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Posted by on Aug 28, 2013 in Educate, Empower, Inspiration, Resources | 0 comments

Throw Out the Diet – The Real Skinny on Weight Loss

Throw Out the Diet – The Real Skinny on Weight Loss

courtesy of Anne Riley, Author

Miranda is 68.  Every diet she has ever attempted ended up with her gaining weight.  She has lost 35 pounds in the past six months. Jody is 44.  She was never athletic and always on the heavy side.  She has lost 30 pounds.  She has kept that weight off for over five years. Laura used to be active but had steadily gained weight in the past few years.  She was pre-diabetic, had high blood sugar and cholesterol, and had to use one of those annoying CPAP masks to sleep at night.  Three years ago she lost 50 pounds.  She has kept the weight off since then.

All of these wonderful women are my friends.  I was so impressed with their dramatic weight loss that I asked each of them how they did it.  I half-expected to find some amazing secret that they had stumbled upon, maybe from a late night TV program or a slick infomercial.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered that not only did they use different techniques, they did things that were in some cases completely opposite of each other.  “I weigh myself every day,” said Laura.  “I never get on a scale,” said Jody. “I go out to lunch once a week and eat whatever I want,” said Laura.  “I fast once a week,” said Miranda.

Whoa.  This was interesting.  I decided to explore this question.  Was there anything common in the experiences of my friends? I talked to each of them in depth.  Indeed, as I listened to their stories, very specific patterns emerged. And somewhere during those visits over tea or lunch or bottled water, I stumbled on the real secret to weight loss.

Here is what these women told me, independently of each other, about their weight loss experience.

It’s not a diet. 

It’s a change in how they live their lives.  The word diet implies a temporary change in specific eating habits.  Once the desired weight is achieved, back the dieter goes to her old habits. And back comes the weight.  It’s not a lifestyle change either.  It is not a superficial covering that one places on top of her life.  These women changed the fundamental rules by which they lived.  Thoughtfully.  Mindfully.

Laura based her new rules on a modified Weight Watcher’s technique.  She read up on how Weight Watcher’s worked, picked the parts she liked, threw out ones she didn’t like, and modified others. Then she crafted her own way to proceed.

Miranda changed her rules based on past experience.  Years earlier, she had spent several years in another country where the local population walked everywhere and ate fresh fish, fruit and vegetables.  That became her model.

Jody went with the active approach; she started walking, going to the gym regularly and moderating the amount of food she ate.

The first six weeks are the hardest. 

Each of the women attested to the fact that the first six weeks of their efforts were the most difficult, mostly because their bodies were changing. It felt strange, and at times, uncomfortable. But they did not go back to their old, more familiar ways.  “Why?” I asked.  “What made you stick with your new plan this time, compared with your past efforts?” What they told me was very surprising.

Some things are more important than the discomfort of change.

Each of these women experienced an event that pushed them into action and amped up their determination to succeed where they might have failed in the past.  ‘A wake-up call,’ Laura called it.  ‘A devastation,’ was Jody’s experience. These events had the remarkable effect of focusing their determination to succeed.  It was similar to what I used to call, ‘The I Don’t Care Moment’ that always hit me when I ran a marathon.  For me, there is always at least one moment during that 26.2 mile endurance contest when I was so darned tired that I wanted to quit.  And every time I got to that moment, I would just say to myself, “I don’t care.  I don’t care how much it hurts.  I don’t care how tired I get.  I don’t care about anything but finishing this race.” And I always did.  It wasn’t always pretty, but I never quit. These events became ‘I don’t care moments’ for these women.

Jody lost her brother to cancer.  She needed a way to cope. One of her friends wanted to wear a placard with her brother’s name written on it at the annual Lymphoma race.  He invited Jody to attend the event in honor of her brother.  For Jody, it was an answer to her prayer. She started walking.  And no matter how hard it got, she just kept on walking.  She was determined to make her brother proud.  She walked in that race. And finished it.

For Miranda, it was a change in residences.  She had just sold her farm and moved to a new suburban home.  No longer was she required to bale hay or mend fences or feed the animals.  She found herself with time to fashion a new way of living.  And because everything was new and out of sorts anyway, the change in her eating habits was just one of many changes with which she was coping. She decided to roll with all of them to see where they led.

For Laura, it was devastating medical diagnosis for her husband.  Prostate cancer. The doctor had suggested the surgery would be easier if he lost some weight.  He had six weeks to lose 25 pounds.  That was all Laura needed to kick a new life into gear.

Life after Six Weeks – Wow!

After the first, occasionally difficult, six weeks, each of these wonderful women related another remarkably similar experience. The whole change thing became easier.  They cited two reasons.  First, they just felt better, physically and mentally.  Physically, they had more energy and more stamina. And they had lost weight. Mental changes were just as significant. They felt wonderful. Empowered. Confident. They each experienced a sense of accomplishment that was new to them. These effects seemed to provide a renewed sense of motivation.  The discomfort of the first six weeks was forgotten, or at least it mattered less compared to their achievements. Somewhere during those six weeks, the equation changed; there was no going back. These women were now far more likely to continue with their new way of living than go back to the old.

The second thing that made life after the first six weeks easier, which I personally think was brilliant and a huge key to their success, is that they refined their plans to better suit them.  Each of them took a good hard look at those past six weeks and modified their rules so they would be sustainable for the rest of their lives. Smart!

Jody, a busy mom with two active children, sorted out her schedule so that she could dedicate specific times to walking, and later, as she got stronger, to running.  And then she committed to meeting that schedule.

Laura modified the modified Weight Watcher’s program to better suit her needs.  She found herself too hungry during those first six weeks, so she added more meat to the plan.  She liked structure, so she continued to weigh her food at every meal.  She added another mile to her daily walking routine.  Exactly a mile.  She and her husband drove their walking route to make sure of its actual length. They also planned a weekly lunch date at which they could eat whatever they wanted.  Just for fun.

Miranda, added a once-a-week fasting day to her schedule.  She liked the idea of cleansing out her system and feeling good and hungry one day a week.  She also wanted to walk a famous pilgrimage in Spain, so she signed up for the event, booked her tickets to Europe, and then created an exercise plan that would allow her to walk the full pilgrimage. She made a decision not to use her car three days a week.  On those ‘carless’ days, she walks or bikes wherever she needs to go.

The basics are pretty damned basic. 

The elements to weight loss are still the same as they were from time immemorial.  Eat healthy and exercise.  Beyond those basic rules, there are no rules.  The details are up to each individual. These women proved this to me again and again and again.  There is no one size fits all weight loss technique because we are all different! The rules for living that these women developed are different because they are different!  They like different foods.  They like different activities.  They picked what suited them.  They intuitively knew that if they tried to eat foods they hated or to do activities they didn’t like, they would not stick with them.  This is wisdom in its most elemental form. They thought: “There has to be something I CAN do. I’ll choose that. There must be something healthy that I LIKE to eat.  I’ll choose that.” Over time, they found that as their bodies strengthened and they felt better, they could make even better choices.  Aren’t these women smart for figuring this out?

Don’t deprive yourself, enjoy yourself

I think this is really important.  None of these women felt like they ever deprived themselves of any pleasure as a result of changing the way they lived.  What they did say was this:  “I found new pleasures.  I found new things I like. Of the things that I like that aren’t good for me, I eat less of them.  And I discovered that a little goes a long way.”  They realized that if they felt deprived, they would not be able to carry though with their plans.  So they made sure to find ways to enjoy themselves in a healthy way.

Knowledge is power. 

The key to weight loss is… you.  You are the one who knows what suits you.  You must be the one to decide what techniques will work for you. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore the world around you.  In fact, these women made sure to tell me that they are always looking for new ideas and new techniques to help them improve.  The trick is, they don’t accept all of them.  They inspect them carefully; roll them around in their minds to see if they can picture themselves actually doing them.  Then they choose the ones that they think will work for them.  And they throw out the ones that they don’t think they can do or want to do.  They have assured me that this is quite all right.  There are plenty of ideas out there; it doesn’t hurt to throw a few out.  New ones are coming along all the time.  So, their advice is:  listen to input wherever you can find it, but don’t always follow it.

Miranda and Laura are well informed.  They read up on the latest trends online and in magazines and newspapers.  Jody takes a different tack. She runs a beauty salon and has tons of customers who are always bringing her new ideas.  She is a happy, personable soul and knows how to keep a conversation going.  She says it’s a trick of the trade, but I think she is clever to learn so much from the people around her.

Change happens. 

And it’s good.  Bodies are amazing systems. They will get stronger if you exercise.  They will work better when you eat healthy.  Once you start on that path, you will be amazed at how your world changes.  All three of my friends have expressed the utter wonder they feel at how different their lives are. And they are all ready and willing to let the change continue.

Miranda has had two knee surgeries but now she is walking ten miles per day without pain.  She has made her reservations for the 100-mile pilgrimage.

Laura has lost fifty pounds and had to buy two new wardrobes.  “Such a sacrifice,” she told me with a satisfied grin.  She no longer uses the CPAP machine, and her blood sugar is normal. She and her husband like to go on cruises, so whenever they have a trip planned, they drop a few extra pounds.  They want to have extra leeway in case they have too much fun on the cruise.

Jody has run several marathons and has decided to run her first 50K race in the fall.  Can you believe that?  50K is about 30 miles.  This was a woman who never did any physical activity when she was a child.  She is still learning the new nutrition piece, she tells me. “All I know is that I feel so much better when I eat better.”

I asked them what advice they would give to a person trying to lose weight. Would you be surprised if I told you that their answers were all different?  Ha!  But here is one final thought they all did agree on: they were so happy that they had changed their lives.  Grateful was the word they used.  So grateful that they had managed to change course and live healthier lives.  They could never, ever go back to the habits they had before.

And on this point they also agreed, “Tell your readers,” they said to me, “that if I can do it, they can too.”

Well said, friends.

{Editor’s Note: Anne Riley, Author of Elusive Little Sucker,  is a Featured Contributor for Women Who RISE. You can read more of Anne’s work, and learn more about this tenacious author, on her website,}