It’s the New Year, and with the New Year comes resolutions. Not surprisingly, the number one resolution made by Americans is to get fit. But how to get started, especially if you’re feeling down on yourself, gained weight over the holidays, or have loads of food you feel obliged to consume: Leftover Christmas cookies, boxes of chocolates, Swiss Colony beef log, and loads of junk food from New Year’s Eve?
How to get started: Decide you want to make a change. If you’re like me, maybe you’re in denial about having food issues. I was dead convinced for the longest time that I didn’t really overeat, but I had earlier in my life, so if I could just drop those unwanted pounds, I’d be able to carry on with my life. I expect others might feel this way, judging by how many people successfully lose weight only to regain it once they stop dieting.
It took me decades to realize that I wasted a lot of time thinking about or trying to lose weight, but never with any long-term success, and let’s face it- that’s the key. I once heard someone say “I lost 100 pounds: The same 10 pounds 10 times.” I finally accepted that I needed a lifestyle change. I only ever referred to it by that name to ensure this was not one more failed diet experiment.
It’s not impossible to get fit. It just takes some planning and determination.
The key to success is Planning, Planning, and More Planning.
Decide when to begin. Starting a lifestyle change before a major holiday is setting yourself up for failure. I waited until January, after the holidays died down when very little was happening to make major changes in my life. I waited until after the Christmas cookies and other holiday treats were gone to avoid feeling deprived or tempted to cheat. I finished up as much of the perishables in my house and stowed the tempting non-perishables in the back of my cupboards so they’d be out of sight.
Avoid planning an end goal. Most people begin diets with an end goal. “I want to lose 25 pounds”, or “I want to fit into this dress for the reunion”, or “I need to get back to what I weighed in high school”. Possibly every diet plan and book out there asks a potential client how much they want to lose. This is the wrong way to go about losing weight. Without actually changing behavioral patterns, chances are really, really good that you’ll just end up gaining back those pounds (and often even more) if you just go on a diet. A better approach is to recognize your life needs to radically change if you’re going to be a healthier person and work to implement those changes into your life.
Don’t take on too much at once. Approaching weight loss as a lifestyle change is important. It helps you to move away from the idea of being on a diet that has an end goal of X number of pounds. A lifestyle change does require changing more than just calorie intake if you’re going to be successful. However, taking on too many changes at once will set you up for failure. To increase the likelihood of your success, start by focusing on how much, what, where, and how often you’re eating.Once you get adjusted into that routine, the next step is to start moving more. Later, if you want to kick the caffeine addiction, you’ll be better positioned to tackle this and other issues. Making unnecessary radical changes at the same time as drastically cutting your calorie intake is setting yourself up for total failure.
Figure out what plan you want to follow. I knew if I was going to succeed, I needed to learn portion control. I also knew from experience that I could not be trusted with measuring, weighing, and preparing food on my own main courses. I decided that a plan offering prepared, pre-portioned entrees was my best bet for a few reasons. These meals helped to condition me toward recognizing an actual portion. These prepared foods eliminated the risk of cheating or miscalculating my allowance, making it easy to track exactly what and how much I ate.Another benefit was eliminating the need to buy a whole package of spaghetti, only to feel cheated when I measured out what seemed like a minuscule portion. I decided what plan to follow, familiarized myself with what I could have each meal and snack, and bought a week’s worth of food a few days in advance so I would be ready to begin on Monday, January 21, 2001.
Weigh and measure yourself, or don’t. I didn’t because I didn’t want to feel compelled to lose X amount per week for X number of months. I knew what size clothes I was wearing, approximately what I weighed, and left it at that. My whole objective was to change my lifestyle so I would weigh less and feel better. I didn’t need a scale or tape measure to tell me those things. Instead, it was more than six months into my lifestyle change that I stepped on a scale. At that point, I was curious to see what I weighed and felt like I’d made enough progress to rationally approach the scale. (I was wrong about that, but more on that later…) Despite weighing in from time to time, I always reminded myself that my goal was to feel better. How many pounds I weighed mattered less than how I felt.
Once you choose a plan, it’s helpful to know what to expect on your lifestyle change journey. If you haven’t checked these out yet, or need a strategic refresher, you might find these posts useful:
- Phase 1: Knowing What to Expect
- Phase 2: Oh My God! I’m Starving!
- Phase 3: You’re on a Roll
- Phase 3 Challenges
- Phase 4: The Dreaded Plateau
- Phase 5: What’s Next?