There’s a good reason why most people try and fail multiple times to lose weight and get in shape.
It’s because deep down we like things the way they are. I don’t mean you secretly like your muffin top or beer belly. I mean we like the foods we eat in the quantities we eat them and like to eat them when we decide thankyouverymuch. And the part of us that clings to these desires is like a whingey high maintenance toddler.
So when you actually start acting like an adult who values their health and wellbeing, and try to change things in a gung-ho way:
Right, all this shit stops NOW. I am eating this super-healthy thing for breakfast, that superfood-tastic meal for lunch, and this wonderful recipe for dinner, packed with antioxidants, fibre and all sorts of recommended stuff. No junk or booze either!
our inner needy toddler misbehaves.
- We start nibbling on stuff that’s not on that pre-defined NO SHIT list we just wrote out.
- We binge on the very healthy stuff we’ve made, overlooking the fact that 1000 calories of healthy stuff is pretty much the same as 1000 calories of unhealthy stuff in an energy-in/energy-out sense.
- We slowly convince ourselves that this whole idea is stupid and maybe we should just quietly give up again.
And then we’re back to square one, beating ourselves up, as we knock back a few glasses of commiseratory (word?) wine and some pringles.
Where did it all go wrong?
Where It All Went Wrong
When was the last time you heard of a toddler immediately taking on board an adult’s advice and changing their behaviour?
I for one have now been telling my sons to not mess about at the dinner table for almost 10 years. 10. fucking. years. Kids are stubborn gits. And so is the whingey kid inside you.
So if my attempts to stop them messing at the table haven’t worked for 10 years, what makes us think we can overcome our change-resistant inner-toddler with some 6-week lay-down-the-law, gung-ho, change-everything strategy for weight loss?
It won’t work. Shake things up too much and you get resistance.
So if you keep doing what you’re doing – sporadically ‘being good’ then ‘falling off the wagon’ ad nauseum – you’re going to be still unhappy with how you look and feel in 10 years. SHITNESS ALERT.
No, we need to be more realistic. The bull-in-a-china-shop approach clearly doesn’t work – coming in like a wrecking ball, trying to change too much too quickly means we crave going back to our comfy lives too much, and we rebel.
We don’t like BIG changes. The needy I-Love-Treats toddler in us hates big changes and feeling like they’ve been told what to do.
Big changes make us a bit out-of-sorts and uncomfortable, and if we don’t see an end in sight then we self-sabotage and talk ourselves out of the changes, so things go back to ‘normal’ again.
Small changes though. A softly-softly approach, that could work.
Being stealthy, ninja-style, and creeping up on our comfortable, settled lives,
getting on like everything’s just normal,
nothing to see here,
don’t mind me,
I’m just moving a couple of things around a wee bit..
THAT can work.
What sneaky changes are needed?
Let’s look at the changes we all know we need to make in order to lose weight – things that we’ve read a bajillion times and maybe tried, but the changes never stuck. This is how life needs to be for you to be in control of your weight, either losing weight or maintaining your weight:
- Eating good quality food, more fresh less processed
- Not eating big fuck-off portions most of the time
- Seeing food as enjoyable fuel, not as a comfort blanket or source of entertainment
- Not equating having your favourite foods with stuffing yourself full of them
- Having set mealtimes, not grazing where you give yourself more opportunities to eat too much
- Giving your body a break from digesting food – limiting the hours you’re eating to 8-10 hours per day – so the body has a chance to burn some fat as fuel
- Actually enjoying meals out, guilt-free, eating what you want, because you can balance things out over the course of a week.
So that’s the way life needs to be. We know we can’t click our fingers and expect to just ‘change’. On a very basic level, what would life look like eventually though, to incorporate all those changes? Here’s an example:
Breakfast 8am – something low-sugar and filling like eggs
Lunch – plenty of veg, lean meats/fish/protein, a bit of fruit
Dinner 6pm – a balanced meal, half plate of veg, quarter plate carbs, quarter plate fish/meat
Supper – NO FUCKING SUPPER. It’s not a meal. How many calories do you think you’re burning watching TV?! *end rant*
So how do we STEALTHILY, without even making a noise, get to that life?
How do we get from our current messy life, with its good days, bad days and guilt – and the feeling of lurching from one disorganised dinner to another, basically winging it – to that life that incorporates those required changes?
Remember, it won’t ultimately work if you try to do it too fast, even though you want results fast.
Think of how long you’ve been struggling to get your weight under control – your attempts so far clearly haven’t worked have they? Because you rattled the needy toddler’s cage too much, you noisy wingnut.
We need to channel our inner ninja.
The 3 Month Sneaky Ninja Diet
We have to creep up on ourselves. Let’s give it 3 months say. If we find ourselves trying to self-sabotage and rebel from any changes, that’s a sign you suck as a ninja, and need to be quieter, i.e. slow down with the changes, stick with what you’ve done for a while then start sneaking again.
3 months, 12 weeks. 1 small change per week, no more.
No skipping ahead and making multiple changes per week, trying to be teacher’s pet, fucking overachiever.
Be happy with 1 change per week that sticks. Ok, masks on, Ninjaaaaa Go…
Any 3 days this week, have 3 eggs or 2 eggs + 1 bacon for breakfast. And a large glass of water. Coffee still fine too, dear God we’re not giving up coffee! Do what you normally do for all other breakfasts.
Hint – this will involve buying eggs and bacon when you’re shopping before the week starts.
Have a large glass or 500ml bottle of water with your lunches. Hint – you need a container for the water AND you will need a mid-afternoon pee.
Stick with the eggs/bacon/water at breakfast thing too. Don’t change anything else about your lunches or dinners. We’re sneaking right?
5 days this week, maybe mon-fri, have your eggs/bacon. Eggs can be fried/poached/scrambled/omelette/boiled whatever. And the lunch water, that keeps going right?
INTERNET RESEARCH PROJECT ALERT! Research ideas for lunch that include veg and protein sources (all veg, meat, fish, dairy, eggs). Try to pick 3 good ones that look wild tasty. Pinterest & Google are full of ideas.
Don’t make anything though, just add the ingredients to your next shopping list. Make sure you have a container for these upcoming lunches.
Dun, dun, duuuuuun! 3 days this week have one of those lunch options. Have whatever you’d normally have the other days (canteen, sandwich, whatever).
You’re bored of eggs & bacon aren’t you? It’s ok. You can have a small bowl of full fat greek yoghurt and some fruit instead sometimes.
Team Meeting. Have a wee sit down with yourself. Have you stuck with the protein & fat breakfasts, the lunch water, and started making some veg/protein choices for lunches a few times per week?
If some of these changes haven’t stuck, go back to the week of that change and start again. It’s not a failure to take a step back, you’ll be motoring eventually, but everyone makes changes at a different pace.
If all changes have stuck so far, good going, just tread water this week, patting yourself on the back intermittently for being an awesome ninja.
Veg/Protein lunches every day Mon-Fri this week. Find more options if some of the original finds aren’t floating your boat. Weekends – whatever, just don’t take the piss.
Snacks – if you’ve been including these between meals, it’s time to cut them out mon-fri. You won’t die of hunger. You won’t faint. A rumbly tummy means your body is about to burn some body fat as fuel – don’t scupper this by running to the toaster/vending machine.
Time to look at dinner. This can be a minefield especially if kids are included in the equation – it’s hard to make ‘healthy’ dinners all the time that lead to dinner table warfare – who can be arsed?
So what you’re going to do this week is just make a list of typical dinners you make that everyone eats and likes.
Then figure out how you can adapt your plate to use better ingredients, and have fewer carbs (spuds, chips, rice, pasta, bread) and more veg on your plate. To fill you up you’ll need some meat/fish at dinner most days too.
Have a go at changing your plate for each dinner. It might not work with some meals, no big deal, but where it’s doable, do it.
Where it’s not doable, like you’re having pizza, eat away but just rein in the portion sizes. No foods are evil, just some portions of some foods are counter-productive!
Project Close Meeting. Again, look at how your life has changed so far food-wise. If you’ve struggled with any change, go back to that week and start again.
If you’ve had a few wobbles, involving cakes/wine/big meals out, that’s all part of the plan – remember you’re trying to eat better for the rest of your life, and life isn’t nice and calm and predictable.
But if you manage all of these changes 80% of the time, you’re doing well. Keep researching breakfast and lunch options that stick with that macro split.
You’re not done after 12 weeks obviously
The 12 weeks approach is designed to fix your bad habits and get you on the right track, without turning life upside down.
The sudden gung-ho Must-Be-Healthy-At-All-Times approach rarely works – you feel like you’re in a prison cell, busting to get out and run round to the chippy and pub.
You need to change one thing at a time, and wait until that change has become a habit THEN move onto forming a new habit elsewhere in your diet.And then this becomes how you live your life, not just for these 12 weeks.
This is all very doable. I’m sure you can manage this, you just need to start. Week 1 – Buy Eggs, then off you go…. but stealthily, like the Sneaky Ninja I know you can be!