I’ve come to appreciate that the weight-loss I want to achieve must be a by-product of whole-life lifestyle change. It’s not a project which has an end date, after which normal service (peanut butter on toast for breakfast, crisps and chocolate bars for dinner etc) can be resumed. I know that sounds obvious, but for lifetime overweighters like me, this change cannot be about being on a diet. This suggests that one day, one is no longer on a diet.
Whether we like it or not, our new healthy eating habits cannot be a temporary regime. They must become our permanent lifestyle – they must be what we do all the time, how we cook all the time, how we shop all the time, what we eat all the time, what we decline all the time.
So this time, rather than following rules, counting points and being on a diet, I’ve focused on layering on the healthy habits; nailing one habit, then adding another, and another, and another, and keeping at them until they become my normal, default position. For me, it’s not been an all-or-nothing game (which approach dieters are inclined to take, making massive changes all at once, often with disappointing outcomes). It’s been a measured, one-step-at-a-time approach.
It’s said, variously, that it takes 28, 60 or 90 days to embed a new habit. I don’t know which number is the right one but I do know that those good behaviours that at first require extraordinary reserves of self-control and self-discipline, do eventually seep into your psyche and attain the status of ‘habit’.
Like the 3-mile turning circle of an ocean-going liner, I’ve taken my time, but now I’m most assuredly going in the direction I want, with a host of healthy new habits on-board.
These are some of the habits to which I’ve laid claim over the last six months. They doubtless sound perfectly mundane to people of normal weight, but for me, each one has begun with a conscious effort, self-discipline and a determination to succeed, before it has become part of my new healthier lifestyle:
- Cutting down and then eliminating added/refined sugar from my diet – this is The Big One, and I confess, I’m very, very proud of myself that I seem to have mastered this
- Restricting my intake of pasta, bread, potatoes and white rice to very small portions and very rare occasions – after sugar, this is about restricting my intake of simple carbohydrates to a very minimal level. We can all live without so much of this pappy, bloaty dietary filler
- Eating more, and a greater variety of vegetables
- Incorporating nuts and seeds into meals
- Cutting out processed poke-and-ping ready-meals
- Taking the time to cook meals from scratch
- Making healthy rather than indulgent choices in restaurants
- Going for a walk outdoors at least 5 days a week
- Taking every practical opportunity to walk rather than use the car.
Things I’m working on right now include:
- Eating less cured meat and less cheese – my outstanding foodie weaknesses!
- Standing up at my desk for periods of the day – following last week’s precarious tower of oddments, I’ve purchased a cunning device which raises my keyboard to precisely the right height whilst also folding up to nothing when not required.
Payoffs from my new habits have been immense. Quite apart from the 47 pound lost (so far), my resting heart rate has dropped by over 10bpm and my tolerance for exercise has risen; I no longer suffer from water retention due to sluggish circulation; I’m more alert and never bloated; night-time bouts of acid reflux are history; my posture is better, I’m standing taller, walking straighter and am properly aligned from foot to knee to hip, so all sorts of niggling aches and pains have gone. I’ve dropped 3 dress sizes and I can wear killer heels again without my feet imploding. I don’t know about the state of my insides yet as I haven’t been to the GP for blood tests and all that stuff. I’m saving that one as a special treat for when I clear 50 pounds.
It’s hard, when you begin to make long overdue changes with a view to getting healthier, especially if this involves trying to lose weight. Everything seems so far off, and the challenges seem so towering. The most helpful approach for me has been to not try and do it all at once, but to nail one or two habits at a time, gaining strength from small successes, which then power the next round of changes, where still more effort and determination is required.
It won’t be for everyone, but it’s working for me.