Losing and maintaining weight is about what you do every day – consistency is the key!
What are the things that you do every day, without really even thinking about them? You brush your teeth, hopefully floss, you go to work, you check your child’s homework, you read the paper, you watch “Jersey Shore.” Just kidding on that one!
The things that you do every day, those habits that you have adopted and no longer even think about, are reflected in your health and well-being. If you don’t wear sunscreen regularly (even if you live in Seattle!) your skin will age and wrinkle prematurely. If you fail to brush your teeth every day they’ll rot and fall out of your head! At least that’s the line I used on my kids when they were little. But what about healthy eating and rigorous exercise? Do you do those every day, or is it just sporadic?
I hope you’ll forgive a little tough love here. There is simply no way you are going to lose weight and keep it off unless you commit to a healthy eating and exercise plan for the rest of your life. That’s it; that’s the key to success. If you only do it every once in a while, when you feel like it, when it’s easy, when all of the planets are aligned – or whatever – you will not be able to lose a significant amount of weight and maintain that weight loss. It’s really just that simple. Your body’s size and health are a direct reflection of what you do to it and for it every single day.
More times than I can count I’ve had people tell me that they do exercise, they do watch what they eat, but they still can’t lose weight. Really? What did you do yesterday? They’ll run through a list of activities and maybe mention a workout. And what did you eat yesterday? They’ll hem and haw about how they usually eat healthy, but yesterday was an exception because it was their daughter’s birthday (or cousin’s son’s bar mitzvah … or tailgating before the game …) so they overate, but they got right back on track today … mostly. Hmmm. No, I would argue, yesterday was not an exception for you. You’re eating like that way too often. You must consistently follow your eating plan and exercise nearly every day to successfully lose weight and keep it off.
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Part of the reason we fail to lose weight is because we cut ourselves too much slack. We make too many exceptions. Diets don’t work? Well, we can go back and forth about that all day long, but the truth is the vast majority of us don’t stick with them long enough to find out! I told you this was tough love time, but you’ve got to hear it, you’ve got to understand it and you’ve got to accept it. You need to start holding yourself more accountable. You need to start holding yourself to a higher standard. And you can’t do this while gritting your teeth and resenting it. No surprise, that’s not going to work for very long. I used to try to explain dieting to thin people by using the analogy that it’s like holding your breath under water. You can do it for a while, but eventually you panic and you’ve got to come up for air! “Coming up for air” for me meant returning to my old eating pattern. That panicky feeling that I used to get was all about anxiety. Something bad would happen and my whole diet would go out the window in a flurry of Chips-Ahoy cookies and rocky road ice cream! I could hold it together for 23 hours and 50 minutes and blow the whole damn thing in ten minutes (five on an especially bad day!). You get a few days like that in a week and guess what? Your diet is shot.
So how do you manage the whole consistency thing? How do you motivate yourself, how do you hold yourself to that higher standard? I can’t even tell you how much I wish I had a universal, one-size-fits-all answer to those questions! If I did I’d be a gazillionaire! Regrettably, I am not.
What I can do is tell you how I did it, how I do it every day. For starters, I had a breakthrough experience when I ditched a very stressful job at age 44 and had realized that I didn’t want to spend the next 44 years of my life feeling bad about myself. Then I committed to having lap band surgery and agreed to abide by all of the guidelines that having a lap band requires for the rest of my life. Remember, the band is an incredible tool, but it’s just that: a tool. It can’t make you eat healthy and it can’t make you go to the gym. Then I dedicated myself to understanding what makes me happy, what brings me pleasure, what I am passionate about. And ultimately I restructured my life in such a way that I get to do those things every single day. Um, nobody said this was going to be easy.
So the tough love from me is really only tough on the surface. What it really is is deeply compassionate. Because I get how very, very hard this is. But when you’re willing to explore what makes you happy and then commit to going after that happiness with everything you’ve got you realize that eating well and exercising are the icing on the cake (hmmmm, maybe not a good analogy for a diet blog!). When you’re living every day in joy and pursuing your passions, you really want to eat well and exercise because both of those things heighten the pleasure that you get out of life. They feel good in and of themselves and they allow you to do more of the other stuff that makes you happy. So consistency is absolutely imperative in all things that matter: brushing your teeth and wearing sunscreen to be sure, but also in eating well, exercising, following your passions and spending time with people who love and support you in a healthy way. No question, making tough but compassionate choices for yourself every single day for the rest of your life will be challenging. But consistently choosing to do so will mean that you get to do all of that good stuff for so much longer!