This is a long post, but it’s just too important to write piece by piece, and you aren’t going to ever be able to fully take control of your diet unless you tackle the issues addressed in this post.
Perhaps you’ve been in this position before:
Maybe your favorite jeans were a little too tight this morning. Maybe you felt really out of shape when you tried playing a sport or keeping up with your kids. Maybe you received some scary results from a medical exam or blood test.
Whatever the cause, you made a decision: Starting Today, You’re On a Diet. No More Games.
After all, that’s what people do when they get out of shape. You’ll diet a bit, you’ll exercise a little, and, eventually, you’ll wake up one morning incredibly pleased with how much weight you’ve lost.
It’s not so complicated. You’re motivated this time, and you’ve just found a diet that is going to work wonders for you.
But will it?
For 99% of us, it’s only a matter of time before we’re rudely awakened by the unhealthy truth:
Anyone can Start a Diet, but the Real Test is Finishing One
Anyone who has ever tried to lose weight for more than a couple days knows that sticking to a diet is hard. It’s not exciting, and at no point is it particularly fun. Exercising, by and large is no different.
Generally, most dieters lose focus and fall off the bandwagon pretty quickly. Some of us hang on for a little longer and see some results, only to eventually stall or even regain the weight we fought so hard to lose.
In either case, it sucks. You don’t know why your diets never work like they should, and you don’t know what to do next. You wind up incredibly frustrated, because you feel very motivated at times and not motivated at all at other times.
That’s why I’ve written this post. You don’t need another diet, and you don’t need more exercise. None of that has worked.
You need to Learn to Lose Weight Like a Superhero
Tell me if you’ve heard this before:
"You’re only human"…[followed by an excuse why you shouldn't be so hard on yourself if you cheat on your diet or why you shouldn't try to make drastic dietary changes].
It’s very comforting to think that your inability to lose weight is because you’re normal. And maybe it’s true. But if so, it’s a problem, because it means that you’ll never be as lean as you want. Personally, that’s not something I’m willing to accept.
Depending on which study you trust, somewhere between 70 and 95% of successful dieters (those who lose a significant amount of weight) eventually gain it all back. That’s staggering. And yeah, it means that most of us are part of the "normal" category. But it’s not good enough.
If you really want to lose weight, stop trying to be average. It’s obvious where average gets most dieters.
When it comes to losing weight, you need to be a superhero. You need to develop an ability (control of your body) that most people simply can’t fathom.
Step 1: The Most Important Thing in the World
Right now, you’re probably incredibly motivated to lose weight. Guess what?
It doesn’t matter. At all.
What really matters is whether you’ll still be motivated in 4 days, in 3 weeks, or in 6 months. How motivated will you be next time someone at the office insists that you need to have one of the cookies they brought in?
I think you already know the answer. At some point, your motivation is going to wane. If you believe otherwise, I invite you to come back and re-read this post in 3 months.
If you want to stay motivated, then you need to make a decision and and few changes today (while you’re still in possession of that elusive motivation). First…
You need to decide right now that losing weight is the most important thing in the world to you.
Without actually making this decision, there is almost no chance that you’ll sustain the motivation necessary to lose the weight you want to lose. For instance, imagine that you’re Batman. Do you think that some days you might be tempted just to watch TV all day rather than fighting crime? Of course you’d be tempted. But for Batman, saving Gotham is the most important thing in the world, and he would never choose to take a day off.
So make a decision. Decide that there is nothing more important to you than losing weight and that you’re going to do whatever it takes right now to make sure that you sustain your motivation.
One of the easiest and most effective ways to do this is to write down exactly what you want to do (lose 20, 50, or 150 pounds), write down when you want to achieve it by (be aggressive but realistic), and write down what you’re willing to give up and what you’re willing to do to achieve that weight loss. Finally, and critically, write what’s going to be awesome and how you will feel about achieving your goal.
Here’s an example:
"By August 1st, I’m going to lose 25 lbs. In order to do so, I’m not going to eat any processed sugar and am going to limit myself to 1,600 calories every day between now and August 1st. I’ll run/walk for at least 45 minutes 5 days a week and lift weights 3 times per week. When I go to the beach in August, I’m going to get at least a few stares for all the right reasons, not to mention that certain of my so-called friends are going to be super jealous."
Literally write your statement on a piece of paper and keep it with you all the time. Every morning when you wake up, read it out loud. When you go to bed at night, read it out loud.
Sound silly? Ok – but remember that you just decided that losing weight was the most important thing in the world (and certainly more important than not feeling silly) You can be silly or you can be fat. Superheroes do whatever they need to in order to achieve their goals. It’s not real unless you write it down and read it out loud.
Health experts are clamoring to tell you that it’s not your fault that you’re out of shape or overweight. It doesn’t matter if it’s your fault or not. Unless you take responsibility, you can’t fix the problem. It’s not Batman’s fault that Gotham has crime, but he believes that it’s his responsibility to fix it. You need to believe that it’s your responsibility to fix your body. Writing it down and reading it out loud every morning and every night (and probably several times in between) is one way to achieve that belief.
You can’t just have any old goal, though. You need to…
Step 2: Make Your Weight-Loss Goal Worthy of a Movie
A ton of diet experts will advise you to set "realistic expectations." And, intuitively, it makes sense.
Except that it doesn’t make any sense at all.
Realistic Expectations just means Get Ready to Fail. After all, what’s the most realistic and most likely outcome of a diet? Answer: most people (the vast majority) either never lose weight or else will regain all of the weight that they lost. Is that the kind of realistic you’re looking for?
Superman’s goal isn’t to rid the world of pickpockets. He’s saving the frickin’ world, even when it seems improbable and unrealistic.
Losing weight and keeping it off is a superhuman feat, so start acting like it. This is not something that you do in bits and pieces. You won’t lose 5 pounds now, 10 pounds in July, and 15 more pounds in October.
Get out your piece of paper with your goal on it. Read it out loud. If it sounds reasonable, crumple it up, throw it away, and start over. To be clear, your weight loss or fitness goal should be something you can barely imagine achieving.
Remember, this is something that is the most important thing in the world to you. It’s gonna sustain your motivation pretty much indefinitely. If it’s not incredibly exciting just to think about, how do you think you’re going to feel a couple weeks from now?
Go big or go home. And when you decide to go big with your weight-loss goal, here’s the first step you should take:
Get a Costume Let Everyone Know that You’re a Superhero
(Please don’t get a costume – you might be taking the superhero analogy a bit too far).
Tell everyone you know what you’re about to do. Be specific and tell them your goal.
Sounds scary doesn’t it?
Superb! You ought to be scared.
You’re telling people who you care about that you’re going to do something you can barely imagine achieving. You might fail. In fact, statistically, it’s incredibly likely that you’re going to fail. And when you fail, your friends and family are going to think that you were silly and dumb to ever try.
Get the point?
When you tell people who you are and what you’re going to do, they start to expect things. When people see Superman, they expect that he’s going to save them from whatever peril they’re in. He’s a superhero not just because he does amazing things but because he lives up to every expectation people have of him.
The fear you feel is that you’re going to fail and look like an chump. You need to embrace that fear, because it’s trying to eat you alive. That fear wants you to set a more realistic goal. It wants you to be human.
You need to start by setting expectations. Email your friends and tell them exactly what you’re going to achieve. If you have a blog, post it.
Nobody said this was going to be easy or risk-free. If potentially being embarrassed by telling your friends and family seems like too much, then you need to accept, at this point in time, that losing weight or getting fit is just not important enough to you. Move on and do whatever else is important to you. I know it’s harsh, but superheroes don’t have time for second-guessing their priorities.
On the other hand, if it is important enough to you, then buckle up, tell your friends, and..
Step 4: Form One Small Habit at a Time
I know that it seems a bit crazy to tell you in one breath that you need to set giant goals and then use the next breath to advise creating small habits. However…
Giant goals are only giant because they’re composed of many small (and often difficult) goals and actions. The only realistic way to consistently achieve giant goals is to (1) make yourself accountable (by telling everyone you know) and (2) create small habits that allow you to achieve your giant goal one small action at a time.
Learning to form small habits is the single most important factor for determining whether you reach your weight loss goal.
Habits allow you to remove unhealthy and unwanted behavior and to permanently instill healthy and desired behaviors. Habits make achieving your goals not only easier but also possible. Even Superman has a habit of always wearing his costume underneath his normal work-clothes, so that if the need arises, he doesn’t have to race home, change into his costume, and then race back, by which time it might be too late to stop whatever peril is at hand.
I really can’t stress enough how important it is to learn to form new habits, and it’s the topic I write about more than any other. Unfortunately, forming habits is the most commonly overlooked step and also the most difficult step – unless you are both knowledgeable about and experienced at forming new habits.
Here are a few key tips:
1. Form exactly one new habit at a time. I know people who can form up to 3 new habits at a time, but if you’re just learning to create habits, there is no chance you’ll ever succeed if you initially try to create that many habits at a time.
2. Start with an incredibly small habit. Maybe you want to eat more vegetables in general. If so, decide to make it a habit to eat 2 bites of vegetables at every lunch. Don’t aim for more, even though you think that you’d ideally eat more than 2 bites of vegetables.
3. Stick with your chosen habit until you’ve been successful for 30 straight days. There is no magic in 30 days, although it’s probably at the lower end of the time you might need to actually create a habit. Use 45 or 60 days if you really want. But use at least 30 days, and if you miss even a single day, start over and don’t worry about creating a new habit until you’ve been successful at this one for at least 30 straight days.
The most common response to these tips is to panic about how slow it is to create new habits. But ask yourself how many good habits you actually created in the past 12 months. If you could actually create 12 new, permanent habits over the next 12 months, wouldn’t you be in a much better position a year from today?
More importantly, when was the last time you achieved a giant goal without breaking it down into very discrete actions and creating habits to make sure those actions occurred on a regular basis? If you get habit-creation right, you’ll find that you can accomplish pretty much anything, and that almost-impossible goal that you set for yourself and tell your friends about will suddenly seem much more realistic and manageable.
Never Forget that Being a Superhero is Hard Work
There is no finish line. Spiderman doesn’t wake up one day to find that there’s no more crime and no more super-criminals. You’re not going to wake up one day to find that you can sit around all day eating donuts and pizza and still be as lean as you want to be.
It’s Never Going to Happen.
This shouldn’t be discouraging. On the contrary, once you accept that it’s hard work, learn to create accountability for yourself, and learn to form new habits, you will find that you can take control of not only your diet, but pretty much anything in your life.
I want to hear from you! If you have found a way to achieve amazing health goals and to establish and maintain healthy behaviors and habits, please leave them in the comments below!