OK, I’ll be honest with you. Losing weight isn’t going to be as easy as falling off a log, even with the techniques I’m sharing with you in these posts. But it’s probably not going to be as hard as you think either. If you’ve been attempting to lose weight using pure will power, or by attempting to force yourself to get up every morning at 5 a.m. and run five miles, well then don’t worry if you haven’t succeeded. I can’t do that kind of thing either. I once got talking to an old guy from New York in an airport who lectured me for twenty minutes straight on how driven he was and how much exercise he did; probably that guy could do this kind of thing. But you or I? No, we prefer to lose weight the easy way, right?
Nevertheless, to successfully apply the techniques I’m going to give you, you’ll need a certain amount of will-power; hopefully a lot less will-power than you’d need to abruptly stick to a rigid diet from now on. As you’ll discover, my method is all about doing whatever you can to minimise the amount of psychological effort you’ll need to muster. But you will still need a good smidgeon – let us say, a generous pinch – of willpower.
In order to muster that willpower, you’ll need one thing: a clear, pressing motivation.
You’ll need to know exactly why you want to lose weight and why you need to do it now rather than next year.
Sure, there are many reasons to lose weight. You’ll probably look better and have more chance of attaining a ripe old age with a minimal acquaintance of doctors and hospitals. You’ll be able to fit into fashionable clothes. If you apply the techniques I’m going to give you, you’ll probably also feel happier and have more energy.
These are all fine reasons to lose weight; but to be successful, you’ll need to have your own, exact set of motivations clear in your own mind.
I Need To Lose Weight By Tomorrow Morning, Dammit
How long will it take you to lose the weight you need to lose? You can safely lose approximately 1 kilogramme (2.2 pounds) per week. But here’s my advice; if you are serious about losing weight, allow yourself twice that amount of time, plus two months.
“What?” I hear you cry. “But I want to be as thin as a rake by next month!”.
Well, if you’re not very overweight, maybe it’s possible. But if you’ve tried to lose weight before and failed, repeatedly, or if you have a lot of weight to lose, it’s time to do things differently. It’s time to plan for the long term. Remember, losing weight is not an all or nothing thing. Every excess pound you lose removes the bulk of two blocks of lard from your body.
So here’s what I advise. Write down a schedule with the above timeframes in mind. Write down roughly what weight you’ll be four months from now; what weight you’ll be in six months; and at what point you’ll have reached your ideal weight. Fill in as many extra dates as you feel necessary. Now look at the schedule you’ve written down; this is what you can achieve if you put your mind to it. Now you need to find concrete motivations for sticking to this schedule, over this time period.
I suggest also writing down your motivations. Write down what it will mean to you when you reach each stage. Your motivations must come from the heart; it is useless doing this as an academic exercise, just because some website told you to. I need you to really, really think about why you want to lose weight, what difference, concretely, it will make to your life, and what you will do when you’ve lost weight that you can’t do now.
Understand that when you’ve reached your target weight, you almost certainly will have more energy and you will feel generally more ‘sprightly’. It’s a great feeling. Think about things like this, and write down anything that appeals to you strongly; – anything that you feel may help motivate you.
The reason I’m asking you to create a rough schedule is because of the following. One day you will face a challenge of some kind; a test of your willpower that you must pass or else fail. Sometimes – I’ve got to break it to you – you will fail, even with the techniques I’m going to give you. That’s OK. You don’t have to be perfect. But you must succeed more than you fail if you are to achieve your goal. And to succeed, you must have something that motivates you, something that applies now rather than next week.
For this reason, the more you can tie your weight loss schedule into events in your life using concrete motivations (“I want to be slim so that I can wear a swimsuit on holiday in July and not feel like a beached whale”, etc), the more likely you are to succeed.
Facing Your Weight Loss Nemesis
I’ll give you an example of what I’m talking about. Last year a couple of things didn’t go according to plan for me and I started eating badly, scoffing food in the evenings to cheer myself up. It’s a long time since I’ve been seriously overweight, but nevertheless I piled on several kilos above the weight I prefer to be. Now, my nemesis when this happens is one particular food that, whenever I start eating it, quickly hooks me into bad habits. The food I’m talking about is … golden syrup. I love that stuff. All my life it’s been the thing I’m most likely to turn to when things go wrong and I want a sugar fix.
How did I deal with it? I thought carefully about how much weight I wanted to lose and by when. I thought about how much I’d like to lose by the time I see my relatives at Christmas, and how much I want to lose by the spring, when I’m liable to be wearing t-shirts and won’t want to look like a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig. OK, these reasons for losing weight are all about pure vanity, but they do the trick.
I have a tin of half-finished golden syrup in my cupboard. That tin of syrup is my enemy; he knows it and I know it. Whenever I’m feeling weak, I look at that tin of syrup and I say to myself “No way. Because if I eat you, I’ll be fat at Christmas. If I eat you, I’ll be buying large-sized voluminous shirts in the spring.”
See how it works? That fact that I have clear, time-connected motivations in my mind is what gives me the will-power to resist that tin of syrup. Well, that and the fact that these motivations rest on a foundation of all the other stuff that I’m going to share with you shortly, in later posts.
If I didn’t have clear, time-connected motivations in my mind, I would start saying things to myself like “Why not finish off this tin now and then not buy any more?” or “Why not eat this stuff now and re-start the dieting next week?”
Instead, what I say to myself is — it’s a slim stomach by spring or this tin of syrup now. One of the two, but not both.
So get it clear in your mind precisely why you want to lose weight, and by what date. Go over it and over it. The best time to formulate and reinforce your motivations is when you’re feeling strong, not when you’re feeling weak. So do it now (or when you have time!!). But don’t wait till you’re tempted to be bad, and then start going over your motivations. Your mind will all-too-readily pick them apart in the heat of the moment if you haven’t got them clear up front.
Get Slim Now, Not Next Week
If you don’t sort this out in advance, inevitably you will fall into the classic trap of believing you can safely defer a particular challenge, when in fact you need to face that challenge head-on, right at the moment that it occurs.
One last piece of advice. I know you’ll almost certainly ignore this, but it’ll stand you in good stead if you follow it, and after all it will hardly take you a minute. Take a photo of yourself now, or measure yourself in various places, or both. When you begin to lose weight, you’ll quickly forget how large you were before, and you’ll start thinking you haven’t made any real progress, when you have. If you have tangible evidence in front of you of your progress, you’ll be much more likely to stick with it.
That’s all for this post. Next we’ve got a bit more psychology to get through before we move on to the hardcore weight-loss strategy. But don’t be tempted to skip this preparation; it’s the preparation that takes the sting out of the actual weight loss itself. As Sun Tzu said in The Art of War, “Every battle is won before it is ever fought”. Preparation is the key.