It sounds so cliché to say, "I'm not on a diet, this is my lifestyle." However, when was the last time you stayed on a "diet" for an extended period of time. Like forever? You don't, because for a few months it might be easy to turn your nose up at pancakes and say no thank you to pizza, and delicious treats, but sooner or later, if you're still thinking about your choices as a means to an end, instead of a way to create lasting change, when you get stuck, or when you meet your goal, it's going to be difficult to stay on track. Take a second, because that is actually all you will need, one second, to list all of the crash diets you went on that had lasting effects, other than PTSD or sudden bursts of uncontrollable rage that might still sneak up when someone suggests you eat plain tuna fish with a saltine. When you are done with that, let's go back to the original thought, that for something to stick, it can't be a temporary quick fix, it has to be a long term change.
You know that friend you have who peaked in High School? Let's call him Kenny. He was the Quarterback, his year book quote was "Fuck bitches, get money," and he was voted "Most likely to end up married to a super model." You're pretty sure everyone wanted to date him, or be him. But when you just ran into him, he's currently sporting a beer belly, rocking his high school football team t-shirt, he only fits into sweat pants, he's bald. Kenny lives in his moms basement. That is you on a crash diet. Things are going great. You're eating 900 calories a day and managing not to pass out, weight is dropping, you haven't even thought of eating bread for the past few weeks because you are doing so great. Basically everyone wants to be you. You are dedicated. You are strong. If people don't want to be you, then they should want to be you. So now you lost your 15 pounds, which was most likely made up of water and your shriveling soul. What do you do? Can you keep this going much longer? Do you want to? Without actually researching this and having any real facts to back me up, I'm going to say, over 90% of the time, people fall right back into their old eating habits, and I'm going to say sometimes they end up gaining more weight than they lost. You don't have to be the dieting equivalent of Quarterback Kenny's adult life.
Now remember George? No, no one remembers George. But George was quiet. Studied. Asked you to prom 8 times. George was skinny and all he had to offer was his prescription strength Pro-active. George wasn't voted anything, because no one knew who George was. George is the boy your parents told you to be like, or to date, but you couldn't hear them over the nail gun you were using to build a shrine to Kenny. George didn't drop out of high school because no one liked him, he kept going, then he graduated, and in grad school his acne finally cleared up, and now he dates an 8 with real boobs, and, he can afford to own a home. This is you committing to a lifestyle of fitness. Maybe in the past it hasn't been easy, and maybe you've achieved your ultimate goal before and then slid back, but in this moment, you're going to grad-school! Congrats! That's a commitment and just think of the babe you're going to meet there.
Changing your mindset from losing weight fast and being on a diet, to making a long term commitment to your health is huge part of making goals that last. Kenny was just going to school so he could hump the head cheerleader under the bleachers and then go home, George was going to school so he could better himself and have a life and career he wanted. I just got a little serious here talking about my fictional high school peers, but the moral of the story is, when things take time and you earn them, you feel accountable to yourself, you are better able to look back and say, look how far I've come, I never want to go back. Kenny wishes he was walking the halls of his high school every day he wakes up and catches a glimpse of himself in the mirror, George barely thinks about high school, except to wonder when the next reunion is so he can show off his hot girlfriend and his designer pants.
When we crash diet, one of the problems is that, even though it may be hard to restrict yourself to the gallon of air you are allotted to eat per day, you learn that you can suffer through this for a few days, you'll lose ten pounds fast. Even if you gain it back immediately, you still have it in your mind that it's possible to lose ten pounds in 3 days. Just like Kenny sat through math so he could play football, he didn't really learn anything; he got a D, but hey that wasn't an F, and he still made Varsity. But look where Kenny is today. Don't you want better for yourself?
The most important thing to do, is be realistic about your goals. Clients often tell me they want to lose X amount of weight, but they want to do it in such a short time, there is no way that they could do it in a healthy way, and keep it off for the long term. The problem is, I soon find out, that they have crash dieted in the past so they know they are capable of losing 10 pounds in a week. I always have to point out how that seems to have worked for them, since they've kept it off so well. As people reset their mind to a realistic goal, say 1-2 pounds per week, it is easier to show them that if they have an off day and eat off plan, they can still make progress or not go backwards by eating real food and the correct amount of calories. If George loses his job, he has a nice savings account to fall back on while he gets back on his feet.
Next, remember what your overall goal is. If it is just to be healthy and fit, does it make a difference if it takes 6 years or a month to get to a specific weight or size? While being a size 4 is nice, remember every day you eat well and exercise, you are creating lasting benefits. Let's say you are training to run a 10k, and you follow your workout plan and running schedule, but one day, you eat some chips, and maybe some ice cream, and then decide well, today I'm also going to eat some Taco Bell, and then maybe some candy. Okay, fine, you were not on your best dieting behavior, but you definitely did not gain all of your weight back, and you did not undo all of your physical work. You will still be able to run 6 miles, and you will be able to lose any weight you gained by getting back on track. Because you have created habits, it will be easy for you to not keep eating Taco's and candy, and go back to eating the diet you know makes you feel best and helps you achieve your goals. Sometimes we forget the real reason we want to lose weight to begin with. Yes, it is great to feel thin, or to not feel judged, but for the most part we are losing weight and working out as a way to stay healthy and even if you want to look good on your cruise in 3 weeks, don't you also want to keep looking good, like endlessly, without having to constantly diet go through a cycle of not being happy with how you look and feel?
Remember, Kenny got the girl in high school, but right now he's eating lasagna with his mom while George is cuddled up next to some DDs. So even though it is cliché, create a lifestyle for yourself, one that incorporates the choices you want to make that will help you make it to your goals. Even if it takes time, Georges acne scars didn't go away overnight, but that didn't stop him from washing his face every day.
Contrary to how it may seem Pro-active did not sponsor this blog post, but if they would like to in the future, and you have connections, please let them know I can work them into any entry about anything.