So you want to drop a dress size? Well, it’s easy! It simply entails making some changes to your diet and stepping up your activity levels — both of which you’ll learn how to do in this site. Where the real challenge lies is in maintaining that ideal size — not for a week, or a month, or even for a year, but for life.
Imagine how wonderful that would be — to achieve the body shape and size you want now and still have that figure in a decade’s time. Well, you can do it — but, like most things worth having in life, it’s going to take a little time, effort and know-how.
Dieting is a lot like relationships. What we’re looking for in a relationship and what we’re prepared to put into it influence the kind of relationship it will be. Quick-fix diets are the equivalent of a one-night stand: you get what you want fast and it feels great — but it doesn’t last. You may hope for something a little more permanent but inevitably you soon realize that the man or woman of your dreams isn’t all you thought they’d be and your interest wanes. Similarly, that ‘revolutionary’ new diet that was going to get the weight off, once and for all, soon becomes a slog and leaves you feeling disillusioned and disappointed.
Now think of a long-term relationship. Anyone who has experienced a good, lasting partnership knows that it involves a bit of work and upkeep. It’s not always earth-shatteringly exciting, and there are inevitably problems along the way, but it feels right, it makes you happy and, most of all, it feels like a permanent part of your life. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t evolve along the way, however. More than likely, both parties change, or circumstances change, and a period of adjustment follows. The likelihood of long-term success is determined by how you navigate this sometimes tricky road.
This principle applies just as much to your relationship with your body as it does to the one you have with your partner. Things change due to circumstances, ageing, environmental and social factors, the key is to be in tune with — and responsive to — your body’s needs as they arise.
Dropping a size is about weight management, not about fixing a figure on the scales and perceiving anything above that as failure. The clinical definition of successful weight management is that you stay within 20 per cent of the original. You shouldn’t expect to maintain the exact same weight for life. Weight fluctuates and there are times when it is healthier to gain a little weight; times when life dictates that the effort involved in staying in shape simply can’t be made. Think of it this way: if you want to stay at a weight of 9% stones for the rest of your life, you’ll need to exercise religiously and eat strictly all the time — but if you aim to stay within 20 per cent of your optimal weight, you can adopt the principles and strategies you’ll learn in this site and still enjoy your life, too.
Let’s go back to relationships for a moment. There are times when we think we’re embarking on the ultimate relationship — ‘the one’ — and it turns out to be just another fly-by-night fling. At first, we can’t stop thinking about our new partner, we want to talk about them all the time, we think about the future, devote loads of time to them. Then, gradually, little problems and disappointments arise, it all becomes a little mundane and we realize that they’re not quite so perfect after all. Generally we carry on with the relationship a little while longer but without really giving it the care and attention it deserves to develop and improve. Inevitably a few weeks later the relationship ends — and the search for Mr Right or Mrs Right begins again.
It’s a familiar enough story — but can you see how similar it is to the quest many of us are on to lose weight? Compare it to the following all-too-common scenario. You’re in the coffee shop with your work colleagues and one of them tells you about this great new diet — it involves bizarre food combinations, no alcohol, no this, no that, no life but hey, it worked for Sandra in accounts and she looks fab! So you decide to leap in and really give this a go — this will be the diet for you! This diet is going to last! One month later, sitting around the same coffee table, you’re back to normal eating.
That diet? Well, you lost weight initially, but you really missed your red wine and bread and you felt so devoid of energy that you couldn’t possibly get to aerobics. Now you’re 8 pounds heavier than when you started and a whole dress size bigger. At this point, Sandra from accounts walks past and she’s most definitely gained at least two dress sizes. Ah, well, you’ve heard the Brussels sprouts diet is very good …
Sometimes what we think is the right diet, or the perfect relationship, really isn’t. When it comes to relationships, okay we can’t help it if we fall for the wrong person, or misjudge someone — and hey, we all make mistakes — but as we get older we hopefully learn from our mistakes and begin making better judgements, putting in the right kind of time and effort to the relationships that really could work. So why can’t we seem to do the same with dieting? Many of us just seem to keep making the same mistakes over and over again. We keep choosing these `Mr Right’ diets and when we can’t make them work we feel more and more despondent.
This repeated cycle of failure creates self-fulfilling prophecies. In other words, because you’ve failed before, you expect to fail again right from the outset, so you embark on your weight loss regime with ‘I bet this doesn’t work’ in the back of your mind. With this mindset, failure is hardly surprising — and of course having proved that you are a failure, your self-esteem and confidence are further undermined.
This can actually have a negative effect on how you see yourself — on your body image. Research has shown that women who have low self-esteem have a less accurate picture of what their bodies look like than women who are more confident about themselves. Unfailingly, the under-confident women see themselves as larger than they are in reality. So not only does repeating the same mistakes fail to produce results, it may also make you feel worse than you did at the start of the whole process!
Dropping a size for life is about putting an end to this negative cycle of behaviour. This involves learning how to target your efforts to where they’ll really count and about forging and nurturing a positive relationship between your body and your brain. Losing weight isn’t physically hard. You know what you have to do — eat less and exercise more! However, to keep that weight off, you will need to learn how to develop mental strategies and the right mindset so that you can tackle all the challenges that life throws at us — whether it’s life stages such as pregnancy, the physical effects of growing older, dealing with different emotional situations, or coping with all those everyday crises that seem to be an integral part of life in the 21st century.