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The Best Kept Secret of Weight Loss
by: Terri Main

As I watch the infomercials about weight-loss and as I hear "success stories" about losing weight, it seems like the definition of "success" is fast weight loss. "I lost 20 pounds in six weeks." I lost 10 pounds the first week" That sort of thing. Yet, national figures indicated that 95 percent of us who lose weight gain it back. If these diets were so "successful," why do we gain the weight back?

Research indicates that slower weight loss of a half pound to two pounds a week and preferably about a pound a week on average is the healthiest rate of weight loss and the rate most likely to be able to be maintained.

However, we are an impatient people by nature. I've spent most of my life in Church. And sometimes in church circles Christians joke about patience. They say "Don't pray for patience because the "trying of your faith worketh patience." We conveniently forget to add the rest of that passage which says, "Let patience have her perfect [or complete] work in you." One of the great spiritual benefits of weight-loss is the development of patience. Weight loss takes time, it isn't a straight line, there are weeks you lose and weeks you don't, and consistency is more important than momentary flares of excellence. Reminds you of life, doesn't it.

In some ways, the process of controlling one's weight reminds us of the process of controlling one's life. It requires discipline, self-control, consistency and patience. But we all know that patience doesn't come naturally to most of us, especially those of us who share a Western European or North American heritage. We live life in the "fast lane" and patience requires us to slow down and enjoy the journey as well as the destination.

Even the process of losing weight provides us with small moments of joyous revelation occurring along the way. Like last month when I realized that my thighs were no longer hitting each other when I was walking, or last week when I noticed that I hadn't touched or even wanted to drink the 2-Litre bottle of regular Root Beer left in my refrigerator after the Fourth of July celebrations. Or the first time I made it all the way through a one hour aerobics class. These are moments to cherish which will not come again, yet if I fume over the fact that i lost "only" a pound or half pound this week, I will miss the joys of the journey.

I'm a science fiction fan. I was watching Babylon 5 a couple of weeks ago on the Sci-Fi Channel. Marcus, a sort of interstellar knight errant, and Commander Susan Ivannova, career military, are talking about something and Ivannova mentions that a certain alien language, Minbari, is a beautiful language. Marcus says, "I could teach you." Ivannova begs off saying, "Oh, no, I couldn't. It would take me a year to learn." To which Marcus responds, "And how old will you be next year if you don't learn Minbari?"

It might take you a year or two years or five years to lose the weight you want, but how old will you be if you don't lose the weight? Often our discouragement with weight loss, comes not from the process itself, but from our own impatience with the process. So, here are a few hints on developing patience:

1. Celebrate today's success however "small." When I was doing a traineeship in psych counseling, I had a supervisor who had been a Navy captain. He had a white board in his office. On that board he drew an outline of the east coast of the US, Central and South America. Across from it he drew the Coast line of Europe and Africa. He put a mark where New York would be and drew a line to the west coast of England. He looked at me and said. If I were captaining this ship and I made just a one degree change in heading just after leaving New York Harbor look where I would end up." And he drew the line to a point on the continent of Africa. "Small changes maintained over an extended period of time have major results."

I never forgot that. If you lost just a pound a week for a year. You would lose 52 pounds. Okay, let's say you lose a pound every 10 days, that would be 36-37 pounds that you would not have lost otherwise. Any week you lose any weight is a successful week.

2. Remember you are in this for the long haul. The writer to the Hebrews said to "Run with patience the race which is set before you." I know he is talking about the race of life and spiritual growth. But the same applies here. Keep your eye on the goal. It's really a matter of averages more than anything else. If you were to weigh yourself three times today, you would probably get three different weights. Your later afternoon and evening weights would probably be more than the morning weights. Likewise, throughout the week, your weight may fluctuate by a pound or two a day. The same thing goes for the end of a week. You might do everything "Right" and still not lose simply because of this 1-2 pound fluctuation. But look at your over all trend for the month or the year. Are you generally going down or going up? If the trend is down, don't get too upset about the weeks you don't lose weight unless it is a really significant weight gain or it persists for several weeks. Remember, there will come a time when you reach an equilibrium and you will need to readjust your diet and exercise routines to continue losing weight, but that's for another article.

3. This is not a competition. Everybody loses weight at different rates. Just as we all put on weight differently. We even overeat for different reasons. I don't get that hungry, but there are foods I like and when I'm eating them I tend to eat too much of them. Also I tend to eat when I'm bored. My sister, though, is just hungry constantly and will eat just about anything when she is hungry.

Just because you and a friend begin a weight-loss effort at the same time doesn't mean that you will lose at the same rate. It doesn't mean you are failing if she lost 5 pounds the first week and you lost 2. Encourage each other and rejoice in each other's successes, but don't expect to lose the weight at the same rate. If you do want to take a bit of competitive comfort and you are losing weight more slowly, you can by realizing that the research shows that when you lose the weight more slowly, you are likely to keep it off. But, it's better if you just compare yourself to your own process and support others on the journey and don't try to race then to the finish line.

4. Don't let weight-loss consume your life. Have other interests and pursue them. When I'm writing my novel, I'm not thinking about eating. Nor when I'm working on my web sites or doing Bible study or, strangely enough, exercising. I've discovered that I am beginning to {{{shudder}}} enjoy the exercise for itself and how it makes me feel after I finish as well as the social aspects regardless of the weight-loss factors.

5. Be sure in your mind why you want to lose the weight. Is that reason important enough? And is it your reason or somebody else's? You have to lose the weight because you want to do so for some reason that is significant for you. You can't lose the weight because someone else thinks you should unless you believe it as well. While it is beyond the scope of this article to outline all the health risks which go along with being overweight, it might be good to review those for yourself. Just run a search on obesity and you'll find plenty of good reasons to lose the weight. But until you internalize those and pursue them for yourself, you'll not have the patience to stick with it. We do the things which are important to us regardless of the difficulty.

No, I'll never be able to sell weight loss on an infomercial, because I would have to tell the truth. And the truth is that weight-loss simply takes time. It's not popular or commercial but it's true. The good news is it's time worth spending.

Terri Main is an instructor at Reedley College, Reedley California, and web master of The Get Real Weight Loss Web Site (http://www.getrealdiet.com). She has a master's degree in psychology and applies sound psychological principles and learning theory to create what she calls a "sensible approach to weight loss."