I have lost more than eighty pounds four or five times in last twenty-five years. Reminds me of the Mark Twain quote “quitting smoking is easy, I’ve done it a thousands times”.
Let me share my keys to taking it off and then keeping it off in the context of personal management.
When you burn more calories than you consume, you lose weight
When you burn more calories than you consume, you gain weight
When you burn the same calories, you maintain your weight
Envisioning the end with enthusiasm energizes the whole of your being
Chunk down to intermediate goals so you can have the feeling of winning repeatedly throughout your process. I imagine myself stepping on the scale and seeing a number just five pounds lower than my current weight. I see myself smiling, jumping for joy, and feeling satisfied and proud of myself. Build a virtuous cycle so you are conditioning yourself.
Reward yourself at each little win, but not with food.
I had a boss in the business world that taught me an important lesson that applies almost everywhere. Management is measurement. Said another way; if you want to manage something you have to measure it. Behavior changes automatically around the actions and outcomes that you measure. As a sales manager I noticed that when I required phone logs of sales calls on a weekly basis rather than simply sales volume in dollars, the basic activity of the sales people changed. When they knew I was measuring call activity, they made calls. When I stopped measuring, their behavior changed back.
Weigh yourself every day. Choose the same time and do it. Don’t avoid the scale the day after you think you over did the ingestion side of the equation. You manage what you measure and the ostrich strategy is not management
Track what you eat.
- Everything. Count the Calories. If you want to keep an eye on carbs or fat or protein that’s fine but in the end you have to measure how many calories you consume.
- Notice over time what is working and not working. I find the same number of calories from predominantly protein, fruits and vegetables produces better results in terms of loss and/or maintenance that calories from starches, especially white starches like potatoes, rice, flour etc. Your body will be unique and part of the value of measurement is it provides data for you to be your own scientist in relation to your own process of change.
Track the calories you burn. Not just in exercise but in everything.
- Both of these are easy. I use an iPod program called Calorie Counter by FatSecret. It stores frequently eaten foods, has barcode look up for easy capture, it handles weight tracking and calories burned in simple quick steps. Before I found this I was using an Excel spreadsheet I had created when I was using Weight Watchers.
- Start by tracking rather than dieting. Watch how your behavior changes simply by the practice of consistent measurement. Then make micro changes (walk a little more, cut out soda) and see how those impact your progress.
- Just seeing the line graph slope downward on the weight tracker in CalorieCounter give me a sense of winning. I also play with setting the goal weight closer to my next interval instead of some final target. This has a couple values for me. I get to win more often and set a new goal, which energizes me to continue and secondly by have the distance between current weight and goal closer to each other, even small losses look ‘steeper’ on the graph which also makes me feel good about myself.
Only repeatable processes provide permanent change
You can’t eat exclusively protein or juice or HgH for the rest of your life (unless you can. Your experience has to be the guide not anyone’s opinion, including mine)
You need a way to get back on track easily when you get off track, as inevitably we all do.
Your process has to be flexible enough to engage you in change without throwing you into resistance. Another way of saying this is that your plan has to be believable to you so you don’t sabotage it with negative thinking or limiting beliefs. Remember the quote from Henry Ford “whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”
Continual Course Correction. Forget ‘narrow is the way and straight is the path’. All roads lead to Rome, eventually, as long as you keep checking the signs and steering yourself back on course as soon as you realize you’ve gone off. By measuring constantly you have built in the mechanism for self-evaluation.
Microscopic changes implemented slowly have lasting effect
This is really just an extension of the previous point. When you make small changes, you will be inclined to follow through, which will produce results, so that you can experience success and replace your vicious cycles with virtuous cycles. Think about your history with New Years Resolutions. We tell ourselves that we will start exercising and hour a day, stop eating all desserts, empty out our storage space, eliminate all or our debt. We set the bars so high that by Valentines Day all those goals are long abandoned. Chunk it down. Build on small successes until you find over time that true and lasting transformation has happened. Examples of micro changes:
- Exercise for three minutes a day. That could be walk up and down a staircase one time in your home or office just for the extra exertion. Alternately park a few blocks further from your destination or get off the bus/subway one stop before your destination and walk the small extra distance.
- Spend three minutes a day visualizing your successful completion of your next intermediate goal.
- Make a micro change to your food consumption such as eliminate one trigger food (cut out ice cream but not all desserts) or food category (cut out white bread) or eating time (not food after 10:00 PM)
You have to have freedom in your practice of weight self-management to indulge on occasion. Try to make those indulgences small. The great thing about constant measurement is that you will know what impact and if correction is needed, it is minimal and quick.
I have had the greatest success when supported by others. That could be a program like Weight Watchers, with meetings, and clear system that certainly enables a shift to a long-term practice of sensible diet and exercise. That could be working with a nutritionist. I recommend Dr. Bertrand Babinet (www.babinetics.com) with whom I most recently lost a good deal of weight and have been successful on maintenance.
Items 2-7 really apply to any change you want to make. Regardless of whether your goals lie within the sphere of work, relationships, health, wealth, etc. The technology of transformation is the same. Vision, alignment, measurement, honest self-evaluation, course correction, celebrating success (especially the small incremental ones).
[…] here on this blog I have advocated the gradual approach. My very first post included the value of tackling a goal through instituting microscopic changes. I have echoed the words of my mentors like John Roger and David Allen; ‘small things done […]