It’s not what you think!
Each year, some 45 million Americans attempt to lose weight. Only 1 and 3 succeed, and the actual numbers on long-term weight regain are even more discouraging. So what’s going on? As the list of valid dietary approaches grows, so does the discord and reasons for failure. However, experts do agree on one thing: weight loss success boils down to behavior change. As technologists and behavior change experts, we break down decades of illuminating clinical research into the plain and simple truth.
#1 Lack of consistency
There’s a wealth of research confirming that achieving success in weight loss isn’t about the diet. There are numerous dietary approaches that can be effective. The challenge is creating a plan and sticking to it. In other words, it’s about consistency and adherence to plan of changed eating behavior.
#2 Lack of self awareness
Behaviors like eating that occur multiple times per day tend to be the hardest to track and self-monitoring (food journaling/calorie tracking) of eating is notoriously inaccurate. That’s a major problem because it’s difficult to change behavior when you don’t know what’s happening. Unless we’re aware of the thoughts and patterns that drive our eating behavior, as well as some objective measure of our eating, there’s very little chance to change our behavior.
#3 Lack of mental energy for behavior change
Research also shows that we only have a limited amount of energy for behavior change. Our brains want to be on auto-pilot as much possible and repeat behavioral patterns that satisfy our short-term desires. This means that HOW we spend that energy and the timing of WHEN we take action are critically important to successful behavior change. If you’re thinking about weight loss or are engaged in a weight loss program, think about consistency, self-awareness, and how and when you’re utilizing your precious energy.
BONUS Reason: We’re hardwired to enjoy the things that make us fat
It’s true. The odds are stacked against us. And food companies know how to “feed” our worst impulses. Resisting environmental influences like food marketing and the reward circuits of our own brains can be exhausting. Most people need more than good intentions to succeed and “willpower” is not the solution.
So what’s the solution? A radically superior approach is around the corner, but in the meantime, start with some very small changes to your habits. No more than a few, and they should be so easy to complete that you can do them every day. Once they’ve become routine and you’ve mastered those, you can add one more. But keep the minimum bar for daily success low. You’ll be on your way.