Losing weight is easy, or so they say: eat less rubbish, drink less alcohol, exercise more and the pounds will drop off steadily and consistently. That’s how the formula goes, right? Simple.
But woooah, hold on there, not so fast. If there’s one piece of advice, and only one that I could impart on anyone embarking on a life-changing journey like trying to lose a quarter of your body weight in a year, it would be this: in dieting, as in many other things in life, there are no fixed rules. Dieting is an art, not a science.
My main motivation for sharing this “secret” with you all is that it is something that has been the cause of much frustration and anguish for me over the past eight months. Although there are basic guidelines for any would-be dieter, the way in which any individual body responds to changes in diet or activity varies almost as much as Robbie Williams’s musical direction (remember Rude Box, anyone?) To expect your body or anyone’s to respond in a completely predictable and consistent way to any lifestyle change is unfair not only to yourself, but to your body too.
In modern life, we’re so often told that we can have control over every single aspect of our lives. Don’t like your job? Ring a recruiter to find you a new one. Fed up with some aspect of your relationship? Why bother working at it when there are a thousand other options waiting for you on Tinder? Friend moving to the other side of the world? Don’t worry, Whatsapp will keep your relationship alive. Of course many of these developments are overwhelmingly positive, but this illusion of power and control that we have been afforded by the evolution of the internet and social media has changed the way we approach challenges in our life, and this can be incredibly damaging.
The internet has also given us a sense of immediacy and, as a result, our patience reserves are wearing thin. When you apply this logic to dieting, which modern dieting businesses so often do in order to monetise the misery of the masses, then if you want to lose weight, you can and you will, and most importantly, it’ll be SO QUICK. Amazing!
Now this is all well and good if you want to lose a couple of pounds for a holiday or wedding, but it doesn’t really work so well if your overall goal is to steadily lose weight over a long period, which has been proven time and time again to be the most effective way to sustain weight loss. As a result, quick-fix diet plans and weight-loss panaceas sell—and in their millions—based on the lie that losing weight is something that is quick and easy to achieve. And then what happens? People swap their normal diet for a couple of months of milkshakes, and great, the weight drops off, but as soon as they stop, it comes back with a vengeance, thick and fast. And so plummets their self esteem, and with it their belief that they can tackle this issue once and for all.
I’ve lost count of the amount of times during this process that I’ve had a Really Good Week © (eaten very little, exercised a lot) and been dismayed when the number staring back at me doesn’t reflect the one I had in my head. And this could be down to a million different factors: menstrual cycle, water retention and muscle build-up to name but a few. And of course, the reverse is true, too. I recently spent 2.5 weeks in Mexico eating and drinking just about everything I wanted to: tacos, beer, enchiladas, you name it. I exercised a lot, it’s true, but upon my return I was gobsmacked to see I’d lost 3.5 lbs, rather than the gain of half a stone for which I’d mentally prepared.
What’s my point, you ask? Well in my humble opinion, it’s precisely this illusion of control that leads to a disconnect between expectation and reality that can so often damage your self confidence and lead a diet to collapse.
OK, right, great Rose, so we have a problem, but what’s the solution? Well, personally, I think that we should all chill the F out and stop putting so much pressure on ourselves to succeed in everything all of the time. Easier said than done, sure. But if you’re starting a diet, be kind to yourself and remember that sometimes you need to gain a pound to lose four, and that even maintaining a certain weight is better than an increase. Life is (hopefully) long, so don’t expect to achieve everything in five minutes. Instead, think long term, and consider what you’d like to see yourself achieve in a year, maybe two. Write it down, remember it, and revisit it every time you need a bit of inspiration. Consistency is better than urgency, remember that, and soon you’ll learn that slow and steady really does win the race!
In Mexico, belly full of tacos.