Shedding Pounds

I’ve always been kind of into “life hacks,” which I know can be controversial to experts and specialists. I know that life hacks are a bit simplified and silly in some ways, but I find that knowing little tricks to getting things done helps me! So I’m keeping that in mind as I tackle a big problem in my life: weight loss.

I know that weight loss is a thing that has way too many shady tricks and fads and, yes, life hacks associated with it. And I know that you’ll probably tell me that there’s no magic bullet when it comes to weight loss. But can you meet me halfway, maybe, and share some specific tips along with the big-picture stuff?

You’re right, of course: weight loss is not something that can be simplified into memorable little tricks and “hacks.” As you point out, it’s the “big-picture stuff” that we’re obligated to talk about here--but we’ll see if we can meet you halfway, as you asked, once we’ve covered the big picture!

As you know, the key to weight loss is healthy eating combined with regular exercise. The former has a big impact: it’s nearly impossible to lose weight with exercise alone. Essentially, losing weight comes down to consuming fewer calories--though even this is a simplification, as the reality features more complexities that have to do with how your body absorbs and makes use of those calories.

And, actually, the complexity is useful--it reminds us that simply eating less in order to lose weight isn’t healthy. When we “crash diet,” we lose muscle, make ourselves unhealthier, and make “progress” that is actually illusory--when we end our diet, we’re overwhelmingly likely to gain all the weight back, because we haven’t actually (permanently) changed our lifestyle!

So your “big picture” looks like this: you need to change how you eat. That means eating more whole foods, especially vegetables, not just eating less of what you eat now. Exercise is important, too--you should be getting a half-hour of it per day at the minimum. And all of these changes need to be sustainable and lasting, not just temporary and for the purposes of losing weight for cosmetic reasons.

Of course, making big changes isn’t easy--and some of us can be helped along by temporary changes, “hacks,” and even diet fads. It’s just that we need to be careful to use these things as motivators and signals to ourselves, and to recognize that underlying changes are the most important thing.

The psychology of using a life hack or a temporary change could help you as you push to make lasting changes. Let’s talk about some options!

Fad diets aren’t always a good idea, so be careful of ones that will unbalance your macronutrients or force you to eat less than you should in order to be healthy. But if going paleo keeps your eyes on the prize, go for it! You can also use (safe) diet pills like Lipodrene, try filling shakes as meal replacements (don’t over-use them!), and check out temporary exercise plans. Temporary plans are best when they set you up for a new hobby or a change in lifestyle--like a training program that gets you ready for a 5K, for instance.

You can also try little tricks to make changes that will be a part of your larger dietary changes. One option is to look for high-leverage areas to cut calories. You’re probably drinking a lot of calories, nutrition specialists say. Keep an eye on beer and mixers, say professionals at a liquor store in Woodbridge, NJ--you may be better off getting your drinks on the rocks or with low-calorie mixers like seltzer. And watch out for energy drinks, sports drinks, and sodas--swapping them for water is a quick and easy way to save calories.

Ultimately, here’s the deal: you have these experts’ permission to use life hacks to change your habits, as long as you understand that it’s your habits--those underlying lifestyle choices--that need to change. Good luck!

“It’s going to be a journey. It’s not a sprint to get in shape.” - Kerri Walsh Jennings

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