I’ve come to the conclusion that how fast we want to lose weight can be a critical factor in how successfully we lose it, and how well we keep it off. It’s not as sexy to go slowly. It’s not hip to do it for the long haul. There’s no “21 year fix” program. Moderation and consistency are not what people want to hear but if we want to keep our sanity and have a peaceful relationship with food, it really is the way to go.
Fast diet plans set us up for failure.
We’re taught that setting concrete, specific and timely goals are the best way to reach them and diet plans know this. All the marketing we see for popular plans out there focus on how quickly they can produce results for you. Yes, having a specific time goal can be motivating and also keep us on the path when we’re tempted to stray. Having a firm, short time based goal can help some of us bring our A game. But if we focus too much on the time aspect of our goal, it can undermine our success in the long term because we never learn to deal with our eating stuff. What use is a 30 day diet or a 6 month diet if you don’t know how you’re going to eat to maintain that loss for the rest of your life? Or they provide you with a maintenance plan but it’s not something you can follow? Most of us want to lose weight permanently but short, fast diets don’t give us the tools we need to keep it off when the diet ends.
If you’ve tried to lose weight quickly, many times, and you’re still out there searching for a solution to your weight struggles (because you’ve gained it back or never lost it to begin with), maybe it’s time to try something different. I want to ask that you let go of the short and fast goal to lose weight. Let go of the “now” timeline for losing weight.
Instead, make your weight loss goal forever.
I’ve done both – tried to lose weight quickly and also gone the slow and steady route. Fast weight loss plans are always motivating at first and helped me drop initial pounds but on the other hand I have to say that letting go of the quick fix and relaxing about “when” I’ll reach my goal weight has been way easier.
Some people will cringe when I ask them to try to not have a strict time goal in mind. I get it. We are completely conditioned to want everything right now and some people view not worrying about how long it will take as “giving up”. It’s not. If holding yourself to a tight deadline, a fast goal hasn’t fixed your weight struggles, all I ask if that you give a forever plan a chance. For me it was like having a massive weight lifted off my shoulders.
A few reasons why a forever weight loss goal is easier than a fast one:
1. It gives you the ability to relax about your food choices so that you can enjoy life.
Without the pressure of “I need to be thin now!” you can choose foods that you enjoy eating all of the time. This doesn’t mean that you can go ahead and eat junk food all day long but it does mean that you don’t need to eat fat free cardboard stuff that doesn’t satisfy you. Without the pressure to drop weight instantly, you can make choices about food that come from what will feel best for your body right now, what will fuel it for the next few hours and what also tastes good. This means that sometimes you’re going to choose to plan and prep lots of healthy nutritious meals at home and sometimes you’re going to order greasy take out. You don’t have to worry about one high calorie restaurant meal derailing you . . .because you’re in it for the long haul. So that meal may move your goal by a day or two. What’s a day or two in the scheme of things, really? You can go to a party and enjoy what others are eating. You can make room for a moderate dessert a few times a week. You don’t have to stress about every little morsel you put in your mouth because your goal is on taking care of yourself everyday, not just for the next 30.
2. You will naturally make better choices, more often.
When getting skinny tomorrow isn’t on the menu and instead being fit, active and strong for the rest of your life is, you feel thankful that you can make choices every day about what to put in your body. You will willingly choose foods that make you feel good instead of foods that make you feel ill. When you’re in it for the long haul, there are no foods you can’t have, there are no foods that are totally off limits so there is no urge to “rebel”. There is nothing to rebel against. And because you don’t feel like you need to act out to rebel, the foods that previously would have held you captive, lose their appeal (or most of their appeal). You will actually want the foods you thought you wanted less and less. You will start to notice that they don’t make you feel the way you thought they did (they actually make you feel terrible) and that they don’t even taste as good as you thought. By making them available and not off limits, you’ve actually removed a lot of the power that they had for you.
3. You will find you are able to be more present in life.
Without the pain and pressure of trying to conform to a restrictive eating plan, you will find that you have the emotional and mental energy to actually spend time connecting with the people in your life. Instead of spending 20 minutes at a restaurant trying to figure out the meal that will be least likely to blow your limited diet for the day, you’ll be able to quickly go with your gut and choose a meal that you know will make your body feel good and be able to spend more time being with the person you are sharing a meal with. You won’t need to mentally tally up the calories in every bite and you can actually hear what the other person is saying. You’ll have more to talk about because your entire mental life isn’t spent thinking about how little or how much you can eat today. You’ll “live” more instead of just trying to make it through all the calendar days until you’ll be done with this stupid diet.
4. You’ll find value in your body beyond the scale.
One of the best things I’ve found about dropping any type of time goal for my weight goals is that I care way less about what the scale says today or what size pants I’m wearing. Instead, I find value in what my body can do (lift super heavy weights, carry lots of grocery bags at once, bike 30 miles etc) and I see how closely that is tied to what I put in it, how I care for it. There is less room for crappy foods that make me feel terrible if I want to be able to be strong and active, not just now, but as I age. As a bonus, the things I do to make sure I am strong and fit for life (exercise, sleep and good food), naturally help me look my best, and they also increase confidence, which also looks good. As I get physically stronger, my body changes in a good way. My weight doesn’t change all that much (since I’ve put on some muscle) but my clothes fit better and I like my shape more. And have I mentioned how awesome it feels to be strong????
5. You’ll have less drastic ups and downs in your weight.
Short, hard diets get most of us caught in a tedious cycle of restricting and bingeing – we’ll lose the weight quickly because of our strict adherence to the diet, but as soon as we go off of it, we feel so deprived that we binge our way back to the weight we were before (or gain even more). It’s awful and then we’re looking for another quick diet to help us lose this weight too. And do it again. No one can lose weight that way and keep it off, unless they are willing to continue on that diet for the rest of their life. If you throw out the strict, rushed timeline and eat more according to the needs of your body (not saying this is easy), you’ll find that these big ups and downs become rare. It will take longer to lose weight, for sure, but if you gain weight, it’ll only be a couple of pounds – and usually it’s because we’ve been unconsciously depriving ourselves and find ourselves resorting to old rebellious behavior. That’s an easy fix – get back to being conscious about what you put in your body, based on how the food you eat feels.
6. You’ll actually have fuel and energy to do awesome things.
When you aren’t in such a rush to drop pounds, you can eat enough to fuel your body properly. This means performing your best at work, in school or in creative pursuits. This means being able to have and meet physical fitness goals that have nothing to do with how small you are. This means being able to play with your kids for hours without being too tired. This means doing things that you thought people didn’t do at your age. This means being able to get frisky with your honey even though it’s late and you have to get up early. This means not getting headaches or feeling weak from a lack of food. This means not dreaming about when you can eat next. This means having a more chill relationship with food.
When you feel the benefits from a timeline of forever, fast won’t be as appealing. You’re worth slowing down for!
Ok so this all sounds lovely, right? So how the heck do you do it? Stay tuned! Next week I’m going to tell you a few ways you can start relaxing your own weight loss goal to work for you instead of against you and I’ll share the strategies that have worked for me as well as my clients.