I have "fallen off the wagon" a few times here and there, notably my own birthday party, and I found that I can't stomach eating poorly again. My body just won't take it. I am not approaching this new way of eating with some degree of harsh seriousness, because everyone I have ever seen who went on a "diet" this way, failed.
This is why I think most dieters fail:
They Fail to See The Big Picture. Most dieters I know just want to loose weight, not really change how they eat. I know this because they say they are going to "diet to lose a few pounds" like one might say "I am going to the auto shop to get the oil changed." When I say "diet" I think more permanent, like "I am getting a whole different type of car." A lot of dieters eat "rewards" like, "If I lose 10 lbs, I'll reward myself with a chocolate sundae." I mean, this seems like tempting a torture victim with illusions of freedom. What a way to break your spirit! You have secretly admitted that you still crave an ice cream sundae to the point it will manipulate you to do something you normally don't like. I am saying, "I am changing my daily eating routine to be more balanced, so I stop feeling so bad. One day, I might eat a sundae, and that's fine. But I should eat a lot less of them than I have been. Instead of half a bag of Oreo cookies in one sitting, I'll eat 2-3 every few days."
They Diet for the Wrong Reason. Biggest screw up? Diet = punishment. God, people, think about it! You are trying to persuade yourself to do something you don't want, only fueled by your self-hatred, embarrassment, and physical loathing. That will only put undue pressure on you, and you will naturally start to resist this assault on yourself. Imagine for a moment if your anger towards yourself was from another person. Imagine being stuck with someone who constantly insulted you, called you fat, pointed out how dumb you were by your mistakes. You'd really start to resent that! I don't care how passive you are, anger is a poor long-term motivator. This is the most common mistake. Now, I am fat. I know that. I have accepted that I am fat, and I am not really taking it personally. I even laugh at the few people who would insult me because I am fat, because that's just weak. Not that many have. I am changing what I am eating because I want to feel better, I figure I deserve it, and it seems illogical to eat the way I used to. I know I am breaking a bad habit, which starts off living day to day, but you have to start somewhere. I don't blame my body for craving sugar, sweets, high-carb, and fatty foods because it's just being honest. Back in the prehistoric times, before processed sugar and high volumes of fatty foods, sugar, processed carbs, and fat were great ways to get quick energy. It was just that we processed, extracted, and magnified the effects over time. Our body still thinks "sugar, carbs, and fats = good for you," but hasn't learned "too much sugar, carbs, and fats = uuggghhh." Our brains tell us that. Now we have to make our brains enact willpower over physical craving, and that's no easy task! Especially if your body got used to eating this way. It all started with the concept of "bread" but I won't make this a history lesson, too. So knowing that my body is just craving something right, and I was eating it in wrong amounts, helps me readjust what I eat.
The second, and sadly all too common "wrong" reason is outside pressure. "People don't like me because I am fat." Bullshit. I am fat, and people like me. I know plenty of likable fat people. "People see me as a glutton and blah blah..." Horse Hockey! Some people will always think bad things about others. Its because they don't feel good about themselves, and it's easier to tear someone down than to build yourself up. They don't know you. You have a tremendous advantage over them. Those that point out how fat you are FEAR being fat themselves. If they didn't care, they wouldn't even notice. You can't control others or how others see you. You can't. Ever. No one can. Your wasted efforts it manipulating others should be spent fixing things about yourself because you DESERVE good things. Not them. So, now you have Mom who has been telling you "You'd be so pretty if you lost weight..." or "Don't eat that pie, dear, have some celery..." This actually ENCOURAGES you to eat badly because you have to balance the damage such comments can make. It makes you addicted emotionally to food, too. I think if someone said to me, "Don't eat this pie, eat this celery," I'd say, "What wrong with the pie? Has it spoiled? Or are you greedy, and want more for yourself? Or maybe you own stock in a company that grows celery! Stop manipulating me!" or maybe even, "I have to eat pie so I stay fat. At least this way, it makes you act like you care about me." (oh, ouch).
They Give Up Too Easily. I know many programmers who are perfectionists to the point where it's either 100% or nothing. Many dieters give up because they screw up, and say, "Fuck it, it's over. I am a failure. I didn't watch what I ate, I failed, I will die a fat loser, and I hate myself ... why bother going on?" You should go, "I overate at Thanksgiving, then devoured a plate of Christmas cookies at mom's house, but that's over, and I am still ahead from where I was a year ago." Toddlers fall down a lot when they learn to walk, but they get up and keep going. Every time they fall down, they learn a little. By the time they are older kids, they fall down a LOT less. And face it, even as an adult, you still fall down once in a while. But you never sit on the floor and bawl, giving up trying to walk ever again. Unless you are real hard-core and can just suddenly change your diet cold turkey (unlikely), accept that you will have a hard time starting, LEARN from your "mistakes," do not DWELL on them or take them personally, and continue down the path.
My goal is not to give up. I don't care if I am still 307 six months from now. The benefits of changing my diet have already started to show benefits beyond losing weight. Losing weight is just one of the symptoms of eating better, not my true goal. My true goal is to better myself, like I have done with other parts of my life (job, writing, friends, etc.). It's given me encouragement, a challenge, and sort of an exciting new thing to try. I can't fail because failure at this point is immaterial unless I just quit. And I can't quit unless it severely damages me in some way (doubtful), or I give up on myself (also unlikely).
They Have a Poor Incentive Program. I already mentioned the dumb-ass "rewards" issue, but there's a second problem: poor short term results. Many try to diet to "lose weight so I can do this and that," but "this and that" is so far away, and is so gradual, it's not a very good incentive during those days you are depressed and want to eat half a cake. So what are good short term rewards? This is what I use, and you may find help here:
- I save money. I used to eat lunch in the cafeteria every day, which was about $6/day, 5 days a week, so let's say 4 weeks in an average month, and that's about $120-130 a month. If I bring lunch from home, it costs about $2-3 a meal, less than half! I have now saved a whopping $60 or more a month! I can use that money to buy cool, nonfood related items. Computer gadgets, Legos, and other toys. Of course, right now that goes to stopping a huge financial leak, but it won't always be this way. When I estimated how much I was spending on junk food I didn't need (including takeout, fast food places, daily lunches, and just plain store-bought junk food), I would save about $110 a month. Damn! And that's just me! When I want to "splurge," I don't go and buy a bag of Oreos, I go on Half.com and get a book or CD. Oh, and I don't have to buy new clothes because I got too fat for my old ones. Yeah, when I lose like 30 pounds, things are going to start getting baggy, but I have belts.
- I weigh myself and record the results. Weight Watchers knows, for instance, that unless you actually see progress in any way, you'll probably give up on what essentially is such a long-term goal, it might as well be as abstract as a Pollock painting. Now, WW tells their folks to weigh themselves once a week, and not daily or you'll get discouraged. This is probably true for 99% of you. In my case, I want to know when I gain weight and lose it, because my fluctuation was so wild, I wanted to granulate the data to see if I could trace what's going on. So far, I can't find anything but I do gain or lose 3-4 pounds a day. This is a sample week for me: 309, 307, 311, 312, 308, 310, 307. I weigh myself every morning, right before I step into the shower. Had I done it the WW way, I would have seen 309, 307. I lost 2 pounds that week. I can see how WW works for most people, because that seems more like progress
- I re-enforce the positive, even if I have no "proof." My ankle, which had been hurting me worse and worse, suddenly stopped. Was it just because it was 7 pounds too much for my ankle? Maybe. I'm saying it is. Ha! What do you think of that, world?
- At one WW place, the leader there said she used to re-enforce results by having people buy bags of dog food equal to the weight they had lost. So if you lost 50 pounds, you brought in 50 pounds of dry dog food. This really hit home how much they had accomplished. "I used to carry this weight on me!" The dog food was then donated to a local pet rescue organization or shelter. Another leader compared everything to a 10lb bag of potatoes. "See, Francis here lost 2 bags!" Both of these really help put the abstract into something real. Look at how far you have come. Good for you!
- I save time and wasted brain power. You know what? In my unique experience (that I probably wouldn't recommend to most) is that I hate eating. It's boring, time-consuming, and then I have to find something I like ... bleah. Lazy lazy me. But if I don't eat, I get dizzy (my hunger alert system has been nonfunctional since I was 12 - I equate dizziness with need to eat, which is a problem if I get, say, the flu ... or just dizzy from spinning). Now I eat most of my meals in pre-measured boxes (Weight Watchers, Lean Cuisine, and others), so I pop it in the microwave, and just eat a well-balanced meal of processed goodness that's low in fat I don't need. Okay, TV-style dinners are NOT the best diet, true, but right now they'll do until I have enough energy and experience to cook my own meals again. I also eat other stuff, but I go by what Christine cooks because she's the one taking WW, and I'm just tagging along. I love not having to THINK about food. I have ate better in these last three weeks than I have eaten since ... ever. Let's be frank. I did not grow up in a very structured household, and never developed good eating habits.
Will I make mistakes? Yes. In fact, I hope so, because you never really learn anything without mistakes guiding you along the way as lessons. Will I fail? Only if I give up. I hate to call what I am doing a "diet" because our society usually says "diet = temporary weight loss for looking good." To a scientist, diet means "what the organism normally eats." So I don't say diet, I say "I am changing what I eat."
For good. Forever.
My life has had a lot of unlucky stuff happen for a long time, and I deserve this at least. Maybe I'll at least get to a weight where scales are more reliable...
This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000291.html