I’m willing to bet there are quite a few of you who with plans to lose weight in the New Year. Here’s what to know before you start any diet, detox or lifestyle change.
Let’s start with a quick survey. By a show of hands, how many of you are making a New Year resolution to lose weight in 2015?
Okay, now put your hands down. You’re looking a little odd sitting by yourself with a hand up in the air…
Pretend every single person in America was reading this blog post and participated in my survey. There would be 50 million people sitting in coffee shops, on the couch, in their office, on the toilet or walking down the street staring at the cell phone and looking cray cray with a hand up in the air.
That is truly astounding.
I won’t get into the statistics of how many people actually achieve their resolutions. Frankly, it’s pretty disheartening. We all know firsthand how difficult it is to keep a resolution (myself included).
Each of you who raised your hand has your own motivations, goals and strategies (or lack thereof). We’re not going to focus on that today. There are a bazillion posts on how to stick to your New Year resolution (this, this and this), and even more posts on how to lose weight and keep it off (I’ve shared this, this, and this).
Because really, if you don’t have the right mindset before losing weight, your strategies, goals, level of motivation, diet approach simply don’t matter. Being prepared with the right mindset is make or break for long term success.
Here are four things to know before start a diet, lifestyle change, or whatever you’re doing to lose weight.
CALORIES COUNT…BUT YOU DON’T HAVE TO COUNT THEM.
Calorie counting is tedious, exhausting, distracting and generally soul sucking. Sure, at a certain point, calories count. But that doesn’t mean you should count them. Counting calories emphasizes quantity over quality, a surefire way to diet disaster.
Instead, focus on relearning how to trust your body. For 99.9% of human existence, we’ve managed just fine without the slightest idea of what a calorie is. You have the innate ability to know when you’re hungry, full, what food your body trulywants and how to adequately nourish your body and soul. The difficult part is listening. Slow down, tune in and be mindful. You’ll be shocked when you realize your own wisdom and power.
HEALTH COMES IN ALL SIZES
There’s plenty of research linking overweight and obesity to chronic disease. There’s even research showing weight gain within the “normal” BMI range can be dangerous. As a general rule of thumb, someone who weighs less is more likely to be healthy than someone who weighs more. That’s pretty clear.
But does this mean you must be thin to be healthy? Is someone who is overweight or obese automatically unhealthy? Absolutely not. A high BMI is a common side effect of a poor diet and lifestyle. A high BMI is also within the wide range of normal and healthy body sizes.
Let’s say you’re naturally on the heavier side. You eat mostly nourishing, whole foods, generally approaching your diet with an 80/20 mindset. When you do splurge, it’s on foods you truly love that bring you joy. You hike, practice yoga, and play sports fairly regularly, all activities that you love. Yet, your BMI is still in a range that’s considered overweight or obese. Is it any healthier to constantly diet, deprive your body of nutrients, and start doing activities you hate simply because it burns more calories? Is it better for your mental health to subject yourself to regular stress over the number on the scale and isolate yourself socially because your diet won’t allow a bottle of wine and pizza with friends? I certainly don’t think so.
Happiness comes in all sizes.
Is that Victoria Secret model or 6-packed stud on the cover of Men’s Health any happier than you? It’s possible. Or maybe behind their image of “perfection”, they secretly struggle with pain, self-loathing, disordered eating and addiction. Who knows?
Is the heavy girl walking down the street going home to drown her sorrows with a pint of ice cream and her pet cat? Or is she jetting off meet her group of best friends for their weekly yoga date, then home to enjoy dinner and great conversation with her attractive, supportive and successful fiance? Who knows.
Losing weight rarely leads to happiness, a husband/wife, more money, better friends or a generally more joyful life. If it does, then you may want to reevaluate it’s legitimacy.
Start living life NOW. Do, see, love, and eat what brings you joy. If you put off life until after you’ve hit a target weight, imagine what you might miss. In fact, emphasizing happiness and wellbeing will make more likely for you to reach your healthy weight, without dieting!
Small steps are the key to success.
The results promised by things like juice cleanses and restrictive diets are exciting, but rarely do these things lead to long term success. This is especially true if you think of it as a solution, rather than a jump start.
Although not nearly as exciting, regularly setting SMART goals is the key to long term weight loss and maintenance. Just think where you could be December 31, 2015 if you set and achieved a small goal each week. Much further along than if you deprived yourself with restrictive dieting and exercise through January, then gave up by February, and spiraled into a pit of self loathing, don’t you think? Even if you “failed” at half of your weekly goals, you would still be better off! If you feel the need to jump start with a short term, more restrictive diet, that’s OK, but do not forget to plan for a more sustainable phase 2.