A safe and effective weight management program is not a plan
that you go on and start over when you've been "bad." You must become flexible
enough to allow it to become a comfortable, enjoyable way of life. Then these
healthier habits will work with you and for you rather than against you.
As you experiment, you will discover what works best for you.
Diets teach us that changing our exercise and eating habits are short-term
projects rather an improved lifestyle. Headlines and advertisements everywhere
read "Lose 30 pounds in 30 days," and most people believe them. They go on
and off diets, start and stop exercise programs, and their weight--and
self-esteem--go up and down. Unfortunately, most people don't realize that
there is a real alternative to diets, so they jump back on the diet roller
coaster when their weight goes back up or a new miracle diet comes on the
In order to break free from the diet mentality, you need to view these healthier
changes you're making as part of a permanent lifestyle transformation. To
gain the lasting benefits of this program, it is important to re-orient
short-term thinking towards realistic goals.
Goal setting is a great way to stay motivated and achieve the results you
deserve. Unfortunately, many people set goals simply to look better in the
short run and not for the other many benefits a healthy lifestyle offers
us in the long run. For example, setting a short-term goal of losing 10 pounds
for a class reunion isn't helpful. Once the reunion is over, most people
will either revert to their previous habits because the special event is
over or simply quit all together because the goal they set was unrealistic.
Living a low-fat lifestyle and decreasing your body fat takes a long-term
commitment. Trying to do it all at once, however, only makes you frustrated
and discouraged. Instead, set a realistic long-term goal; then achieve it
by reaching smaller, short-term goals. For example, if your goal is to decrease
your body fat by 10 percent, shoot for modest goals, such as decreasing your
body fat by one percent each month. Decreasing body fat slowly is not only
the safest and most effective way, it is also the most realistic. Every goal,
short-term or long-term, should be one that is truly attainable.
Every goal should also be one that you are in charge of. Setting a short-term
goal where you are in charge, such as exercising four times a week, will
help you achieve your long-term goal. Remember--and remind yourself: each
time you reach a short-term goal, you are one step closer to achieving what
you really want: a healthier, more attractive body.
Focusing on how you're going to look and feel at some time in the future
prevents you from enjoying the way you look and feel today. Focusing instead
on the day-to-day process rather than the end result paradoxically brings
about a better end result. Thinking only about the future reminds you of
how far you still have to go rather than focusing on what you should do today.
If you happen to overeat, or eat a high-fat meal, or skip a workout, enjoy
it; don't worry about it ruining your program or your future. Shift instead
to living low-fat and healthy the rest of the day. By taking it one day at
a time, you can do a better job of concentrating on what's working for you
and what's not, how you're feeling and what you're thinking.
For example, perhaps you've just enjoyed a low-fat version of your favorite
pizza, using healthy cooking techniques you recently discovered. You can't
believe how great it tasted and how easy it was to prepare. Focusing on this
present moment, when you're feeling satisfied, energized, and confident,
helps you stay more balanced in your decision-making about food and exercise.
On the other hand, reflecting on this scenario from a future focus might
leave you feeling overwhelmed: "Boy, do I have a lot still to learn about
healthy cooking. I'll have to experiment with my favorite foods for the rest
of my life!"
Setting small goals and acknowledging all the small achievements on your
path are essential to successful change. Remember, successful programs are
for life--take it one day at a time. Good luck: I hope you enjoy all the
many great benefits of a succussful weight management program.