By Dean Anderson, for SparkPeople
You've heard it so many times that you probably say it in your sleep. "Diets don't work; if you want to lose weight and keep it off, you have to make a lifestyle change."
But what does a lifestyle change look or feel like, and how do you know when you've made one? The way some people talk about it, you'd think there's some sort of mystical wisdom you get when you "make the change" that tells you when and what to eat, and how to stop worrying about the number on the scale. Does this mean you'll finally stop craving chocolate and start liking tofu?
The basic difference between a diet mentality and a lifestyle mentality is simply a matter of perspective. Having the right perspective may not make tofu taste better than chocolate, but it can make all the difference in the world when it comes to achieving your goals, avoiding unnecessary suffering along the way, and hanging onto your achievements over the long haul.
Trust me on this. I've lost well over 350 pounds in my life-I know how to do that. But I also put 200 of those back on again, getting bigger each time. The 150 pounds I lost a few years ago is staying off, because I've changed my perspective.
Here are the main ways a diet differs from a lifestyle:
Many factors that are out of your control-your genes, age, medical status and previous weight history- will affect your weight and appearance. These factors may determine how much weight you can lose, how quickly you'll lose it, and how you'll look and feel when you've gone as far as you can go. When you focus too narrowly on the numbers on the scale or what you see in the mirror, you are staking your happiness and satisfaction on things you really can't control. That pretty much guarantees that you'll be chronically worried, stressed, and uncomfortable-and more likely than ever to have problems with emotional eating.
And when you rely too much on external (diet) tools, techniques, and rules to determine your behavior, you are turning over your personal responsibility to the tools and techniques. If you find yourself frequently losing motivation or feeling powerless to control your own behavior, it's probably because you're counting on the tools to do your part of the work for you. You're the only one who can decide what's right for you; only you can change your attitude and perspective to match your personal reality.
There are many articles in the SparkPeople Resource Center and countless conversations on the SparkPeople Message Boards that offer good information and practical ideas for putting yourself in charge of your own lifestyle makeover. In fact, one of the best ways you can start the transition from a diet to a lifestyle is by taking on the responsibility to identify the problems you need to work on and gather the info you need. Whether it's coming to terms with emotional eating, improving your body image, or finding a vision of the life you want to live-you'll find that you aren't alone and that plenty of support and help is available.
You just need to take that first step away from the diet mentality and closer to a new and improved life(style).
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