Losing weight should be like virginity; once you lose it you can’t get it back! The reason it does come back is because when you want to lose weight, what’s one of the first things you turn to? 

Exercise right? If you haven’t already been exercising, you start. If you have already incorporated regular activity into your week, you ramp it up — either increasing the intensity, frequency or both!

Maybe you’ll start running or aiming for 10,000 steps a day. Maybe you’ll take up an extra cardio class, or join a gym. Or perhaps you’ll even incorporate weight training as part of your program.

This approach is very common and is one the fitness industry promotes as a solution to weight problems. This explains why there are so many boot-camps and 6-12 week challenges out there (particularly after holidays). However, the only thing that’s likely to happen when you focus on using exercise as a weight-loss strategy is that you’ll become injured or burnt out.

Exercise Plays a Small Role

While regular exercise and movement is an important part of a healthy life and does help with weight loss, it only has a relatively small impact on your weight.

In fact, exercise is only 3% of the weight-loss equation.

That’s right. To lose weight, you only need to spend 3% of your week exercising, which equates to about 5 hours a week.

If you do the math, this leaves you with 163 hours — which is the remaining 97%.

The 97/3 Weight-Loss Strategy

Most people focus on the 3% and forget the 97%, which is why they continue to struggle to lose weight.

Instead, you need to give your attention to 97% - that’s the 97/3 weight-loss strategy.

So what’s the 97% you need to focus on? Let’s have a look.

Habits and Mindset

Your habits and mindset are the most influential things on your weight. That’s because these subconscious thoughts, beliefs or patterns of behaviour end up running your life and dictate what you do. No amount of good intentions, willpower or determination can override your habits, which is why it’s so important to ensure the habits that you have will support long-term weight loss.

Most people have several keystone habits that prevent them from losing weight. Keystone habits control your life because they produce a trickle-down effect. The key habit you have will usually lead you to engage in lots of other habits that sabotage your success. Often people are not really aware what their keystone habit is, so let’s have a look at some of the most common ones.

Having a Diet Mindset 

  • Believing that diets are the answer.
  • Jumping from one diet to another.
  • Always looking for a quick-fix to your weight problem.
  • Taking an ‘all or nothing’ approach.
  • Feeling guilty around food.
  • Believing there are ‘good and bad’ foods.
  • Thinking you need to cut calories or deprive yourself of food.
  • Not celebrating your small wins because you only look for big results.
  • Focusing on the end result, instead of the daily action steps that will lead to your result.

Having a Low Self Worth 

  • Not believing you are worth investing in.
  • Not setting goals because you don’t think you can achieve them.
  • Putting up with toxic people and people treating you badly.
  • Engaging in emotional eating to fill a void inside.
  • Believing you’ll only be worthy when you lose weight.

Having a Lack of Confidence

  • Doubting yourself and your ability to lose weight.
  • Comparing yourself to others,
  • Worrying what other people think of you.
  • Trying to control what other people think of you and events around you.

Perfectionism

  • Trying to get everything ‘right’ and beating yourself up for making mistakes.
  • Believing that there is a ‘perfect’ weight loss journey.
  • Being afraid to try new things in case you fail.
  • Procrastinating.

Being a People Pleaser

  • Trying to please everyone so you can be loved and accepted.
  • Feeling guilty about putting yourself first.
  • Always putting other people’s needs before your own.
  • Having trouble saying ‘no’ to other people.

The good news is that changing just one habit that supports weight loss can dramatically change your body shape. For example, if you get rid of the diet mindset, then you automatically get rid of the habits that are associated with that, which means you are many steps closer to achieving your goals.

Metabolic Blockers

Other things that impede your success are what are known as metabolic blockers. 

These are things that negatively impact your metabolism which make it physiologically harder to lose weight. There are 3 main metabolic blockers — chronic stress, poor sleep, and excessive alcohol consumption.

Chronic Stress

Stress causes your body to respond in a number of ways that make losing weight difficult. The first is through the release of the hormone, cortisol, which increases your appetite, your cravings for junk food and makes it easier for your body to accumulate fat on your stomach. Stress also causes you to burn less calories, and contributes to poor sleep.

Poor Sleep

Poor sleep (whether it’s quality or quantity) is associated with weight gain. It contributes to increased appetite, makes you more likely to increased your intake of foods high in calories, fats and carbs. Poor sleep also slows your metabolism and increases your stress levels.

Excessive Alcohol Consumption

Excessive alcohol consumption severely restricts your ability to lose weight, because it drastically increases your calorie intake and leads to poorer food choices, increased hunger, poor digestion, increased fat accumulation, and interferes with your sleep!

The truth is, if you want to lose weight, you need to reduce the metabolic blockers in your life as much as possible. Poor sleep, stress and drinking are all tied up in your habits — it’s your habits that influence how stressed you are, whether you prioritise sleep, and how much you drink. So working on your habits, will automatically make a difference to the metabolic blockers in your life.

What About Food and Nutrition?

It’s true that food and nutrition play an important role in your overall health and what you weigh. After all, we all know that eating junk (calorie dense, nutrient sparse) food will lead to weight gain, while focusing on eating a wide range of foods rich in colour, taste, and texture leads to better health and a healthier weight.

However, what you eat, why you eat and how you eat are all tied up with your habits. 

For example, if you have a strong diet mindset, you will follow diets, cut calories, follow meal plans, do detoxes or cleanses, and cut food groups — all things that will cause you to fall off the wagon and binge eat. This then leads you to continue to restrict your food, and you keep repeating the same vicious cycle over and over, you’ll never end up losing weight for good. But if you work on your diet mindset and learn to eat food that will nourish and satisfy you, and still make room for your favourite foods without the guilt, you will get rid of the starve-binge cycle. This in turn will reduce your stress levels, improve the way you feel and function, and will create a body that burns fat.

Similarly, if you use food to manage stress or soothe your emotions, there’s every chance that you are overeating. Instead of trying to control the binges (which is what most people do), the solution is found in changing your habits — either reducing your stress and/or learning to manage your emotions. When stress is reduced, or you can handle your emotions without turning to food, you will no longer engage in overeating.

So the secret to better eating then is to address the habits that are causing you to eat poorly, rather than focusing on changing what you eat.

Succeeding With the 97/3 Weight-Loss Strategy

The bottom line is that unless you change your habits and work on the 97%, no amount of exercise or starving yourself is going to lead to permanent, ever-lasting weight loss.

Of course you do lose weight when you go hard and fast, cutting back the calories you eat and burning more through exercise. However this approach is not sustainable and only ever ends in more pain; it compromises your metabolism, increases your stress levels, makes you miserable and causes you to gain more weight in the long term. It’s not a weight-loss strategy that works permanently. And when I mean permanent, I mean permanent! Remember, weight-loss should be like your virginity - you only lose it once!

If you commit to working on the 97%, I guarantee that you will have a plan that is sustainable, realistic and will lead to long-term results.

I know that this approach probably turns everything you think you know about weight loss on its head, but if what you’ve been doing hasn’t got you the permanent result you’re after, isn’t it time for another approach?