Interviewer: Today, you're going to learn about four research-supported steps to begin your weight loss journey.
Dr. Jennwood Chen is a member of the University of Utah Health Weight Management Program, and he helps patients that want to lose excess weight, not only for appearance but more importantly for better health. So let's talk about those four steps. What are those four steps to help somebody create some new eating habits to help them lose weight?
4 Steps to Begin Your Weight Loss Journey
Dr. Chen: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So, you know, changing what you eat or starting any new habit is notoriously difficult, right? I mean, we all are familiar with the New Year's resolutions that are broken and abandoned by, you know, January 5th. And so really in looking at how people actually implement, start and retain healthy habits, I think science has really identified four steps, and those four steps are inspiration, intention, action, and repetition.
So really, so, for instance, if someone is wanting to make a healthy change in their diet, really you need an inspiration. So many of my patients, when I talk to them, "Why do you want to lose this? Why do you want to lose this weight?" And they'll tell me that, you know, "I have young children and I know that my excess weight is affecting my health and I want to be around for them and I want to be able to play with them and be active with them." And that's inspiration, and that inspiration is it's what you draw on in those times where you know it's going to get hard just to stay with it.
However, we know research tells us that that inspiration is fleeting. So you may be inspired today to make a change, and tomorrow you can't rely on that inspiration because you just can't feel inspired all the time. And so that's where the next step intention. Once you're inspired, you need to set an intention. Okay, tomorrow, I'm going to cut this out of my diet.
Interviewer: And when you talk about intention and you have a patient, what are some of the first suggestions you have? I've heard like eliminate sugary drinks. If that's something you do, maybe start to eliminate those. That's like a really low-hanging fruit, high-impact sort of a thing. Are there some other things?
Dr. Chen: Well, that is absolutely. If someone tells me that they, you know, drink a couple of cans of soda a day, I immediately jump on that one. And, you know, people will get pretty addicted to soda. I have patients that tell me, you know, they drink up to a liter of pop a day. And so that intention to make a change needs to be a realistic. For some people, you know, cutting a whole liter of soda out of their daily routine is not that realistic. So cutting it down to a half liter a day for a while and then weaning yourself off it is a more realistic thing.
Interviewer: All right. What is the next step? We've had inspiration and intention.
Dr. Chen: Action. So really, you know, once you've set an intention, the action, and by action I mean immediate action. If you have inspiration, your intention is to start cutting out the soda, don't start next week. Start with the next time you are going to have a soda, that next time and just take action right then. It could be a small thing. Yeah, I'm not going to drink the whole liter. I'm just going to, you know, cut out half a liter, but, you know, take action now.
Interviewer: All right. When the inspiration is there and you're ready to go . . .
Dr. Chen: That's right.
Interviewer: You got to cash in on those deals, right.
Dr. Chen: That's absolutely right.
Interviewer: So inspiration, intention, action, and now rinse and repeat with repetition.
Dr. Chen: Rinse and repeat. Absolutely, yeah. And so we know, on average, it takes about three weeks to really develop a "habit," you know, and it just doesn't happen unless you could repeat these steps.
Interviewer: After three or four weeks of somebody doing this, you know, they come back to your office. What do you find that are some of the other things they can do to succeed on these four steps or some of the things that maybe, you know, cause people not to succeed?
Dr. Chen: I really think that, through all of this, you have to have self-compassion. And that really means that when you slip and it's inevitable, we all do. We all miss going to the gym. Even though I say, hey, I'm going to go, you know, five days a week at 7: 30, there's just, you know, life happens and you just miss a day. You can't beat yourself up about it. You can't torpedo the whole idea just because you slipped up once.
And on the flip side, at the end of the week, when you have, you know, cut out a liter of soda a day for five days, you got to pat yourself on the back, and you should tell your family, you should tell your friends, and you should be proud of yourself really. And that's how we stay on the path.
updated: December 30, 2022
originally published: March 26, 2021
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