Tuesday, May 28, 2013

How to lose weight the Synergy Wellness way: Part 8: Mapping your quest

During the initial assessment I have with clients, most of them rate losing weight as one of their biggest life goals.  It only makes sense that they would list this in the top 3 since most of them are coming to me to lose weight, so this doesn't take me by surprise.  Their response to my next question, however, never ceases to amaze me.  When I ask them how they plan to do that, very few people ever have a specific answer.  While they know they want to lose 20lbs, they have absolutely no idea what they are going to do.  Sure, the standard answer of exercise more and eat less may come up, but how do they plan to do that?  Those aren't specifics, and most people are terrible at following general advice without specific parameters because it doesn't give them direction.  Let's take a look at how to properly set out on your goal to lose weight.

Breaking down goals

If one of your goals was to go on a vacation this year, you would have to do far more than just proclaim you want to go on a vacation this year.  How are you going to pay for your vacation?  Where would you like to go?  What time of year do you want to go?  How are you going to get there and back?  These are all very good questions that need to be answered in order for you to take that vacation. Sure, you've set your initial goal of going on a vacation, but once you do that you need to script the critical moves to actually be able to go on your vacation.  Most people understand this when looking at taking a vacation, why would planning for weight loss be any different?  Sticking with the vacation analogy, let's look at scripting the criitical moves to taking a vacation.

First, let's pick a destination.  I am a fan of warmer climates and the beach, so let's go to the beach.  Being in New Jersey, I have access to the beach and nice weather here from May to September, but I'd like to get out of town.  Since I normally get a little bit of cabin fever during the mid-winter months, I'd like to go somewhere that's warm and has a beach during late January or early February.  I will obviously have to fly wherever I want to go so that will be my mode of transportation.  I could go further with this analysis but it's not necessary.  As you can see, as I begin to script the critical moves the pieces fall in to place.  I have specifics and I can work with those specifics to get the plans to my vacation set.  My plans are falling in to place and I have narrowed down all of the general parameters in to specific critical moves that I can use to attain my goal.  I have a plan, let's set it in to action.  Let's see how a similar plan may develop for someone trying to lose weight.

Scripting the critical moves

Let's assume your goal is to lose 30 lbs in 4 months.  What do you think keeps you from attaining this goal?  Given that I get a good look in to many of the factors that prevent people from losing weight, let's make a fictional person with most of these problems.  First off, let's say you normally skip breakfast because you wake up late, drive 45 minutes to work, sit for 3 hours, have a tiny lunch, sit for 4 more hours, drive home in heavy traffic for 45 minutes, and finally get home to gorge on a huge dinner because you feel like you're starving, plopping on the couch for the rest of the night.  Despite a large dinner, you normally end up eating a carb heavy snack right before bed.  Let's script the critical moves within the framework we've laid out over the last 7 blogs to learn how to lose weight.

1)Begin eating breakfast so that blood glucose levels remain stable and you don't eat so much at dinner.
2)Listen to something funny during your commute to and from work to lower stress.
3)Find ways to organize your work so you can get up and move throughout the day.
4)Have a filling lunch.
5)Make a habit of going for a walk after dinner to increase physical activity and prevent the boredom associated with sitting on the couch that can lead to snacking.
6)Make a rule that you don't eat anything after dinner.

This is a pretty good start and scripts most of the critical moves.  There is not a significant amount of detail in the six moves we laid out, but there is enough detail to determine whether you are being successful at accomplishing them or not.  One of the biggest problems with being too vague about your moves is that it normally leaves wiggle room.  Trust me; if you leave wiggle room, you'll wiggle your way right out of accomplishing your goals.  Merely saying you're going to be "good" on your diet and exercise is too subjective to be an effective move.  In addition, having moves this vague may lead you to overvalue the progress you are making and cause you to "celebrate".

Your critical moves should be process moves, they shouldn't be weight targets.  Process moves are specific changes you are going to make to get you from point A to point B.  Notice how there is no mention of specific weight targets you want to hit.  Most people feel that a good plan would be to set weight numbers you want to hit each week, but this is a mistake because you are paying attention to numbers ather than what is getting you those numbers.  First off, if you set the target based on the final goal of losing 30lbs of weight in 4 months, the logical step is to say you need to lose about 2lbs per week.  The problem with this is that people who lose more will reward themselves with something that will tend to work against their long term goal.  Secondly, most people don't realize that progress is fast in the first few weeks then slows down considerably thereafter.  This means that while it will be easy to hit your numbers early on, later on you may regret giving up the extra progress you made early for a little bit of instant gratification.  Finally, our goal is to lose fat because water weight normally fluctuates with carbohydrate content and hydration status.  If you lose 5lbs of weight in the first week, most of this will not be long term weight loss, it will be water weight that will just fluctuate throughout the 3 months.  Even if you are using a scale that monitors body fat, they are far too inaccurate and swayed by hydration levels to give you a good idea of how much fat you are losing.  By sticking to process moves rather than weight targets, you can get a firm idea of whether your moves are getting you closer to your goal.

Implementing your moves

When making changes, especially major lifestyle changes, it's good to implement change in an incremental fashion.  Rather than changing every aspect of your lifestyle in one swoop, go after the low hanging fruit first.  Maybe your first move is to take a 30 minute walk after dinner every night since it's pretty easy to accomplish.  In addition to being one of your critical moves, it could help with a couple of your other moves.  Not only could it reduce or prevent you from snacking after dinner by regulating appetite, after a couple of days the reduced consumption of food after dinner may cause you to be hungry enough in the morning to begin eating breakfast.  Always implement moves that can help with other moves first, that way they become easier to implement as time goes by.

Once you decide the order of implementation, you'll want to come up with a schedule of implementation.  Most people love competition, so we make our implementation schedule a personal competition.  The critical moves are broken up in to 3 categories and you implement a new move every 3 days.  After you have implemented all 3 moves, you have to maintain those moves for 7 days to "graduate" from that level.  If you are on day 4 of implementing all of the level 3 moves and you mess up on a level 1 move you don't start back at level 1, but the 7 day clock on the level 3 moves restarts at zero.  You don't need to do it this way specifically, but you want to make sure it's structured in a way that is simple, keeps you engaged, and taps in to your competitive spirit.  You also want to have specific parameters for progress so you don't wiggle your way out.


When trying to attain a goal, whether it be to go on vacation or to learn how to lose weight, it is very important to break down your goal in to critical moves that will get you closer to reaching that goal.  Your critical moves should be specific enough to eliminate any wiggle room you may try to give yourself, and your critical moves should be process moves that are changes that will get you to where you want to be.  When trying to lose weight, most people just try to figure out how much weight they need to lose each week which is of no value if you don't know how to lose weight in the first place.  Finally, once you've identified your moves you want to look at how and when you want to implement these moves to reach your goal.  Arrange the moves in a way that makes sense and makes it easier to implement change.  Probably the best advice you can get if you want to lose weight is to make being healthy your primary goal, identify the critical moves you need to get there, set up a schedule to implement these moves, and just do it.