Chapter 2: Time To Change Your Lifestyle
What exactly is a "lifestyle change?"
You've probably heard the following saying many times in your life: "It's not a diet, it's a lifestyle change."
What comes to mind is the idea that not only are you changing what you eat and how much, but you're also exercising.
But as I've discovered over the last 2 ½ years it's much, much more than that. You don't get to be 577 pounds without having several serious problems going on around you. But when it comes to changing that lifestyle, here are just a few things I changed that aren't necessarily just diet and exercise.
1.) Your friends. That's right, your friends. In much the same way that a recovering alcoholic gets rid of their drinking buddies, a food addict has to ditch their "eating buddies." If all you do with somebody is go out to eat, then that relationship is destructive. If the people you hang out with have become a bad influence, time for them to go.
2.) Grocery Shopping. If the junk food isn't in your house, you can't eat it. If you swing open your refrigerator and look inside it, what is available? Is it full of crap? If it is, time to throw it all away and fill it with healthy food. Or the absolute worst, is there nothing in it at all? Time to start grocery shopping...stat. As far as eating out in restaurants goes, this is out of control. It used to be dining out was reserved for special occasions. Now it's turned into 3 and 5 times a week. I believe in order to change your lifestyle, a large percentage of your food has to come from the grocery store.
3.) Your schedule. Part of my cycle of self-destruction included working a night schedule. I would get off work, then stay up all night watching TV and binging on junk food. By the time I fell asleep at 4 or 5 in the morning, I was stuffed with thousands of calories. For me, it took switching to an early morning shift to help jump-start my healthy lifestyle change. It is true what Benjamin Franklin said: "Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise." Except for the wealthy part, all of that has come true for me.
4.) Television. I almost never watch TV anymore. In fact, I've thought of giving it away. What's on TV, anyway? Non-stop food commercials. I used to watch the Food Network all the time. But I have discovered that I can't anymore. Everything they show is one gigantic eating trigger. I used to think I had to watch certain TV shows...that there is no way I could live without the TV. Turns out I don't need it at all.
Your lifestyle is your life. If you want to change your lifestyle, you're going to have to change your life. After 2 years of doing this, I can tell you this: it is very hard. But as the saying goes, it is difficult, but not impossible.
Think of it this way: if you want to lose weight, all of your habits, behaviors, food that you eat, body movements, all of it contribute to your current state of health.
To make that change, to improve your health, requires the modification of habits, behaviors, food that you eat and body movements.
What makes this a very tall order is none of it will last unless you do it forever. The problem with all of that is that for many of us (myself included, before June 20, 2010) food has become a reward. Food has become entertainment. Food has become happiness.
That all has to go out the window. Food is fuel. Nothing more. The thin person does not have a problem with this. They are perfectly capable of (for now) celebrating with food, eating foods high in sugar, fat, salt and calories in small portions and getting by.
But not us. Not me. Not other heavy people. We've gone too far. We can't do it. We can't stop.
Which is why we can never start.
Back to changing the lifestyle. There are so many traditions and things that we do where unhealthy food is ingrained into our routines. To be successful, long-term, I believe it all has to go.
Used to eating concession food at the movies? Bring your own healthy alternatives.
Used to eating hotdogs and nachos at the baseball game? Bring your own better food.
Eat out of the vending machines at work? Don't. Pack your own lunch and snacks.
That's what has to happen. Those key behaviors have to be changed. And that's why it's hard.
But you can do it! If I can, anyone can. And that's the truth.
I get asked all the time: "How can I lose weight like you did? How do I find the motivation to lose X number of pounds? Will you tell me what to eat?"
As well-intentioned as those questions are, they all miss the point completely. Simply losing weight should never be the focus. As a matter of fact, it's a counterproductive way to think. Being overweight is a symptom of an unhealthy lifestyle, it is not the cause of it.
Before you start thinking about losing weight and trying to add years to your life and life to your years, you have to be in the proper frame of mind. You need to think about how you can make your lifestyle change permanent. If all you're going to do is temporarily change what you do in order to lose 50 pounds for a wedding and then put it all back on, you may as well not bother.
No, dear reader, what you want is a total lifestyle change. Nothing less will do. That is the best chance you have at getting healthier, losing weight and keeping it off and staying out of the doctor's office. So what are the steps that go into this? First, you have to analyze your own behavior. You know yourself better than anyone else, right?
Identify what your demons are and stay away from them....forever. For me, one of my biggest demons is restaurants. When I am being served food in a restaurant, I cannot control myself. It is very much like an alcoholic in a bar. So I stay far, far away. For you, it might be something simple like mindless eating. Whatever it is, identify it and don't do it!
You can do it. You know you can and so do I. Take your life back. Take it back starting right now.
When it comes to a lifestyle change, how you approach it, the expectations you set are almost more important than the journey itself. I'll give you some examples.
"I need to lose weight" needs to become "I need to adopt a healthy lifestyle, one of the benefits of which is having a lower body weight." See how that works?
"I need to lose 20 pounds by July" needs to become "I'd like to be in shape in time for July. By adopting a healthy lifestyle, that will help me."
Again, if just losing weight is the focus, then give up now. The failure rate on weight loss-based dieting is about 95%. That's 95 out of 100 people gaining it all back. A terrible track record.
Don't put yourself through that.
Instead, try this. Don't put a time limit on your lifestyle change. Don't weigh yourself all the time. Stop wanting it all now, now, now.
When I started my journey, I had a doctor tell me it would take 3 years to lose all this weight. And he might be right. He then suggested weight loss surgery. But I knew, for me, that weight loss surgery wasn't going to fix my problem.
It wasn't going to fix my food addiction problem, only I could do that.
It wasn't going to teach me how to eat right, only I could do that.
It wasn't going to teach me to exercise, only I could do that.
Instead of "I need to lose weight," focus on "I need to maintain a healthier weight."
Because I can tell you from experience, there is *zero* point in losing a bunch of weight if you can't keep it off. Absolutely a waste of time.
How to Handle Negativity
There are going to be people that are not going to want you to change your life. Negativity is everywhere.
We're all guilty of it. You've heard the phrase "misery loves company?" It's very true.
But when it comes to saving your own life and changing your lifestyle, negativity has no place. It must be banished forever and not be tolerated in any way, shape or form. Your mindset on a daily basis is critical to your success.
So what kind of negativity am I talking about?
Sabotage. Face it, some people like us the way we are. People don't like change. Perhaps your partner thinks you'll leave them if you lose weight. Maybe somebody close to you enjoys putting you down because they can't do it themselves. Either way, watch out for sabotage. People always offering you food, for instance, trying to tempt you and enable you into failure. I've run into it before and I simply confront it head-on: "I appreciate the offer, but I am never eating that. Thank you though."
Put-downs. Don't stand for it. This takes many forms, but the basic thrust is the person putting you down doesn't think you can do what you're doing. Or perhaps they can't do it themselves, so they put you down to make themselves feel better. The code words and phrases for the putter-downer are things like "you need to be realistic" and "you can't do this on your own." Again, just like with the sabotage, shut them down: "I am changing my life and I would appreciate you being more supportive."
Fatism. It is an absolute irrefutable fact that the last acceptable form of discrimination in our society is the mistreatment of the overweight. I will debate this issue with anyone who cares to try. It isn't right, but a large portion of society sees big people as less than a human being, if they see them at all. I've experienced this first hand. When I weighed 577 pounds, many people wouldn't even say hello to me. Now they're my best friend. But what they don't realize is I have a mental list and they're on it. So don't tolerate it from your friends and family. You are due the same respect any other person is and don't tolerate the jokes, the put-downs or the comments. You are on a mission to change your life and you will leave the doubters behind.
And one more note about people. Early on, I realized that just like an alcoholic has to ditch their drinking buddies to get clean, I had to do the same thing with my eating buddies. I don't mean to sound drastic, but it had to be done.
When you change your lifestyle, you are changing your life. You are becoming a different, healthier person. That goes for the mind and the body. Your transformation will be the result of your own positive energy and anyone that is not on board with that 100% has to go.