As you may remember me mentioning recently, I lost 50 pounds last year. Actually, I’ve lost 55. I’d like to make that 60, but those last few are yo-yo-ing up and down. Surprisingly I’m not too bothered by it. I suppose if I were more bothered, I would put more effort into losing them, but I digress.
I have read (and heard) several tons of dieting advice over the last Heaven-only-knows-how-many years. Some of it’s good, some of it’s harmless, some of it’s backwards, and some of it is downright idiotic and even harmful. I have also, because I’m wired this way, read many, many academic journal articles. I look at the numbers, examine the sample sizes, check for follow-up, and examine the biochemistry (WHY does it [not] work?). I don’t ignore anecdotes, but I give them the lower standing they deserve.
The upshot is when I finally got up my nerve to dive in, I knew what I was doing. I understood the science. I was reasonably immune to distracting advice. I stuck with it partly because of that surety.
That does not give me a license to suddenly come out with a bunch of diet-guru advice.
But here are some things I learned, some non-advice:
1. You gotta want it. The only way you’ll stick with something and be honest about it is if YOU really want to. Outside support is helpful, but it can only support what is already there.
2. You have to want to do this for yourself. Not anyone else. Not your spouse, not your children, not your parent, not to show up your coworker, not to stun everyone at the class reunion. Everyone has multiple motives, but the vast, vast majority of your motivation has to be you. If not, you’re going to fail. Pure and simple.
3. Sugar is the enemy. I hate it too. I fought this forever and lost. I read all the studies. It’s not fat. Blast it all. Go do your own research.
4. Look at your emotional eating habits. “Some people are emotional eaters.” Bosh. Everyone is. It may play a greater or lesser degree for you, but it’s there. You might as well have a look now because when you’re standing in the kitchen crying because you desperately want that Twix some thoughtless person left on your counter, you’re going to run smack into it.
5. Don’t go on a diet. Diets don’t work because we have all been conditioned to think of them as temporary. You have to embark on a life change. Don’t even use the word diet. This is for life.
6. That being said, don’t think much about the future. I resisted low-carb forever because I couldn’t get past the thought of never having chocolate again. Well, guess what, folks: they make sugar-free chocolate. You can probably have a bit now and then and not lose your hard work. Even now, I get depressed if I envision the rest of my days without real pizza, so I don’t envision them. I leave it conveniently hazy. Focus on the present.
7. Pick something and stick with it. Do your in-depth homework and feel convinced before starting, and don’t get distracted by the empty promises you see splashed across the tabloids or the latest fad making its rounds on Facebook. Even if you don’t see progress, soldier on. Put your blinders on. “La la la la I can’t hear you!” However…
8. …if you start seeing detrimental effects on your health, stop. See your doctor. Don’t be an idiot. Everyone can’t follow every plan. It’s life.
9. Don’t use your new lifestyle as a way to drive others to distraction. Don’t talk about it endlessly. Don’t start telling everyone else that they have to try it too. Don’t be That Person. Just shut up and do it. Gripe to your one sympathetic friend or your spouse, but don’t write endless Facebook posts about how miserable you are.
10. Accept it’s going to be hard. Accept you’re going to miss things. Accept that you’re not going to have a good time. Look for your scintillating pleasure elsewhere because you’re not going to find it solely in the middle of your salad-with-avocado-and-turkey. Life goes on.
11. Set reasonable goals. Be realistic. I didn’t set a goal of looking like I was 20 again. You want to set yourself up for failure? Right. Those reasonable goals can be in increments too. And don’t forget to be realistic about what time frame you’re looking at. This isn’t a quick process.
12. Be nice to yourself in the meantime. Don’t save up the haircut/new clothes/whatever until you’ve reached your final goal. Do those things all along. Look and feel nice today.
That’s pretty much it. I’m not an expert by any means and probably lots of people would disagree with some things here. Your mileage may vary.
***For Orthodox Christians worried about how to both follow a different dietary plan and keep the fasts, talk to your spiritual father. I’m not going to be handing out spiritual advice. He may decide to exercise economia if you have to make dietary changes for your health.