Last week I explored where our willpower comes from and the childhood influences that impact our abiity to lose weight.
You can find that chapter and all the previous ones in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/size-matters-the-sequel/
Before you Get Started – Managing People, Environment and your expectations
I have learned a lot about myself over the last twenty-four years and hope that by sharing some of my experiences in this series, you will be able to bypass some of my early struggles in your efforts to lose weight.
Know who you are
We may think we know who we are, but I remember just how confused I was when I started out on this process. Over the years I had become many things to many people and behaved differently, or was expected to behave differently, with each and every one of them.
I was a daughter, sister, friend, lover, wife, employee, employer, niece, cousin and counsellor, and this is the same for everybody; it is a bit like having a multiple personality disorder. I was constantly trying to please everybody else but myself, always striving to fulfil their idea of who I should be.
Be prepared for some surprising reactions from the people around you when you start on your program. You are going to be making some major changes to your appearance, and some people will find that threatening. Changing from a plump, motherly, comfortable, predictable sort of person to a slim, sexy, confident and slightly surprising ‘new you’ can make the people you love uncomfortable. Most people are wary of change and, if their perception of your role in their life does not fit with your new image, a certain amount of emotional upheaval may ensue.
The last thing you want at this point is to feel tempted to hit the comfort food. So, as soon as you hear things like ‘Don’t lose too much weight; you will look gaunt’ or ‘You are beginning to look ill’ or ‘I liked you the way you were’, you will need to sit down and discuss your reasons for losing weight.
Husbands, especially, can feel a bit threatened if their wife and the mother of their children goes from being their ideal picture of how a mother should look to a slim and perhaps sexier looking woman, who is now getting compliments, particular from the opposite sex. Some men are delighted to have back the woman they married, but others may need some extra attention and reassurance that the changes you are making will benefit both of you.
Mothers can always be relied on to pass comment on any changes you make to your weight, up or down. You are her baby at any age and she will interfere whether you want it or not. Mothers will spend all their time telling you to lose weight and then when you do, they will tell you to eat properly, don’t starve yourself and have another cake. ‘One more won’t do you any harm’. They are natural worriers, so just accept that and try to work with it. Involve them wherever possible, and, who knows, you may just change some of their habits of a lifetime.
At this time you will also discover who your real friends are. There are those who loved to stand next to you when you were fat because you made them feel good about themselves. Start looking better than they do and suddenly they will be telling you that weight loss does not suit you, and your face looked much better with a little more padding. However, your true friends will be delighted for you. Do not pay any attention to those people who want to deflect you from your goal. Respect their feelings and involve them if possible, but do not let them make you go back to a place you hated.
Inside of all of us is a child who is still afraid of the unknown, but the unknown can also be exciting, an adventure of discovery, and, with this program, the only thing you are going to lose is weight. If you manage the changes within yourself and in the people around you, it will be immensely rewarding.
Being true to yourself is your greatest strength and you are going to need that to see you through the next few months.
The art to exercising your willpower
In the last chapter I explored how our willpower develops over the years and now you will need to exercise your willpower to the best of your ability, but avoid temptation like the plague in the first few weeks of the program. Do not have open boxes of chocolates within reach. Tell friends and loved ones that the only acceptable gifts are non-edible ones. However, do not stay at home and cut yourself off from everyone and everything. You will have to learn to live with this program for the rest of your life, and it important that you still have some pleasure and do not end up feeling deprived.
Tough as it may be, there are times when you have to remember that you are an adult with a serious health issue, and you are not two years old and zero decision making skills!
Learn how to go out for dinner or to a party. Learn to say NO THANKYOU graciously, so that you do not give offence (‘That was delicious but I really don’t have room for a second portion’). You can start making choices about what you put into your own mouth. Do not be afraid of offending chefs; after all, you are the customer.
It does not matter if people know you are on a diet. If necessary, tell them you are on a healthy eating program, not a diet, which is quite true. However, if people see that you are overweight and making an effort to lose the extra pounds, they will most likely respect you. Most people admire willpower. So enjoy yourself, and you will soon discover that you can have just as much fun eating healthily as unhealthily, and the bonus is that you will not feel guilty. Guilt was always a bitter sauce for me whenever I went out for a meal, but I do not have to feel like that any longer. So practice, practice, practice your willpower.
On a bad day
I would be lying if I said that losing weight is going to be all plain sailing, with no hurdles and no pain. You will have bad days. Sometimes you will have worked very hard and not lost a single pound in the week. This does happen; your body is not a machine and is subject to hormonal changes, water retention and various other internal and external stimuli. There will be times when you body will pause and take stock of the changes to your body, but if you eat sufficiently nutritional dense foods consistently and adequate foods, it will pick up the pace again.
Re-read your list of reasons for losing weight in the first place. Get together with a friend who understands. I often give myself a good talking to, treating myself as if I was a client who is going through a difficult phase. Rest assured; you will come out the other side. You will continue to lose weight and you will not slip back into your old habits.
Keeping motivated as the weight comes off
There have been times when I thought I had done enough. When I had lost 56 lbs. (4 st, 25 kg), my nosebleeds stopped and my blood pressure was down, as was my cholesterol. I was walking an hour a day and, although I was still a size 26, I felt and looked a great deal better. This was a dangerous time because it was easy to convince myself that I had worked hard and that it would be unrealistic to expect to continue losing weight.
Clearly it would not have taken much to push me back into my old eating habits. However, I was still 98 lbs. (7 st, 45 kg) overweight and I had made a commitment to myself that I would see this thing through. I still could not do half the things on my wish list and I was not as healthy as I wanted to be.
Every time you reach one of your goals, you must re-focus. Be proud of what you have achieved. Reward yourself as promised; then look towards the next goal. Try not to be too ambitious. I used to focus on 10 lbs. (4.5 kg) at a time, now it is 3 lbs. (1.5 kg) at a time.
It can be very hard to get back into the program after a night out, or a good holiday, or Christmas. This is the time to sit down and look at what you were, what you are now and what you are going to be in the near future. Do not throw it all away for the sake of that chocolate bar.
Visualising and our Language
When I am out walking, I often spend time thinking about the new me. This is not selfish or obsessional; it makes perfect sense. When our body is undergoing major changes, we need to prepare for each one before it happens. Not only did I visualise myself at my target weight, but I also thought about how I would look and feel along the way.
Our personal language can be very important. Instead of the word ‘if’, I would use ‘when’. For example: When I have lost another 10 lbs. (4.5 kg), I will be a size 20 and I will be able to travel on a cheap airline with small seats. Some ambition!
However, this strategy enabled me to break down the overall target into manageable pieces, giving me the opportunity to imagine my body changing over a period of time. I got used to this image and I liked it.
Having said that, I was morbidly obese for such a long time, that I still sometimes experience a shock when I see myself reflected in a shop window, or when I try on a new item of clothing and it fits. Because you look at yourself every day in the mirror, you do not always see the dramatic transformation that would be very obvious to someone who sees you infrequently. I still get a kick out of people’s reactions when they meet me for the first time in years. There is nothing quite like being ignored because someone doesn’t recognise you!
It is always useful to have an important event as a target. This is not to say that I believe you should go on the program just to lose some weight before a wedding. However, I remember knowing that I was going to be at an industry dinner one year, where I had not seen anyone from my former workplace for over twelve months. I had lost about 84 lbs. (6 st, 38 kg). When I walked into the room, I felt a million dollars, and the compliments I received all evening more than compensated for the hard work I had put in. Do not deny yourself a little grandstanding from time to time. Your morale and self-esteem can use the boost and it will help you reach your next target. Be careful not to get carried away by all the compliments and think the job is finished if you know you still have some way to go.
How long will it take?
You may have a long job ahead. It is not just going to happen overnight. However, trust that the project will be completed according to schedule and celebrate each measuring point as you reach it. The goal is a healthy, slimmer individual who will have succeeded at one of the most difficult tasks we can undertake. Losing weight and then keeping it off is an amazing achievement and one to be proud of. I hope that this program will guide and support you through the process, because the rewards are so worthwhile.
Remember, it has taken you a lifetime to get to where you are now, so it is surely not asking too much to spend a few months, or even a year or two, putting things right. I can promise you that although there will be difficult times ahead, the excitement, rewards and satisfaction you will feel along the way will be incentive enough.
Losing weight in the first few weeks will be faster as you lose fluid as well as some fat, but then it will settle down to 2lbs to 3lbs a week. Whilst that may seem very slow, it gives you body time to adjust, you won’t be eating your own muscle and you are less likely to suffer from excessive lose skin. I will cover that in more detail later in the series.
Remember that 2lbs a week is 104lbs (7.5 stone or 50.6kilos) That is a very reasonable amount to lose.
Enjoying the party
One of the most embarrassing questions you will be asked as you lose weight will be ‘Are you on a diet?’ You may feel that whenever you decline food or drink, your hosts and the other guests want to talk about it. My response always used to be to joke about it. Now I tell the simple truth and say that I am following a healthier lifestyle. Unless asked specifically, I do not discuss weight loss. I do, however, talk about my new healthy eating lifestyle, and how much fun I am having.
There are a couple of tips to help you relax and enjoy yourself, while also deterring people from commenting on your eating and drinking habits. At the beginning of a party when food is laid out, get yourself a large plate and put one of everything on the plate. Take it away, nibble from the plate during the evening and make sure you do not go back to the table. If you do not do this, you can lose count of what you have eaten (was that two or three sausage rolls?). This way you get to have a little of everything, people will not comment on your ‘diet’ and you will not be tempted to overdo it. As for alcohol, alternate your wine with a soft drink. Or offer to drive.
Whatever you do, enjoy yourself. Life is too short to miss out on meeting exciting people and trying your new social skills.
Losing weight is not a sprint, it is a marathon and your mental and emotional attitude towards the project is a key factor in your successful weight loss.
Over the last few weeks I have looked at the factors that have led to you being overweight. It might be 10lbs or 100lbs but whatever the amount, it did not magically appear. There might be emotional, physical and mental issues that needed to be addressed such as low self-esteem, yo-yo dieting in the past or illnesses that impacted your body’s ability to maintain a healthy weight. I have also looked at foods from our body’s perspective. What it needs to be fit and healthy. Ways to identify what emotional factor has made eating certain foods so important to you.
Now is the time to put all of that preparation into practice.Over the next couple of weeks I will be introducing you to more strategies and to the tools that will enable you to manage this extremely important project. There will be high points and days when you wonder why you bothered but overall as with any marathon if you keep walking and running, you will reach the finish line.
With any project there needs to be a clear timeline with specific goals that need to be achieved. This will not be accomplished if you are half-hearted about the need to get to the finish line. There is no need to be obsessive but being organised will help.
©sally cronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2019
A little bit about me nutritionally.
I am a qualified nutritional therapist with over twenty years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.
If you would like to browse by health books and fiction you can find them here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2018/
Thanks for dropping in today and if you have any questions please use the comments or if your prefer you are more than welcome to email me on Sally.firstname.lastname@example.org
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You can find the previous posts in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/size-matters-the-sequel/