|"I think I can...I think I can"....no, wait, wrong|
I always remember watching the "Wizard of Oz" as a child and getting really frustrated with the Good Witch at the end. Remember? After everything Dorothy went through she was told she always had the power to go home...the entire time. Stupid witch, why the hell didn't she tell her that from the beginning?
This weekend I am speaking at a health fair. Have you ever been to one of these things? On one side you have the fitness people jumping around selling their classes, on the other you have the speakers, and in the middle you have people selling their products and services all geared towards making you cellulite free and looking great at any age. How am I ever going to sell health and behaviour change (my topic - a.k.a. "health by chocolate) when someone else is touting the latest and greatest in fast weight loss?
The reality of every single program or product for weight loss is this; unless you have the knowledge and ability to make the change...you simply won't change. The secret to weight loss is really in you (and no pill or product on the market can change this). Bad news? Not at all! How empowering is it to realize that with or without the programs on the market you are in control of your own change.
The secret to weight loss is just like those ruby slippers, it is right in front of your face such that you don't see it or acknowledge it. We tend to hide this secret unintentionally under "the veil" (otherwise known as the fitness and diet industry). We have a belief that weight loss couldn't be that simple if there are experts in the field selling me the products and services I need to be successful. We place our trust in the weight loss professional and not in ourselves. Big mistake.
What is the secret to weight loss? There are a few (truth be told) and I will list them in order of importance. It is important to note that this list is from my own education and experience (20 years of it) working with others and myself. I am most certain of this list as I'm certain I will be drinking a cider and sharing a plate of nachos this weekend.
Before any weight loss can occur you must be aware of yourself, your values, and your attitudes. If you value your sleep more than exercise at 6am, the sleep will win the tug of war (and leave you feeling guilty, lazy, and bad about yourself). If you believe you won't succeed (because you haven't in the past,.you won't. Get to know why you do what you do, what you will do for weight loss and what you won't. If you skip this step, not only will you make it incredibly hard for yourself, you won't keep it off for the long term (guaranteed).
Goals and Action Plans
Now that you are aware of your values and beliefs, create a goal or set of goals (allowing for a lot of time to get there). Write an action plan down that details how you will get there and what may get in your way. Understanding and planning for barriers (and making plans to get around them) is your best chance for weight loss success.
Rally the team to support you. Get a friend to walk with or to shop with or to talk with about your challenges, goals, and successes. Social support is another very important piece of the puzzle. Get your family or workplace involved. Create a support group to help you change successfully.
In the literature, this is the number one precursor to health, weight loss, and change. Even if you may not truly have control over your schedule or life in general, if you feel you do you are going to be healthier than the person who feels they have no control over anything in their lives. If you feel you can change rather than blame others for your lack of success....you will be more successful.
You cannot lose weight (and keep it off) in a 6, 8, or 12 week program. Anyone saying you can is lying (or selling something). You want true success? Do you want to keep the weight off for the rest of your life? Do not think in terms of weeks or even months; think years. I truly believe a 12 month goal is the best goal to set. Be patient, have faith, and take it one step at a time. You will change your habits but it will also allow for "falling off the wagon" which, in my personal and professional opinion, is the MOST beneficial step to success.
Fall Off Your Wagon
All those times you have inhaled the box of Oreos with no recollection of how they go there or why you did it (not that I would know anything about that) are the most important moments in your change process. These are learning experiences; you learn from them. If you don't take the time to learn why you ate a chocolate cake from the inside out (again....not that I would know anything about that) you ate in vain. When these mishaps occur ask yourself why they happened. How were you feeling? What could you do differently next time? Once you are able to see the motives behind the binge or "slip" you can tweak or strengthen your action plan to include these times of stress, emotion, boredom, anger, or a combination of all four.
Finally, time is the biggest secret of them all. Change takes time. Time to become aware, time to plan, time to try, and time to fail. You need time to learn about why you do what you do. It has been FOUR freekin' years since I decided to dedicate myself to learning how to eat well, exercise well, and lose the 30lbs I had slowly gained over time. FOUR.....YEARS! I now eat whole foods (no processed), I got rid of refined carbohydrates (no white stuff), and have eliminated sugar (with the odd uncomfortable situation involving cake or sugared popcorn). I'm still not perfect; but really...I don't want to be. I like nachos, wine, pizza, and pear ciders on the porch. I now know that these are my deal breakers, but that took time. I now that when I"m bored or feel disregarded in some way (may through the lack of reader comments or something...just kidding...sort of) I eat emotionally. I'm still working on that, but my point is...it all took time.
We can all change, but unless we arm ourselves with the correct information, we won't make changes that last too long....the fitness and diet industries are counting on that. The secret really is all about you (you can't find it in the latest super food or fitness gimmick).