How many times have you resolved to lose weight, tighten your muscles and finally have the body you desire; the kind of body that makes you want to put on a swimsuit and frolic on the beach? Do you look at people who seem to effortlessly maintain a lean physique and wonder what planet they’re from? I get it. I used to be trapped in a body that I hated. I felt like I tried everything to lose weight and the harder I tried, the worse the situation became. If this sounds familiar, fear not. There is hope and there is a solution. Weight cycling, or yo-yo weight loss diets, are not going to work if you want to keep the pounds off for the long term. You must apply some simple principles to your life that will help you take a long term view of the process and recognize that permanent weight loss happens one day at a time.
Do be gentle with yourself
When you see your weight loss progress as either black or white, you are bound to be overly critical and throw in the towel when you believe you have made a mistake. If you diet stringently and veer from the path with even one morsel of “bad” food and then feel as though you have wasted the day and continue with a binge, you are living with no margin for error. Weight management is a lifelong process, so perfection is impossible. A life in the gray area is much more realistic.
Do hit the reset button
When you do stray from your path, rather than quit for the day and “punish” yourself with food, acknowledge the mistake and immediately hit the reset button. You don’t need to wait for tomorrow, Monday, or New Year’s Day for a fresh start. You can begin anew at any moment and have a clean slate. Hit the reset button and move forward. Acknowledging a mistake is not the same as dwelling on it and letting it hold you back.
Do set some boundaries
Know what makes you tick and respect how you operate. If you are someone who is tempted by the mere sight of food, hanging around the buffet table at a dinner party is not a good idea. If you are aware that even the slightest taste of sugar sets you off and ignites a three-day feeding frenzy, don’t eat sugar. If you can’t resist all the treats at the concession stand when you go to the movies, walk past it and do not even look at the Raisinettes. Set boundaries that will make you less tempted to eat. Alcoholics should never work in a bar, and people trying to lose weight should never work in a bakery.
Do tell yourself no
Sometimes, we must parent ourselves. We have no problem telling our children “no” when they want to eat cookies and ice cream for dinner, yet we allow ourselves to dine on the contents of the vending machine at work on a regular basis. We allow ourselves to do things that we would never allow our kids to do, so why is it alright for us? You can’t always have what you want, when you want it. Learn how and when to tell yourself no. The more you practice, the easier it becomes.
Do create an environment for success
My clients often tearfully relay their difficulties avoiding off-limit treats and then show me pantries stocked with every junk food item that exists. What? You must keep your home, office, car, etc. safe and keep contraband items out of reach and out of sight. You are less likely to eat processed, food-like substances and other junk food delicacies if you have to make an effort to get them. If you know that the girls at the office bring a delicious spread every Friday, avoid entering the kitchen or just don’t look at the food if you must venture into dangerous territory. If it is not in front of you, you won’t eat it.
Do not be too rigid
Again, when you think about long term weight management, you are thinking about the rest of your life, and that’s a long, long time. If you are so rigid that you feel imprisoned, you are going to want to break free. If 90% of the time you follow the rules you set for yourself, relax the other 10%. If you know that you will give yourself an occasional pass, you won’t feel like you have to overeat when you finally allow yourself a treat.
Do not be too attached to the number on the scale
A normal person’s weight fluctuates day to day and even throughout any given day. Weigh yourself once a week to monitor trends. Are you gaining? Losing? Staying the same? Most of us know when we look in the mirror whether we are pleased with our progress or not. If you love what you see, do you really care about the number on a scale? You will make yourself crazy if you weigh yourself too frequently and obsess over every little change. You can lose or gain weight by drinking a large glass of water or going to the bathroom, so don’t sweat every ounce. Weigh yourself once a week under nearly exact circumstances (same scale, same time of day, etc). The best case scenario is first thing in the morning, undressed, after going to the bathroom, and before eating or drinking anything.
Do not focus on food
Many of my clients that are trying to transform their bodies only want to talk about food during our sessions. They talk about what they ate, what they wanted to eat, what they should have eaten, what they will eat next, blah, blah, blah. Food serves one purpose: nourishment of the beautiful body you have. When you go to a party, rather than focus on the food, focus on all the fun people. When you think about your life, think in terms of what friends you want to visit, what movie you will see next, which new exercise class you will try at your gym, etc. Food is what you give yourself between all the fun occasions to keep your body fueled, not something to occupy your every waking thought.
Do not believe that you can have it all
You will have to let go of many bad habits and indulgences to create the physique of your dreams. You have to work hard at the gym and even harder at the dinner table. You will have to make choices. No one can have it all. If you want to eat recklessly and never move a muscle, you are choosing a certain outcome. Decide what you want and then do what you have to do to make it happen. You will definitely need to modify certain behaviors if you want to transform your life. Doing the same things you have always done will get you the same results you have always gotten.
Do not forget to pat yourself on the back
Celebrate every victory. A client began training with me weighing 535 lbs. He has lost 75 lbs, but rather than jump for joy and brag to everyone he knows, he feels disappointed that he has not lost more weight. As long as you are consistently taking a step in the right direction, you will eventually get to the finish line. Transformation happens in small steps, not broad strokes. Daily efforts turn into weekly efforts, then monthly efforts, then yearly efforts, and before you know it, you have five-year track record of doing the right thing.
When it comes to permanent weight management, stop thinking in terms of “doing” a diet to lose weight. There is life after weight loss, and a better transformation strategy is one in which you reorient every aspect of your life. You have to transform how you live in order to transform your body. This encompasses how and what you eat, how and when you move, how you think, how you celebrate, how you deal with stress, how you relate to others, and how you relate to yourself. There needs to be shift in your thinking such that you nourish your body with food rather than entertain and comfort yourself with food. You must respect your body and see the beauty in the gorgeous, intricate, masterpiece you were given at birth.
Discipline yourself and treat yourself with respect. Accept the body you have and then vow to take measures to make it the best it can be. You take care of what you love, so it all begins with gratitude for who you are today and then make small daily steps in the right direction. You can do this. Start now.
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Photo Credits: Two girls exercising (one doing a push-up here) and walking their dogs at Cayucos State Beach by Flickr: mikebaird; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas - Fotolia.com