Motivation

Motivation is what keeps you on your diet, on your exercise program, on whatever it takes.  You can design the best program imaginable, but if you don't follow it, there's no benefit.  Motivation is probably the most important facet of a successful weight-loss program.

You may think, "I'm motivated.  I've tried lots of diets - they just don't work!"  Ask yourself, "Do you really know they didn't work?  Did you keep detailed records of what you ate, how you exercised and how long, and your weight each day?"  If you didn't do all of those things - every one of them - you don't really know if your program was working, do you?  You don't even really know if you were following your program!  And how can you make intelligent adjustments to your program without data?

Here's what I do for day-to-day motivation.  I have a computer program (called Diet Power) and I tell it each day, or preferably after each meal, what I ate, how much - what I did for exercise, and how long I did it.  And each morning I weigh myself and tell Diet Power what I weighed.  It takes five to ten minutes per day, total.  See more on this topic under Eating Right at left.

Diet Power lets me keep score.  Day-to-day, I can't see my progress on the scale, and I sure can't see it in my dress size.  But Diet Power gives me a daily goal - a calorie limit.  If I exercise, I can eat more food, so I exercise.  Before I used a calorie counter, exercise was a sometimes thing; now it's a routine. 

Hunger

Have you noticed that an hour or two after eating something high-carb, like pretzels or toast with jam, you're hungry again?  In fact, you might be REALLY hungry!  That's because the carbohydrates in the pretzels first caused your blood sugar to rise quickly.  Then your body quickly pumped in insulin to reduce your blood sugar.  It worked too well, and it reduced your blood sugar too far (that's called "reactive hypoglycemia"), and you're starved, maybe even nauseous or faint. 

One trick which works very well  to avoid hunger is to limit carbohydrates as much as practical.  No bread, crackers, cake, oatmeal - no grains at all.  No high-starch vegetables like potatoes, corn, yams or peas.  If you use Diet Power, it can tell you the carb count of any food you eat (or avoid eating).  Most fruits are high-carb, but berries and tomatoes are not.  Most vegetables are fine, but some are high-carb and should be mostly avoided while you're losing weight.  Meats, fish, poultry, cheese and cream are fine, but milk and yogurt are high-carb.

During the week or two while your body is adjusting to burning fat instead of carbohydrates (think about it - if you're not eating many carbohydrates, your body has to burn something, so it switches to fat-burning mode), you may crave bread, but that will go away if you stick to low-carb meals and snacks.  Try for no more than 20% of calories from carbohydrates, then adjust as needed to keep losing weight as you've planned.

Exercise

I raise my calorie expenditures by about 200 calories a day by simple, regular exercise.  Exercise is one of the essentials of health, and it is also essential to losing fat while keeping muscle.  Calorie restriction without exercise leads to muscle wasting.  Sleek, attractive curves are what we're after, not just a number on the scale, after all.

Hormones

If you're overweight, it's very likely that your hormones are out of balance.  If you're female, you are likely to be hypothyroid and have too little progesterone.  If you're male, you're likely to have too much estrogen and too little testosterone.  Men may also be hypothyroid, especially if they don't live on an ocean coast.  The iodine they put in salt is enough to keep you from getting a goiter, but not really enough to produce the amount of thyroid hormones you need for health.  For background and advice, check out Textbook of Bio-Identical Hormones by Edward M. Lichten.  Although some of the editing mistakes made me cringe, the information is first-rate, readable, and useful.

Health

Losing weight makes your healthier, and becoming healthier also helps you to lose weight. 

Excess fat is more than just an unsightly calorie-storage mechanism which your body inflicts on you.  Fat cells produce chemicals which actively hurt your health.  It has become increasingly clear in recent years that excess fat causes systemic inflammation, like a diffuse, unresolved boil on and in your whole body. Many of the supplements I take are designed to quell that inflammation.  Inflammation leads to heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, autoimmune diseases, allergies and other age-related problems and these supplements help keep you free of them. 

Losing weight slowly also reduces systemic inflammation.  And remaining at your ideal weight helps keep the inflammation from coming back. 

There are many experiments with mice, rats, and even rhesus monkeys which show that long-term calorie restriction (usually 30% of a "normal" diet), with good nutrition, increases longevity.  What is dieting if not calorie restriction?  If you choose your foods to keep your vitamins and minerals and lose excess calories, and if you keep this up in the long term, you will probably live longer.  I say "probably" because anyone can be hit by a bus, but in the absence of accidents, you will live longer and healthier.

Me?  I feel good.  I don't feel old, and I'm told (I don't know how much to believe) I don't look old, no matter what the calendar says.  And that's what I'm after.  Health, vitality, and looking good are lots more fun than the alternative - I know, I've been there.