Want to know how to succeed at weight-loss? Want to know how to make the pounds shed away without ever coming back? How to conquer that evil, delicious looking cookie? Want to know how to never fail at losing weight? Well . . .
Sorry, but it is. Someday, the cookie will win, and you’ll find yourself breaking your diet and overeating. If you’re trying to lose the weight without the assistance of a personal trainer, odds are you are going to a) lose motivation; b) lose the energy; c) get fed up with the restricted diet; or d) all of the above, plus a pie and a few hours of crying into it.
I don’t want to discourage you, but it’s important that you get used to the idea that you’re going to fail a hell of a lot more than you succeed. To say something like, “Failure is not an option,” or, “I can’t fail,” is unrealistic because it’s not just about weight, it’s about how your mind and body work, two things that are not easy to alter. Saying those things doesn’t set you up to lose (because, again, it’s going to happen anyway), but it does make losing detrimental and puts a lot of pressure on you. If you hinge your entire success and emotional stability on a single meal, you are asking to be toyed with.
ADVICE – PLAN A DAY OFF. Give yourself a day, an entire day, where you don’t follow the diet. I’m not talking about short-changing yourself (“I can eat one small slice of low-calorie, carb-free, cheesless pizza”) nor eating as much junk food as you can (“I’ll have fourteen pizzas, cheesy sticks, buffalo wings and 2 liters of Dr. Pepper”). I’m talking about planning a day where you don’t have to plan every single thing you eat. Healthy, unhealthy, give yourself the option of both. Will this set you back a little? Yes, but we’re in this for the long haul anyway, and while one day of bad eating can ruin a week’s worth of eating right, no damage is irreversible.
It’s Inevitable That You Will Break Your Plan.
You know why? Because this isn’t some magical fairytale island where the monkey butlers serve low-fat banana daiquiris that get you really fucked up but you’re always good to drive, which doesn’t matter because the island has no roads, just a pristine river that runs through the entire island that no one ever pees in, and it ends in a waterslide where baby hippos and really cute puppies dance and serve you lasagna, and everything is perfect everywhere all the time. This is life, and it’ll happen to you no matter what you got going on.
There is going to be a birthday party at your work where they serve cake, or your friends are suddenly going to some concert you’re invited to and hit up a few bars after, or some of your family is in town and you want to show them a good time; there are many things that can happen to you in the course of the day that can screw up your diet and you can’t always plan for them.
ADVICE – SUPPORTIVE FRIENDS. This is where asking for a little help can be good. Having the support of the people around you can make those hard times of temptation a tiny bit easier. I’m not saying they have to be hard on you or act like a coach . . . and in fact, kick them in the nuts if they do. It’s your job to be hard on yourself, not theirs. Most of their support should come in the form of simple encouragement (e.g. – You can do it! Don’t give up now!) Or better yet silence. When saying, “I’m on a diet,” some of my friends will reply with unending scorn, ridicule, and claims that I must have lost my balls somewhere because I’m clearly a woman.
A friend noticing that all you’re getting is a small salad and a club soda and says nothing is sometimes the greatest gift of all. For the others, learn to go deaf and let the jeers roll away. Or start planning to slash their tires. Whatever works for you. Just don’t be one of those people who says, “OH, I’M ON A DIET,” every time you sit down to a meal with others. This is just a gigantic plead for attention, and tantamount to that guy at house parties who brings a guitar in the hopes someone will ask about it and give him a chance to play a shitty Bush cover. Only say that you’re on a diet when asked, and sometimes not even then.
It’s Inevitable That You Will Break Your Plan and Give Into Temptation.
At some point, you’ll probably give into temptation. The cookie will look too good, or the jeering of your friends will win out, or the smell of bacon wafting through the air will be so delicious that you’ll break into your neighbor’s kitchen by jumping through the window just to get some.
Frankly, I think this is a good thing. Despite all that I have said on the issue, I don’t want you to stop living and having fun. I don’t want your life to be about plain and boring food. Food is about nourishment, but it’s also about life and love and pleasure, and sometimes it’s better for you to just let go and see where the wind takes you. If we learned anything from The Shining, all work and no play makes Jack go and ruin another’s creative work while simultaneously creating a cornerstone of American cinema.
ADVICE – Compensate BY Working Out. I know I spent a lot of time going on and on about how you should be exercising more for your heart and organs than your waist (you totally should), but all I’m thinking about when I work out is what I ate the day before. I imagine that the food I ate is a giant ice cube, and every step I take, every drop I sweat, every pant I heave is just a fire melting away at all the crap I shoved into my mouth. If I ate well and healthy the day before, then I’m even more enthusiastic because instead of working away the ice cube of yester-food, I’m melting away the ice cube of my fat content.
However, don’t eat more than you should because you tell yourself you’re going to work out harder tomorrow. We’re trying to break bad habits here, not reinforce them. Use this method with “Repairing the Damage” in mind instead of “I’ll Figure It Out Tomorrow.” And don’t compensate for what you eat today by not eating anything tomorrow. Starvation is an epidemic, not a weight-loss plan.
It’s Inevitable That You Will Break Your Plan, Give Into Temptation, and Not Compensate For It.
You may have an injury, be really hung over, or run out of time. Sometimes you just don’t put on those sneakers. We will always need to eat, but we don’t always need to work out, and sometimes getting off the couch is just too damn hard.
ADVICE – EVERY DAY IS A NEW DAY. Think of every day as the first day of your diet. When you completely screw the pooch (eat a lot and don’t exercise it off), you haven’t completely failed – you just get to start again tomorrow because that’s what you were going to do anyway. Don’t let your entire weight-loss plan go to shit just because you spent a day to a week not doing what you were supposed to. If you see success as going through the entire span of the plan without any hiccups and errors, you’re crazy. Instead, let your plan reset every single time. It will take all the pressure off of having to constantly do everything right which can make your overall outlook more positive, and that will make staying on your plan much, much easier.
It’s Inevitable That You Will Break Your Plan, Give Into Temptation, Not Compensate For It, and Continue To Do So . . . and It’s OKAY.
So you have stopped eating right and working out all together. But you know what? That’s all right. Seriously, I mean it. Fear of failing is one of the Fat-Voice’s biggest weapons. It can make you give up after only one attempt at losing weight and dash your self-confidence to dust. Even worse, it can make you never even try. But think of this? Do people learn to play the guitar in a single try? How about how to ride a bike? Or how to do their taxes? Weight-loss is exactly the same as these.
People think that losing weight is simply about following the formula and voila! But it’s not; not for you and not for me. For us, it’s about learning, and one learns by doing something, failing, and then doing it again. I have been fighting my weight for the past ten years (and continue to do so) and most of that time was getting over my fear of failing and learning I’m going to fail a whole bunch of times before I get it right. That I have to fail so I know what is right. When I finally got that, that failure is not an option but a requirement, is when I gave myself a break and started losing weight.
Failing is not the end of the world and it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep trying. Take a look at your meal plan and find what was working against you. Take a look at your schedule and see if exercising at a different time would be better. Switch things up. Think of it all as a puzzle, with every part of the plan as a piece, and that failing just means that one piece is misplaced. My advice is to give yourself a break and keep going. The Fat-Voice is something that isn’t beaten once – you have to beat it over and over and over again. And each of those times, you’re not failing, you are in the process of succeeding.
And thus we come to the end. We’ve shared a few laughs, cried a few tears, slapped each other around a few times, and had to strangle that bear so we could use its fur for warmth that one time when we got lost on that mountain for 27 days while hiking (note – some of that may not have happened). While this is not everything I know about nutrition, exercise and weight-loss, it should be enough to help you start on your own journey. And this entire time I have been talking about weight-loss is time that I haven’t spent doing it, and I’d like to take another go at a new plan to see what else I can learn.
If you have any questions, objections, or want to share your own story, please leave a comment. Hearing what other people have learned is very encouraging to all parties, I think, and I want to help in every way I can. But most importantly, remember that if you are struggling with your weight, or are going to struggle, you’re not alone. Even if you do it all by yourself, there is a league of former fat people behind you, me included, cheering you on. We want to you to be healthy and happy. You are never alone.