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Losing 150 Pounds is…

Losing 150 pounds is easy. 

Losing 150 pounds is impossible.

Weight loss is simple in the short term.  Almost everyone has done it.  Restricting your calories or increasing your activity for a few weeks is something most people have done successfully at some point in their lives (usually in January.)  Unfortunately for most people after a few weeks of either starving themselves or doing some sort of workout that they can’t stand, they give up and go back to their previous eating and workout routine.  The reasons behind the failure are many but the results are the same.  You aren’t happy with your health and fitness levels but you don’t know how to be successful.

Let’s burst the bubble that doesn’t need bursting.  There is no magic solution.  If you want to lose any amount of weight and then maintain that weight loss, you will need to make changes that will last a lifetime.  Does that sound overwhelming?  That’s ok.  Thinking about anything that will impact the rest of your life makes most people uneasy if not frozen in fear and doubt.  The key is to break your objectives into manageable chunks.

Motivation, willpower, and determination in all of their incarnations are the battles we must win to overcome inevitable hurdles and to achieve and maintain our desired goals.  Motivation to workout, motivation to make good food choices, willpower to say “no” when someone offers you something you probably shouldn’t be eating.  Then the determination to take these positive steps and repeat them forever.

Is is really that easy?

Let’s go back to the beginning.  Losing weight is easy.  Eat fewer calories than you burn.  That’s it.  End of conversation, thank you all for coming!  Why then if it’s that easy (and it is) do so many people struggle to lose weight and more importantly maintain that weight loss?  Boredom, frustration, jealousy, pizza.  The list of reasons people aren’t successful is endless but more often than not there is a momentary lapse in one of the factors we’ve mentioned (motivation, willpower, determination) that leads to complete disaster and the feeling that you can’t keep it up so you might as well stop trying. 

Don’t let every misstep become a reason to give up.  “I didn’t work out this morning so I might as well never workout again!”  Or “I gave in and had cake at a coworker’s birthday celebration so there is no point in eating well for the rest of my life!”  Sound familiar?  Maybe this is an extreme example but this mentality has been the downfall of many well intentioned dieters.  Every breakdown in motivation, willpower, or determination causes a snowball effect that results in anger and frustration and then the inescapable feeling of helplessness which sees us turning away from our goals.

So what is the answer?  Set short term goals that are realistic, make small changes to your routines, and don’t allow teensy missteps to become long term excuses.  Approach each day as a new challenge.  So you didn’t exercise yesterday.  So what? Do it today.  So you didn’t eat well on Tuesday.  Wednesday doesn’t care.  Minor setbacks can be just that.  Minor.  The key is to get back to it quickly.  Every extra calorie burned and every additional calorie NOT eaten gets us one step closer to our goal.

Baby Steps Are OK!

It’s important to understand how the short term goals add up in the long run so let’s look at an example.  If 15 minutes of physical activity burns 200 calories, then those 15 minutes of activity over the course of the year will burn 21 pounds.  A year from now would you like to weigh 21 pounds less?  Does 15 minutes riding a bike or walking (albeit quickly) seem doable each day? 

Well there you have it.  Can you find the motivation to go for a fast 15-minute walk?  What if in addition to that walk we also cut 200 calories from our diet?  Chances are we could do that in such a way that we wouldn’t even miss it.  Now we’ve lost 42 pounds this year!  See how easy that was!  A few less bites and a few extra steps (or peddles) and we’re down 42 pounds.  You don’t even want to think about what 30 or even 45 minutes per day will do…  Almost seems too good to be true.

It isn’t.  This is “the secret” that allowed me to lose 150 pounds and keep it off for 5 years (and counting.)  Look at every calorie burned or NOT eaten as a small victory towards the larger goal.  In a world where every day there is a new gimmick or diet or workout routine promising unbelievable results, the bottom line always is, eat a few less calories, move around a little more, and don’t torture yourself when you mess up.  Because you will.  The whole game is about getting back into the good routines and minimizing the bad ones. 

You Can Do It

It’s easy to say “forget the mistakes and make a better decision the next time” but if it was that easy, we would all be our ideal weight and the diet industry wouldn’t be the multibillion dollar juggernaut that it is.  Learning to brush off mistakes is one thing.  Learning to avoid them in the first place in another.  Here gain there is unfortunately no wizardry that will make you into a machine that churns out nothing but health minded decisions.  The determination needs to come from you?  I always remind myself that whatever thing it is that I’m craving will only last for a minute, and afterwards I’ll be depressed and angry with myself for indulging.

What do I mean?  How long does it take to eat a candy bar?  Or a donut?  45 seconds?  Maybe a minute and a half if you’re taking your time?  So let’s call it 90 seconds.  After those 90 seconds of mouth pleasure what do you have to show for yourself besides resentment and depression at your momentary food weakness?  Nothing.  So make it a habit to say to yourself whenever you’re tempted to make a decision that goes against your diet plan, “is this worth it?”  Is the donut worth the half hour walk you took this morning?  Is the candy bar worth having to feel bad about yourself for the rest of the day?  It never is for me.

Your Future Is Calling

To say that you need to focus on the big picture seems a little too cliché, but it’s true.  If you lose 20 pounds, and then gain back 5 after a holiday or vacation, you’re still down 15 pounds!  That’s wonderful!  You aren’t starting from scratch, you haven’t ruined all of your hard work, and you don’t need to engage the “what’s the use” response.  You are still winning!  But only if you refocus and don’t allow the self-doubt and frustration take over.  Gaining weight in one week that it took you a month or more to lose is infuriating.  It seems unfair.

Weight takes no time to gain and so much more time to lose.  Unfortunately that falls into the “it is what it is” category in life.  So enjoy your indulgences, and put them behind you.  The ebb and flow of weight loss will always be there.  Just make sure you are ebbing more than flowing and you’ll be all set.  Besides.  If I can do it…

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