The physiological aspects of weight loss fascinate me. I love speaking with patients about their body composition  how much of their body is made up of fat, muscle, and water and what they can do to maintain their lean muscle mass and reduce their body fat percentage, the keys to long-term weight loss. But what really intrigues me is the psychological or behavioral side of weight loss: Knowing what the body needs to do to lose weight is one thing; actually doing it is quite another.

We all get stuck in patterns. It’s a part of life. We have to make choices about how we live, including what we do for a living, how we dress, how much we exercise, and what we eat. The familiarity of those choices, whether they’re good or not so good for us, provides some level of comfort and consistency in our lives.

But let’s talk about the not-so-good choices for a moment. Many of these choices are contributing to the overweight and obesity epidemic in America, which in turn are leading to illness. We can stop this pattern, but it requires getting started on a new path. I know, it’s not easy! But it’s necessary, and I think you will find it very personally fulfilling in the end.

Consider the story of one of my patients. He was a CEO and also owned his own private accounting business, and definitely would be considered a workaholic. After his initial visit to The Center for Medical Weight Loss, we predicted that this patient would lose at least 3 pounds a week on our medical weight loss program.

The patient followed my recommendations concerning food and exercise, but was only losing ?O a pound a week. Then the accounting season ended, and he went on a cruise vacation where he lost 5 pounds that week! It was, of course, very curious that the patient lost so much weight while on vacation especially on a cruise, where people often overeat and may gain weight.

What caused him to actually lose more weight on vacation? We determined that in his regular life, the patient only slept about 3 to 4 hours a night but on vacation, he was sleeping 8 to 9 hours a night. His normal lack of sleep was changing the hormonal make-up of his body, causing weight gain as well as lack of ability to lose weight.

Though difficult with his busy lifestyle, the patient decided to decrease his workload so he could continue to get 6 to 7 hours of sleep each night. As a result, he started to lose the 3+ pounds weekly and was able to reach his goal weight. Continuing a healthy lifestyle that includes enough sleep each night has been necessary for this patient to keep off the weight long-term.

The moral of the story? Getting started with lifestyle changes doesn’t mean you have to take everything on at once. All you need to do is make the decision to take one step in a new direction. Then you’ll take another, and another. And before you know it, you’re on your way to a whole new focus on living more healthfully.