Phase 3 is the next stage in what I experienced in my lifestyle change. Phase 1 was the easier follow-up to getting started, while Phase 2 was battling the constant hunger demon. Phase 3 is where I finally overcame the initial resistance of my body to consuming fewer calories.
Phase 3 lasted a long time for me. I felt far less frequently like I was going to starve to death. When I did cave and over-indulge, it was easy to immediately get back on track and forgive myself for feeling like I really needed to eat. When I indulged, I tried to stick with stuff that was on the plan, so I wouldn’t be tempted by a lot of junk food. As I encouraged in a previous post it’s important to consider when to start a lifestyle change. Starting around the year-end holidays adds an extra challenge on top of how difficult sticking to a weight loss plan already is. However, always using upcoming occasions as an excuse means never starting a program, so strategize the best you can.
It’s important to remember that this plan isn’t a diet, but a lifestyle change. What helped me to succeed was recognizing that I did not live in a vacuum and didn’t want to eat pre-packaged program food my whole life. What that meant for me was integrating ‘real’ food in as soon as I felt responsible with portion control. So in addition to transitioning the program plan into real food, it also meant learning to be responsible when I didn’t cook for myself. I already talked about my first restaurant visit, which was both satisfying and scary at the prospect of being derailed. Another thing I had to learn was to how to eat at parties and holidays.
There are a few strategies for successfully eating at these events. When possible, make allowances and be aware that sometimes you will want to eat more or have something that doesn’t fit nicely into the budget. It might be a holiday or a wedding, but it might just be because you are really craving triple chocolate cake. This will happen, and more than once, especially if you have a lot of weight to lose, like I did. Go with the intention of limiting yourself to what resembles the portion sizes you’ve been training yourself to eat. If the event is at an odd time, consider having some ‘cheap’ bulk food before going, especially if you’re unlike to have a big salad at, say, a finger-food cocktail party. Again, the key is planning whenever possible.
If you just end up starving and can’t talk yourself down from it, try to be conscious of every bit and enjoy it thoroughly. When you go rogue, the most important thing is to get back to the regimen the next day and forgive yourself for the slip. Remember, in the big picture, some days you’ll want to eat more than others. Also, one slip on one day doesn’t undo all of the progress you’ve made thus far.
A big challenge I recall was when I went to a friend’s wedding. I had been in a nice groove, but went on a three-day weekend trip, which meant eating out. Early on in my plan, I actually took packaged food with me and supplemented with food from local shops for the first few months. This trip was different because I was 10 months into my lifestyle change. I approached this as a good challenge to see how I dealt with an extended time of eating outside of my kitchen–i.e., in the real world.
All in all, I was doing really well until I was confronted with a cheese table with a wheel of Brie. Ah, Brie! I was simultaneously in heaven and hell. I decided to eat as much Brie as I wanted, but it was a conscious decision, with the trade-off that I’d walk an extra hour on the treadmill, even though I knew there was no way I’d come close to burning off the gazillion calories I’d eaten. I didn’t weigh myself when I got home, I just went back to exactly what I’d been doing before the trip.
I may have gained some weight from my indulgent weekend, but what was the point in torturing myself? Instead, I accepted it for what it was: A once-in-a-while thing I was able to enjoy because of the overall changes I had made. If I couldn’t occasionally enjoy special treats, what incentive did I have for making lifestyle changes?
While I encountered challenges from time to time, Phase 3 (and what is also essentially Phase 5) was pretty easy going. And it was a really important time where I reinforced good eating habits that set me for keeping off all of the weight I lost. It was also the time when I started walking. At first, it was just a 20 minute walk, but over time, I increased the distance and speed. I also incorporated new activities, which served a dual purpose. I had an alternative option for walking if the weather was just too discouraging, but also so I wouldn’t start to resent having to walk.
There are three additional challenges I encountered during Phase 3 that weren’t eating-related, but worth mentioning. I’ll cover those in the next post, since this one is already quite lengthy.