There are many phases to the weight loss process – getting ready to start, the first few days and weeks, maintenance.
In between that starting time (when you’re really motivated) and the end (where you need to face adjusting your life to maintain your weight loss) is the long-term ‘weight loss mode’. How long you’ll be in the middle depends on how much you have to lose & how fast you lose it.
Whether your passage through “Weight Loss Mode” is long or short, you need to successfully settle in to have success.
There are a few tips for successful settling in
You can still have goals and timelines, but if you know you’re on this path for several months, it’s easier to just accept it. Your acceptance might be “forever” or it might be more like mine (I made a 3 year commitment in August). If you know it’s a long-term deal than small steps off the path need to be planned for as a normal part of the process.
There are literally thousands of diet and exercise plans out there. Pretty much any one of them will work if you actually follow it. The rub is, will you actually follow it? For me, the answer to that depends on how good a fit that plan is between it’s requirements and my actual “settled in” life. The first few weeks of a diet with the scale dropping quickly I can make myself do a lot of things – but the question of whether I’ll stick with it depends in part on how practical it is for my life at the moment.
You need a plan that matches your real life requirements – and the reality of your life Right Now. Many of us envision a future life where we’re magically more organized, have more time, money, energy etc. If your life does change in those directions, you can change plans and “settle in” to another plan – right now the plan that will work is the one that fits with your current reality.
A few questions to ask about how well a plan will work for you right now :
Is it practical? I’ve seen people be successful eating strange things, pre-prepared meals, shakes and potions. I have a job where I travel a lot and have a relatively unpredictable schedule about half the time. That immediately rules out a lot of the options on a “practical” basis.
Can you manage the requirements? If you hate cooking, having to eat complex made-at-home meals might not be a good fit. Starting a fixed, 90-day exercise programs that require 5-7 days of hour long exercise a week when your mom is facing chemotherapy might not work in real life. If you live far from stores and don’t have good transportation, plans needing lots of fresh fruits and veggies could be a problem.
Will you enjoy managing it? One of the secrets of my “low stress weight loss” success in the past years has been learning to like to cook. There’s a carefully-placed word in there — learning to LIKE to cook. If you don’t like to cook, that will create some limits on the diets you’ll be happy with. Another thing that’s helped me “settle in” to weight loss mode is a favorite Sunday ritual of going to the fresh outdoor market, stocking up & spending an hour prepping vegetables. It’s one of my favorite routines, and helps me enjoy managing the process of eating healthy (I end the routine with the fridge cleaned out & stocked with washed & cut up veggies, a veggie dip, and usually a good start on the meals for the week). Without a that kind of a routine that I really enjoy, I’d have a hard time having a mainly whole-foods, from-scratch diet and working full time.
The bottom line is that the more areas of time, cost, complexity and other tasks that are out of sync with things you enjoy, the harder it’s going to be to get & stay “settled in” to weight loss mode. Picking a program closer to your core values can make you saner and more successful.
if you can find foods on the “eat this” list that you really enjoy, the long term success factor shoots way up
[pullquote][/pullquote] The nature of weight loss requires taking in fewer calories than your body needs to maintain it’s weight, and the math of taking in less is pretty unforgiving. There are lots of ways to get to the “less” however, and we’ll all have different preferences in what to give up – and what replaces it. If you desperately miss the foods that are restricted and don’t like the foods that you’re asked to eat more of, the likelihood of being comfortably settled in to weight loss mode is pretty low. On the other hand, if you can find foods on the “eat this” list that you really enjoy, the long term success factor shoots way up.
A few examples :
Vegetables : I am someone who really enjoys vegetables – a big plate of spinach is heaven to me, so I’m pretty lucky because most diets will have you eating more veggies and less cake. And as it turns out, cake is something I can pass up without much sacrifice. Nearly limitless vegetables is a staple of my “settled in” weight loss life – and one that makes me very happy. Veggies not your thing? Concentrate on the parts of your diet that ARE favorites (soup, oatmeal, etc).
Ice cream : I love ice cream. I never ever buy it for home, because if its in the house, I’ll eat it (all). The idea of being without ice cream could be really hard if I didn’t have good substitutes for the ice cream desires. If I want creamy, I have yogurt (usually Greek yogurt). If I want fruity, I have fruit itself, or a homemade whirred up smoothie that I put in the freezer. I like my replacements so much that I don’t miss the ice cream. No feeling of deprivation of that it’s “second best”. Now, I don’t think of these things as “substitutes” because ice cream is ice cream, like pizza is pizza.
I’ve been largely living in “Settled In” mode for most of the past 2 years. I’ve had forays out, I’ve had a 15 pound regain this Spring, I had a small vacation gain. But each time I follow a slip (small or big) by either a return to “starting over” land or back to my long-term, settled-in ways.
The settled-in feeling was back full force last week – despite some struggles with a few goals, despite adjusting to a “new normal” — the long-term acceptance of “settled in” mode is a great feeling.