Last week I talked about the benefits of switching from a “fast” weight loss mindset or timeline to a forever one. This week, I promised I would share some of the ways you can switch out of that “fast” mindset into a “forever” one. Yes, it is slower – the weight will not fall off you in a week. It may take months and in many cases years, but if you learn how to live this way and really commit to it, you won’t find yourself yo-yo-ing up and down attempting to solve the same problem repeatedly – and that means you’ll have more time to live your life the way you were meant to live it.
So how do we get you on the path to forever weight loss?
Here are a few things you’ll need to start practicing:
1. Aim for what we call the 90/10 rule. I’ve talked about this several times on the blog, make 90% of your daily food intake high quality and nutritious (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, animal or plant protein sources etc) and then 10% can be whatever you want (sugar, candy, chips, booze). You can do this several ways – some people do this by meal – they’ll have 9 super high quality meals and then their 10th meal is a fun cheat meal. If you’re a calorie counter (not my preference) and you are aiming for 1800 calories a day, you can sprinkle in 180 calories of treats in your day (and the other 1620 calories would be super nutritious stuff). I do it a little more loosely because I don’t like counting things anymore – I tend to save my treats for sugar in my coffee, some wine or chocolate. Do I stray from 90/10? Absolutely. It’s not a hard and fast rule – it’s a general guideline to try to live by (and it can help us make better choices throughout the day).
One thing people get confused with when talking about 90% nutritious / 10% treats is that they think that means that their nutritious food has to be boring or bland. Not at all! I use things like avocado, spicy extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, spices, herbs, lemons, chile-garlic paste, tamari and toasted sesame oil to add richness and flavor to my food. Those are all nutritious things. And I always buy the highest quality ingredients that I can afford. Try not to confuse nutritious with being low fat, low calorie or low flavor – they are not mutually exclusive.
2. Get familiar with how foods make your body feel. Often we think we “know” how a food makes us feel because we like or don’t like a food. We see our preferences for food as being evidence for how they feel in our body – but it’s not the same thing. I loved doritos and bagels and found myself buying them when I needed comfort – thinking that emotional comfort was the same as making my body feel good but they actually both make me feel awful physically which I only noticed when I started to look into it.
Keep a food journal for several weeks and write down everything you eat / drink and note how you feel immediately after each meal and how you feel a few hours after. After awhile you’ll see patterns emerging – you may discover that every time you eat rice noodles you feel ravenous at bedtime and that makes it hard to sleep. You may find that when you have oatmeal for breakfast you feel like you can go forever between meals. You may find that eating beans makes you feel bloated and tired but eating salmon makes you feel energized and satisfied. Once you know what foods make you feel great and what ones make you feel not so good, you’ll find making choices about what you should eat (and how much) becomes really easy. Now that I’m so aware of how awful bagels and doritos make me feel, I have no interest in them. And it’s way easier to not binge on something if you don’t want it!
3. Eat according to how much food it takes to make you feel comfortable/ just satisfied. This one can be a huge challenge but is so worth practicing. Don’t eat to total fullness or very full. But also don’t let yourself get too hungry. Aim to keep yourself always between just satisfied and slightly hungry. What does that even mean? You have to experiment to figure this out for yourself. Most of us eat according to how many calories something is, or how many serving sizes, points or some other unit of measurement. But how many times have you finished eating your portion of one of these measurements and felt like it was too much or not enough? Instead of using units of measurement to determine how much you should eat, I want you to get used to using your own body’s signals to determine when you should stop eating.
This is really scary at first if you’ve never done it before. You’ll need to keep a food journal (like above) for several weeks and note after each meal where you were on a hunger scale – still hungry? satisfied? full? very full? Start to notice how little food it takes to get you from very hungry to just satisfied. There are many hunger scales out there (a quick google search can help you find one that works for you) – use one that makes the most sense to you.
How much food do you have to eat to go from just satisfied to full? This experiment requires patience and quite a bit of mindfulness – which is possibly something you are not used to doing when eating. Stick with it until you are sure you know what “satisfied” vs. full vs. hungry feels like. Describe those feelings in your body in great detail – what do they feel like to you? Most of us have forgotten what hunger, satisfaction and fullness feels like – but when we were children we naturally ate according to listening to our body. Once you know what they feel like and the difference between them, your goal is to always eat to “just satisfied”. Practice doing this over and over again until it becomes second nature. One key to being successful in doing this is to not let yourself ever get too hungry. A little bit of hunger is fine (in fact it can do many of us some good) but letting ourselves get past a certain point of hunger will make it incredibly hard to make good decisions when food is finally within reach. A little hungry is ok. Starving is not.
4. Practice being “okay” about food/body things we normally freak out about. The scale going up a little. Your pants fitting tight today. Skipping a couple of workouts in a row. Eating too much at your last meal. Eating foods that you have labeled as “bad”. Life is going to happen – no matter how long you are on this journey, you are going to have days where you don’t eat the way you want to or you eat more than you would have liked. The best thing to do when that happens is to not make a big deal about it. Accept that it happened, don’t beat yourself up or make judgements about it and move on. One of the things that keeps us make poor choices about food is constantly feeling bad about our choices. We think that if we don’t criticize ourselves then we’ll just keep doing it and blow up to extreme proportions but really our constant criticisms is exactly what makes us feel bad enough to reach for the extra food. Notice your reaction when these situations come up and try swapping out negative words and thoughts towards yourself for neutral ones (I like saying “oh well” or “no big deal”) and then literally force yourself to move on. Don’t wallow or go back looking for more evidence that you did something wrong (yes, I know this is challenging – it only gets easier if you interrupt the pattern regularly).
The less a “big deal” I make any of my eating stuff, the less of a big deal it is. It’s the truth. My weight doesn’t go up and down by 10 or 20 pounds every other month now. I can enjoy an indulgent night out with my husband that includes truffle fries, wine and dessert without hating myself for 10 days afterwards.
Try to be kinder to yourself for 2 months. No name calling, no catastrophizing, no harsh punishments, restrictive eating or excessive exercise regimens in retaliation. If it’s easier to put yourself in the right mindframe, practice living the same way as you think someone without an overeating issue or weight problem might live. Does a naturally slender person panic when they have a single piece of cake? Does she tear herself down for 3 days after eating it? No. She eats it. Enjoys it and goes about her life. Pretend you are her (for 2 months) – and then let’s see how many of her natural kinder habits you’ve started to acquire.
5. Make feeding yourself properly a priority. In our culture, we’ve come to value convenience, speed and comfort over the quality of the food we put in our bodies. Yes, our lives are busy today, but they’re also way easier than those of our ancestors. We whine about having prepare meals that take more than 10 minutes to make which is hilarious when our ancestors essentially spent their entire days doing tasks that contributed to the feeding of the family. We have all these conveniences in life now that make it possible that we can live these busy lives full of other things that take up so much of our time – but we bitch about this tiny thing we have to do like grocery shopping and cooking. Why is something that is so crucial to our health and survival given so little priority in all of our lives? We all have the same amount of hours in our day and I will bet that there is something in your life that can take a back seat so that food prep can take a priority. It’s really about weighing what’s important to us and there is no way around this one – if you want to lose weight, if you want to get healthy, if you want to be less challenged emotionally by food – then you must make food planning, shopping and prep a top priority.
Time and time again when I see people fall off the wagon, it’s because they gave up in this area. I know it’s easier to order pizza 3 nights a week and to hit the drive thru at lunch – but it’s not going to get you where you want to go.
Look, I know as much as I love to cook, there are days where I just want someone to come into my kitchen and cook for me (and clean up!! So much clean up!). I know how hard it can be. But you know what’s harder? Eating for convenience and comfort and being unhappy forever with how that makes your body look or feel. Keeping you fed well is the only way you will ever reach your goals – and unless you are in a tiny subset of the population who can afford to have a private chef, this is something you need to put at the top of your priority list. There is no negotiating here.
So those are just a few of the things you can start doing today to make a switch from fast weight loss to forever weight loss. If you need some support in making this switch – I know someone who could help (me!). Shoot me a note and let’s set up an appointment.
Make no mistake – none of this is easy at first. It’s essentially a complete reversal to what most of us have been doing our whole lives and it takes a lot of discipline to change it. Remember, anything we want to get good at, we have to practice. No one wakes up one day and is an amazing piano player or fluent in 4 languages after reading one blog post or book. No one is an incredible public speaker the first time they get on stage. No one can do advanced yoga asanas the first time they get on the mat. No one creates their best artwork the first time they ever put pencil to paper. Overhauling our eating habits so that we can have less ups and downs throughout our life is something we have to practice – daily. You can’t do these things once or twice and expect to be fixed. But if you come back to these things daily, and really make the effort to put them into your life and call yourself out when you try to hide or lie your way through it, then I know you will make huge strides towards forever weight loss and a happier relationship with your body and food. And isn’t that worth it?
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