By Kim Duke

NETA & AFAA Certified Trainer

Here’s a question I hear a lot: Why is it so darn hard to lose weight and keep it off?

There are a bunch of physiological and psychological reasons I found online and could list, but, to keep things simple, I believe it comes down to this:

Eating healthy is not convenient and does not taste as good as ice cream, French fries and pizza. And exercising hard enough to change your body takes time.

That is precisely why fad diets and training systems promise quick and easy programs where you will never feel hungry, unsatisfied or inconvenienced. Who wouldn’t want that?

However, as you and I both know, these quick fix methods may work for a bit, but individuals can rarely commit for the long term.  Why? In part, it’s because some of these programs are just wacky, but, in addition to that, we are destined to fail because we do not have realistic expectations for the process.

Specifically, we are set up to believe that losing weight and maintaining the loss will be easy, breezy. It’s not.  If you starve yourself and eat 500 calories a day for awhile, you will lose weight. Most of that will be muscle, though, since our bodies are always looking for protein sources to burn.  You will also have little to no energy to exercise or to do much of anything for that matter.  And, when you finally have had enough of starving and begin to eat again, you will not only regain the weight you lost, but it will more than likely be in the form of fat.

So, what gives? What works? Weight loss is a slow and steady process. After all, more than likely, you did not become overweight because of one weekend of overeating.

The first thing you need to do is create a realistic weight loss goal: 1-3 lbs. a week with 3 being optimistic.

Second, look at your daily diet carefully.  I typically have clients keep a food journal that we look over and analyze.  I start the process with a little fix called: getting rid of processed foods, even if they say they are healthy and low fat. If they are processed, they are not what our bodies need.

Instead, and here’s the time consuming part, I advise people to buy and eat real foods like fruits and veggies and nuts and grains and fish, chicken and beef.  Plan ahead when you grocery shop: buy celery, carrots, peppers, cucumbers, apples and melons.  Get them home and clean and cut them up.  Put those veggies directly into baggies and refrigerate.  Every day pack a healthy lunch or bring them to the office as a snack or to nibble on before dinner.  You can add hummus or even a little peanut butter to the celery or chunks of apple, but ditch the ranch and blue cheese dressings.  Ditch the chips and pretzels and the bars, shakes and fruit smoothies you buy in the grocery store.  Those items are full of sugar, sodium and ingredients that are too hard to pronounce, let alone consume.

Making changes to your diet will ultimately lead to bigger changes in your waistline, energy and cravings.

Exercise is the icing on the cake.  Losing weight feels great, but without exercise and weight training, you are probably getting thinner, but softer, too.

One of the most potent fat-burners around is lurking right below your skin. That is muscle, and building more muscle can turn your body into a fat burning machine.

For each pound of muscle you build, you burn an extra 50 calories per day – just sitting still! If you build 10 pounds of new muscle, you’d burn off enough extra calories to drop 50 pounds of fat in a year!

Of course, you cannot build that muscle by sitting still.  You need to strength-train on a consistent basis.  Fitness classes can be found at almost every gym and studio.  I highly recommend these classes over videos since an actual instructor can correct your form and answer questions for you to keep you safe from injury.

Is weight loss hard work?  Yes.  But, it is rewarding and more satisfying than any ice cream sundae I have ever eaten.  And, feeling guilty is never associated with eating right and exercising regularly.