By Russ Lane
Research is up to scientists. What you make of it is up to you.
The American Journal of Public Health reported findings last week that losing more than 5% of your body weight is almost impossible. The British study found that obese men had only a 1 in 210 chance of reaching a medically normal weight. The odds for women: 1 in 124.
If I had read this 12 years ago, when I was 200 pounds heavier, I probably would have either rolled my eyes and dialed the number for Chinese takeout, or I would have tried really, really hard to be happy and positive in the face of it all. Neither ever resulted in anything positive and real. The current version of me says there’s more to life – and science, for that matter — than know-it-all grim numbers.
You can be one of those who beats the odds, even if “rah-rah” positivity isn’t your thing, or you’ve binged on positive thinking as much as you ever did ice cream.
First, consider that maybe you don’t need more positivity, per se – you need a new outlet to express who you are underneath the fat and the baggage from it. With an escape hatch from all the doomsaying, the positivity takes care of itself.
So try weeding out anything or anyone specifically commenting on your weight. It’s a common fat trap to be so preoccupied with diet methods or exercise routines you end up surrounding yourself with a shrine to your fat or to your previous weight loss attempts. Even if others call it “motivation” in the short term, that “support” we tend to surround ourselves with when we’re dieting can be equally limiting and make it harder to maintain your weight. Take the long view instead: change your household so that it’s centered not on your fat, but what you want out of life instead, and it will become easier to create a life outside of yo-yo dieting.
Then, ask yourself: “What would make this actually interesting?”
About 50 pounds away from my goal, I realized I was so determined to put my body — and my past — behind me that I hadn’t noticed that my life looked like “Weight Loss World,” a masochistic theme park where everything was a comment on my fat baggage. No thanks!
In protest, I tossed out any item devoted to “weight loss” – diet books, fridge magnets, clothes I hated wearing. Though I adhered to a few dietary guidelines, I ignored all other “healthy” recipes, picked up high-end gourmet chefs’ cookbooks, and brainstormed how I could apply culinary creativity to dry, hyper-controlled science. To bust out of Weight Loss World, I couldn’t just diet and exercise — I had to make everyone else’s science or “discipline” my art, my creativity.
Before long, I was pumping out restaurant-quality food while losing 200 pounds with naysayers on all sides. Asking “what other statistically impossible things could I do?” marked the beginning of my maintenance muscle. Want me to be a food writer? Bring it. Bounce back from regaining 50 pounds following my mother’s death? I’ll run a marathon. Keep weight off as a food writer in New Orleans? Done.
“Impossible” can kiss my grits and positivity has nothing to do with it. The battle against obesity has nothing to do with “willpower” or even “negative thinking” — it is a battle against low expectations.
Don’t just demand a better life for yourself, create one right alongside an eating and exercise strategy that makes sense to you. And don’t let anyone — especially a statistic — tell you different.
Russ Lane lost 200 pounds 12 years ago while falling into food writing, and now creates innovative strategies for weight maintenance. He has appeared on national television and taught at some of the oldest diet companies in the country. Read more at www.wekeepitoff.com or chat him up at www.facebook.com/wekeepitoff.