Successful long-term weight management is not only based on dieting and exercise but on many other changes in one’s lifestyle as well. One of the main reasons dieting resolutions often fail is that only peripheral measures are taken, such as ignoring hunger or resisting certain cravings. Sooner rather than later, the resistance breaks down and old habits come back with a vengeance. What is needed is a strategy!
Short-Term Measures May Bring Quick Results
But Lasting Changes Require a Good Strategy
We are all creatures of habit. Most things we do are part of a daily routine that hardly ever gets questioned. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, in-between snacks, hours of sitting in the car, in the office, at home, everything happens almost on autopilot.
Making any meaningful lifestyle changes should begin with a thorough analysis of a typical day. Since all behavior has been acquired at one time or another, there is no reason to believe that even old habits can’t be undone.
Change is possible – but how?
All change is largely dependent on our willingness to question the validity of the status quo. Do you expect that your life can be better in the future than it is now? Do you think there’s progress in your life? Do your inner convictions support your goals and aspirations? Do they motivate and inspire you to take the right action? Do they leave you feeling happy and content with the way your life is unfolding?
Or, do you have a sense of frustration, inadequacy and disorientation? Do most of your dreams and wishes lack realization and fulfillment? Have you resigned yourself to the idea that your best days are behind you?
Chances are that the negligence of your physical well-being comes from your dissatisfaction with other unresolved issues. Your unhealthy eating habits, your alcohol consumption, your tobacco- or drug use may all be part of a much bigger picture, namely how you feel in general about yourself and the circumstances of your life.
Let’s start with your eating habits. Observe carefully not only what and how much you eat, but also how you feel about eating, why you eat and the ways in which you eat. Perhaps you have never examined what role food plays in your life. It may have a lot to do with your personality. Compare your own eating habits to those of others around you, like family members, friends, colleagues. In all likelihood, they behave similarly to you – or rather you to them. If you plan on making changes in your lifestyle, be aware that you don’t live in a vacuum. You may encounter lack of understanding, resentment and resistance, even where you expected it the least.
Make a commitment to yourself
I hear it from my clients all the time: “I’m trying to lose weight, eat better, do all the right things, but I don’t know whether I can put my family through this.” Making changes in your lifestyle can be perceived by others as a selfish act. However, when it comes to your health and well-being, a little selfishness once in a while may be necessary. Your commitment must be focused on your own needs first or it will not last long. It is important to communicate this calmly and clearly to your loved ones, so they can understand the meaning of your actions and eventually support them.
Naturally, keeping that commitment requires stamina and discipline. Remind yourself often of what you want. Write down your goals and repeat them like a daily mantra, if that’s what it takes to keep you on track. You will soon realize that your efforts are not just about eating less or healthier, but that a comprehensive plan for improvement in all aspects of life has to be put in place. For example, once you experience a certain degree of success with weight management, you may find it easier to cope with other problems as well, such as sleeping better, having more energy for fun activities, etc. A renewed sense of empowerment can bring you back on the path you thought was no longer there.
Come to a better understanding of your actions
You may also find it easier over time to understand the motives of your actions. Perhaps it never occurred to you before that your lifestyle habits have not all randomly developed without rhyme or reason. Learning more about your “natural tendencies” may provide you with some useful insights.
For example, an analysis of your eating habits may include a list of questions you can answer for yourself: When do I eat? How do I eat? Why do I eat?
Call them “eating cues.” Do you eat when you are upset, under stress, lonely or bored? Do you eat although you are not hungry or keep eating when you are already full?
You may also consider the eating styles you have adopted over time. Do you eat quickly or absentmindedly? Do you have a mealtime schedule or do you snack whenever food is available?
Most importantly, be honest with yourself. You don’t have to share your analysis with anybody else. As a matter of fact, it is advisable that you don’t “inform the world” prematurely about your intentions to change.
Also keep in mind that no strategy can be applied forever. As situations and circumstances change, so must our ways to deal with them. Be flexible and revise your approach as often and as much as necessary. But make sure it is always you who is in charge of your actions.