I know, I know you’re looking for a magic bullet that will let you become the person you used to see in your teenage mirror.
So let me say there’s no magic bullet here, nothing to buy, but one technique that worked for me.
Let me tell you my story.
Three years ago, I finally decided the person in the bathroom mirror after a shower wasn’t me. He was fat. He was old. (He was still a devilishly handsome character but his face was rounder than I might have liked) ;-). It wasn’t how I saw myself in my mind. But it was how other people saw me every day.
I tried a ton of diets. I won’t bother listing them. You’ve likely tried them as well.
Two years ago, in the next-greatest-diet lineup – came the low carb diets. I started with something called the Bulletproof diet.
The damn thing worked and over the next three months, I dropped thirty-five pounds. We were down in Savannah and other than adding several miles of walking per day (not enough for that weight loss) the low-carb diet worked its trick. The only goodie I had to avoid was the chocolate chip cookie (home made) at my favorite coffee shop.
But then we returned home to our northern island and its social life. Every Friday night, a group of us would get together to celebrate the week with drinks and snacks.
At this point, I need to interject and give you a small bit of science about habits. In order to succeed at establishing a new habit such as a diet change, you need to use willpower.
Think of your willpower as a bank account.
Every time you resist something you make a withdrawal from your account. Make too many withdrawals and your account goes to zero and you can’t resist any further.
As an added feature, I’ve spent this past winter 2016-17 reading Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit (good book) to further understand how habits work and more importantly, how they can be broken.
Having explained that, let me get back to my story.
I spent all week resisting and not eating food that contained carbohydrates. Basically, anything I truly enjoyed eating was not on my diet. And for the record, I hate dried beans ground up and made into “hamburger”.
I’d roll into our Friday night meet-up and be able to resist the first passing of the chocolate-covered strawberries. I’d have enough willpower to resist the first passing of the homemade sea salted, chocolate covered nuts. But with zero willpower left, the next plate never had a chance to get by me and then I’d recycle towards the first two and I was off diet.
Done and done.
Over the next week, I’d take a snack here and there as well (what could it hurt?).
Those Willpower Reserves Shattered
Bottom line. It would take me several days to rebuild my willpower account, regain my willpower reserves and in the meantime, my weight loss reversed itself. Over the next two years, I slowly but surely put 14 of those pounds back on. I now weighted 199.
And then I read Duhigg’s book on habits as well as something Ferriss wrote about “cheat days” in The Four Hour Body.
My sense of this was “nothing ventured, nothing gained” so back on the low carb diet but with a cheat day I went.
What’s A Cheat Day
A cheat day is exactly that. One day a week, you can eat anything you like. Anything!
But on the other 6, you must rigorously avoid carbs.
What I Discovered About The Psychology of This
I discovered I wasn’t resisting the temptation. I wasn’t spending the bank account.
I was simply delaying it.
If I wanted a bit of chocolate covered raisins or butterscotch ice cream, I put it on the list for Saturday.
I didn’t say “no”, I said “later”
That one change allowed me to keep my willpower reserves up to a decent level. And over the next four months, that 15 pounds melted off. And most importantly, it didn’t feel like dieting. It was a lifestyle change.
Warning. If you’re like me (at least at the beginning) you’re going to look at the weigh scales on the two mornings after your splurge day and have a serious shock attack at the weight gain. But what seems to happen (and this is widely reported) is that those pounds melt off quickly and you’ll go into your next cheat day having lost weight overall on the week. In other words, don’t panic on the next 1-2 days after cheat day. Just continue to delay the carb laden foods until your next cheat day.
Another Side Benefit
After a few “mornings after” my first cheat days when I felt like a sick slug (eating all that carb rich food was great at the time, but the aftereffects of that much ice cream etc weren’t the greatest feeling in the world.
The second cheat day produced the same results and now my cheat days are much more moderate. I still have them (I’m not giving up ice cream for anything!) but I find I feel better if I don’t go all-out-hog on the goodies.
This means my weight jump is more moderate and I lost weight slightly faster.
I lost weight by changing the “No!” To “Later.”
The Other Questions
Yes, I’m now hovering around my university playing weight.
The ultimate weight goal is my high school playing weight.
Yes, I’m working at rebuilding my strength so the overall “shape” of that weight makes sense to me. Those experiments can be found here on the Baby Boomers Guide To Living Forever as well.
I’m not saying this kind of thing will work for you, but it’s clearly working for me.