Common Weight-loss Misconception #4: Your weight-loss strategy is right
My weight-loss strategy was completely wrong
What happened when I was open to a new weight-loss strategy
The weight-loss strategy that’s back-to-the-basics & works!
This post debunks the 4th of five common weight-loss misconceptions:
Your weight-loss strategy is right
All five misunderstandings were captured in a short diary entry written by a 13 year-old. Rebecca courageously shared her weight-loss struggle on the Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids Podcast. To get the most out of this post, read Common Weight-loss Misconceptions Intro to hear Rebecca’s Diary entry and Common Weight-loss Misconception #1, #2 and #3.
Common weight-loss Misconception #4:
Your weight-loss strategy is right
13 year-old Rebecca:
“… I have to get off my lazy ass and run … I say every summer I am going to lose the fat. Every summer I go and come back fatter … All I have to do is start running, now!”
The diet industry has led us to believe weight loss is about willpower. Like having the willpower to stick to a diet and exercise plan.
But “willpower” isn’t a weight-loss strategy.
For 10 years I was certain I had a good weight-loss strategy. Even when my doctor suggested a new weight-loss strategy, I was too busy following misinformation the diet industry had drilled into me for years to try something new.
I wanted to write this post to tell you to stop blaming yourself! My hope is that you can learn from my mistakes and be open to a new weight-loss strategy. This post explains the one that turned my life around.
Without a doubt I was certain my weight-loss strategy was right
For 10 years I blamed myself instead of my weight-loss strategy. I was sure I just wasn’t determined enough to lose weight. Rather than considering a new weight-loss strategy, I got fixated on proving I was disciplined.
After a decade of disappointments I was completely frustrated. No matter what I was doing I’d think about how my life would be different if I wasn’t preoccupied by trying to lose weight. I’d think about where I could have invested my time. Like all the energy I could have put into my academic, social and romantic life—instead of sitting in my room drawing up new plans to summon willpower; for so long I’d believed that being thin was a way to measure determination.
Just as I was finishing teacher’s college, the feeling that life was passing me by prompted me to focus on being healthy rather than being thin.
Ironically that’s when I lost weight.
Work smarter, not harder.
– Alan Lakein, author on personal time management
Making health my number one priority opened me up to trying a new weight-loss strategy.
Solution: Be open to a new weight-loss strategy
If you’re not reaching and maintaining a healthy weight it’s time to stop blaming yourself and be open to a new weight-loss strategy.
Be kind to yourself: Stop trying to bang a square peg into a round hole.
Now I realize my weight-loss strategy was wrong. Much like Rebecca, I was angry at myself for not being able to lose weight. Losing faith in yourself is a terrible feeling—but you don’t have to.
The fact you’re reading this blog proves you’re open to new ideas.
Redirect your energy. Rather than feeling disappointed in yourself, decide to be open to learn a new weight-loss strategy.
Here’s the 3 weight-loss strategies that changed my life:
Weight-loss Strategy #1: Eating
I always tried to eat little amounts of low-fat food. I’d often choose processed food, like rice cakes and diet pop. Then I could read the package for fat content and feel good about my choice. I thought I was working hard to lose weight.
But eating cardboard and chemicals doesn’t help you lose weight. Grazing on factory food actually makes it easier to gain weight.
Now I know it’s important to eat three balanced meals made of whole foods. And eating fat is a healthy part of a balanced meal. Put your food on a plate! Eating natural foods (like almonds vs. jelly beans) prevents you from overeating because you fill up naturally* and stay full longer; the energy and nutrients from fresh foods are released slowly and meet your body’s basic needs. Then your metabolism will keep ticking along at a healthy rate (vs. slowing down, as it does when you don’t eat enough) so you can lose weight and keep it off.
*Processed foods cause you to eat more than you need because the fiber is removed and salt, sugar and artificial ingredients — that trigger hunger and cravings — are added.
Stop eating fake food! Ignore the crazy and confusing messages from the diet industry that complicate your relationship with food. Go back-to-the-basics!
Weight-loss Strategy #2: Exercising
Just like Rebecca, I thought exercise was key. I over-exercised and yet I was consistently 30 pounds overweight.
Now I only exercise three times a week. Here’s more information about how exercising less helped me lose weight.
Weight-loss Strategy #3: Method
I was convinced you have to work hard to lose weight. I thought it was all about making sacrifices. That’s what the diet industry tells us. So I was always taking extremes when it came to eating and exercise. But big changes are a shock to your body and hard to keep up.
Now I know adapting what you presently do is an important weight-loss strategy. It allows you to figure out what works for you and makes change natural.
Everyone is different and what you like to eat and when and how you like to exercise should suit your schedule and preferences. Following a random diet is a huge leap from what you normally do. Diets work against your body. Slowly adjusting your present choices in a positive way allows you to work with your body.
It was hard for me to stop the urge to aim for dramatic change and make small changes—especially with my underlying issue of OCD; it kept prompting me to “go big or go home”. But understanding why baby steps is an important weight-loss strategy makes it easier to try this new approach.
Whether you’re breaking down old, unhealthy habits or working on building new healthy habits, making the transition s-l-o-w makes change natural and therefore lasting. Weight loss is about building habits not willpower!
It’s important to know what healthy eating (#1 above) and exercise (#2 above) looks like and to have a method to reach those goals (#3 above).
Troubleshooting: Practicing a new weight-loss strategy
Be open to new ideas
Ask questions. Figure out why information you learn makes sense. When you understand why a decision helps you lose weight it’s easier to make healthy decisions. Like when you know that touching a hot stove hurts, you’re less likely to keep touching it. All the links found in each weight-loss strategy I’ve listed above (#1, #2 and #3), direct you to posts that explain each idea in more depth.
Reflect on your present weight-loss strategy
Are there patterns in your life? What series of events leads you to overeat or over-exercise? For example, do you find as soon as you eat something you deem a “mistake” you say “I’ve already ruined my diet so I may as well keep eating?” Identifying thought patterns that lead to self-defeating behaviours helps you recognize when you’re falling into an unhealthy habit. Being aware of self-destructive routines is the first step to breaking them.
Let’s say you binge once a day. Instead of saying “I’m never going to binge again” try to binge one less time this week. Decide that just once this week when you feel the compulsion to binge that instead you’ll walk around the block or phone a friend—something that interrupts your pattern of behaviour.
Write down 3 things you could do when you have the urge to overeat this week.
Put this list in your wallet or backpack so you have a concrete plan.
Tell yourself ahead of time, the first time you break this cycle it will feel wrong and that’s ok. This strange feeling is the feeling of breaking an unhealthy habit!
Don’t overthink it.
Just stop yourself once this week from overeating, over-exercising, or whatever self-defeating pattern you want to break.
After a few weeks of doing this behaviour one less time a week, try to decrease it one less time again.
Keep track of your progress. You’ll be surprised how small changes spark big changes. Baby steps is a powerful weight-loss strategy—whether you’re breaking or making a habit.
Ask for help
I had a problem with asking for help. I thought it made me weak. Now I know that you need to get in the experts so you can focus on your own expertise. What are you passionate about? What do you want to do with your life? The goal is to free up your time and energy to do the things you care about, not to prove you can lose weight or get over an eating disorder on your own.
Asking for help is not about losing control, it’s about taking control of your life. Asking someone to help you learn how to drive a car makes the process of getting your license faster, safer and more successful. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Be open to ask for help from an expert if you are having difficulty breaking down self-destructive habits.
Likewise, if you’re having trouble trying out a new weight-loss strategy, like making small changes to what you normally do, speak to someone you trust. Tell them that you want to get healthy but you’re not making progress. Together you can make a plan of action so you can get to the bottom of what’s going on.
Don’t expect perfect advice (there’s no such thing anyways.) Getting healthy is about patch-working ideas together from different sources and then tweaking them so they work for you.
Be open to understanding why a new weight-loss strategy works.
Getting healthy helps you reach your potential inside and out.
Summary: Why it’s time to try a new weight-loss strategy
Stop blaming yourself and take a look at your weight-loss information and method. If you’re having trouble reaching and maintaining a healthy weight it’s time to try a new weight-loss strategy.
Practicing a new weight-loss strategy allowed me to eat more, weight less and have tons of energy.
Review weight-loss strategy #1, #2 and #3 above. Once you know what healthy eating and exercise looks like and have a method to reach those goals, you’re ready to turn these healthy choices into habits.
Remember, weight loss has nothing to do with your character! Losing weight is not about self-control, discipline or determination. Instead of focusing on “willpower” apply a weight-loss strategy that is natural and lasting. Adapt what you’re already doing. Adjust your every day choices. You’ll be surprised how empowered you feel when you take a slow and steady approach to reaching goals.
When you make being healthy your number one goal whenever you’re faced with a decision, you’ll get your life back.
Focus on building healthy eating and exercise habits. A healthy weight will follow.
Choose one behaviour you’d like to adapt. It can be including more fruit in your breakfast or cutting back on purging. Write it down and share it with someone who has your best interests at heart. Telling someone who cares about you will build in accountability and make it easier to chip away at your goals. You don’t always have to have good news. You just need to always have honest news. Want to learn more about the weight-loss strategy that helped me overcome bulimia, lose weight for good and get healthy? Sign up for my weekly blog post (below) and you’ll receive one of the best strategies I learned. It will help you build healthy eating and exercise habits—or reach any goal.
A Thousand Miles by Vanessa Carlton, 2001
“Cause everything’s so wrong
And I don’t belong …
… Do you think time
Would pass me by …”
Sharing what I learned makes those 10 years worth it
What has influenced your weight-loss strategy over the years? Is it something you’ve read, seen on TV or information you’ve heard from a friend?