Looking at losing a significant amount of weight and not sure where to start? The challenge may seem unsurmountable but Professor Manny Noakes, Research Director for Nutrition and Health at CSIRO has some advice for how to get started – and how to stay motivated for the long haul.
Set a firm plan
Professor Noakes recommends deciding exactly when you plan to start your weight loss journey and exactly how you plan to do it before you get started. Being half-hearted is a recipe for defeat.
For example: ‘I am going to start Sunday the 29th October. I’m going to follow the Total Wellbeing Diet and walk at least 30 minutes per day.’
Make sure you know what your starting weight is and write it down but don’t get bogged down by the number. You’re onto it! Have a plan to weigh yourself each week at the same time of day.
Now break this down into a week-by-week, day-by-day plan. This allows you to make sure your goals are achievable in a way vague plans don’t. It also allows you to identify any potential issues and plan for them – for example, an upcoming busy week at work may mean scheduling a food delivery order and planning to get off the bus a few stops early to walk to or from work.
We find maximum success is achieved when people apply a structured routine to their efforts – when they know what they will be doing and when.
Plan what you are going to eat for the week ahead and make sure you have all you need in your fridge at home. Meanwhile, clear out temptations to make it easier to stay on track.
Drop the ‘huge’ label
Manny says it’s important to drop the ‘huge’ label: “Looking at it as 30, or 40, or even more kilos to lose can be overwhelming and can kill your confidence before you even start. While it’s good to be clear on what your ultimate goal is, it’s equally beneficial to break up the journey into chunks.”
She recommends applying a 5% rule to goal setting. “Say you weigh 100 kilos. Work out 5% of this – 5 kilograms, and focus on achieving that goal. When you do, celebrate the achievement, then move on to the next five percent.”
Added bonus? Manny says research shows achieving goals motivates people, helping them go into the next challenge with a ‘can do’ attitude.
Understand your diet personality type
Many weight loss plans focus on nutrition and exercise without any thought to how individual personality traits influence how we eat. The CSIRO Diet Types survey explored how certain personality traits and responses to eating are linked – with the aim of identifying common behaviours that can derail a person’s diet plans, and how best to avoid or deal with them.
The survey identified five main Diet Types:
- The Thinker: Overthinking food leads to stress and mood swings which may impair healthy choices.
- The Craver: Heightened experience of food cravings means people in this group struggle with overeating in food-related settings.
- The Foodie: Foodies are defined by predominant thought patterns related to food and strong positive drives to prepare, eat and experience food.
- The Socialiser: A busy social life means this group have less control over their diet and socialiser tend to prioritise the social aspect of food over the healthiness of the food they eat.
- The Freewheeler: Driven by a spontaneous and impulsive nature, Freewheelers make snap decisions about their diet that may lead to consuming takeaway or convenience foods.
Foodies and Socialisers, for example, prefer alcohol over other diet types. The study showed about one-third of their discretionary food and beverage consumption is alcohol.
“Understanding this means being able to set plans to address this – for example, reducing intake with spacer glasses of sparkling water. Cravers, on the other hand, find sugary treats hard to resist and generally require more social support to stick to their plans,” Manny explains.
The Total Wellbeing Diet has a simple online assessment that will reveal your diet type, and provide customised support, tips and tricks on your weight loss journey.
Find ways to cheer yourself along
Professor Noakes says having support networks in place is helpful when motivation wanes. “It can be a friend, or a family member, or even joining an online support group, who can remind you of your goals, of how far you’ve come – or even just distract you in the moment by going on a walk with you.”
Journaling is also a great way to reflect on how far you’ve come, or what your goals are. “Whether you take measurements or before and after photographs, these can serve as a reminder when it feels like you haven’t achieved much. And if you aren’t getting as far as you’d hoped, detailing what you’ve eaten and when, and what is happening at the time of overindulgences may help identify triggers for overeating,” she says.
So while it may seem overwhelming when you make the call that it’s time for a change of lifestyle, there’s plenty of support and ways you can keep yourself motivated!