Eat more, lose weight

I started eating more food in the morning to lose weight.

My former breakfast was an exception to the rule that meals are normally sufficient until the next one comes along. In those days, I took only simple carbohydrates (bagel) and fat (cream cheese), but soon learned that a little protein (ham, egg) or complex carbohydrates (oats, bran) in the morning helped carry me to lunch.

Permission to eat, Sir!

When overeating is inevitable, I give myself permission to eat what I’m craving simply to maintain control of the situation.

I once discovered the secret to getting teenagers to agree with my way of thinking — simply figure out what it is they planned to do anyway and tell them to do just that. From then on, any confrontations were my choice, not theirs. I was in complete control of every situation. From that perspective, I never lost an argument; I only conceded an occasional point. My journey from heavy to fit was a long march where proper mental preparation turned out to be quite valuable. The notion that I am in control of my eating takes some getting used to. Fake it ‘til you make it.

I don’t eat without my own permission

When I give myself permission, I am not defeated. I simply lost the round.

Sometimes my mind won’t listen to anything I might say to convince it that overeating is a bad idea, ad the best thing I can do is to give myself permission to eat something I suspect I’m going to eat anyway. In doing so, I acknowledge the struggle and deepen my understanding of the challenge I face controlling those urges. I also learn something about my adversary and can better prepare for the next confrontation. Unconscious surrender, on the other hand, can leave me feeling helpless, confused, or defeated.

Any reason to eat will do

I couldn’t see an alternative to eating because they had been walled off by my own mind. Those blind spots were the essence of my overeating.

“When I feel like this, there is no alternative but to eat,” is the generic version of a common overeater’s refrain. When I say it, I am usually sincere. I ate because I was sad, but also to celebrate. I ate because I had an unexpected weight gain, but also when I’d lost some weight. I never found a life event or emotion that I couldn’t turn into a reason to over eat. I try hard to give myself all the emotional support I require before I start thinking of food to do it for me.

If you want what I’ve got, do what I do

When change seems too difficult, having faith that it works for others is a good first step.

From that starting point, I found the motivation to study what seems to work and learned what it takes to be successful. However, I had to do something — that is, I had to avoid the trap of learning about the solution without the commitment to follow through with action. It seemed daunting at first, but it became a way of life with practice.

Clothes maketh the man

Nice fitting clothes kept me engaged in my progress.

Clothing reflected both my progress and the lack of it. Once an issue to manage, today it’s a source of pride and satisfaction. At the outset, I tended toward loose styles more for comfort than appeal. As I progressed, I acquired new clothing to mark each major milestone — from 46 to 32 inch pants and from size 50 to 39 jackets. I enjoyed tailoring clothing otherwise too expensive to easily replace and giving away relatively new clothes to friends as I moved on to the next milestone.

When it comes to food, I am awake

Constant vigilance is required to maintain permanent weight loss because the body, often by way of the mind, fights it every step of the way.

People who succeed are able to rededicate themselves every day to the effort required. Many years after my initial weight loss, I still attend weekly discussion groups. I weigh in regularly and pay a fee whenever I am 2 pounds over my target weight. I track my food intake. I manage my stress levels with a daily meditation practice (like this one). I exercise daily and see one or more fitness teachers (yoga, Pilates) every week. I normally walk any distance that’s less than two miles. I tweak my menus at home to introduce variety. I shop carefully. I examine ingredients and restaurant nutrition guides everywhere I go. I also lapse and restart my efforts. Obsessed or merely aware? Whatever we call it, that’s what it takes.

My weight will never stop fluctuating

The biggest threat to permanent weight loss is becoming too elated with success or discouraged by setbacks.

Whenever someone asks me before the weekly group discussion how I’m doing, my stock reply is, “I’ll know when I get on the scale.” The response is meant to be a humble admission that I am still somewhat dominated by the mundane emotions that accompany temporary weight gain and losses. My weight will never stop fluctuating. I simply try to run a good race and ignore the results as best I can.

Dieting is a sprint, permanent weight control a marathon

Winning a marathon has absolutely nothing to do with how fast someone runs the first mile, nor does quick weight loss mean permanent weight loss.

Like a sprint, an intense diet will shed pounds quickly without the need to change fundamental eating habits. At the same time, I would never try to sprint for more than a short time. Permanent weight loss is as different from dieting as marathons are from sprints. Champion marathoners are distinguished by their long period of training and preparation, not their fast starts. Like a successful marathoner, my weight loss was accompanied by deep lifestyle changes, reframing my whole outlook on activity and eating.