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Where Do I Start, Part 1 – What’s a Lifestyle Change?

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I’ve been asked this a lot since I started this blog – and yet, weirdly enough, it’s one of the posts I’ve struggled most to write. That’s for a few reasons. Firstly, when I set out to lose weight initially, I didn’t think like I do now. When you first start, you’re all motivation – you know you want to be Beyonce, and you’ll do whatever you have to do to make that happen. You’ll do seven back to back aerobics classes and drink weird concoctions of maple syrup and lemonade if you have to – you WILL GET WHAT YOU WANT.

Yeah, I know that. And I know the two days later feeling, when you’ve already suffered burnout and are having to resort to deep heat and ice cream to fix it. I know. I’ve done that plenty of times.

The thing is – and I’m pretty sure I’ve said this about a thousand times now, but forgive me – it’s got to be a lifestyle change.

*sigh*

These words are such a cliche that I hate how often I find myself using them. They make me feel like I need to be wearing a headset and pacing back and forth, delivering motivational speeches to conference rooms full of bored people in suits.

But the trouble is, they’re the only words I’ve got for what this sort of thing has to be. Because, when all’s said and done – diet’s don’t work. There’s a fundamental flaw in diet logic, which relies upon the idea that you can make dramatic changes to your life with a short-term fix – be that cabbage soup, no carbs, going hungry, or whatever.

Now, it’s entirely possible to see some dramatic results in a short time with diets like this – I know when I tried one of the no-carb diets, I certainly saw a pretty rapid drop on the scales – but they’re just not sustainable for any meaningful length of time. And eventually, you gain the weight right back, with interest on top. That’s why diets don’t work. They’re a false economy. Short term gain, long term pain.

A lifestyle change, on the other hand? That’s a whole different kettle of fish. That’s a permanent thing. That’s you going up to the mirror and saying, ‘you – enough. Put the damn cookie down. I’ve got life-changing to do.’

But you can’t just decide you’re going to change your life, like you can when you go on a diet. It’s bigger than that. This is a full life overhaul.

That’s kind of why it’s a lot more complex than a diet – because when you think ‘all I can eat is food from this one particular food group’ it simplifies it for you. It’s completely, totally wrong – but it is simple. You don’t have to think too hard about it.

When you’re changing your life, though, there are a lot of different facets to it that you have to address. Diet and nutrition are one piece of the puzzle; physical activity is another. Then, there are the practicalities – how much time, energy, and resources can you commit to changing your life? I know all too well that one’s a doozy – the whole job, PhD, blog and weight loss business is hard work, in case I haven’t whined about that enough by now – but it’s possible to do make it work if you really want to.

You just have to get yourself really, really organised. I’ve got so many things running on my laptop right this instant you’d think I’m plotting world domination (clue: I am), and I’m writing this blog whilst making bolognese in bulk and listening to a podcast vaguely related to the PhD. That’s right. Multi-tasking is my middle name.

More complicated than all that, however, is the psychological side of the lifestyle change.

Everyone’s got their own reasons for being overweight. There’s no doubt that the reasons I got so big were pretty complex – self-esteem issues, relationship dramas, and a massive emotional attachment to food, compounded by the fact that I just really, really loved pizza… Yep. It’s complicated.

To make a lifestyle change, you have to address all of these issues in and for themselves – and that’ll require you to be brutally honest with yourself at times, even if you’re not sure you want to –  but the long-term improvements in your overall wellbeing, physically and emotionally, will make it completely worth it.

That’s why this blog is ‘Part I’ – because over the next few days, I’m going to post a blog on each of these things, which should hopefully help to clear up the whole ‘Where Do I Start?’ question. Because that’s the other reason I’ve been struggling with this post – it’s too big for just one. I started, yes – but it’s taken two years to get to where I am now, and I’m still very much in the learning process. I’ve still got a good 20lbs to lose until I’m “done” – and there are still aspects of my life that I need to tweak.

Because I’m not perfect, by any means. Losing this much weight isn’t just a case of starting once, and seeing continued success for however long it takes for you to reach your target weight. It’s a continuous process of re-evaluating and understanding your lifestyle, and yourself – but I can definitely say that I’m stronger, happier and healthier as a result. Every day is a fresh start. Hell, every meal is a fresh start – and once you appreciate that, you’ll find that all those positive starts begin to link together… ‘Til one day, you realise, you’ve changed your life.

So stay tuned – and feel free to get in touch with tips and tricks that have worked for you!

Where Do I Start? Part 2 - Getting Ready to Change
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Comments
  • comment avatar Lily 19 September, 2012

    By sharing what you can now, you’ll continue to heal and inspire others AND yourself. The cool thing about genuine ‘giving’ is you get back even more. It’s an amazing thing. I should do it more :)

    I had it lucky: my choices were removed. Still, I’m working on letting go of being an emotional eater (right now, I’m eating ‘to stay awake and keep working’ when I should be at home ‘sick’ — we’ll skip the story as to why I’m not) and focusing on hunger-directed eating. How horrible is it when you cannot eat ANYTHING made by another human and on restricted foods due to illness but STILL find a way to over-eat? It’s complicated!

    Keep rocking on, you’re amazing.

  • comment avatar Eileen 20 September, 2012

    Wow! AM I happy I found this website today. I decided to change my lifestyle and will be anxious to read more.

    I filed for a divorce 2 years ago, so that was an easy 375 lb weight loss when I left him. I focused on my kids through the whole thing and have finally decided to focus on me.

    I have done diets. And like you said, you take it off and put it back on with interest.

    I joined a gym 2 weeks ago. I have made time for me to go 3 – 4 times a week.

    I am trying to eat healthier. No more emotional eating. I was in a very controlling marriage and just realized that my eating was the only thing I felt I could control and therefore ate as much as I wanted. Well not anymore.

    My son asked how much weight I want to lose. I told him I don’t care I just need to change my lifestyle (to be happy I’d like to loose at least 75lbs) But I have found that once I put a number or a date to the weight loss, it makes it hard.

    So show me the steps to a lifestyle change and I’ll do my best to make it happen ! Thanks!!!

    • comment avatar fatgirlphd 23 September, 2012

      You are absolutely right about the number and date thing – way back in January, I set myself the goal of being 160lbs by this weekend (I was supposed to be going on holiday this week) and I’ve failed. But… Define failure! I realised in May it was just an arbitrary weight on my shoulders (pardon the pun) and that it was far better to focus on being happy and healthy, and let the scales do what they want.

      Thank you so much for your comment – and I look forward to hearing about your progress! x

  • comment avatar Cindi 14 October, 2012

    Very well said! I’ve recently discovered the same things you’re talking about and have finally succeeded at losing the first 10 lbs, which I think can often be the hardest. Lifestyle change is the only answer, and, like you, I often feel I am being evangelical about it. But, what works, works. And if you aren’t in this for the long haul why bother? Yoyo dieting is even more disastrous to our bodies than obesity in many ways.
    I like what you say about each meal being a fresh start. So true.

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