I’m always asked, ‘how did you lose 20 kg (44 lb) and keep it off? The big secret to my weight loss is that I didn’t try to lose weight. It turns out that trying to lose weight was having the opposite effect. Up until my ‘Aha’ (I-need-to-stop-dieting) moment, I was obsessed with losing weight. It was the only reason I ate salads and exercised. But I finally realised it wasn’t working.
Trying to lose weight had made me hate my body and gain weight. So I wondered, what if I stopped trying to lose weight and focussed on being healthy? I calculated the risk. The worst-case scenario was that I would gain more weight and I was so scared—actually terrified—of that happening; but I also realised I needed to make a change. I didn’t want to diet for the rest of my life. If dieting had made me gain weight, then maybe not-dieting would do the opposite. What did I have to lose?
So when I say I gave up dieting, I also mean to say that I gave up trying to lose weight. It took an extraordinary effort to resist the temptation to diet. But I trusted myself, practised the principles in this book and started to think about food differently. By about four years later, I had lost 20 kg (44 lb). This weight loss was so slow that I couldn’t have measured it with a scale. Averaged out over the period, I lost 100 g (3½ oz) a week. If my goal had been to lose weight, I would have been incredibly disheartened and lost motivation when I stepped on the scale each week. I wouldn’t have noticed all the other incredible progress I had made because I would have defined my success by the scale. Without any weight loss, I would have given up.
Luckily, I didn’t measure my success with a scale. I measured the changes in my relationship with food and my habits. Instead of starting one hundred new habits on the first of January, I adopted habits slowly, one by one, giving my brain, preferences and lifestyle time to change with me. So, while the scale didn’t always reflect the healthy changes I was making, my mind slowly changed for the better and, sure enough, my body slowly started to change with it.
Ironically, as long as you define your success by your weight, you won’t ever get to your healthiest and be able to stay there. Why? Because when you lose the weight, you feel like you’ve reached your goal: you get complacent about eating healthily and exercising, as it feels like the battle has been won. When you define success by the number on the scale or the amount you lose in a week, you’re setting yourself up for an ‘all-or-nothing’ approach and, like the majority of people, you will probably fail.
I appreciate that you might not feel that you are currently at your healthiest weight. You find yourself tired, sweaty and uncomfortable in your clothes; you’re desperate to shift some weight so you can feel good again. You eat past the point of fullness. But at some point, you need to take a long-term view.
Going on a weight-loss diet is a short-term goal. It’s like trying to swim to the other side of a river with a very strong current. You’ll get exhausted and the current will end up pulling you back to where you started. On each attempt, you grow weaker and are less successful. Focussing on healthy habits instead is like building a bridge across the river. Yes, it’s going to take much longer, but once you’ve built a solid foundation, getting to the other side is easy and effortless.
Stop wasting energy on short-term weight loss. Aim for long-term health. Stop ‘trying to be good’ and start trying to feel good.
This is an extract from Nude Nutritionist by Lyndi Cohen, Murdoch Books, RRP $35.00 Photography: Cath Muscat (macrons), Leah Stanistreet & Luca Prodigo.
Read more stories like this: What Lyndi Cohen eats in a week. Plus, The truth about diet vs exercise.