Have you ever been on a diet? I thought so. Me too. I’ve been on quite a few of them in fact. My sister likes to remind me about the time I only ate grapefruit for two weeks. Not sure what I was thinking on that occasion, but one thing I have learned over the years – weight loss is hard.
I’ve tried Atkins, Keto, Slimming World, Intermittent Fasting, the Mediterranean Diet… All of them worked, and none of them did. They worked in the sense that I was able to lose a modest amount of weight each time. But they didn’t work because I’m heavier now than I have ever been. So what exactly is wrong with me? Why can’t I lose the weight and, more importantly, why can’t I keep it off?
I think the answer is that I have always been trying to achieve weight loss the easy way. I’ve tried to cheat my way to a slimmer waistline. If a diet promises me fast results, I’m generally on board. But when people start talking about making “changes for life” that will result in slow and steady weight loss, I tend to switch off. Who wants slow and steady when you can have fast and easy?
Look, I’m not trying to insult all the various weight loss programmes that exist out there. I’m sure they work for plenty of people, but the fact is that they have never really worked for me. When you ask the NHS how to lose weight, the answer is simple. Eat fewer calories and exercise more. Granted, there is a bit more to it than that, but that’s the gist of it.
So I did some reading around, and I decided that this was the way forward. Weight loss the hard way! I’m going to try and aim for an average of 1400 calories a day for the next year or until I reach my target weight, whichever comes first. After a year, I will reassess things and go from there. It seems like a lifetime away, but I’m determined to take it one day at a time and see it through.
Before I started, I laid down some ground rules for myself. If you’re reading this and are thinking of joining me, feel free to adopt them yourself or adapt them to suit your own personality and temperament.
I am not going to weigh myself every week
I understand that this motivates a lot of people, but I find that I become too focused on the number. When I lose a lot of weight one week, I am ecstatic. But when I have a bad week, I feel defeated and demotivated. I have decided that I am going to weigh myself once a month to chart my progress.
Planning is key
Ideally, I want to know exactly what I am going to eat and drink at the start of each day. Every calorie needs to be accounted for, including snacks and drinks. I am hoping that this will get easier over time and it will come more naturally with practice. But if I know exactly what I am able to eat for the whole day, I think I am more likely to stick to it.
Food should still be enjoyable
I do not believe in denying myself anything. Nor do I believe in eating food that tastes like crap! If I don’t like it, I’m not going to eat it. And I am not cutting any particular food group out of my diet either. That being said 1400 calories is not much to play with, so I need to be really smart about how to make those calories stretch. This is one area where I will afford myself some flexibility. I am going to figure out what works for me, and accept that what works for one person does not necessarily work for another.
There is no room for guesswork
I know for a fact that my portion sizes are wrong. In the past I have fooled myself into thinking I am doing OK because I am eating healthy meals and staying away from unhealthy snacks. In reality, I have still been eating far too much. To begin with, I am going to have to weigh and measure everything. I know that if I don’t, I’m bound to slip back into my old bad habits over time.
Balance is always a good thing
I am going to be very deliberate about the foods that I am eating and choosing recipes that are balanced and full of all the right stuff. Vegetables are great, but there is more to life than salad.
I personally believe that if it can be found in nature, then it’s probably fine to eat as long as it is within your calorie limit. I will always choose something natural over something that was created in a laboratory. A lot of so-called “diet” or “low fat” foods are the worst offenders, so I am going to try and stay away from them.
Build up activity levels slowly
Chances are, I am going to go to bed hungry on some occasions. I may even feel a little lightheaded during the day. I’m probably going to snap at people a bit more to start with. For this reason, I am in no hurry to start a hardcore exercise programme from day one. I will build up my activity levels over time, but I don’t want to sabotage myself by overdoing it at the gym and then crashing and reaching for a high calorie snack.
Cravings are normal
Cravings can be psychological, or they can be your body’s way of asking for more energy. Experience has taught me that my body will always crave the quick fix. In other words, something high in readily available sugar, as this is the easiest thing to digest and will provide energy quickly. The problem is that this type of energy doesn’t last long, so before you know it you’re hungry again. To begin with, I am going to try and counteract these cravings by eating foods that sustain me for longer. But no matter how hard I try, I also need to accept that cravings are going to be part of life and I am going to need to find ways of coping with them.
I eat my feelings
I am an emotional eater and I am not alone. When people are faced with a difficult emotion like sadness, anger, or fear, they usually reach for something to either distract themselves or to cover up that feeling. Some reach for a cigarette or a drink. Some turn to sex, shopping or gambling. I reach for food.
Without a doubt, this is going to be the hardest thing for me to overcome. I can handle the calories counting and the weighing and measuring. I can learn to go to bed hungry and I can probably even fight the cravings. But the true test will come when I am low and find myself reaching out to my old friend food to comfort me.
Like I said at the beginning, this is weight loss the hard way. But what choice do I have? I’ve tried the easy way time and time again, and it never worked. It’s time for a change. Just like Theodore Roosevelt once said:
“Nothing in this world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain and difficulty…”
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