Have you ever been on a dietary regimen and started losing weight, then after a few weeks the weight reduction slowed way down? Of course you have. Why does this happen? Treating overweight and obese patients for years have given my insight into this frustrating issue.
I call this phenomenon Drifting. When someone starts a new weight loss plan, they are excited, but also fearful. Usually they have attempted weight loss multiple times and have experienced the euphoria of weight loss and the devastation of weight regain. At the beginning of any reasonable weight reduction program, we can expect a fairly rapid and significant body weight reduction.
Within about 3-5 weeks the rapid weight reduction slows and a more steady weight loss should occur. In those first few weeks the body is eliminating waste, excess fluids, and some body fat. After the first few weeks, our body is well into the fat burning phase of weight loss and a steady reduction happens. This is the expected norm. Some patients, however, begin to slow their weight reduction as soon as week three. Why is this happening?
This brings me back to the drift. People don't stop a weight loss program, they drift back to their old habits. Most of this is due to the fact that they don't like the change in diet and are not dedicated enough to stick with the change. They drift back to old eating patterns and to foods they like, but in smaller quantities.
Most people believe they know how to lose weight and that all they need is a jump start. They are mistaken and this thinking is why they usually go through on and off weight loss and weight gain. Anyone who has struggled with excess body weight must stop thinking they know how to eat and how to be active, and that they can just tough their way to thin. I advise people to forget what they think they know about long term weight reduction and try something new.
The new thing they are trying is not radical. It is not difficult and when followed provides rapid fat reduction. I initiate patients on our dietary plan for a short two week period. Anyone can do something for two weeks. Our average weight loss during these two weeks is 8-12 pounds. If someone loses 8-12 pounds in two weeks, why would they ever stop doing what gave them those results? It's a mind boggling question. The answer is...the Drift.
The drift is subtle. A change in eating times. A change in meal replacement snacks. The addition of fruit too early in the plan. Portion size changes. We tend to drift back to our old habits and ways of eating. The drift is slow and insidious. Over a few weeks weight reduction stops and patients think there is something wrong with the treatment plan. The plan is fine, they have drifted away from it.
Our brain and thinking wants to lose weight and not really have to permanently change our habits or our eating. Drifting is not about eating a whole pizza and 3 beers. Drifting is about the subtle eating changes that we don't realize are happening. Our old ingrained behavior is returning. This not only occurs with our eating habits, but with our physical activity changes. We start off well with adding activity to our schedule. Over a short period of time we find reasons to interfere with our workout schedule.
A prime example of drift is when a patient eats our formulated snack meals for 2 weeks, loses significant weight, and then starts buying store bought "protein bars" to replace what was working. The reasons are myriad, but I often hear, "they are cheaper", "I like the taste", "they have more protein in them", and "it was just easier to get while I was at the store". These subtle changes show up as reduced weight loss and the patient starts to think the program isn't working anymore. In fact it's the patient who is not working the plan any more.
What is the answer to the drift? Most people don't want to hear it, but it's their inability to let go of their old beliefs about weight loss. The next reason is that each of us believe we have enough experience and knowledge to know what's best for us. And finally, most patients have failed to commit to a new way of life. The solution is to follow the sound, proven, treatment plan to the letter as long as needed to change past habits.
The take away lessons are:
1. Realize that we are not experts at weight loss just because we have dieted off and on many times. The opposite is in fact true. We have not been doing the correct treatment plan or we would not have to keep starting new diet plans.
2. Understand that short term weight reduction is only the first phase of getting lean and healthy. The most difficult phase is the maintenance phase. Hitting your goal weight is only getting to remission. Staying in remission is the lifetime goal.
3. A jump start will not allow a person to get fit and lean. It will lead to frustration.
4. Overweight syndrome and Obesity must be treated as the disease it is.
It is a genetically based, metabolic, biochemical, hormonal, and psychological disorder that will ultimately shorten our lives and cause many other debilitating diseases along the way, if not properly treated.
Now, when you are working on losing weight and on a good treatment plan, pay attention to the Drift that may be occurring and work to avoid adjusting the plan to suit your old desires and tastes. Stay on treatment protocol and your body will lean out, tone up, and lead you on the path to forever thin.