Photo: Scott / Creative CommonsI recently lost 20 pounds and people have been curious about how I did it. Normally you think the answer would have to do with diet and exercise, am I right? This time I did things a little differently. The process was easier, and I believe my weight loss has the potential to last for the rest of my life. Here's how you can lose weight and keep it off.
1. Journal your emotions and problems on paper.
Here's the situation. Your boss won't get off your back, the kids are running around like lunatics, the dog rolled in a dead animal, and your mood is getting blacker by the second. You just can't deal with all this nonsense. Rather than do anything about any of it, you pull a bag of chips out of the cabinet, park your butt on the couch, and flip on the TV.
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This is a seriously common scenario. We feel crushing pressure or mounting annoyance, and our response is to retreat inside a box of doughnuts. If you're trying to lose weight, the next time you feel that familiar swirl of aggravation and confusion, pull out a notebook. Start writing. Get it all out onto the page. It will help to figure out some clear answers and steps you can take to solve your problems, and it's relaxing. No doughnuts necessary.
2. Stop complaining.
Take a scenario like the one I mentioned in the first point. Boss, kids, dog, yadda yadda yadda. People have a habit of turning the sunniest of scenarios into doomsday. Turn your complaints to gratitude. You have a boss! Yay! That means you've got a source of income. Kids! Hooray! They light up your life. And a dog, wow, you must be living on easy street to have the time, energy and money to house and feed a pet. I just have a lousy fish. (That was a joke. What I mean to say is, "Wow! I have a fish!")
When we remember to have gratitude for all these amazing things we have, then we're going to spend a lot less time and energy complaining and feeling overwrought and underwhelmed. When we learn to measure our responses and to be truly grateful, we're a lot less likely to distract ourselves with food when we realize our lives are actually quite awesome. You become more tuned in to the pleasures around you rather than seeking pleasure in food.
3. Stop thinking about food and your weight.
I've complained about Weight Watchers before because it makes you think way too much about food and eating. We all know what it's like to go on a diet. We eat a prescribed meal. We think about the next meal. "But do I want that? Am I hungry for that? I'm hungrier - and I think I need something more delicious. No, no it's fine. I'll eat what I planned." And so we eat the next meal on the plan. Then we feel snacky in the afternoon. We start obsessing again. But a snack isn't on my plan. We bargain. "I can have a snack now, but then I'll eat less for dinner." Then it's dinnertime. We're tired. We're hungry. We want comfort. And so we faceplant into a bowl of mashed potatoes and we vow to do better tomorrow.
How about this alternative scenario: you decide that you are going to live the most fulfilled life possible. You want to feel joy, you want to meet new people, you want to expand your horizons and learn new things. You are going to carpe diem. Come midday you think, "Hm, I'm kind of hungry. Can't stop now! Too many exciting things to do. Oh look, nuts and an apple. That would make a fine lunch. Okay, gotta run!"
I've learned that if I want to lose weight, I can be mindful about it but not preoccupied. What I mean by mindful is to make healthy choices and to listen to my body. My body wants exercise. My body also wants to eat plenty of fat, protein, and fruit and vegetables. When I say I eat plenty of fat, I mean plenty. Nuts. Cheese. Butter. Your body needs fat. Yes, even saturated fat. I don't have to be preoccupied with any of this. I can let go, enjoy my food, and go with the flow rather than planning and obsessing about any of it.
4. Believe in yourself.
This sounds hokey, but I think this might be the most important tip. Whether you think you can lose weight successfully, or you think you can't, you're right either way. You have to believe that you are worth the work of keeping a healthy diet. You also have to believe that you can resist the temptations of unhealthy foods.
Before I lost the weight, I thought I'd tried everything. I was walking around thinking, "I can't lose weight. I just can't do it." I had a lot of belly fat, which was metabolically active - meaning it was sending hormonal signals that said, "FEED ME." I was hungry all the time, I was wrought with cravings, and I thought, "I just cannot do this. I can't." And so I ate like it.
I finally got to the point where I realized that for the sake of my health, I had to lose weight. I mean I got desperate about it, and I became determined. I decided this is it! I will lose weight! Period. No waffling. And my behavior reflected that. I started making healthier choices. I started doing more and more difficult workouts. I decided to believe that I can do it. I had a deeply-held belief in myself and I began to act on it. When you believe you can, you'll act that way. When you believe you can't, you'll act that way too.
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5. Experiment and stay curious.
We've all done this. We choose a diet, we try to comply with the rules. We lose a little weight, maybe. Then we start to feel cagey and a little nuts. We make a mistake or we break a rule. We struggle some more. The weight comes back, and then we say, "This diet doesn't work. Next!"
The key is to operate from a standpoint of experimentation combined with curiosity. We are all unique creatures and different foods affect us differently. You have to experiment to find out what works best for your body. But to do that, you need to ditch the ideas of perfectionism or compliance, something that diets don't generally encourage. You have to think for yourself.
Pick a diet. See what parts of the diet you like and what you don't like. What foods taste good to you? Personally, I like the looks of the Paleo Diet. I like the science behind it and I find it filling and delicious and it makes me feel healthy. However, if you're a Paleo purist, you don't eat dairy. Now, I've never had problems with dairy, so I eat cheese and butter and I occasionally drink milk or eat yogurt. I'm cool with dairy. Some people like to freak out about dairy and rail against human consumption of it. I look at those people like they have six heads. But maybe dairy feels terrible to them. Maybe they cut out dairy, and suddenly they feel like they can lift a Volkswagen over their head and they want everyone to know how terrible dairy is. But my experiment went differently, so I eat and enjoy dairy.
You can find science that proves just about anything, either way. The point is to run your own experiments so that you will learn what works for you, regardless of what anyone tries to tell you is gospel.
Simply learn what works for you, and what doesn't work for you, while withholding judgment. It's not what foods are good or bad, it's what makes your body feel healthy and it's what works that matters.
Katie Morton is the founder of The Monarch Company. Get a free copy of her eBook, 10 Steps to a Blissful You, for more tips like these.
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