Let me get the ball rolling with some of my unshakable beliefs about weight management.
It’s all about long-term behavior modification. Losing weight is great, but keeping it off is the goal. I don’t care how you want to lose it – fast, slow, low-carb, South Beach, In the Zone, upside down in a basket, it doesn’t matter to me and it doesn’t matter to your body if you lose it fast or slow (although, obviously, very fast weight loss needs to be monitored by a doctor), just understand that keeping it off is a long, slow, boring, tedious endeavor. It will last the rest of your life, so it behooves you to find tools – behaviors, foods and exercise – that you can sustain over the long haul.
It’s not just having the tools that matters though – it’s using them. An axiom from one of my weight management mentors over the years that has resonated with me is: “It takes a collection of tools and consistent use of those tools to stay in control of what happens to your weight.” Consistent use is the key. Knowing is not the same as doing, however – just knowing what to do does not magically keep me from consuming too many calories, it doesn’t keep me from skipping a workout because I’m tired after work. I have to use my tools for that. And the only way to build the tools into something useful is to practice with them consistently.
Commitment to a goal is like a muscle – you have to keep working it over and over again or you lose it. (*) That means using the tools every single day, practicing until it is habit. Behavioral modification takes time, more time than you think it will! Until making the right choices and planning to make my health a priority was a habit, not just a task on my to-do list, I risked losing it. When it’s instinctual it no longer matters if I have a lot to do today. When it is a habit I don’t have to make a decision to eat right, I just do it. I don’t argue myself out of going to the gym or exercising, I just do it. But getting to a point where it is habit means making that right decision every day for a long time, practicing and consistently using the tools until I don’t have to think about it.
What are the tools? The big ones I’ll cover over the next few posts are planning, record-keeping, low-caloric-density foods, and environmental control.
(*) Note: THIS IS NOT AT ALL LIKE WILLPOWER! Willpower is not like a muscle – the more you use it the weaker it gets. Don’t confuse these two!