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A Formula for Weight Loss: Process Not Pounds

Posted Oct 01 2010 9:46am

When you meet Stephen Vinson—and I hope you do—you won't meet an advocate for fad diets or get-thin-quick schemes. Been there, done that. And though he tried out for NBC's The Biggest Loser (and a similar show coming out on ABC), he's not a fan of reality shows, boot camps or extreme weight-loss interventions.

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Stephen Vinson is a fan of the process—the idea that changing your diet and exercise habits is more important and ultimately more rewarding than dieting or intense exercise alone.

Vinson would know: In the last 18 months, he's lost more than 200 pounds focusing not on specific weight goals but on the steps it takes to reach those goals. The former yo-yo dieter has struggled his entire life with weight but says his new approach is finally paying big dividends. He's not just losing weight, he's living a healthier life.

"A buddy—Kevin Barberio—helped me a lot," says Vinson, a small business owner and blogger in Birmingham, Ala. "He showed me how to cut back on food. Instead of doing a hardcore weight-loss regimen, he told me to eat the things I liked but to cut back portions," Vinson says. "This wasn't as restrictive as other diets. I was still eating things I enjoy."

In previous attempts to lose weight, Vinson had completely changed his diet, cutting out foods he liked and introducing foods he wasn't familiar with. He lost weight, but the diet never lasted very long. "Maybe a week," he says.

But eating the foods he likes in smaller portions and slowly adding new foods, became stepping stones to healthier eating and weight loss. "Now I enjoy eating vegetables and fruit. I used to hate tomatoes. Now I can't eat enough of them."

He also doesn't set firm short-term goals for weight loss, a trick he learned from registered dietitian Sonthe Burge. Instead, he sets firm goals for how many calories he'll eat and how many miles he'll walk.

"It's too much pressure. It's more important that I accomplish goals for eating and exercise than losing 5 pounds. Doing those things is what makes it possible to lose 5 pounds."

Studies show that unrealistic goal-setting in weight loss has a tendency to backfire. They also show that having the support of others helps. When he began his most recent weight-loss adventure, Vinson launched WhoAteMyBlog.com to chronicle his efforts. Coupled with outreach on Twitter and Facebook, the blog has put Vinson in touch with others trying to lose weight—and created a fan base from which he draws support.

"I totally did not expect that when I started the blog," Vinson says. "It's really helped me to be more around people—to know that people are supportive. For a while I had gotten to be afraid being around people. People used to make fun of me."

The support and the focus on the process of losing weight is helping Vinson reach his long-term goals: Dropping another 200 pounds, and, more importantly, living a healthy lifestyle.

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