Writer: Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.
Fun in the hot sun, cool water, and…bunny slippers? Isn’t that what summer is all about? Well, you probably don’t associate bunny slippers with summer, but when you are trying to lose weight, you should—at least metaphorically. Here’s why.
There is one thing all dieters agree on: weight loss, especially in the early phases, takes a toll physically. In a word, it’s exhausting. There are two very real scientific reasons for this.
The first is that fat cells are the garbage cans of your body. Gross, but true. At the center of every fat cell is a repository where the body locks up toxins. When those fat cells are burned for fuel, all those toxins are dumped into your bloodstream, all day, every day, for as long as you’re dieting. This can make you extremely fatigued.
The second is that, in order to lose weight, you must consume fewer calories than you need to function. That’s just the math of weight loss. But it means for you to use your fat for fuel, you have to be running at a fuel deficit. And it simply won’t feel great.
Here’s the good news. I want you to relax during this period of exhaustion. You don’t actually have to put on bunny slippers; that is just my symbol for taking it easy during dieting. The greatest advantage of this is you won’t get lured into activities that unnecessarily deplete your willpower.
Willpower is a cognitive function that gives you the ability to self-regulate. All of us have access to it in limited doses. It takes only about 15 minutes before we run out. Despite our best intentions, we cave to the temptation of checking Facebook, we lose our patience in traffic, and we eat something we vowed we wouldn’t. Which is why it’s essential to have a program that expects you to run out of willpower and has you covered.
The first big thing to deplete willpower is exercise. Pushing yourself to exercise in the weight-loss phase is a huge no-no in my program. In fact, our studies have shown that people who insist on exercising lose the least weight of any group. The calories burned just don’t make up for what happens if you get depleted and eat off your plan. The fact is, you can do more damage with your mouth than you can make up on the treadmill.
The next is stress. Remember, you have bunny slippers on! Don’t say yes to chairing the big PTA fundraiser and don’t accept a project at work that means weeks of lost sleep. Wherever possible, try to take life down a notch so the huge lifestyle changes you’re making get the space and respect they deserve.
To replenish willpower, make sure you get enough sleep, avoid stress, and yes, put down the sneakers and kick back with those slippers on.
Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D., is the New York Times bestselling author of “Bright Line Eating: The Science of Living Happy, Thin and Free.” An adjunct associate professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the University of Rochester, Susan is an expert in the psychology of eating. She is president of the Institute for Sustainable Weight Loss and CEO of Bright Line Eating Solutions.