You've been here before. At the dawn of a new year determined to finally (and permanently) lose weight. Resolution declared. Gym membership purchased. Diet printed and laminated. Attitude set to positive. Path to success clear as day.
And yet, you know, having been down this road before, that success in January doesn't always lead to success in February, let alone in June or September or December. You know that the smooth path you see before you this month will eventually have curves, twists, bends and bumps. The clear skies will give way to storm clouds. And sustained weight loss will be very elusive.
So, how can you make this year different? How can you make sure that this time next year you aren't back at square one?
Let’s assume that you've been at this game long enough to know most of the basics:
Diets don't work long term; lifestyle changes are needed.
Weight loss is easier when you combine healthy eating with exercise.
Weight loss, like any other goal, requires sacrifice.
What you may not know, or may have forgotten because you've been doing this for so long, is that your body can only handle physically what it is emotionally and mentally prepared to do.
One of the biggest impediments to weight loss is the emotional toll it takes, especially for those who have struggled to lose weight for years, maybe decades. If you're one of those people, you know both sides of the coin: the joy of seeing your waistline shrink and the pain of having to return to your "fat clothes." The scale goes down. The scale goes up.
For these people, losing weight is like trying to dig a hole in the sand at the water's edge. Every time you dig sand out, water rushes in and fills the hole back up. It's a constant battle. And you can never win.
So, get out of the wet sand and dig your hole where you stand a fighting chance. Dig your hole in a place where you can take an occasional break and not have to worry about having to start from the beginning all over again.
I recommend losing weight in intervals. For example, instead of resolving to lose 50 pounds between now and the end of the year, resolve to lose 15 between now and the end of March. Then take the month of April off. That doesn't mean go hog wild, give up exercising and eat whatever you want. It means allowing yourself to have of few of your favorite foods that you've done without, cutting back on the exercise a bit to give your body a chance to heal, and, most importantly, giving you a break from the emotional strain that trying to lose weight can cause.
Page 2 of 2 - During the month of April, you may not lose any weight; you may even gain a couple pounds. But then you start May with renewed focus and with a body that's ready to lose more weight. And for the next three months, you're back at it -- exercising intensely and eating wisely.
Trying to lose weight 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 12 months a year is not possible. Maybe the three months on/one month off technique isn't best for you.
Maybe it's four weeks on/one week off. Maybe it's five months on / one off. Your body (and your brain) will tell you when it's best for a short (but rejuvenating) break. Take it and come back stronger. Make this year your year.
Frank Shelton is a certified fitness trainer and owner of The Village Gym. He can be reached at (302) 376-3060 or firstname.lastname@example.org.