Lose Weight Smarter, Not Harder: Part 1, Behavior Change

The best thing about Monday’s is that it’s one big day of do-overs.   Ate too much over the weekend?  Come Monday, it’s a do-over.  Drank a little too much?  No worries, Monday remembers nothing.

Today is one big do over for me, because I just learned that in 4 weeks I’ll be facing my husband’s family for a week-long-bathing-suit wearing beach family reunion.  You may be thinking, “what’s the big deal, they’re all older too”?  The big deal is that my husband’s family are  South American.  South American women are the ninjas of global beauty and know how to take care of business.  Looking good and seeing if you look good too is part of their culture.  Not in a nasty way, it’s just what they do.

Family

There isn’t a Miracle Suit on this planet that will get me out of this, so I have to hunker down and get into shape if I don’t want to feel self-conscious about my tapioca thighs.   

My beach option

The good thing is there is nothing like a little competition to kick-start “Me 2.o” (rather “Me 10.o”).   Having dealt with my weight my whole life (including a stint as an actress), I have a suite of tools for getting into shape fast without losing my mind.  I also know what derails me — weekends, wine and winding down.  I just love good food and socializing, so I’ll eat a little too much, a little too often.  This is important so I can prepare in advance.

The most enlightening experience I had about weight though, came thru a consulting gig I had a few years ago with a pharmaceutical company that was launching a prescription weight loss drug.  Having access to world-class weight loss experts and psychologists was an education in itself.  What I learned from them was that the biggest barrier to sustained weight loss is long-term behavior change coupled with the fact that we live in an “obesogenic” society.  This is referring to the giant portion sizes, the lack of everyday exercise options (such as walking to work), dependence on fast food, processed food and the over use of  high fructose corn syrup.   And because so many Americans having gotten increasingly heavy, we’re visually getting accustomed to obesity as the new normal.

American Diet

As the first in a series of how to get in shape once and for all, here we tackle behavior change for lasting weight loss and make a plan to get there:

1. MOTIVATION AND MINDSET ARE THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT ASPECT TO LOSING WEIGHT

But where do you find motivation when you don’t have a major life event around the corner?  Enter “The Beck Diet Solution”.  It’s based on cognitive behavior therapy and the easiest roadmap for retraining yourself to think about your body and what you put in it.  I can’t recommend the workbook enough, but here are the Cliff Notes I use from the program.

  • Create an “Advantages Response” card which captures all the long-term reasons you want to lose weight.  Read this every morning, before every meal or when you’re tempted.  I keep mine in my Evernote app on my iPhone and as index cards at my office, purse and kitchen.  Mine looks like this:
    • Losing 10 lbs is the single most important thing I can do to look younger, especially because my fat is hanging out around my middle and lower face.
    • Weighing less than 120 lbs moves me from a 6 to an 8 on the 1-10 scale of hotness.
    • Mojo!  Being at my fighting weight removes one layer of  insecurity that can hold me back and make me feel withdrawn with others.
    • Being at the low-end of my BMI reduces my breast cancer recurrence risk.
  • Create a Barrier Buster card for every time a craving strikes.  It’s a reminder that the act of eating is tied to a lot of other things other than food.  Here are few that keep my on the straight and narrow:
    • If you’re not physically hungry, you’re eating to comfort or entertain yourself.
    • The pleasure of eating only lasts a few fleeting moments.
    • Hunger is not an emergency – it will pass.
    • Only two bites of any sweet is all that’s needed to satisfy sweet craving.

2.  WRITE DOWN EVERYTHING YOU EAT, EVERY DAY.

It is an undisputable fact that by writing down every morsel you put in your mouth you will lose weight and keep it off because it retrains your brain to be mindful.  The trick however, is to be brutally honest with yourself and count everything, including those little “licks, bites and tastes” you think don’t matter.  So get out the food scale and measuring cups so you can be sure you didn’t accidentally just eat 3 cups of oatmeal and call it a serving.  My favorite it Weight Watchers e-tools because I can track exercise and good food choices.

3.  GET A DIET COACH AND WEIGH IN EVERY WEEK.

I use Weight Watchers, both online and offline.  While you can just use WW online, I have to say there is some magic in those meetings even though I dread them.   What I do know works is the accountability of having an objective person weigh me each week and the motivation that comes with seeing the scale go down.  Whatever you do, don’t skip a weigh in.  I guarantee you that even if you aren’t happy with the number on the scale, you’ll be thinner the following week than if you didn’t weigh in.  And remember, it’s just a number that exists whether you know about it or not.

4. SET REALISTIC GOALS AND STICK TO IT 

My goal is to get from the above weight down to 118 by August 3rd.   This should be completely do-able and is a little over 1 1/2 lbs a week.   I didn’t make it more aggressive because I have some parties coming up I want to enjoy, so it’s a compromise but one I can live with.

5. MAKE A PLAN FOR GETTING THERE

Here’s my plan for making this a reality:

  • Review my motivation cards every morning and before every meal.
  • Track EVERYTHING, everyday, all the time, no matter how bad it is and over-estimate
  • Attend WW once a week, no matter how bad the weigh in will be.
  • Live clean during the week, with a controlled indulgence on Saturday’s.
  • Exercise: cardio 4xs, strength training 2x, walk to work and back every day (more to come on this)

Later this week, I’ll share my favorite nutrition tips and top beauty goods.

What are your favorite strategies for knocking off a few pounds?

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