Sunday, November 25, 2012
I've been making new year's resolutions most of my life. Typically, my resolve is gone by Valentine's day and I'm back into old habits. In January of 2012, like many years in the past, I resolved to lose weight. Now, 2012 is almost gone and I'm 50 pounds thinner.
How did I manage to stay consistent all this time? When I really think about it, it's because I started where I was. Instead of turning myself inside out to "follow" a particular diet, I took a "diet" and turned it inside out to follow me. The habits I've developed with the help of Sparkpeople are healthful habits but they are also uniquely mine.
It's one thing to follow an eating plan, its another thing to bring it to you, mold it, adapt it and make it yours. I remember Weight Watchers back in the old days when foods were "legal" and "illegal". Weight Watchers doesn't do that any more. Why? Because there's no such thing as "legal" and "illegal" foods. It's just food. As part of the human condition, we all have a certain calorie budget. Go over it, we gain. Stay under it, we lose. How we allocate those calories is totally up to us. We could choose to spend our budget eating ice cream all day, but that makes no sense because our bodies require certain nutrients. Therefore, we know we must spend our calories wisely by choosing more nutrient dense foods more often. And therein lies the secret; chose the nutrient dense foods more often.
So I looked at my food habits and instead of focusing on my bad habits, I focused on identifying my good habits plus building a plan around foods and activities I enjoyed. For example:
*I enjoy preparing this unfried chicken recipe I found in an old Oprah magazine. [This is a healthy recipe. Keep it in your new eating plan.]
*I like broccoli, greens, green beans, tossed salads. [ All these foods are good for you, so keep them in your new eating plan.]
*I enjoy hamburgers and love barbecue ribs. [No problem. These foods are also welcome in the new eating plan. ]
*I like cake and ice cream. [Hey, believe it or not, there's room for these foods in the new eating plan.]
I did the same thing with my activity. I took inventory of what was available to me and what I was already enjoying.
*I don't exercise much, but I don't mind walking. [Fine, then walking is part of your plan.]
*I have an old stationary cycle in the garage. [Good, dust if off and cycle 10 minutes while you watch tv.]
*When I was young, I used to enjoy lifting weights. [Excellent! You should join a gym.]
*I have an exercise on-demand channel and some old tae-bo DVDs. [Good deal, let's find a way to include them.]
My next challenge focused on knocking out my two worst habits: inactivity and dining out. What were the barriers that were keeping these habits in place?
* I don't have time to exercise. [What are your options?]
1. I can get up in the morning. [You're a night owl; this only works on the weekends]
2. I can exercise at lunch. [Take an extra pair of sneakers and stash them in your office]
3. I can workout in the evening. [Go to the gym]
I actually entered appointments on my calendar designating my workout times. I prefer exercising in the evenings, but if the weather's nice, I'll grab my sneakers and walk outside during my lunch break. On Saturdays or Sundays I get up in the morning and go to the gym or walk.
And with dining out, I started packing my lunch more often and I looked up nutrition information at my favorite dining haunts and ordered the more nutrient-dense food 90% of the time.
But most importantly of all, I gave it time. This was and still is, the hardest part. It took me 10 months to lose 50 pounds. I still have another 17-20 pounds to go to hit my goal, which most likely won't happen until April or May.
Losing weight is like gardening. You don't plant the bulbs on a Sunday in October and get flowers on a Monday in November. You have to wait until March.
Losing weight is also like pregnancy. Just because no one else can see that you are pregnant, doesn't mean you're not pregnant. Just because no one else can see that you're thinner, doesn't mean you are not thinner. Eventually, the months go by, your body changes and everybody becomes aware.
When I was a teen, the longest I could "diet" was two weeks. It was two weeks of giving up all of my favorite foods and undereating because it was "good for me." Inevitably, I would "slip up" eat something "illegal" and then abandon the entire diet. Lots of us are still locked in that mentality and it's a harmful mindset. Time to let it go.
Above all, stop listening to those folks who are promoting fad diets. I'm old enough to have seen some version of all of them. Most of them are either extremely low-calorie or exclude entire food groups. Too extreme and not sustainable. The reality is that there are no quick fixes. But, with a sustainable plan, time and patience, you will eventually arrive at your destination.