10 for 2010: Mindset for the Munch-Challenge

Weightloss is one of those things. Some fail at it — or almost succeed then fail — repeatedly until they finally Get It. The disease of morbid obesity, or even the dreaded beer-belly syndrome, is almost always as a result of one or both of two things: ignorance or lack of accounting.

Me, I was both ignorant of just how bad my diet was, and dishonest about to what extent I was misbehaving. That was then. Now I’m only ever guilty of the  lack of accounting. Ignorance isn’t such a problem anymore.

But that’s the thing with weightloss. Everyone talks like it’s only about the diet or the exercise, but, for me, the head game’s been at least 50%, maybe more, of my success.

I doubt I’m alone on that.

Once one wraps their head around the head game — whether that means learning the true calorie count behind food, really owning up to how many calories enter in a day, or just learning what the right amount of food one should eat* — the rest of it falls into place, because it’s not about willpower, it’s about simply making the correct, healthy choice. Once you know the true damage behind that apple fritter, believe me, that choice isn’t hard to make.

There’s a world of difference, though, between merely receiving a reality cheque and having the balls to cash it.

Fact is, sustained weightloss can often be managed with small changes. It need not be some radical 180-reversal overnight, and probably shouldn’t be.

All my changes over the last couple years have been small, but the compounded effect? Monster. Gradually, I made litle changes — brown rice, not white; whole wheat pasta; more beans, a veg with every meal — and now, two years later, I couldn’t stomach the food I used to eat en masse even if I tried. It’s foreign, and offensive, to me now. Although I go for phases still where I do eat badly, I almost never eat anything near as badly as I once did. It’s just that I know how bad not-good-but-not-horrible can be, when added meal upon meal upon meal.

The opposite effect, though? Little changes compounded atop little changes, over a long term, amount to massive changes overall. Believe me.

You will WOW yourself if you slowly, consistently, make little additions of good behaviour to your routine. It’s not about becoming perfect at weightloss this week — it’s about setting a positive framework to which you can continue to add and improve over the next years of your life. It’s like all true change — implemented practically and realistically, the results can be staggering. Too-much-too-soon often is done at an unrealistic pace and doesn’t often sustain. “Slow and steady” is ideal for weightloss. It’s why I can have the hard year I had and still be down 20 pounds total this year, because I didn’t set unrealistic expectations for myself — I simply changed my lifestyle and my lifestyle changed me.

I may have gained 8 of my 70 pounds lost back this winter, but that’s actually typical for me over Christmas, so I don’t even give a shit about it. That’s just my holiday thang. It’s my stuffing, I know it’s my stuffing, but that’s a price I’ll pay, ‘cos, like, it’s turkey stuffing, man. Balance, grasshopper! Choose your failings. I choose Christmas.

STILL, I know I can, and will, bring it. I know how to be successful at weightloss. I’ve proven it. I’ve sustained it through the physically hardest year of my life, a fact that still astounds me, since I was on THIS side of that.

Losing weight ain’t some fucking holy grail. The food industry wants everyone ignorant, and that’s how it’s played out, and look how fat we all got.

What is weightloss? Simply put, it’s…

  • eating slightly less than what your recommended caloric intake is (too little will fuck you up and you WILL gain weight — your body’s a machine & needs food; specific kinds at specific quantities — science).
  • exercising as often as you can (it’s actually considered more effective for weightloss if you do cardio in separate 20+ -minute chunks because it activates metabolism each time, ergo burns fat).
  • being active in little ways as often as possible (take stairs, not elevator, park further, etc) because every physical effort counts against every calorie you eat.
  • being accountable and realizing EVERY SINGLE CALORIE counts and you can’t fake your body out, this shit’s science, so if it goes in your mouth, it goes on your ass.

Most of all, though, you gotta tackle this from a place of love. You’re not losing weight because you’re a loser and no one loves you, you’re not being active because you’re a fat-ass and have no self-esteem — you’re eating well and being active because you VALUE yourself NOW. You NEED to believe that. You ARE worth the effort. You’re not a failure for doughing up — you’re a success that got interrupted. Period. Now matters, not then, not tomorrow — now.

You’re taking control. You can do it, you will do it, and you’re worth the effort and time and passion that it takes to live a healthy, managed life.

And it’s not about the number on the scale. It’s about the feeling inside. If you feel good, if you have more energy, if your mindset’s more balanced, if your stress level’s mitigated — then isn’t THAT what you want? Don’t kill yourself to be some size the magazines tell you to be. It AIN’T about that, and the struggle to be that can be more harmful to you than just living a good, balanced life.

Perfection? The “ideal” weight? For what, so you can be “wanted” and envied? Why you wanna perfect yourself for anyone who’ll only want you when you’re perfect? Who cares if they envy you, if it leaves you envying someone else for living a simpler life than you? Perfection’s an awful tough life to set oneself up for. Instead, strive for contentment, feeling good, and having energy, then focus on living life, not seeking perfection.

Me, I have my size / weight goal because I know I haven’t killed myself to lose weight yet, and I know it’s been coming off properly as I apply myself. If I’m living healthy and not losing anymore weight, then so be it. I’ll live with that, but I don’t think that’s the case. When I start behaving, my metabolism goes through the roof, so that’s an indicator to me that I’ve got the room to improve. The goals I’ve set for ME seem reasonable, weighed against the experience I’ve had so far, but I’m open to re-evaluating, and even scaling down my goals because I’ve not been under 200 pounds since I was 18 — what the hell do I know about who all this will make me? I’m winging it, but so far, where I want to go, is about 40 pounds from here.

But that’s not the standard YOU have to live by. “Healthy” means different things for us all.

Just make sure you’re being honest with yourself when deciding what “healthy” means for you. Don’t take the easy road out because you don’t think you can handle it.

If a person who was as fucked up and depressed as I was when I started my path to wellness could manage to take 70 pounds off over 2 years, even with a year of that spent rehabbing a blown back, and still find it in me to enjoy wine, cheese, and red meats… well, you probably can too. Losing weight isn’t a death sentence to deny yourself — it’s a life-sentence of balance and awareness, and that means enjoying the things you love, too. Maybe just a little less of it, is all.

Again: Here’s to us all kicking ass in 2010.

Citius, altius, fortius, baby.

*Because a lot of overweight people try to lose weight but eat too little, which triggers the opposite effect and they gain weight — education is CRUCIAL to weightloss, and to assume you know ANYTHING is arrogant; go in open-minded and learn everything you can. Science is always bringing new information to light.