What do you need to do to lose weight and keep it off?

behaviour change coaching fat loss habits Oct 13, 2021
The last few weeks have seen myself and James seek out various experts in their fields as we look to add to what we offer to clients. We are looking to bring in expert speakers and this has led to some interesting conversations.
One such conversation, with Dr Jane Ogden, Professor of Health Psychology at the University of Surrey and author of "The Psychology of Dieting" and "The Good Parenting Food Guide". (Private speaking event available to our clients on 26th October 2021!) led me (via her) to a 2014 meta-analysis (combination of many studies) of 37 studies with 16,000 participants that showed:
" no evidence that supervised physical activity sessions (...), more frequent contact (...) or in-person contact (...) were related to programme effectiveness at 12 months."
And that
"calorie counting (...), contact with a dietitian (...) and use of behaviour change techniques that compare participants' behaviour with others (...) were associated with greater weight loss."
Well blow me down. It surprised me and gives a really clear insight on how to approach long term fat loss. Not supervised exercise, frequent contact or face to face contact but awareness of calories, specialist help and changing behaviours.
The area I'm going to focus on today is behaviour change as calorie counting is simple (just an arse) and I'm not a dietician. I was going to question the findings but as it's a meta analysis across 16,000 people in 37 studies I thought I'd check my ego and stay in my lane ....
So what are behavior change tactics?!
Goal setting, action planning, self monitoring.
1 - Goal setting - Why is this important to you? People are more successful when they have clear goals in mind. Here we want to focus on 2 areas: Outcome goals and process goals - what do you aspire to achieve? And what do you aspire to do to get you there? So looking at both the end result and also the component parts of this that will get you there.
Outcome - Do you want to fit into some of your old clothes or run a 5km? These goals must be specific so avoid generic terms like comfortable or confident as these can change day to day. Some days I can look in the mirror and feel content and 12 hours later this flips as it's too subjective and it can be influenced by the rest of my life too easily. 
Process - How will you get there? What do you need to do? It'd be nice if I could get my dream body hitting 10k steps and eating chocolate as and when I see fit but I have to be realistic. It's a human condition to feel hard done by, anything worth achieving takes 10 times longer than we think and is 10 times harder (the 10x rule) so we must be prepared for this to take longer and be harder than we want it to be. If this wasn't the case then 2/3s of adults wouldn't be overweight or obese. Simple tactics like more lean protein, more veggies, scheduled and moderate high calorie treats eaten mindfully and planning and cooking food in advance would be my go tos!

2 - Action Planning. This is the devil in the details. Not just more protein, veg and fewer treats but specifics. What proteins? Where will you buy them from? When will you buy them? This can seem overawing at first and might read like an interrogation but the answer is relatively easy to come to:

"I will go to Sainsburys on Wednesday evening and buy some packs of cooked ham, chicken sausages and prawns to have as snacks."
Voila. Ultimately the more you do this the easier it becomes. I rarely plan my food down to the meals and timings but I have sufficient food available at all times which means I can make the right decisions. I have found what works for me and this will be a refining process for you too that will also depend on your lifestyle.
It's important to add these things aren't set in stone FOREVER. People change, adapt, learn and grow and so what seems like an impossible task is actually something you can do, just not yet. Framing it this way makes us more open to change, rather than closing the door on any possibility.
3 - Self monitoring
Are you actually doing what you said you would? In my experience this is where most people fall down. Many of our ex clients have the skills but struggle to action them consistently, and this starts with logging their food. 
How long have you successfully, consistently logged your food for? I have used a tracker I created for the past (at the time of writing) 44 days - You can see this here. I have logged my food longer but this approach makes it easier for me to be consistent! If the answer is "I'm not" then start here. It is impossible to accurately recall how well you've eaten and if I had £1 for every time a conversation with a potential client started with "I eat pretty well ...." I'd be on an island somewhere with a mojito. 
We then have to ask ourselves the difficult questions, we have to be honest and able to say when we haven't met the standards that we set ourselves. It just doesn't matter. 1 high calorie day didn't make anyone fat, like 1 healthy day didn't make anyone thin.
Looking at what you've done, adjusting your plan and trying again are the "secret" ingredients many people desperately look for. The issue is they are difficult, uncomfortable and not immediately satisfying. But what worth achieving is? Name one thing you achieved that feels like a real accomplishment that was pleasurable the whole duration?

I was going to say looking after my dog but it's not much of an accomplishment! Building a business, refurbishing a house, self growth. Likely for you, raising a family, getting through school or university, getting a promotion. They all require delayed gratification and doing things you don't necessarily want to do in the moment or enjoy.
If you'd like some help with all of this then drop me an email at [email protected] and I'll get in touch :)
Thanks for reading!