I embarked on a 30 year journey of trying just about everything from not eating for weeks at a time to only eating bananas, in an attempt to reach and maintain my goal weight. Like a professional running back heading for a touchdown with the goal line in sight, I would see the finish line, get close, and then fumble the ball. I did this over and over for more than 30 years. I was a fat hamster perpetually running on the hamster wheel.
I wanted so desperately to get off that wheel, but I just couldn’t jump off—I couldn’t even roll off!
I jumped off the wheel and finally found success. At the end of this fat race, I’ve reached my goal weight and am staying there. Through this process, I learned six key things.
- Find a healthy program and stay with it. Healthy is the key word. If a program is not rich in natural vegetables and fruits, it is probably not good for you. It must be a program you can stay on for a long period of time and one that is working for you. In other words, a plan in which you can see the numbers on the scale going down. There are so many diets out there that promise results and the “experts” are always coming out with new information. Bottom line, they all agree we need to eat a diet rich in vegetables and fruits. If you are getting all the protein, vitamins, vegetables and fruits your body needs and you are dropping weight, then you found the key to unlocking your overweight, prison door. Now, the hardest part: Stay with it! Don’t let anything deter you from your goal—not Aunt Edna’s birthday party, not a holiday, not a vacation, not a bad day—NOTHING—do not let anything come between you and your goal. There is always an excuse to get off track “just for this one day” and if you are not careful you could end up back on the hamster wheel. (Obviously, there will be days where eating exactly to your plan is not possible. What I am talking about here is a detour that takes you off the track headed toward your goal. If you do slip off track, that’s okay just get back on as soon as possible.)
- Deal with any emotional issues that keep you stuck. What are the perceived benefits of being overweight that keep your from reaching your goal weight? Has the weight become a shield from dealing with underlying issues or problems? Come to terms with the fact that you are where you are for a reason and that you put yourself there. Often times it is easier to stay stuck than deal with the emotional issues attached to the extra pounds or the overeating. Find out what those issues are, and deal with them. You may need to seek out a professional, but at the very least, find someone you can talk to about the issues that will arise as you get closer to your goal. No matter how ridiculous your feelings seem, allow yourself to acknowledge it and talk about it.
- Keep your program to yourself. Surround yourself with people who will cheer you on and not sabotage you. I don’t know what it is about trying to lose weight and people, but they seem to want to keep you from reaching your goal. “Oh, go ahead and eat some cake. It won’t hurt you.” “My sister tried that plan, and it didn’t work at all.” “What happens if you lose weight and your boobs get smaller?” “You only live once, enjoy yourself.” Why do people try to sabotage? Keep the naysayers away and silence them. If you don’t tell others, then they have nothing to say. Only share your journey with your cheerleaders. If they are not cheering you on, then do not talk to them about it. It is hard enough staying on a program; you don’t need negative talk in your ears.
- Say goodbye to mindless eating forever. Mindless eating is defined as eating without a clear awareness of what is being shoved into your mouth. For example, like eating while you are preparing meals, not realizing how much is being disposed of as it goes down your throat. Your body is not a human trashcan! Everything that goes in your mouth must be planned. Stop and think before you eat anything. If after you reach your goal, you want to have some chocolate or cake, plan to eat it. Plan it and enjoy it without any guilt. If during your program you want to plan a little treat, only plan on one treat and not multiple days of treats. Know that a few days can set you back for weeks or longer. Holidays and special occasions can be enjoyed while on the road to reaching your goal weight, it will just look a little different and require more planning. The days of stuffing food in your mouth without thinking are gone. Shifting instead to a mindset of eating because your body needs fuel, and not to meet an emotional need, is your new way of life. If you want to reach your goal and stay there, you need to make lifestyle changes, and mindless eating is one of them.
- Exercise. Exercise is a crucial part of staying healthy. Even if this means taking the stairs or parking at the back of the parking lot—do something. Have some form of exercise in your weekly routine. Pick something that you enjoy and stick with it. It may be going to the gym or walking with a friend but find something. Anything is better than nothing.
- Accept that it is a lifestyle change. If you go back to your old ways of eating, you will go back to your old body. Lifestyle changes must be made. Part of the lifestyle change will include better self-care. What do I mean by better self-care? Be good to yourself. Learn to enjoy things that have nothing to do with eating. Be kind to yourself. Be good to your body. Take a leisurely walk, use the china, buy the more expensive coffee, take a nap, enjoy lunch with a friend, watch a movie in the middle of the day, volunteer somewhere, take that vacation—treat yourself better. Treat yourself as good as you treat others. Recognize that you deserve good things too, and at the top of that list is the trim body you always wanted.
You can do it! Believe in yourself and stay focused on your goal. Grab the ball with the veracity of a pit-bull and run over that goal line! And make sure you enjoy your victory dance…and keep enjoying it!