Dieting & Cramming Don’t Work

Cramming for a test may allow us to get passing grades, but how long do we really remember what we supposedly learned? On the other hand, the things we did over and over, little by little, those things we remember, even if they were complex and we had to learn them in a series of steps.

Successfully, permanently, losing weight is like that. We are better off in the long run to learn small tasks, to make simple commitments that we can keep—and then keeping them—rather than trying to make lots of major changes all for some big event. Neither cramming nor dieting serve us in the long-run.

This requires a big shift in mindset for most of us. We are used to the diet mentality of wanting to look good for a wedding, to fit into a swim suit, or to drop 100 pounds in 3 months. We think it takes a huge change in our lifestyle and that if we commit to exercising 3 hours a day, cooking from scratch and eating only vegetables and swearing off cake forever that we will, at long last (and rapidly) have our weight loss success.

Instead what happens is we become overwhelmed. Reality sets in and we find we don’t have time to exercise for 30 minutes much less 3 hours, so we don’t exercise at all. We work late or we have too many things going on so we don’t get to the store to buy our vegetables, so we stop at the fast food restaurant and have the works. Or we buy lots of vegetables that we will never eat and at the end of the week the only thing we have lost is our money as we toss out a bunch of rotten greens.

The challenge is to change our thinking from the all-or-nothing mentality. I suggest you think in 30-40 minute blocks. Not the entire month or week, or even the day. One block a day to a new “weigh” of life. 30 minutes a day is something anyone can handle.

Now divide that 30 minute block into parts, because maybe you just don’t have 30 minutes all at once, maybe half an hour seems huge to you right now. Take 10 minutes of that block and dedicate it to your mindset, to thinking loving thoughts about yourself. For many of us 10 minutes is hard at first, so start with 1 minute and work your way up.

We have got to look at this as a life change, not a temporary fix of something that is wrong. That means making changes that we incorporate into our lives forever. It also means having a realistic vision of our lives and our bodies. The truth may be that we will not be “skinny” but we sure can be healthy!

Losing weight for one big reward rarely works long term any more than cramming for that test did. We reach our goal and then, with the focus off the prize, we gradually, or suddenly, revert back to old habits. This is proven by The Biggest Loser television show. Look at how many of the contestants who were focused on winning, either the money or the title, have put weight back on. Some of them have regained all the weight they lost. During the last finale even our latest inspiration, Danny, is sporting a belly again.

Short term deadlines and goals induce diet behavior and diet mentality. No matter what we call it, anything that is merely a short term change is a diet. So we have to first recognize we are changing our lives.

Rather than waiting until graduation to celebrate let’s take this time to educate ourselves and train for the next phase of our lives. We need more than “book smarts”, we need real life experience for implementing this knowledge.

Think of this time as a college education. You are learning skills that will apply for the rest of your life. You get to try different things and find what works for you. What you want to apply to your life and what doesn’t appeal to you at all.  You even get to go on “internships” and see how it all works in real life.

Don’t be too strict with yourself, especially as you learn new skills and test things out. We’ve all had the experience of deciding we were going to be “good” and lose weight only to find ourselves eating cookies 5 hours, or 5 minutes, later. That’s not a lack of willpower or an indication that something is wrong with you. That is an indication that you are pretty darned normal!

Recognize that weight loss is not a straight line. We encounter challenges along the way. Sometimes as we learn new skills we will eat in response to these challenges. In fact, it may be that we are less aware than normal and so we continue to eat in response to challenges in which case some weight will creep on, or it may be that a major binge period comes and we pack on 10 or 20 pounds. Neither is the end of the world. Neither situation means you are a failure. You are a perfectly normal, beautiful, worthy human being.

I know how easy it is to feel disgusted with yourself for “slipping” but those feelings don’t get us back on track. They are merely old messages that helped us become overweight in the first place!

When those feelings come up, it is time to go back to the mirror and practice being loving to yourself. Love yourself, no matter where you are in your weight loss journey. We must learn to love ourselves NOW, not expect that we will suddenly love ourselves once we have reached our goal weight. Because we won’t–we will find something else to hate ourselves for, and as long as we do you will gain that weight back.

By loving yourself now you take food as a weapon away, so you no longer need to punish yourself with food.

Now that’s an accomplishment to celebrate!

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