In my early teens, I was obese. Mildly, but still enough to be teased, excluded and reduced to subhuman status. I didn’t understand that I couldn’t butter fry two baloney and cheese sandwiches, every day after school, wash it down with a giant glass of chocolate milk, then walk around with a chiseled physique. I shook my fist at the Gods, or the invisible powers that be, for cursing me with this condition, that lowered my social status, while continuing to lunch on Polish sausage and french fries. I wished in my most private moments, that something would come and change me back into my previous athletic build and social popularity. I tried eating healthier, but really didn’t really know what that meant.
Then one day, purely by luck, I was too busy to eat my usual wheelbarrow’s worth of food. When I realized this, I headed straight for the kitchen to correct this oversight. But then it occurred to me that I should weigh myself first, to see if I had lost any weight? So I did and I was 2 lbs. lighter. Not understanding why it had worked, I blindly followed the same actions, the next day and once again, lost two more pounds. So I kept repeating this, every day, depriving myself nutritionally. The temptation and cravings were the most intense I’d ever experienced. But I kept telling myself, if I could win those battles, I’d keep losing weight and ultimately be victorious. Every day I knew I was getting closer to something better. I would pass on take out food my mother would bring home, desserts, party foods. I began to notice it was getting easier to get through the cravings. In fact, I felt mentally stronger after surviving each episode. My mother was also very encouraging with her praise and gave me cash for the take out food I declined.
Eventually, I dropped 51lbs., felt physically better and this ultimately sparked my interest in fitness. How good could it become if I pursued a path of greater fitness? I became more socially acceptable (which was the most important thing to me at the time), but eventually it also became a path of greater spiritual enlightenment (but that’s another story for another day). I ultimately learned much more about nutrition, physiology and exercise and made this intense love a career.
I didn’t have any special powers or abilities for losing weight. I wasn’t smart. I just had an incredible amount of desire to change me and that was the wellspring I drank from every day. I was relentless, consistent and most importantly patient. I developed the tools I needed and kept driving forward. Many times in my life since then, when I’ve had to redefine myself or reach a new limit, I’ve returned to this template as a beginning point. It has never failed. I’ve heard people say to me, “Well, everybody’s different.” “Some people are hardwired to be stuck.” Blah Blah Blah. Its not different for anyone. It’s the same. Follow the rules or don’t follow the rules. What you give in effort, it gives back in rewards, times one hundred. There will always be a reason why you can’t do it. So there’s no need to seek that out. Instead, seek out the key to your success. That’s worth a whole lot more.
There are 6 crucial things to remember:
- The first step in losing fat is recognizing that it’s a mindset. You won’t succeed thinking about it the way you did previous times it didn’t work. It takes greater awareness to choose what you’re going to put in your mouth, how much of it, what you’ll need to avoid, and how to resist powerful temptation. You will need to be smart, creative, practical, organized, resilient, consistent and patient.
- Get used to it being uncomfortable. Losing weight is usually no fun. You have to say “No” to yourself an awful lot. There’s often an ongoing debate in your head, when you’re trying to lose fat. “Can I have this? Is this okay? One small piece won’t hurt. Did I take too much? I suck. I’ll never be able to do this.” The part of your brain that is committed to your success, has to win that debate 95% of the time, to build mental momentum and change your metabolism. It’s not easy, but it will get easier. There might be setbacks, but quickly forget them and make sure your next meal is a great one. Don’t allow them to become even greater setbacks.
- Reward yourself periodically for all your hard work. It’s psychologically draining to lose weight. Lowering your calories can feel like drudgery. Upping your exercise can feel equally like a death march. Find something strictly hedonistic and celebratory, to acknowledge milestones. It helps build morale and keeps the momentum going.
- Never downgrade yourself. It’s very easy for some of us to say “I suck” or “Well, if I did it then it must not be hard.” Avoid this thinking. Do not allow these thoughts to enter your brain. It takes just as much time and energy to say, “Hey, I did okay today.” Or, “I’m really starting to get some momentum here.” Positive affirmations, even if they come from you, help you to continue to visualize and move you even closer to your goal.
- Set up your support system. Families, friends, co-workers, a sponsor, a mentor, etc., can all be ways to help you keep your positive momentum, especially when you feel weak. Avoiding people or situations that help you fall to temptation, might be just as necessary. Having the right person to call at the right time, can keep you from jumping off a cliff. Having a list of “emergency” behaviors, that work, in case you are weakening, can also be vital to your progress (eg. a walk, meditation, a drive to the bookstore, etc.). Also, check in with a good dietitian, who knows their stuff. They can help structure your plan and keep you accountable.
- Trust the process. It can be terrifying (yep, terrifying) to radically change your eating habits. Courage can hold you together, especially if you’re an emotional eater. Disordered eating usually is connected to some deep psychological triggers. Changing how we eat can lead us on a deep dark journey within ourselves, that’s not to be taken lightly. So after, you’ve done the first five steps, trust it. You will get through it and you will be rewarded. I promise.