Chapter 1 - Changing Your Mindset - You are the 5%
This is not a diet book. I am not offering you some special plan you can follow to lose 30 pounds in 30 days. I am not going to insult your intelligence by telling you how easy it all is. It isn’t. Losing weight is actually quite easy. Keeping it off is the very, very hard part.
You may have heard the statistics, which vary depending on the source. Between 9 and 10 people that lose weight gain it all back. I’ve read 90%. I’ve read 95%. It doesn’t matter. What really matters is that we have a plan to lose weight that includes another plan to keep it off. If you approach your lifestyle change correctly, you will be the 5% and not the 95%. Say it out loud: I am the 5%.
Early on in this journey, I realized that there was no point to losing weight if I couldn’t keep it off. I have been through the depressing emotional trauma of losing a large amount of weight and gaining it all back. It’s a terrible feeling. It’s also humiliating. There was no way I was going through that again.
Think about that for a minute. That point of view will absolutely change how you approach your lifestyle change. From the outset, think not about losing weight. Think about keeping it off and maintaining a lower weight. If you apply that as a standard, you see why everything and everybody else fails.
Diet food. This is what everybody eats to lose weight and what happens when they stop eating it? They gain all the weight back. Unless you are going to eat boxed dinners you buy off the TV the rest of your life, don’t bother.
Pills. At best, diet pills do nothing for you and at worst, they cause very serious health problems. No matter what some doctor on TV says, there is no such thing as a “fat-burning” pill. None of it works, none of it will ever work and your money is going to be wasted. Don’t do it.
Low-carb diets. Are you really, honestly going to live on mostly meat the rest of your life? Doubtful, since if you did, you wouldn’t live very long. Again, there is no point to attempting any diet plan that you cannot commit to the rest of your life.
So that is the first step. What can you realistically do? Everybody is different. This is where you have to look inside yourself and assess the situation.
Here are a few good first steps to follow.
1.) Get all of your health problems out in the open, on the table. Men especially, I am talking to you. Pretending you don’t have high blood pressure doesn’t make it go away. Go to the doctor. Get a full check-up. If you are prescribed medication, take it as directed. If you have problems sleeping, go see a doctor and get a sleep study done. If you’re diagnosed with sleep apnea, follow your doctor’s orders and use your CPAP nightly. It will save your life.
2.) Make an appointment with a registered dietitian. Learn about portion control, proper nutrition and eating a balanced diet. Go to the appointment. Take notes and ask lots of questions.
3.) Talk to your doctor about what you’re wanting to do. If at any point along the way, any doctor or health professional belittles your desire to better yourself and tells you it can’t be done, find another doctor with a better attitude. Yes, 95% may gain all the weight back, but remember...you are the 5%.
4.) Set your expectations correctly. This is going to take years. That’s right; I said it. If your goal is to lose 20 pounds by your family reunion, don’t buy this book. I don’t want your money. There are plenty of other gimmicks and diets on the bookshelf for you to try. The Ganey way is simple: long-term weight loss is not only the goal, it is the only goal. You would be better off losing 50 pounds in the first year and keeping it off than you would be losing 100 pounds the first year and gaining back 200. Studies have shown the longer it takes to lose weight, the more likely the person is to keep that weight off.
5.) Weigh once and then put the scale away. Yes, you need a starting weight. If you’re extremely overweight like I was, there may not be a scale that can accurately weigh you. I had to weigh at one point on a truck scale. But I wanted that starting weight. But after you get that beginning weight, put the scale away for 1 month. That’s right, I am telling you not to weigh on a scale for a month. When most people begin a diet, they race from one weigh-in to the next, worshiping at the almighty scale. They become obsessed with pleasing the scale. It all becomes about moving that number at all costs. No consideration is given to your health, new habits being formed or your lifestyle being permanently changed. That is the diet mindset. The problem is eventually the diet will end, you’ll lose interest and be unable to keep up that extreme approach. So don’t do it.
Again: weigh once and put the scale away. Your goal here is to improve your health and live a better life, not win a weight loss contest.
6.) The food that you will eat will come from the grocery store. If you haven’t been in awhile, you might have to ask somebody where it is. Take a friend, learn how it works. Once you park your car, there will be a grocery cart you can use to collect your items. In some parts of the country, this is called a “buggy” or a “shopping cart” or if you live in the UK, a “trolley.” Some of you haven’t been to the grocery store since you were 14 years old. You’re going to be spending a lot of time there, so familiarize yourself with it. Warning: the grocery store can be a dangerous place as well. It is loaded with as much junk food as a fast food restaurant. However, I will teach you to know the difference and only buy the good stuff.
7.) Say goodbye to restaurants, vending machines, drive-thrus, pizza delivery, coffee shops, donuts at the office...all of it. This is the new you. Do whatever you have to do: have a funeral, write a letter to yourself, whatever. But it’s over. These are not healthy sources of food for you and won’t be in the future.
8.) But wait...no more restaurants...ever? Before I lose you completely, hear me out. A long time ago, perhaps when you were a child, restaurants were considered a treat. Dining out was reserved for special occasions only. Then sometime in the last 20-30 years or so, it became the alternative to cooking at home. Now it has turned into the only way to eat for a lot of people. This is a disaster. You cannot surrender your lifestyle change to a restaurant, whose only goal it is to sell you as much food as possible, as cheaply as possible.
So will you be able to go to a restaurant again someday? Yes, you will. But not for now. More on that later in the book.
9.) Yes, you are going to need to exercise. However, unless you are a qualified personal trainer, all you know about exercise is what you’ve seen on TV and that is the incorrect way to exercise. Do not be one of these people that joins the gym, goes for 2 weeks straight, works out like a maniac, hurts themselves and then is never seen or heard from again. That is, until you run into them at the buffet. Ever wonder how gyms make their money? The majority of the people who belong simply donate their dues monthly and do not use the facility. Joining a gym is probably not something you will do for awhile. More on that in the exercise chapter.
10.) Prepare to eat and eat all the time. Food is not a reward, food is not a celebration, food is not for pleasure, food is not happiness, food is not comfort. Food is fuel. Nothing more, nothing less. You eat because you have to. And to be healthy, you need to eat healthy food regularly. Whether or not you are hungry has nothing to do with it. You need a lot of food when you wake up in the morning, then a few hours later, then lunch, the more food a few hours later, then dinner, then an evening snack. You are going to eat 3 meals per day and 3 snacks. Starvation is not an option. You are what you eat. The 95% that gain the weight back, ride the rolller coaster of frozen diet dinners, meal replacement shakes, protein bars, diet pills and other assorted nonsense. Again, you are the 5%. You are only going to make changes you can live with for the rest of your life.
10 Weight Loss Myths
1.) “I don’t eat that much.”
This used to be one of my favorites. Truth is, you may not eat a large quantity of food, but if what you’re eating is very high in calories, you will be overweight. We are what we eat. I used to regularly eat 10,000 calories a day. It’s no wonder I weighed 577 pounds. Denial is a powerful force that will only hold you back. Just admit to yourself: if you are overweight, you really are eating that much.
2.) Eating in the car, eating in front of the television, or eating in front of the computer is wrong and you're a bad person for doing it.
I always enjoy reading this one. I am pleased to report it is complete nonsense. In the last 2 ½ years, I have lost 350 pounds committing the following sins according to the "experts:" I eat breakfast every day in front of the computer. I snack all day at work in front of a computer. I eat dinner and watch TV at the same time, Sometimes I eat dinner, watch TV and surf the internet all the time. That's talent, right?
I eat in the car. I eat and drive at the same time. Sometimes I eat in the grocery store parking lot, right from the package. This whole idea that we should only eat at the dining room table is a complete fantasy in this day and age. I don't even have a dining room table (that I know of.)
It's not where you're eating your food, it's what you're eating and how many calories you're consuming. Trying to follow unrealistic rules about where you should eat takes your eye off the ball. It's a popular rule, however, because humans are addicted to making things more complicated than they need to be.
The bottom line: Mindless eating can occur anywhere. As long as you know how much you're eating and you keep track of it, you can eat anywhere.
3.) Eating at night is bad and will make you fat.
If eating at night made you fat, I would still weigh 577 pounds. The truth is, I eat around the clock. As long as the total amount I am consuming is right for me, it doesn't matter when I eat it.
Sometimes I eat dinner at 5pm. Sometimes I eat it at 9pm. I've had dinner at 11pm.
Once, I woke up at 2 in the morning once so ravenously hungry, I could've eaten the wallpaper off the walls. I made myself a bowl of oatmeal with a piece of fruit and ate it. And you know what? I still lost weight that week. I just added it to my food diary for that day, ate the food and went back to bed. And lived to tell about it. Imagine that!
But...doesn't everything you eat turn to fat if you go right to bed after you eat it? No, it doesn't. Think about the nonsense of this oft-repeated statement. If I eat an apple, which has practically zero fat, how is that going to turn to fat in my stomach just because I am asleep? Please.
The bottom line: As long as the total calories of what you're eating doesn't exceed your requirements for that day, eating at night will not make you fat.
4.) To lose weight, I have to starve myself. I can eat no more than 1,500 calories.
I don't know about you, but I could never get by on 1,500 calories. The truth is, everybody's calorie requirements are different. It all depends on how much physical activity you engage in during the day. Somebody that sits at a desk all day won't be able to eat as much as say, a delivery driver who runs up and down stairs all day.
Starvation is one of the biggest reasons I believe people fail at weight loss. They completely overdo it trying to pursue a quick fix, get discouraged and quit. This is very sad. Only eating 1,500 calories a day is as extreme as trying to work out in the gym 20 times a week is. It's not sustainable.
There are different calorie calculators available online and there are differing methods for determining the appropriate number of calories you should consume. Factors such as your desired goal weight, age, height, activity level, etc. all play a part.
For myself, in the beginning, I was eating 1,500-1,600 calories a day. When I boosted that to 2,400 calories, I started losing weight faster. I believe it was because my body was in starvation mode, conserving resources instead of using them. It worked for me. Everybody is different.
The bottom line: you need food to live. You can starve yourself or stop eating to lose weight temporarily, but only for so long.
5.) If I work out twice a day, 14 times a week, I can eat whatever I want.
Exercise is very important and is absolutely essential to your lifestyle change. However, working out has a very lousy return when it comes to weight loss. For example, for every 100 calories burned, you have to run a mile. One bad trip through the drive-thru is 1,000 calories. The bottom line: you cannot outrun your stupidity in the gym. Exercise is central to a healthy body and a healthy mindset. Unless you’re Michael Phelps, weight is lost at mealtime, not in the gym.
6.) I know someone who eats like a horse and magically still stays skinny.
Sorry, no you don’t. And here’s why. Yes, you may see this mythical thin person eat a large amount of food. But do you really know how much they eat all day? Are you tracking their calories and their exercise? What do they do for a living? Perhaps they just eat one large meal per day and that is what you witnessed.
The bottom line: the math is the math. No one escapes it. There is no magic, mythical skinny person that defies the laws of nature. They don’t exist. This is what we tell ourselves to make ourselves feel like victims and feel better about overeating.
7.) Everything In Moderation
It has been said that you can eat anything you want as long as you just eat it in moderation. There are a few problems with this. If you are significantly overweight, it is safe to say that you cannot do anything in moderation and this strategy has failed you. A famous commercial for a famous snack food product says you can’t eat just one. There is a reason for this. The “food” is engineered to make you want it. As a food addict, I can tell you that for many things, 1 is too many and 50 is not enough.
The bottom line: “everything in moderation” doesn’t work because everything is not moderation.
The bottom line: “everything in moderation” doesn’t work because everything is not moderation.
8.) There Are No Bad Foods
You can have anything you want, right? I will answer that question with a question: how has that strategy worked out for you so far? Consider this: a banana is approximately 25 calories per ounce. A popular candy bar that claims to cure hunger is 135 calories per ounce. What is going to fill you up more? A half a candy bar or a large banana?
The bottom line: some foods simply offer no nutritional value and should be avoided. You cannot reprogram your taste buds to like healthy food by continuing to have “just a little” of the processed garbage that made you overweight in the first place.
9.) I know what works, I’ll just do it again.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. If you have lost weight before and have not kept it off, that approach is a failure. It should not be repeated because the failure will be repeated. Unlike the stock market, past performance is indeed an indicator of future results. You must study your failures and not repeat them.
The bottom line: the goal is not to lose weight. The goal is to keep it off. There is a difference and we will talk about that more later.
10.) Eating Healthy Is Expensive.
This myth got started by people buying diet foods at the grocery store. The “light” and “fat-free” versions of processed foods do indeed cost more than the full fat versions. But that garbage isn’t going to be what you’re eating.
In addition, people who eat in restaurants 5 and 10 times a week will then get on a health kick, go to the grocery store, spend $200 and then proclaim that “eating healthy is expensive.”
I am here to tell you it isn’t and that is a myth. If you stop eating at restaurants, stop buying mostly processed food and buy fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and low-fat dairy, you will discover eating healthy is quite inexpensive.
The bottom line: Not all food comes in a box with a picture on the front of it and a bar code on the back of it. Eating healthy is not expensive.
So there you have it. This chapter has been an overview of what I am about, my approach and how I lost 350 pounds in 2 ½ years on my own with no special diets, pills or surgery.
Are you ready to change your life? If so, read on.