RANDOM THOUGHT ON WEIGHT LOSS
As I am once again on a weight loss journey to bring my weight down after it has crept up a bit, it has made me thoughtful about the process, and the traps that are easy to fall into. Because I have been successful in the past (thirteen years ago I weighed a whopping 240 pounds, and while my weight has sometimes crept up, it has never come close to that number again), I thought I’d fire out a few random thoughts on the subject. I do not have all the answers, but I do have some insight on what worked for me, and what could work for others on a similar journey. Everybody’s psyche is different. Here are my random thoughts:
1) YOU HAVE TO QUANTIFY:
If your body runs like most people, you have to know that weight loss needs to have a deficit of calories, in other words you have to burn more calories than you take in. An oversimplified version is “eat less, move more”.
But how much less? Eat less of what? And move what more? Eat less lettuce? Eat fewer Twinkies? Eat one less Chicken Mc. Nugget? Eat less kale? Walk around the block one time more?
And this is where you have to quantify. There are those who say “Oh, don’t count calories!” but you have to. A calorie is the unit by which nutrition and the energy it creates are measured, so you have to.
So the initial questions should be: How much do I want to lose? How long do I want it to take? And most importantly, are my numbers realistic? While in theory, I might be able to achieve those numbers in that time frame, will I do it in actuality?
So you need to know how much you actually ate, and how intensely you exercised (to wit: how many calories you took in vs how many calories you burned). There is no getting around this, otherwise you are working without and endgame and without a strategy to get there.
The other thing I learned from losing weight is that humans are lousy judges of subjective things such as intensity of workout and size/richness of portions as relates to calories. Denial and wishful thinking are huge forces in the human psyche, especially when we’re hungry or don’t feel like exercising!
You need to use your scale, even if it doesn’t show you the numbers you want to see. You need to read nutrition labels, even if it tells you something you don’t want to read. You need to use measuring cups, even if you feel the portion is not big enough. You need to pay attention to time, intensity and distance and quantity as you do your workout, perhaps with a clock.
And you need to add those figures up accurately and honestly, even if the end figure is not what you want to see!
2) EVERY FAD DIET THAT HAS EVER EXISTED IS BASED ON GETTING YOU TO BELIEVE YOU CAN SOMEHOW CIRCUMVENT THE CALORIES EATEN vs CALORIES BURNED EQUATION…..BUT YOU CAN’T!
You can’t beat the system. Either it is “repackaging” the calorie into another format (which, in itself is pretty harmless, but it can overcomplicate things and lead to denial), or at worst, it promises to “fool” your body chemistry into beating the system. And it doesn’t work. These fad diets capitalize on a person’s denial of the impending challenge significant weight loss entails. There are no “weird old tricks” that will escape the math. There is no magic pill. There is no “get out of jail free card.” You have to do the work and you have to do the math.
3) YOUR BODY DOESN’T GIVE TWO SHITS THAT YOU ARE TRYING TO LOSE WEIGHT.
Just because YOU have been working out like a fiend and self-denying like a penitent does not mean your body will co-operate on your schedule. When you step on the scale, don’t think the reading will be in neat little increments, directly proportionate to what you ate and exercised the previous day (or what you thought you did). You may get on the scale, after a day of faithful adherence to your diet, and strenuous exercise to find your weigh-in one pound HEAVIER! And you’ll think “What the hell???” Or you’ll doubt the effectiveness of your diet. And that pattern might continue for two weeks, and then, the day you write it off as a lost cause, and eat yourself silly, you’ll get on the scale the next day and find that you have lost four pounds.
Your body is not on board with this project. Your body thinks it’s still a caveman when body fat = survival in leaner times. This is where hunger and your body’s desire for self-preservation are relevant.
Your body thinks it wants you to be fat because it thinks it’s a caveman. And it will do everything in its power to make and keep you fat.
4) DIET IS NOT A DIRTY WORD.
People often get scared off by the word “diet”, but all a diet means is what you eat. If all you eat is hot dogs and Doritos; that’s a diet. It’s not a good diet. It’s not a healthy diet, and it’s unlikely you’ll be a healthy weight as a result of that diet, but it’s still a diet!
It always pissed me off when health gurus say, ”Diets don’t work. You have to have a “lifestyle change”, or something bogus like that. A lifestyle change as relates to what?
So whether you like it or not, you are on a diet.
Good or bad, everybody is on a diet, and to lose weight, you have to adjust your diet into healthy portions of healthy things. So stop playing semantics. It’s a diet. Get over it.
5) THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS “CHEATING” ON A DIET.
“Cheating” implies doing something that gives an unfair advantage. It implies operating outside of good faith guidelines everybody else is following. It is a reflection of character.
It has always irked me when I’d hear people, especially women, say, ”I was bad. I ate [insert high calorie food here].” You are not bad. You are not lacking in moral character. And you have not cheated. All you have done is slowed down your weight loss schedule, and probably, by that lapse alone, not that much.
And you know what? It happens. Nobody adheres to their ideal diet 100% in their weight-loss timeframe. As long as you don’t negate all the hard work you’ve already done in a week, you’re fine. If it ultimately takes you a few extra days to reach your goal, no big deal. If you have to work out a little more intensely the next day, eat a little lighter, or exercise an extra time in the week, no big deal.
Just know what stimuli cause you to not adhere to your diet and avoid or temper it accordingly so you don’t set yourself up for failure.
Don’t equate speed of weight loss with character. It’s destructive and unhealthy. Your goal is health so…..
5: WHEN YOU HAVE A LIMITED NUMBER OF CALORIES TO WORK WITH YOU WILL LEARN TO BE THOUGHTFUL ABOUT WHAT YOU EAT, AND PLAN YOUR MEALS CAREFULLY.
Your diet will almost automatically get healthier as you learn what will satisfy your hunger and give you energy to function correctly. You will learn that a Krispy Kreme doughnut won’t be sufficient to sustain you if you want to stay within your nutritional parameters. You will eventually learn to choose an option that will give you more real energy because you have to.
6: YOUR WORST ENEMY IN THIS JOURNEY IS LACK OF CONFIDENCE IN YOUR SELF DISCIPLINE:
You do not doubt you are physically capable of achieving a healthy weight. Deep down inside, you know you can. What you doubt is that you have the self discipline to follow through with the project. You think you are lazy and undisciplined. You are afraid that the work you do will not be enough, and you’ll just end up being tired, hungry and disgusted with yourself. But you’re not lazy and undisciplined. And with every little bit of your journey, you’ll prove that to yourself. That proof is exponential. Getting started is the toughest part because you might not immediately see results. Or the results will be minimal, leading you to believe they are negligible. Or you’ll doubt the results.
But once you’ve proven that self-discipline to yourself, you’ll be able to reach your goals, and then take that self discipline you know you have and apply it to another project you thought you didn’t have the self discipline to do!
Losing weight is as psychological as it is physical.
7: EVEN IF YOU KNEW ZERO ABOUT NUTRITION BEFORE YOU DECIDED TO LOSE WEIGHT, YOU WILL LEARN MORE THAN YOU EVER THOUGHT POSSIBLE ABOUT NUTRITION AND YOUR BODY.
Just by doing it. Just by paying attention. By seeing the same foods, eating them and learning about them. By knowing how your body reacts to these foods. By knowing about hydration and how your body handles it. By knowing the limits and capabilities of your body with regard to physical exertion and exercise. And you’ll never unlearn that. You’ll always have it. At some point, you’ll inevitably have to do a “maintenance program” (as I am doing now) You’ll have all the tools you need to be successful.