When it comes to weight loss, very few people have your best interests in mind. The U.S. government is influence by corporations’ lobbyists. The diet industry wants to keep you on the diet treadmill for life to keep making money. To prosper, corporations must export their products abroad, thus influencing consumers in foreign markets, many of whom are following on the American path of obesity and its related diseases. Even as developing countries struggle to eliminate malnutrition, they are also increasingly encountering developed country health issues among the more affluent of their populations. [End of my academic rant.]
From experience, I know that losing weight is really, really hard. After all, I had a lot of practice with dieting before I committed to a lifestyle change. In hindsight, it would have been helpful to know what to expect. So I decided to map out my lifestyle change in phases to highlight where the big hurdles are likely to pop up. I’ll post these parts over the next several days to build the suspense.
Phase 1: Getting Started
As I talked about in Pre-Planning your Lifestyle Change, it’s really important to have a starting plan, not just get frustrated one night after a binge and decide to start a diet the next day. Not only is planning really helpful in having a strategy, but the planning stage is also a way to get excited about making this change. Getting serious about a lifestyle change and beginning helps to provide momentum through the first week or two, what I think back on as “the honeymoon phase”.
Working out each day what to eat, spending time becoming accustomed to weighing and portioning, along with counting points, or tracking exchanges, or whatever you decide to do, and becoming familiar with what is “cheap” or “expensive”, filling or not, all feels like you’re actively doing something toward losing weight and breaking bad habits. It’s also distracting, so instead of mindless grazing, you’re conditioning yourself to think about what you’re having next and to look forward to it.
The honeymoon phase is much easier to get through because it offers the promise of a healthier life. You still have the momentum of planning and the prospect of a better relationship with food. Plus, it’s not unusual for people starting a new plan to, let’s say, eat really well the day before starting. (Admittedly, I did it.) So getting through the first few days may be easier because it’s really just a recovery time from a binge.
Implement Good Habits
This is a good time to implement good habits. If you don’t already, eat meals at a table instead of at a desk or in front of the T.V., to be more mindful about the act of eating. Get in the habit of portioning out everything, instead of “guesstimating” or eating out of the container or bag. And write down everything–yes, absolutely everything!–that you eat. (The mere act of honestly logging everything that goes into your mouth is a good deterrent for going rogue.)
I think this honeymoon phase is paradoxical in some ways, in that on one hand, it’s really hard to get started, but on the other hand, if you can actually get started, Phase 1 is one of the easiest phases to get through. It’s not uncommon for dieters to get through the honeymoon phase, but once the going gets tougher, it’s quitting time. I think that one of the most important things about adopting a “lifestyle change” mentality instead of a diet is that it’s a lifelong commitment, rather than a means to an end. Repeatedly going on diets to lose X amount of weight only wears you down and makes it harder to start yet another diet that ends in disappointment.