I’m currently working on a second edition of my book, Racing Weight: How to Get Lean for Peak Performance. I half-jokingly refer to it as, “the diet book for skinny people.” Really, it’s a guide to performance weight management for endurance athletes.
Racing Weight doesn’t peddle a dietary shtick. It doesn’t say that in order to attain your ideal weight you have to get 21 percent of your calories from protein, or you can’t eat chicken, or whatever. To write the book I simply studied the weight management methods most commonly practiced by the world’s fastest and leanest endurance athletes and bundled them together.
Weight management is notoriously difficult for athletes and non-athletes alike. Most efforts to lose excess body fat ultimately fail. Because the failure rate is so high, I believe that copying the methods of the few men and women who succeed is the most sensible way for anyone to pursue weight management, whether for sports competition or for the sake of looking good in front of the mirror.
Since 1994, researchers including Rena Wing of Brown University, have intensively studied the habits of “successful losers”—those rare individuals who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept the weight off at least one full year. Interestingly, Wing and her colleagues have found no pattern in the diets of these people. Some are on low-fat diets, others on vegetarian diets, still others on Weight Watchers, and so forth.
If not diet, then what habits are shared by successful losers? The most common habits linked to successful weight-loss maintenance are tons of exercise, daily self-weighing, and extremely consistent (bordering on monotonous) eating patterns. What do these three habits have in common? They are all indicators of a strong commitment to permanent weight loss—an outright determination to keep the weight off.
That’s right: The real secret to successful weight management is motivation. What you actually eat is secondary. Regardless of what you eat, if you are determined to succeed in your diet, there are certain habits you are bound to pick up, such as getting on the scale every single day so you can nip any upward creep in the bud.
Interestingly, another thing that successful losers have in common is that most of them failed in previous attempts to lose weight (often multiple times) before ultimately succeeding. This is evidence that it is not innate willpower but mastered motivation that brings ultimate success.
It is powerful to realize that there are many effective ways to lose weight and each of us have enough innate willpower to succeed in our own way. In this regard, weight management is a lot like running a business; techniques may vary from one person to another, but finding a personal way to stay motivated every day is what makes the most successful among us unstoppable.