I’ve heard every single excuse not to eat right or exercise regularly – except for a good one. When people make excuses, all they’re doing is justifying why they can’t change, why they’re not worthy of change. They’re looking for ways to let themselves off the hook.
Some philosophical, emotional change has to happen if you are going to be successful long term. Don’t think, “I have to change my diet and exercise habits, and then the work is over”. It isn’t. If you simply diet and exercise without making a mental breakthrough, you are just going to be caught in a vicious circle. I have never seen a person succeed in the long term who didn’t first make a core change in the way they felt about themselves.
The number one thing you need to understand is this – you are worthy of a better life. The people who succeed at losing weight and keeping it off have said to themselves, I am worthy of whatever I am seeking.
Of course, even the most committed and self-aware person has days when the treadmill seems too daunting or the brownies are too irresistible. What can change is the way you view your bad days.
Setbacks are going to happen, but what will make the difference is if you can see that those moments are really opportunities – opportunities to reaffirm your self-esteem. Yes, you fell off the wagon. Big deal. That doesn’t mean you have blown it. You can pick yourself up and admire yourself for being strong enough to continue, or you can go down the road of negative self-esteem and say ‘Oh, I am not worthy, and this slip up just proves it.’ Failure is an opportunity to say ‘I can overcome this’. Success comes when you say “I might mess up, but I am going to start again and keep going”.
People do tell me that they reward themselves for a hard day’s work or a job well done with food or alcohol, but I think they are using the wrong word. You aren’t rewarding yourself with food – you are comforting yourself with it. Really, most of us are hungry emotionally or often fatigued. Food and alcohol is so readily available that it is the easiest source of comfort. Breaking free of it is no different from breaking free of any kind of drug. You have to address it openly. You have to ask yourself, “why and when am I using food or alcohol as a crutch?” Food and alcohol is meant to be enjoyed, but eating and drinking is not supposed to be the main source of joy or your main response to stress, boredom, or emptiness in your life.
So if you love yourself more, will the kilos just melt away? Not exactly, your new self esteem still has to be put into action with old fashioned calorie cutting and exercise. There is only hard work ahead and a great deal of discipline – reduce fatty food, limit sugar and refined carbohydrates, control portion sizes. Losing weight gradually is advisable – ½ kg per week is realistic.
When you look at people who lost at roughly this pace, their long term success rate is greater than for those who lost faster. Plus, the people who lost weight more slowly did not have to deprive themselves as much. You just have to manage your own expectations, and be realistic. Weight loss, and then maintaining this loss can be a struggle. But at the end of the day the answer lies in simplicity and accepting you will always have to show self discipline. People have made a lot of money by telling people that the real secret is to cut out this food group or that one or to do a certain kind of workout. But it comes down to three basic steps:
Eat less. Move more. And know that you deserve a life in which you are healthier, fitter and most of all, happier.
Arlene Normand is a respected Sydney dietician. Her hard work and invaluable advice have helped thousands of people, including myself, with their weight-loss journey. She has a place close to my heart.