The Most Important Key to Achieving Permanent Weight Loss

Originally published: 02-17-14

Diet vs. A Healthy Lifestyle

Before I answer the question of what separates “yo-yo” dieters from people who achieve permanent weight loss, let’s recognize that the regaining of lost weight is essentially the rule in this country. Why? Because, when we feel the need to lose weight, naturally, we go on a weight loss diet. Then, sometime later – three days, three weeks, three months, whatever – we go off the diet and resume our customary manner of eating. We then regain whatever weight we had lost. All diets are temporary, either by their design or by the way we regard them, and so is the weight loss they produce.

So, to lose weight and keep it off forever, we must adopt a healthy lifestyle that is consistent with this goal. We must change our way of eating, replacing fattening foods with healthy alternatives, and we must exercise regularly. We must adhere to a healthy lifestyle for the rest of our lives, deviating from it only infrequently. Healthy Snack Alternatives!

Who does this? Who is willing to be so “good,” to give up all those “fun” foods and exercise virtually every day?
The answer is very simple: People who have a passionate, burning desire for permanent weight loss, a desire that trumps the appeal of fattening foods and physical inactivity.

To Gain Weight is Human

The human body is genetically designed for weight gain. The conversion of food into fat stores provides an energy reserve that the body can utilize when food is unavailable for prolonged periods of time. This is one of humankind’s most essential defense mechanisms, given the frequency with which famine has occurred throughout our history. The ability of the human body to build fat mass has been absolutely critical to the survival of our species on planet Earth. That is, until we eliminated famine.

Working in concert with the body’s predilection for weight gain is the brain’s craving for foods that most readily convert into body fat, i.e. starches and sugars. The folks in charge of the food industry know this all too well, and in the interest of increasing their profits each year, are constantly inventing and manufacturing new products made from starches and/or sugars combined with a variety of enticing flavors. The industry promotes these products with buzz words like “whole grain,” “low fat,” “no high fructose corn syrup,” “gluten free” and “100 calorie” to give us the impression they are good for us to eat. So we do, and we do so in large quantities because these products are highly addictive.

Americans have literally become starch and sugar junkies. Some of us prefer the predominantly starchy foods, like breads, potatoes, pasta, rice, chips, pretzels and crackers. Others favor the sweets, like cookies, cakes, pies, ice cream, candy and sugary beverages. And some folks love both. Modern American culture is awash with these fattening foods. No matter where we are – home, school, work, social event, you name it – we are faced with starches and sweets and with constant pressure from others to “eat and enjoy” them.

Wow! The body, the brain and society are all stacked up to make us fat. No wonder two-thirds of adult Americans are overweight today. We are overweight because we are human, and in today’s world, we have the opportunity to pursue our nature. In Terminator 2, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character told the young John Connor that it was our nature as humans to destroy ourselves. That may be so, but first we will make ourselves heavy.

Permanent Weight Loss Might Seem “Super-Human”

To lose weight permanently, you don’t have to be a super-hero, which is good, because super-heroes exist only in comic books and movies. You do, however, need to be a unique individual: one who possesses a special desire for permanent weight loss, a desire that is more powerful than the typical American’s interest in weight loss. Your desire has to overcome your craving for fattening foods, a craving that is enhanced by the constant availability of and social pressure to eat these foods, and the lure of physical inactivity. You must want permanent weight loss more than you want your favorite starch or sweet and more than you want to be sedentary.

Most people feel they just don’t have the will power or discipline to avoid fattening foods and to exercise regularly for the rest of their lives. I agree: plain will power and discipline eventually fail in the setting of our current food environment and our customary physical inactivity. Permanent weight loss takes more than this.

What we must do is put our desire for permanent weight loss in the same category as our desire for everything in our lives that really, really matters. Think about the things that you have “desperately” wanted in your life, such as an education, a career, money to survive, money to thrive, a loving relationship, children, good things for your children, and a secure retirement. You had to have these things, and so you did whatever it took to achieve them. You put in time, sometimes many hours a day, and put forth effort, sometimes painfully so, in the pursuit of these goals, and this pursuit has been the substance of your life’s work.

Doesn’t permanent weight loss belong in the list of things you must have? Think about what permanent weight loss will do for your health, appearance, well-being, self-image and longevity. Don’t you need and want these benefits? Of course you do! So, approach this goal the same way you have the things in your life you had to have. Build a desire for permanent weight loss that matches the desire you have had for these critical things, and nothing will stop you.

A Passionate, Burning Desire

Nine years ago, I weighed 20 pounds more than I do now, I was always tired and my blood pressure was creeping into the hypertensive range. I could have very easily started taking blood pressure medication and simply maintained my lifestyle, which included the almost daily consumption of French fries, ice cream and sugary soda and the performance of exercise only on the weekends. That would have been the conventional course of action in this day and age, but it was unacceptable to me. I simply would not take medication for a condition that I knew I could likely reverse with the adoption of a healthy lifestyle.

So, on March 19, 2005, I began exercising seven days a week, and I stopped consuming fattening foods and beverages, replacing them with healthy alternatives. I considered my new routine a “job,” just like going to work. Work was my livelihood, as it is for most of us, so it was (and is) mandatory. My new lifestyle was (and is) equally mandatory. I created a desire for the health, fitness and energy that my new lifestyle would provide and made sure this desire matched my career-long desire to help my patients and provide for my family.

Today, at the age of 53, I am in the best shape of my life. My blood pressure is normal (with no medication), my blood tests are perfect, and I have more energy than I did in my twenties. My patients frequently ask me if I “cheat” on my lifestyle. Of course I do, but only infrequently, because I maintain my desire for the goals I set out to achieve nine years ago. I have a passionate, burning desire to be healthy, fit and energetic, and this is as important to me as anything else in the world. I call this my new “identity,” and I never want to go back to the person I used to be, so it is literally “against my religion” to eat or forgo exercise the way I used to.

If you are overweight, you can do what I and many of my patients have done. You can decide to create your passionate, burning desire for permanent weight loss and lead a healthy lifestyle. You can do this now and make today your “March 19, 2005.”

Dean Sloan, MD

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