Where to Begin

Thanks to the recent “mainstream” blog exposure, I’ve been receiving lots of wonderful emails lately, and I’m enjoying myself immensely. Some folks want specific advice, while others just want to make a connection with someone they perceive as a kindred spirit. (Isn’t it odd that, despite the well-publicized obesity epidemic, many of us often feel like we’re alone in the struggle?)

One question that has come up frequently enough to highlight here is the one that asks, “Where’s a good place to start for losing a lot of weight?”

My off-the-cuff answer is to start with something you know you will do, be it drinking plenty of water, eating 5-7 veggie/fruit servings per day (that’s the one I picked), or exercising 15-20 minutes per day. Getting one quick notch in your gunbelt may just get your trigger finger itchy for more.

While that may (or may not) be a helpful little tip, I realize that it’s not truly where I began to change my life. Surprisingly, the best place for me to begin turned out to be … at the end. How did I want to live for the rest of my life?

So I played a game of “let’s pretend” and visualized my life two years, five years, ten years down the road, with me maintaining a healthier weight. I thought about what kinds of foods I would be eating and how often and how regularly I would be exercising. What about cold dreary winter when all I want to do is curl up with a book or the latest arrival from Netflix? How did I get through those days?

I considered holidays, vacations, and social situations that focus on foods as a part of the celebration. I pictured myself pulling on a favorite pair of pants and having them feel a bit snug. How did future, healthier me handle that eventuality? I knew that better nutrition and regular exercise would be part of the equation, but I also knew myself well enough to know that I wasn’t likely to swear off the so-called “white foods” (sugar, potatoes, flour, etc.) for life. Heck, even the thought of that depresses me. I can’t imagine what actually living that way would do to me! ::shudder::

After I took some aspirin to combat the headache all that pondering produced, I knew that the best place for me to start was in the very spot I wanted to end up, accepting that since I’d never lived in that spot, I might have to move it over a few inches (feet) to the left or right before I was done. For me, that translated to a way of eating comprised mostly of lean protein, lots of fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, etc., with at least 30 minutes of vigorous exercise each day, and with the acceptance (and enthusiastic anticipation) of LIFE events that would occasionally stress that plan.

And that, my friends, is the same plan I adopted to lose 100 pounds. The weekly goals (my “minimums”, as I call them) have remained unchanged (other than calorie adjustments) between my weight loss phase and my current everyday life. They’re really quite basic: 5-7 fruits & veggies each day, strength training 2-3x per week, 30 minutes other exercise 3-4x per week. I can always do more (and frequently do), but those goals are the least I should do.

In the end, I said buh-bye to the diet cycle (now I’m on it, now I’m not) and lost weight the way I planned to live life long-term. What can I say, it worked for me.

One of the visualizations I anticipated that didn’t happen was in how I’d handle any significant weight gain. I could see myself pulling on a pair of pants that were suddenly too tight and exclaiming, “Oh, I need to cut back a little.” Well, so far, I haven’t had to rely on the pants, because I know when I’ve loosened the boundaries a little too much and have made adjustments from there, before it takes hold. I hadn’t counted on instinct as a control mechanism, but I’m grateful for it. (My back-up plan remains the pants.)

Huh, I could’ve just said, “Begin at the end”, couldn’t I? Oh well, typing burns calories. I can have an extra almond now. :)

Have you given any thought to how you’ll maintain your weight in the future? Is it different from how you’re living now and you’ll adjust as time progresses? (Note: there’s nothing wrong with that plan; it just didn’t work for me.)

Marvelous Monday to all!

18 thoughts on “Where to Begin

  1. Being sick this last week and not going to the gym or sticking to plan in general have given me today as a fresh start. I feel better. I feel I have a chance to start anew. I have always liked your plan to lose weight with the same plan you intend to live with – no huge changes by completely cutting out this or that.

    I am writing about this today on my blog. So it is interesting timing that you have posted this today!

    I want to live as you do – good nutrition, sometimes have a splurge, keep up the exercise as a daily way of life and not live on a roller coaster of ups and downs with my weight. I want to know that something I buy to wear this winter will fit next year! That is my goal for maintenance.

  2. I love the visualizations. I can really relate to that, and this post is a great reminder to me. I feel like I’ve been bogged down in the “process” of trying to diet for so long now that I lost sight of that bright future I’m aiming for. And that light at the end of the tunnel is so important. Especially when I have to dig my way out of this tunnel!
    My goals for this week really are the way I plan to live to maintain… and that’s to exercise and eat 6 times a day… small healthy meals/snacks. It’s a start and a finish.

  3. What a great post Cammy! I wish I had read this months ago, years ago. The idea that you start with the eating you will do for life is a novel way for me to look at this. Maybe this is where I need to “restart.”

  4. Great post Cammy. It’s taken me a while to get it figured out this far, but I am trying to live the way I’ll live “then.” My life doesn’t start “then,” it’s already a work in progress. I do keep learning and adding little twists to what I do. But I’m hoping they’ll be lifelong habits.

  5. I have always struggled with visualisation.

    Somehow the way you have described it here makes sense. I can do it!

    I’m off to do some work on this and yes … I guess I’ll need some aspirin too before I finish.

  6. Great post Cammy! I know this is going to help MANY!!!!!

    Like you, I make lifestyles changes based on what is going to work for me & what will work long term. BUT, I listen to the bod & make adjustments along the way & still am.. especially in this change of life phase…. got to roll with the punches as you say & I keep doing that & fighting back! :-)

  7. What a great post!

    I make small tweaks here and there now, and more importantly is that I am willing to actually make those tweaks without panicking that I might mess things up and gain all my weight back.

  8. Cammy, what a great post! I think that for me, I had to commit to lifestyle changes! But I also had to start focusing outward instead of inward. I like how you did it, what an interesting concept! I guess when I think about it, I have been visualizing what I will be like at goal weight. More energy, stronger, fit! That’s something to look forward to!!!

  9. You always have such a fresh approach!

    I’m trying to picture myself walking confidently on the beach in Sarasota, not struggling to haul my weight out of a recliner in my golden years.

    Glad you are enjoying your fame!

  10. That sounds like my start! I pictured the way I wanted to look & feel and then took little baby steps to get there.
    First step – walking to and from work every weekday.
    As I got used to that, I added another – nothing made primarily of processed sugar.
    I stopped thinking “I need to lose x lbs in x weeks!” and started thinking “I want to make sure my body is as healthy as possible!” Changing my thinking like that has been key. It’s not a 3-month diet. It’s a lifelong commitment to making me the best me I can be! :)

  11. What a great post! You are such an inspiration to me. I feel like we are kindred spirits, right down to the whole idea that I could never swear off the “white foods”. I have thought about what will happen once I reach my goal weight and need to maintain.
    I have wondered what it will be like not to have the reward of weight loss. Will I be happy with knowing I am healthy and nothing more? I think I am like you and will just follow the same plan as I have been to lose the weight, with a few more calories allowed.

  12. I never noticed those weekly health goals in your sidebar before. Too busy keeping my eyes on the main attraction right in the middle, I guess. 😉

  13. Interesting that, I never really did the “visualisation” thing, as in, thinking about what it would be like when “I got there”. I think my technique was more to track my exercise and weight to easily see the little steps of improvement. I didn’t even really have a goal weight in mind, or rather kept resetting it downwards, until I realised I’d gone too far and backed up a bit.

  14. for me it was only STARTING DOING what I knew I could do forever…into my 80s and through marriage and kids and work and…..

  15. Cammie- As always, love the post. Good job.

    I too am a big fan of acting “as if”- just pretend that you know what you are doing…. do it and it becomes so.



  16. Indeed, this is a great post!

    I too have a clear vision of how I want to live long-term, and most of the time my diet/exercise is a variant of that – sometimes more strict that I think I’ll need to live forever (when I’m making a real push to get pounds off) and often exactly what I think I can commit to forever (often during maintenance phases or VERY slow loss times).

    In fact, I don’t have a “goal weight” – I know how I’m willing to live my life, and I’ll accept the weight I balance out at with that lifestyle.

    I also agree that just one little thing can get you started down the right path, especially when you’re really far off and overwhelmed by getting back on track. My last re-start (in May) I started with water – just water, but it was enough to get me back on track.

  17. When I started this thing Jan 2009 it was making one change a week. Going off sodas. Exercising a few minutes a day. Cut out the sugar. Low carbs. No carbs.

    When I re-started this past June, I just dug in. I wanted to make a difference in my health, and wanted to do it in a way that I could sustain for years and years and years. Which meant changing what I ate and how I moved, but not “denying” myself much of anything. Unless it made me sick. Like that bread incident!

    Good post. Made me think. Thanks.

    Vee at http://veegettinghealthy.blogspot.com

  18. Great post! As another long-term maintainer, when I first reached my goal I was terrified that I’d gain. But I just didn’t really change much and and it all fell into place. I think for me – really changing my relationship to food was the key!

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