Most of us approach dieting as if jumping into an unheated pool: with gritted teeth and grim determination. It doesn’t really matter if we “know” it’s the right thing to do. All we know is that it doesn’t feel very good, and the bigger the dieting change we make, the less good it feels.
Author James Clear, the habit-change guru, tells us that any change, positive or nega- tive, sets us up for resistance. And, he writes, “Resistance is proportionate to the size and speed of change, not to whether it’s favorable or unfavorable.” That’s because na- ture—particularly human nature—is geared toward stability. With apologies to Science 101, a body at rest tends to stay at rest, and if that same body is forced into cross-training every day, it’s going to want to double-down on TV time.
So the best way—and often the only way—to sustain positive change is to do it as it feels right. If you’re cutting out sugar, do it one packet at a time until that becomes the new normal. Baby steps!
Truth Number Two: Positive change happens slowly.
It’s common wisdom that a new habit takes at least 21 days to form. It’s also common wis- dom that reaching that 21st day is very challenging, and for these reasons:
- We’re not seeing immediate results. If you’re pulling back on sugar, for instance, those excess pounds aren’t exactly puddling onto the floor. One pound of weight is 3,500 calories. You have to give up that delicious morning muffinevery day for a week to move the scale. It takes a while for the perceived benefit to catch up with the perceived effort.
- We are feeling immediate pain. After days of dieting, most of us may not look thinner, but we sure feel grumpier. Even after all that sacrifice, your stomach still sits in your lap, the sun is not shining brighter, and the world is not the oyster you thought it would be. So why not have that extra bite of cake, given that the miracles you’d hoped for have not materialized?
- We haven’t prepared ourselves for change. To create new habits, we need support, accountability, rewards, positive self-talk and a flexible plan. It’s unlikely that gritted teeth alone will get anyone through 21 days.
Truth Number Three: Positive change requires honest motivation.
Clarity is critical for sustained weight loss. Why you want to change will inform your commitment to change. If you want to look like Christy Turlington (Repeat Dieter Christine raises her hand), your chance of real change is zero. If you want to lose weight for your boyfriend, your chance is only slightly better. It’s only when your motivation comes from an authentic place (I’m uncomfortable, I’m short of breath, and I know I look and feel much better at a different size) that you can really stay the course when things get rocky.
So now that we’ve faced the hard truths about change, let’s get back to you and what you’re ready to transform in your life. Remember, there are no “shoulds” in this pro- gram! You’ll discover for yourself your own way and pace for change.