Are you writing down the same New Year’s resolution to lose weight that you had last year…the one that failed because it’s huge and life-changing and you haven’t thought through how to accomplish it?
We wrote a funny card called, “The Yoga Frog Diet” designed to show the challenge of losing weight. With so many choices in front of us, it seems the only possible way to succeed is not to eat, but we know that this is not a solution—just a wish.
I used to weigh 172 pounds when I was 22. I don’t have photos to prove it because I wouldn’t let anyone take my photo at that weight.
The big revelation came when I visited my parents after my first year of teaching. I was wearing shorts and walked in front of my dad who blurted out, “My God, Mary Lou, you’re fat!” That sounds unbearably cruel, but it wasn’t. He had such surprise in his voice that I knew he hadn’t thought before speaking, and I knew in that instant he was right. He immediately told me he was sorry and he loved me; I knew he meant it.
Did it hurt my feelings? Yes! And it galvanized me into doing something about it.
How did I gain so much weight? I had a great roommate, also a teacher, and together we would cook fantastic meals at night to share while we sat and graded papers and prepared lesson plans. We devoted all our time to our jobs, and we didn’t exercise.
So now I had a choice. I could get serious about losing weight, or I could plan on wearing muumuus for the rest of my life.
I knew I couldn’t lose the weight all at once even if I had my stomach stapled shut.
I HAD TO REALLY WANT IT!
My Start-Up Plan
I know this plan is wacky. I am not a medical professional, and these ideas should not be considered professional or medical advice for losing weight.
I had to figure out what would work for me with my tastes, habits, and lifestyle. I think weight loss has to be tailored to the individual for it to be successful. I understood I needed to think of this as a lifestyle change instead of a diet.
In the first three months, here’s what I did:
- I fasted on liquids (no sugar drinks or alcohol) for one day out of the week.
- I cut out breads, desserts, and starchy vegetables.
- I ate sunflower seeds in the shells while I worked at night instead of cookies and cake.
- I carried plastic bags of unbuttered popcorn in my purse to eat as snacks. (One cup of popcorn popped in oil with no butter only has 55 to 65 calories. Calories vary with sources.)
- I ate Iceberg lettuce before lunch and dinner—sometimes a whole head to fill my stomach so I’d eat less at meals.
- When I wanted something sweet, I’d go rub toothpaste on my teeth and tongue to satisfy my craving for sweets, or I’d chew a stick of sugarless gum.
- I drank only water, coffee, tea, Diet Dr. Pepper and Diet Fresca.
- After a month I cut my portion sizes in half.
- If I couldn’t resist a dessert, I allowed myself only one bite. That way I tasted it and told myself I didn’t need to eat the whole thing since I knew what it tasted like.
- When a food was hard to resist, I imagined it pasted to my thighs or butt to help me
realize where it would end up if I ate it.
Within a year, I was down to a size 10 from a size 16. In the years since then by learning more about nutrition and my own preferences and habits, and by including exercise as part of my daily life, I currently weigh around 128 pounds. At 5’9”, that translates to a size 4-6.
If my clothes get tight, I don’t need to get on a scale. I just go back to my methods for losing weight until my clothes fit again.
So here’s the framework for my personal weight loss plan:
- Break up losing weight into smaller steps.
- Pick a small step to begin with and set a deadline for evaluating the results.
- Celebrate each success.
- Plan for failure and don’t quit if you falter.
Here’s a short description of how I used this plan to achieve my goal.
Break up losing weight into smaller steps.
The only way to make it work is to get to work. Instead of focusing on the goal, focus on the actions that will result in getting it done. Take on less to get more.
You can use ideas from my list above to get you started or make up your own.
Pick one small step to begin with and set a deadline for evaluating the results.
Look at the smaller steps you brainstormed and decide on one possible action to take now. Here are some examples of smaller steps with deadlines included:
• “I’m going to pay attention to everything I eat or drink every day and write it down for a week so I can analyze the way I eat.”
• “I’m going to read at least one book on nutrition and experiment with one way to change how I eat in the next two weeks.”
• “I’m going to find a program this week that I can join that will help me lose 30 pounds.”
• “This week I’m going to talk to my friends who have lost weight and ask them if they’d be my buddies in helping me lose weight.”
• “I’m going to walk at least a mile a day for a month without changing anything else to see if that will help me lose weight.”
• “I’m going to visit a doctor by the end of this month and try working on a supervised program for weight loss.”
Notice that there is a deadline included with each action. This keeps you accountable to yourself. If it worked, keep going. If it didn’t work, figure out what to try next.
The key is to keep trying different things if you don’t meet with success on the first try. If you give up, you know things aren’t going to change. If you keep trying, you have the possibility that you will be successful.
As you reach one small step, add another step. Continually challenge yourself to keep from getting bored.
It’s important to keep choosing actions that you know you can take to move you toward your goal, and it must include a deadline to avoid putting it off.
Celebrate Each Success
Be your biggest cheerleader. It doesn’t have to be phenomenal. It is your success. Your fuel that encourages you to keep going.
In an article titled, “Celebrate Success,” Jon Gordon, motivational speaker and trainer, recommends that before you go to bed at night you think of all your successes. That way you go to sleep feeling successful and wake up a success. Read more at Jon Gordon.
If we look for the positive, we’ll find it. If we look for the negative, we’ll find it. I choose the positive for my way of life. How about you?
Plan for Failure
If you go off your plan, don’t give up. Don’t drown yourself in guilt. Just go right back to your plan. Think of all the progress you’ve made that you’ll lose if you quit now. Use that feeling of disappointment to fuel your resolution to stick with your small steps for success. It took a while to put on the weight, and it will take a while to lose it. No single action is going to destroy your whole plan if your goal is to take a small step every day.
Here’s something to chew on. Don’t think that just by being positive about your resolution, you will achieve it. Just wanting it and being positive about it won’t get it done.
A New York Times op-ed piece, by NYU Psychology Professor Gabriele Oettingen this last October, pointed out that “positive thinking fools our minds into perceiving that we’ve already attained our goal, slackening our readiness to pursue it.” You can read more at http://nyti.ms/ZMtJQt
Instead she recommends that we practice “mental contrasting.” This technique recommends fantasizing about your goal and then imagining all the obstacles involved in achieving it. By bringing yourself from wishing into reality, you have a better chance of tackling your goals and reaching success.
What is your first small step? I’d love to hear from you!