I went on my first diet at the age of 10 and have pretty much tried everything over the ensuing three decades with varying degrees of success, some several times over. From the commercial (Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Gloria Marshall, Sureslim) to the faddish (grapefruit, Israeli army), to the celebrity-endorsed (Dukan, Atkins, Pritikin, Miami Beach), to the downright stupid and dangerous (rapid loss, celebrity slim, fatblaster).
A couple of years ago I decided to go back to a diet that had proven to be common-sense and sustainable and rejoined Weight Watchers. I reached the point where this was the last time I would ever lose weight so it had to be something sustainable. Unfortunately I hit way too many plateaus (I'll write about that in another post) and kept searching until I found Michelle Bridges 12 Week Body Transformation (12WBT). And it worked. It really, really worked and continues to.
When I joined 12WBT, I did all the pre-season tasks Michelle asked of us very diligently. But there was something Michelle didn't ask us to do that I had to; and that was to ask myself, "if this is the last diet I ever do, what's going to be different from any other diet I've ever done?"
It's that old chestnut, 'if you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got'. And I had no more weight loss failures left in me. So here's what I said would change;
1. I cannot pull weight loss rabbits out of hats. Be consistent.
Weight loss is something you have to work at every day, every meal, every exercise. In the past, there were times when I'd have 5 days of 'sort of' following a diet and then be good for the 48 hours prior to a weekly weigh in, hoping I could pull off a 1kg loss. Pulling an all-nighter to swot for an English exam is one thing, but guess what? Your body doesn't swot. It responds to consistency in effort, time, attention, and being treated with respect. So this time I would be consistent.
2. Intelligence and creativity aren't pre-requisites for losing weight, in fact sometimes its a hindrance. Get on with it.
Losing weight requires action. Not excuses, not bargaining, not arguing. Action. Having a few brain cells can get you researching answers in order to blame your weight on the latest scientific findings or using creative excuses for your behaviour. The most successful people to lose weight get on with just doing it. So I promised I would stop second guessing, thinking I knew better, or trying to outsmart an expert that has successfully helped people lose weight over a long period of time. I decided to get on with it, do what works with good grace and enthusiasm, and don't argue or make excuses.
3. You can wish too hard for something. Be realistic.
Every diet I've been on I was so focussed on losing a massive number of kilos by a certain date and piling on the pressure to hit a number that I barely lost weight. I was so focussed on the number when I should have been focussed on what I had to do to reach it. All that wishing never worked. In fact, when I went overboard exercising or eating fewer calories or stressing about a big weight loss number I'd either stay the same weight or lose a small amount. The weeks where I just relaxed, did what I had to do and focussed on other things were the weeks where I dropped weight. This time I decided to set realistic goals, make a plan for reaching it, not compare myself with others and then get on with the work and the results will take care of themselves.
4. Your body reacts to the 'bad fairy/negative' voice in your head. Be positive.
My self-esteem and worth has taken a battering over the years. And the voice of 'absolutes' has sometimes taken over with self-limiting beliefs like "I'll never be thin, I'll never lose weight, I'll never be loved, I'll never look good, etc." When I say negative things to myself, I generally don't succeed or lose weight. But when the good fairy says "you can do this, you're making progress, this is fun, yay, you are worth it" my body says "hell yeah!" and reponds positively. Being positive makes such a difference and it was how I was going to and still do approach 12WBT.
5. You can only tread on someone's toes if they are standing still. Be tough, get moving.
I've experienced the best and very worst of how people behave towards people who, like me, have had a lifetime weight problem. There have been times when my soul and physical self have been literally wounded by how other's have treated me. Life is not fair. It never will be. Some battles you have to fight and others you have to walk away from. In the past I would have let comments and behaviour by others paralyse me in reaching my goals or give me a reason to procrastinate or quit. Not this time. I've learnt that losing weight requires action and if people want to ridicule me, I'll either ignore them or put them straight but they don't step on my toes and hurt me because I'm not stuck standing still. I am moving towards my goals.
6. If you plan on failing, don't tell anyone what you're up to. Success requires honesty and committment.
Most diets I've been on, I've tried to keep hidden from others. Sometimes with good reason (think of the naysayers, the diet saboteurs, and the so-called experts) but mostly because if I didn't stick with it or failed, I didn't have to cop a backlash. In other words I had all the authority and responsibility for my actions but no accountability - to myself or anyone.
This time I decided to tell the world I was doing 12WBT because even though I knew I would trip up sometimes, I was committed to succeeding. I therefore had nothing to hide and I knew the person I was most accountable to was myself. And Michelle Bridges. In fact, the first person I gave my word to was Michelle.
I looked her in the eye on the video where she asked me to commit and I said, with tears streaming down my face, "If you stick by me Michelle, I'll stick by you. I promise I will give you 110% if you promise not to abandon me and help me find a way to conquer my weight. Because I need your help. I cannot do it alone. This is me with nothing left inside and I have no more weight loss failures left in me. If you shake my hand, I give you my word." And so we did. It still amazes me that she would believe in me when I had lost belief in myself and failed so many times. But together we have got me weighing 30.6kg less than I used to. Yay to that. It still makes me cry.
7. Success comes from a place of love. Be kind to yourself.
At my heaviest weight I was never in denial. I knew how much I weighed. I knew I didn't look like the average person or that my size was acceptable to me or society. I simply chose not to look at myself. I could look in a mirror and see my eyes, or hands, or cleavage but I never looked at all of me. It was too painful. And I hated, really really hated myself and my body. In the past, I tried to lose weight from a starting point of hate, despair and desperation. It drained me of so much energy feeling that way - to the point I was constantly exhausted. I decided enough was enough. My body was actually pretty amazing to have got me asn far as life as it had even though I had treated it like garbage and with more contempt than my worst enemy.
My body, I decided, is a part of me that deserves to be treated with respect. That same way Buddhists treat a zen temple. It deserved good, nutritious, nourishing food and the kind of exercise that makes it work at optimal level. It was time I treated my body like my best friend; with love, care, maintenance, respect, grace, and joy. And it was time to re-integrate myself with my body and not see it as something hated and separate from the rest of me.
And guess what? When you come from a place of love, the universe aligns with you to help you reach your goals.