that they should lose more weight than is healthy Gary isn't like that if a patient with obesity doesn't have any health problems and isn't interested in losing weight he simply recommend maintaining their current weight as a goal
00:13:21of course concerns about your appearance and the weight stigma people face in the world they can be really hard to overcome and if you skip our first episode we talk all about that in that one but when it comes to health and this is takeaway number for studies show small weight losses can make a big difference weight loss of just about 3% of your body weight can really meaningful improve your health if change your blood pressure that can improve your diabetes and can keep pre-diabetes from becoming diabetes and can reduce your cholesterol so even smaller weight losses than most people imagine can really meaningful affect how and and I think that's a real win
00:14:02okay I'm going to get a little personal here so two years ago roughly I decided to start making some healthy lifestyle changes and I would be lying if I said weight loss wasn't one of my goals but more than that I just wanted to feel strong I want to be able to run in the park with my kids and keep up I want to buy nice not hurt all the time so I started off by making small changes that I enjoyed like taking a walk through my lunch break
00:14:30it's a science and health journalist I knew all the factors I was up against and trying to lose weight so I decided not to focus on a specific number on the scale deliver late two years later I've actually lost more weight than I expected to be able to and I'm still technically a little overweight but I am totally cool with that because not only can I keep up with my kids these days I can outrun those suckers
00:14:56if you only has this idea that's really help me to stop judging myself it's a concept he called best ways and this is our final take-away take-away number five or persons best weight is whatever weight they reach when they live the healthiest life they can actually enjoy from one person to the
00:15:19temple 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 kids are in 5 yes life foods not just fuel food is comfort food is celebration food and literally reduces our body stress hormone levels food is the world's oldest social network 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 he says he's actually written prescriptions for chocolate Fried Chicken even beer you only says you want to think about your life think about the healthiest foods you can eat and still be happy think about the kind of exercise do you truly enjoy and just do that the world has been told and is still constantly being told that the goal for weight loss is total weight loss
00:16:19I use the analogy before the Boston Marathon where in order to qualify for the Boston Marathon you need to be a very very fast runner ever qualify for the Boston Marathon but that doesn't mean he's going to quit running because he actually enjoys it management we are all programmed to believe we should all be qualifying for the Boston Marathon a weight-loss that's just not reality so even if you never get to wait that the BMI charts they 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 like doing those things 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
00:17:22all right so that's it for this episode let's recap what we learned
00:17:27take away number one keeping weight off long-term means like in the lifestyle that help you lose the weight in the first place so forget about short-term crash diets that are not done for good In The Name Of Way management lead to Temporary results and that's not generally what people are looking for take away number to forget about goal weights or what the BMI chart says you should weigh the stuff that goes around
00:17:53healthy behaviors so the goal is not the destination the goal is the road how are you going to get there take away number 3 don't try to tackle bag and vicious lifestyle changes all at once instead start with small achievable goals and let them snowball all the model poses number for if you're losing weight for health reasons 3% of your weight can have a big impact blood pressure that can improve your diabetes that can keep pre-diabetes from becoming diabetes and can reduce your cholesterol your best weight is whatever weight you reach when you're living the healthiest life you can honestly enjoy
00:18:47four more in PR life cat check out our other guys we've got episodes on learning to love exercise how to get started investing your money even talking to your kids about scary things in the news and lots more if you like what you hear make sure to check out her other life kid guides at NPR. Org light kit and while you're there subscribe to our newsletter so you don't miss a thing we got more guys coming out every month on all sorts of topics and here as always is a completely random tip this time from Life kit project coordinator Claire Schneider my tip is to get yourself some kitchen scissors I like to use them to cut up pizza their way better than pizza Cutters and you can also use them to cut up herbs and green onions so yeah useful if you've got a good tip or want to suggest a topic email us at life kit at NPR. Org I'm Maria Godoy thanks for listening
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