What is ‘real

weight loss’ and how can we achieve it?

Of course, as its January, it’s almost impossible to go through the day without being confronted with a TV show, newspaper article or conversation about losing weight or getting fitter.

Unfortunately, many of these TV shows set false expectations, both for the participants and the audience. They make it seem like weight loss or getting fit is easy, but it’s not!

The programmes do most of the work: they shout, they scream, they ‘incentivise’. But because they only adjust rather than change lifestyles, it’s no surprise that the weight comes back on when life gets busy. They focus on eating less and exercising more, without understanding the most important question: why do people eat what they eat and do what they do?

Paul Gately

Recently the MoreLife team worked with the ITV Tonight show to help three people – Steve, Gemma and Richard – to change their lifestyle with a goal to achieve weight loss. Undoubtedly, the most important part of this experience for us was sharing their stories of ‘real weight loss’.

Honesty is the best policy

At MoreLife, we believe it’s about being honest: weight loss is hard but living with obesity is hard too; exercise is hard but feeling sluggish each day is hard too.

The fundamental reality is that, for any adult, they will have gained weight over many years. That is years of underlying and usually very subtle thoughts, feelings and emotions leading people to behave in a way that encourages weight gain.  Rewiring the brain to think and feel differently about food and activity will take time too.  There is no quick fix to weight loss, unless you don’t mind gaining the weight back and then some!

Let’s also be realistic. We live in a world that encourages harmful behaviours in a mindless way: cheap and convenient food is everywhere, inactivity is an easy choice and it gets easier each day. It’s clear to see how our environment can support or challenge our weight gain.

Understanding the ‘why’

Having worked in this area of weight loss for over 20 years, the MoreLife team recognise the importance of seeing why we eat what we eat and do what we do. Our programme helps people to reflect and understand this for themselves. We want to know:

  • Why do people eat the way they do in social situations?
  • Why are they not getting enough sleep?
  • Why don’t they like to undertake activity or exercise?
  • Why do they work so hard that they don’t have the time to look after themselves?

Those that confront these questions and find the drivers of their behaviours are on the right path to establish a rewiring of the brain, and form the new healthy habits and behaviours that are necessary for long term and sustainable weight loss.

Building the foundations first

The key piece of advice I gave to Steve, Gemma and Richard was: “don’t focus on the numbers on the scale, that comes later.”

It’s like building a house without any foundations. The builders can build it, stand back and admire their achievement but it’s fragile, and could all come crashing down at any moment with the slightest of challenge. Who would want to live there?

At MoreLife we work hard to get the foundations right – sometimes they come quickly, sometimes they come slowly.

It was a very different process for each of our three friends. Whilst Gemma had an amazing start, we knew this couldn’t last.  We worked with Gemma to level out her ups and downs so it didn’t feel like a roller coaster and she was better able to deal with inevitable challenges.  With Steve, we needed to show him that his body hadn’t given up on him, so he shouldn’t give up on his body. He needed a few quick wins to build his confidence gently and slowly, but surely. Richard, however, had learnt to hand responsibility for his life to others, including his previous weight loss attempts. We knew that Richard needed to work to care for himself more and intervention to take responsibility was critical before any weight loss outcomes.  Each of these journeys show that there is no single solution for helping people change their lifestyle and to lose weight. One type of diet or exercise plan is never going to work.

Nonetheless, it’s easy to see why most weight loss programmes achieve major physical changes in a short space of time. I’m sure many people will think that each of the participants could have done better. We could have spent every day ‘driving’ them with a strict diet and regimented exercise.  Yes, they would have lost weight initially, but we would have done them no favours in the long run. It’s not just about the numbers on the scale.

The underlying reasons behind a person’s weight problem are invisible, which means people often don’t understand why they struggle with their weight. The weight loss industry uses this to sell quick fixes but taking the time to address the underlying foundations is the key to achieving real, long-term change.

This is why we have developed a tailor made approach at MoreLife with the aim of setting participants up for sustainable weight loss. We are called MoreLife as people kept telling us that our programme gives them more life, and it is clear from the show that Gemma, Steve and Richard have gained exactly that. I hope that our work with the ITV Tonight team can help the millions of people who have had many failed attempts at losing weight and shine a light on the need for ‘real weight loss’.

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