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!