In five weeks, I've lost 33 pounds. I have 108 days left of my 143-day plan, so I'm not even quite one-quarter of the way through. And yet I don't worry about "cheating" or breaking my diet at all.
One of the biggest challenges facing most people who need to lose weight is perseverance. Like people trying to quit smoking, it's easy for us to start exercising or cut back on certain foods; we've done it many times! Sometimes for a day, sometimes for a week, and sometimes just until we realize that there's one more Little Debbie snack in the pantry. Honestly, if we were people with plentiful self-control, we probably wouldn't be fat.
One popular myth is that it takes an event to trigger dedication. The stories begin with "One day I realized I had to do something..." and "That day I vowed that never again would I be embarrassed like that again..." My story isn't like that. In fact, I had one of those days, but it didn't help. I was embarrassed, and I realized I had to do something. I didn't eat for the rest of the day — and then the next day I went out to an all-you-can-eat buffet. Then, of course, I was so depressed that I figured I would just always be fat, and gained another 20 pounds pretty quickly. While some people may be inspired to dedication and focus by a momentous event, it is the dedication and focus that is key, not the event.
When I decided to get in shape, I gave myself a week. I needed that week to focus. I didn't spend the week eating and drinking everything I would miss, at least not much, but getting my thoughts in order. I had to choose what to value, and decide whether this was worth it. What motivated me and helped me may not motivate or help you, but if you've been looking for a bolt of lightning from the sky, consider these thoughts instead.
Nothing tastes as good as being thin will feel. I love food in a profound way. I love how food tastes, the way it feels in my mouth, and how full I feel after eating a lot of it. I could never understand people who turn down food, or leave food on plates, or skip dessert. I reasoned that they must just be put together differently than I am — and that may be true. Nevertheless, my love for food is a self-destructive passion, like a drug or alcohol addiction. How good it makes me feel is irrelevant, I must learn to control it. I must learn to think long-term rather than short-term when it comes to food. The key for me during these 20 weeks is to think not just about the benefits of food, which are immediate and obvious, but the drawbacks, which are longer-term and more subtle. The Butterscotch Zingers taste wonderful, but not being able to snuggle with my son because I'm too fat is disastrous. Which is worth more? That third helping will seem like the best thing ever, but if I develop diabetes or die of heart failure from being overweight, what are my wife and kids going to do without me? Which is worth more? I spent the week leading up to the start of my change in diet reminding myself every time I saw something tempting that nothing tastes as good as being then will feel. There will be time later for reasonable portions of chocolate, or beer, or whatever.