I started the title of this post tempted to stick an “easy” in between the words “five” and “step”, but then I realized I would have been typing to deceive, not to inform or encourage. It’s not easy; it’s never been easy. It’s a commitment, one reaffirmed everyday, from the second your feet touch the floor in the morning to the second you fall asleep at night. It is a promise made between the person you are today and the person you can be tomorrow.
1. Start. Just start. Throw yourself into it. Don’t give yourself time for doubt and second-guessing to settle in. But do not be reckless. Get a check-up if you have pre-existing medical conditions. You are, after all, in this to change your life for the better, not put it in danger.
2. Don’t overthink it. Don’t spend every moment of every day thinking about how much weight you might’ve lost the day before or how much you might have gained back after eating a meal. Anxiety drowns out optimism. If you make a bad dietary decision and have a donut you know you shouldn’t have indulged in, A-OK. Commit yourself to getting through the rest of the day; life’s hard enough without burdening yourself with petty regrets. Invest all the energy you might’ve wasted worrying into action on the streets or in the gym; strive to outpace the person who gave in to weakness in the past and race towards the stronger, better you of tomorrow.
3. Don’t make a scene of it. It’s tempting to declare your intentions to the world, to tell everyone you know on and off social media that you’re really going to make the change this year. And there’s really nothing wrong with that. In fact, it seems like a good way to commit yourself to your efforts and have others hold you accountable. But it can also have the unintended effect of making you anxious and even paranoid. Suddenly its feels as though your friends and family are actively judging you, zeroing in on you waistline for any signs of improvement or regression. This could very well not be the case; they might accept you for who you are, thick or fit. But strange things happen when the body is deprived of the caloric intake it has grown accustomed to over the years. The body and mind are placed under a great deal of stress; it becomes all too easy to discourage oneself with thoughts of being judged or scrutinized. I would advise anyone dieting or planning to diet to tell those one knows best; tell those you know will love, support and even encourage you. You’ll need them, because there will be times (and they might be many) where your strength shall fail you, and you will need the support and encouragement of those closest to you.
4. Ease into it. Don’t get overzealous. It’s easy, tempting even, to start that first jog or lift with a pace that will tire you out quickly. Do not burn yourself out on the first day or week; that’s an excellent way to begin doubting yourself. Leave no room for pessimism by starting out at your pace. There’s no race here, no competition. Just you and the body you have invested time and effort towards making comfortable place for yourself. That is the real goal here; to become comfortable with the body you’ll be spending your life in. There’s no yardstick to measure yourself against, no imaginary hierarchy to climb. There is only you, and the standards you have set for yourself.
5. Self-restraint does not equal deprivation. Possibly the biggest fear of anyone contemplating a diet is the thought of having to do without a favorite food. Most people picture bowls of steamed vegetables and tofu when they think “diet”, and then almost immediately think of all their favorite food sitting in a big red circle with a bar drawn across it. The thought of doing without for months and even years is hugely discouraging. Its also hugely unnecessary. No one said stop eating your favorite food all together, even if they are high in saturated fats and sugars. You don’t have to give up donuts, pizzas and fried chicken legs cold turkey (no pun intended). Just eat less of it. Limit the amount of calories you consume. I would advice potential dieters to drink lots of water or fruit juice before every meal; I’ve found it limits the amount of food you are tempted to eat. Go for natural sugars found in fruits. Eat fiber; its an excellent hunger suppressant and gives one a feeling of fullness. You might find you like new and exciting dishes you once considered “strictly vegetarian”. Dont be afraid to broaden your horizons.
And that’s all I have to say about that.