Patience: A Necessary Skill for Weight-Loss Success

Many years ago, when I was a graduate student, my research advisor started a year-long weight loss program. He had to lose 180 pounds and decided to follow a then-popular semi-fasting diet. He was allowed to eat a specific amount of protein daily to replace what was lost by his muscles, along with numerous supplements to prevent nutrient deficiencies. His weight loss was initially rapid and noticeable; it seemed to have predicted a successful outcome for his diet. But after a few months, people got used to his increasingly lean body, and the congratulations and compliments stopped. And so does his motivation.

One day, without any encouragement from me, he talked to me about how difficult it was to stay on his diet. “I’m not hungry, and I do not crave the food I should not eat. But this process seems endless, and I’m not sure I have the patience to stick to it long enough to reach my goal. not.” He further told that he felt he was in a long tunnel and he could not see any light indicating that he was nearing the end of it. “I don’t think anyone realizes how much patience it takes to lose a significant amount of weight,” he said. “My weight is now coming down much slower than at the beginning, and I knew it would happen as my metabolism slowed down and my body needed fewer calories every day. And I know that I will eventually, slowly, reach my goal. But that it is very difficult to believe. ”

He was too scientifically sophisticated to believe that he could have achieved his goal through one of the fashionable, fast weight loss diets. Indeed, his initial weight loss was rapid, due to the drop in his caloric intake from about 3,000 daily to less than 1,000. His scientific training (he was a physiologist) informed him about the various reasons why weight loss always slows down. after the time on a diet. So intellectually, he knew he would eventually reach his weight loss goal, but emotionally he felt he was not prepared for the length of the process.

His experience (unfortunately, he abandoned the diet before he reached his goal), points to the importance of helping the dietitian develop or increase enough patience to stay on a weight loss regimen. Indeed, the way diets are advertised, the consumer may believe, perhaps magically, that the pounds will melt like a popsicle in July, and that melting will never slow down. “How much weight have you lost this week?” is a question asked by weight loss support groups when weighing the dietitian or joining the healthcare provider. Answers of “Less than a pound,” or “Not at all …” are unfortunately greeted by the questioner, and the implied or implicit response is that the dietitian must be cheating.

What diet programs should do

What diet programs need to do is teach the dietitian to be patient. They should help the dietitian to remain calm in the face of disappointment, distress or suffering, as well as to increase the ability to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay. And, at their most relevant, diet programs should help the diet to have perseverance.

Why do they not? Why do they not say to the dietitian whose weight loss goal will take months to achieve that patience will be required, along with diligent adherence to the diet?

If the weight loss counselor rather teaches the individual to play tennis, a musical instrument, or a foreign language, advice would include to the student to be patient about progress and to be willing to accept mistakes. Often after early progress in learning a task (eg the ball is hit, the instrument makes a little sound, some phrases can be spoken in the new language), frustration can arise not to progress quickly not. But both the instructor and the student know that mastering the new skill will require time and patience.

New skills to master

Losing weight permanently also requires mastering a new skill. The skill includes making appropriate food choices, maintaining a fitness routine, dealing with stress without overeating, and adopting a new body shape and lifestyle. It should accompany the basic aspect of the diet: weight loss. But when the focus is only on weight loss and not on learning the skills to maintain it, it is understandable why patience is lost. And finally, adherence to the diet is also lost.

Is not it time to be honest with the dietitian? Should not the dieter be told that he or she needs to learn the new skill of maintaining a normal weight so that weight cannot be regained? Should not the dietitian be told that such a skill will require practice and patience and considerable time to achieve? No one will go to a tennis instructor and expect to play in a competition or take violin lessons and take a place in an orchestra after six weeks of teaching. The student understands that after time, practice, mistakes and patience they will have acquired a new skill. But many dietitians are not even willing to spend the time to exercise and recover from mistakes; indeed, the average duration on a diet is six weeks.

Furthermore, should we not tell the dietitian that a failure to exercise – that is, to follow the diet and develop the skills to lose weight – is common? Leaving the diet should not be the reaction, nor should starting another diet in the hope that it will be more successful. One would not expect a student who fails to practice for a few lessons on the saxophone to abandon the instrument and start on another, a violin or drums. But that is often what the dietitian does. “The diet does not work; I will try another one. “

This is understandable why my research advisor’s patience and perseverance ran out and stopped losing weight. His diet plan could not be transferred to real life, as he ingested only small amounts of lean protein daily. He could not learn the skill of eating appropriate foods in appropriate amounts while losing weight. He could not see that he was slowly, of course, able to negotiate with himself about food choices and time he was spending on exercise, because this “self-talk” was not part of his program. His goal was just to see the numbers drop on the scale. It was as if he had learned to play just one note on the saxophone, and he had lost patience in doing just that.

A poet, William Langland, wrote in a poem in 1360 that “Patience is a virtue.” It is also an essential component of successful weight loss.

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