I wasn’t really intending to write this post, but I feel like I’ve talked to a lot of people lately who seem to need to hear it (not because I think they’re fat!…just because they seem to be strugging or not knowing where to begin). I think the paleo diet is a fantastic lifestyle, but it can be an overwhelming lifestyle change and can be done in a way that doesn’t promote a great deal of weight loss. So I thought I’d just put together what I think are the most basic keys to weight loss success.
Spoiler alert: your attitude is way important than your method. And you’re not getting anywhere with a shitty attitude.
This is coming from experience. This is what I did to change my life from that of a fat-child-turned-fat-adult to a fit, healthy adult. This is what I can see glaringly missing from the stories of people who couldn’t make it happen, and what seem to be present in every success story. Take it for what it’s worth; it’s the best advice I can come up with.
– Stop Hating Yourself. Do you hate yourself? Do you hate your body? Do you think losing weight will change that? It won’t. There’s a difference between “aw man, I don’t like my love handles” and “I hate my body”, and it’s an important one. When was the last time you really put all of your dedication and will and talents into a project you HATED? It’s impossible. You’ll get frustrated and miserable immediately. Here’s what I recommend: strip down to your undies. Stand in front of a mirror. Poke. Pinch. Squeeze. Smile. Frown. Pull in your chin, squeeze out your belly. Spin around. And just laugh. Make fun of yourself. Make a mental (or actually written) list of what you want to change. Measure yourself, weigh yourself, take a horrible unflattering photo of yourself in a bathing suit. Be totally honest with yourself about the current state of affairs, and tell yourself it’s ok, and get excited about turning it around. Look at yourself in the mirror like you would look at a fixer-upper house that you’ve just bought. “Hoo boy, this is going to be a lot of work…but it is going to look sooooo good!”
– Don’t Over-Complicate It in the beginning. Do some research, pick a strategy for diet and exercise, and jump in with both feet. And then don’t adjust anything for at least a month (unless your results are REALLY bad). Just stick to something and let it work. The first month of a diet change is about breaking old habits and forming new ones, NOT about eating the exact right foods, or the exact right number of calories, or running the right number of miles. You need to get used to taking care of yourself. You can fine-tune later. The important part is to just start something.
– Remember: You’re Never REALLY Off the Wagon. Confession: I ate six pieces of pizza today. Six! I was hungry and there was pizza in front of me and my self control went out the window, and I have no brakes when I’m eating carbs. I’m like an addict: when I relapse, it’s serious business. I could’ve called the day a cheat day and continued eating like a maniac until bed time. I could’ve said “well, another diet ruined” and given up altogether. But that’s nonsense. 6 slices of pizza is bad, but it’s not the end of the world. I’ll probably still weigh less in a week than I do today. Primarily because I’m already back on track. And I intend to stay there. For a while, anyway. I’ve fallen off the wagon hard dozens of times since I started losing weight, sometimes for weeks at a time. I don’t divide my life into “on a diet” and “not on a diet”. Sometimes I eat things I shouldn’t, but then I move on. Eating paleo is my norm, eating junk food is the exception. I don’t think of eating junk food as my norm anymore, and eating healthy as a temporary diet that I’m on that can be “broken” at any time. This is important.
– Break your habits. Do you tend to eat a big 4th meal before bedtime? Stop it. Do you tend to snack a lot during the day? Stop it. Don’t just replace a bag of chips with a bag of nuts and fruit. If weight loss is your goal, break the habits altogether. It’s hard. Like, really hard. For a little while. And then suddenly it’s easy. Just go cold turkey on the snacking and you’ll get over it faster.
– Get busy. I used to eat constantly because I was bored. What a stupid thing to do with your time! Get more active, partly because it’s good for your health and weight loss efforts, but also because it’s just something to DO that isn’t eating. Cook all your own meals from scratch, maybe: it takes forever, and it’s better to spend all your time cooking than all your time eating. Join the Edmonton paleo meetup group and hang out with like-minded folks instead of sitting at home trying to resist that box of cereal you keep around for your kids (shameless plug!). Fill your time with worthwhile pursuits that make you feel good about yourself, instead of mindless eating that makes you feel sick and ashamed.
– Pick Up a Sport. I’ve often wondered to myself why I was able to lose weight successfully this time when I’d failed so many times in the past. The one factor I think made a huge difference is that this time, I didn’t just start dieting, I also joined a taekwondo class. It was SO HARD at the beginning I couldn’t believe it. But my sister joined with me, and I couldn’t let her show me up. So I kept going, and my relationship with my body completely changed. It could do things! And the harder I worked, the more cool things it could do! This helped enormously with the whole “don’t hate your body” thing. It also gave me something analogous to the whole weight loss journey in my life to keep me in the right mindset. My sister and I said on our first day that we were going to get black belts. That takes years, no matter what. No matter how hard you try, how badly you want it – there’s just no shortcut. It just takes a lot of time and a lot of work and you have to stick to it even when it seems to take so long you can hardly imagine hitting your goal. And then suddenly, you’re halfway there and it seems like it took no time at all. Taekwondo might not be what everyone needs, but it’s exactly what I needed. Find something that does this for you: it could be a martial art, a team sport, trail running (punishing treadmill sessions are unlikely to inspire you much), yoga, cycling – whatever. It will make a world of difference.
– Eat Like You Mean It. Eat enough food and eat it with great pleasure and enthusiasm. Don’t try to pride yourself on how deprived you are. Focus on what you CAN eat and make it delicious. Learn to cook. Try new things. Lick your plate. A big juicy ribeye is better than a Big Mac, so don’t go around feeling sorry for yourself. Being deprived and whiny about your food is no way to live. And it kind of makes you insufferable.
Well, those are the big ones for me. What do you think? What’s worked for you? Let me know in the comments!