Triumphing Over Obesity and Lesser Fat Problems - Free Self-Help

By Diana Holbourn

Article Summary

Welcome

This article gives several suggestions on how to lose weight, discussing things it's possible to snack on all day without putting on weight, and giving tips on little techniques that might help make a big difference. It discusses starting an exercise regime, and planning for how to deal with temptation to eat too much and not bother exercising in the future, giving advice on staying motivated to lose weight, and on things that can be done if family and friends aren't being as supportive to the weight loss efforts as they could be.

Skip past the following quotes if you'd like to get straight down to reading the self-help article.


Things People Have Said About Losing Weight

My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four. Unless there are three other people.
--Orson Welles

We're the country that has more food to eat than any other country in the world, and with more diets to keep us from eating it.
--Author Unknown

A diet is the penalty we pay for exceeding the feed limit.
--Author Unknown

If you really want to be depressed, weigh yourself in grams.
--Jason Love

The older you get, the tougher it is to lose weight, because by then your body and your fat are really good friends.
--Author Unknown

I'm allergic to food. Every time I eat it breaks out into fat.
--Jennifer Greene Duncan

The Main Contents

Background Information About This Article

The Self-Help Information in the Article

  1. Quick Tips on Cutting Down the Temptation to Snack on Fatty and Sugary Food
  2. Why Diets Often Don't Work and What Works Better
  3. Doing More Exercise
  4. Eating More Healthily, and Snacking Throughout the Day Without Putting On Weight
  5. Planning Out Changes in Our Food Intake and Exercise Levels We Feel Sure We Can Stick To
  6. Changing the Family's Eating Habits, and Trying to Prevent Their Bad Ones From Influencing Ours
  7. Organising the Time so as to Fit the Extra Exercise, Food Preparation, New Hobbies and Commitments In
  8. Dealing With the Feelings That Make us Want to Eat More so They Don't So Much
  9. Motivating Ourselves to Stick With a Weight Loss Regime for the Long Term

Part One
Quick Tips on Cutting Down the Temptation to Snack on Fatty and Sugary Food


I bought a talking refrigerator that said "Oink" every time I opened the door. It made me hungry for pork chops.
--Marie Mott

The one way to get thin is to re-establish a purpose in life.
--Cyril Connolly, (The Unquiet Grave)

Christine thinks:

Thinking

I've heard it's very very easy for a lot of people to become overweight nowadays, because there's so much nice food around - much much more than there used to be, it's so easily available, portion sizes of a lot of things are big, and we don't get anywhere near as much exercise as our ancestors did, because so many work and leisure activities nowadays are things that are done sitting down for a long time. The more pleasant and easy life gets, the more fattening it can get!

I'm going to try to think of several little practical ways of cutting down the amount I eat. I can think of some. I know:


Part Two
Why Diets Often Don't Work and What Works Better


Dieting is wishful shrinking.
--Author Unknown

I'm in shape. Round is a shape… isn’t it?
--Author Unknown

I have gained and lost the same ten pounds so many times over and over again my cellulite must have déjà vu.
--Jane Wagner

I've got this book about losing weight now. It says diets don't work for most people. They can work very well in the short term - people can lose over ten stone even! The trouble is that diets tend to be difficult to stick to because a lot of them forbid people to eat some of the food they really like, and some really aren't that nice to be on, because of what they tell you to eat, or the amount of things you have to cut out of your regular eating routine, or because they tell you to eat so little you're always going hungry. Or people can get bored of them, or only stick to the bits they don't mind doing, so they're not so effective, because sticking to their diet strictly would mean quite a sacrifice. So diets can be a nuisance to stick to. People might lose a lot of weight on them, but people tend to go back to eating what they were eating before their diet after they finish it, and that was what made them so fat in the first place, so they just put all the weight back on, or even more.

Stuffing the face

Also, it can be easy to get so fed up of a diet you start longing to break it and then give in to temptation and have some food you enjoy. Or on a special occasion you might give it up for a few days. And there might be quite a few special occasions during the year. Or if the diet says you have to deny yourself certain foods you like, you can think about how unhappy it's making you to have to go without them, and because you're thinking about them, you start craving them. Then it's easy to give in to the temptation to eat them, or even binge on them.

Some people start feeling hopeless after they've done that, thinking they'll never lose much weight because they haven't got the discipline. So they think they may as well not bother any more, so they stop the diet and go back to what they were eating before, and then they put all their weight back on, whereas if they'd just accepted that they were bound to break their diet now and again and not thought too much about it, they would have gone back to the diet and carried on losing weight.

Because diets can be so annoying to have to stick to, it's best not to go on a very strict diet unless you need to lose weight in a hurry. Anyone who does go on a strict diet needs to make sure they don't go back to just what they were eating before when the diet finishes, or they'll put all the weight back on when they finish the diet. Then they might have health problems because they're so overweight, and lose their faith in dieting. So they could go on a strict diet for a while, and then relax it, but find healthy alternatives they enjoy to a lot of what they were eating before.

The solution seems to be that we just need to come to terms with the fact that we're not going to be able to carry on eating the way we do now, ever again, apart from on occasions when we really feel like it; and then we need to just accept our relapse into bad habits as a temporary halt to the weight loss. That doesn't mean we need to give up any of the foods we love for the rest of the year; it just means we'll need to eat less of them from now on. A good motto is, Two steps forward, one step back. That means we can expect as inevitable a certain number of lapses in self-discipline, so our weight loss might go slower than we'd like, but we do need to stay motivated to keep it going.

While lapses in self-discipline and breaks from the weight loss plan every so often can be accepted, in general, it's best if we change our eating habits more-or-less permanently. So it's important we're comfortable and happy with our new eating habits.

Some people are surprised by how much they enjoy more healthy food; they didn't realise so many nice things can be made with it.

So it seems part of losing weight is being adventurous and trying new things.

Paying Special Attention to What We Eat and When, to Work Out What Stands in the Way of our Weight Loss Most so We Can Do Something About It

Barbecue

Sometimes it can help to write down everything we eat and the feelings we had when we ate it - what feelings made us want it - for a week or two. We can realise we've eaten far more than we thought we did. For instance, I might every so often eat a chocolate and not think I'm eating that many; but I've realised that if I wrote down something whenever I ate a chocolate, I might realise that over the course of a day, I've eaten about ten of them! Or even fifteen or more! I might not have realised because I didn't eat them all together, or maybe just two at any one time.

Or someone who thinks they're being good by limiting themselves to only two biscuits/cookies every time they have a cup of coffee might realise when they make a note every time they have some and then look back over it that three cups of coffee a day at work means they eat six biscuits a day there. Six every day for five days means thirty a week there! Thirty a week over the course of a year means one and a half thousand a year!

Just changing the habit so they eat one biscuit with each cup of coffee instead of two would mean they cut out 15 a week, about 750 a year! That even on its own could make quite a big difference to weight. Even doing little things like that can help quite a bit over the long term.

Or sometimes people eat fairly healthily when they're indoors, but let themselves go and eat whatever they feel like when they're out with friends. Again, it might not be easy to realise how that mounts up because they only go out once or twice a week, and are enjoying themselves too much to think about gloomy things like limiting their eating. But they might be shocked if they calculate just how much extra food it adds up to over a month.

The book says people often eat more when they've been drinking alcohol.

Also, when people are on journeys, it's easy to eat unhealthy fast food when stopping at service stations, or to buy unhealthy food when filling up the fuel tank as a matter of routine. People might do those things without really thinking about it and assume everyone does so it's the thing to do. But if they really think about their eating habits, those ones might come to mind and they might reflect on the fact that they could really make healthy snacks and take them along instead to eat. It would mean a bit more time and organisation; but it might be worth it. The healthier food could still be something that increases alertness.

I heard about someone who put on a lot of weight because he got cravings to eat a lot of food at night. He would go back to sleep straight afterwards so the calories weren't being burned off by activity so they just turned into fat. He was advised to change what he ate during the day so he ate things that take longer to digest so he wouldn't get hungry so quickly. It helped a lot. What he ate in the evening tided him over till the next morning.

I think eating late in the evening isn't good because going to sleep means not being active and burning calories off. So eating the same amount but just eating it later in the evening can make it more difficult to lose weight, because the calories hang around being turned into fat overnight rather than being burned off by activity. I don't know that a few hours' difference is all that significant though. Eating lighter meals in the evening might have more effect.

Another thing people can do without realising what's really going on is to think they're being good by leaving a long time between the times when they eat; but because they're so hungry, they then eat a bigger meal than they would have done otherwise so they put on more weight. Or they can feel so hungry by the evening they snack all evening, especially if they've had a hard day and think they deserve a reward. They might only snack little bit by little bit, so they don't realise how much it's contributing to weight gain. So surprisingly, it can actually be good to eat more often, not less to lose weight, only in smaller amounts.

Also, going for a long time between meals can make people tired and irritable and a bit dizzy or light-headed. So there are other benefits of not skipping meals.

Thinking about the times we eat a lot of food and asking ourselves what makes us want to can help us decide on what changes we can make to help us lose weight. A lot of people might eat what they eat as a matter of habit, not really thinking about whether it's the best thing to do a lot of the time.

Or some people might have second helpings quite a bit or fill their plate up as full as it will go, especially when out with friends, and simply not realise how often that happens or how much it means the food they eat is mounting up. Having a good think about it can bring things to mind that might not come to mind much otherwise.

That reminds me: Just this morning I stood in the bathroom thinking about the amount of fat on me, and it seemed to me that despite the fact that I've started doing a bit of exercise recently, I haven't lost weight; in fact, I seem to have put it on! I began to wonder why I'd bothered making the effort to exercise. But then I remembered I'd bought a tin of chocolates recently because I've been feeling less energetic with winter coming on and I felt the need of something to give me an energy boost. So I've been eating quite a lot of those. Not many in one go, but I suppose the amount adds up over the course of a day. So it's no surprise I'm not losing weight really. At least I'm getting a bit fitter with the exercise.

The trouble is, I sometimes feel the need to eat a couple of chocolates to give me the energy for exercise! I know it's kind of self-defeating, but I haven't worked out what I could do as an alternative yet.

Actually, the other day I was feeling as if I had no energy, and I'd bought some nuts. I started eating them and felt just as much of an energy boost as I would have done if I'd eaten chocolate. I think they're quite a bit healthier than chocolate. They're fattening though. It's a pity. I bet dates would give me just as much energy as well. They'd be healthier than chocolates. I think they're very high in calories as well though. It's a shame. There might be some food that's low in calories but gives you a quick energy boost though.

The weight loss book says it can help if we take note of the times we do things, and whether different times make a difference as to how well we can do them. For instance, some people can do exercise if they get straight down to it after work, but if they leave it any longer, they eat dinner and then feel too full to exercise, or they get comfortable in front of the television or engrossed in something they want to do, and then it's much much harder to tear themselves away and get motivated to do the exercise. So thinking about what circumstances we get most motivated in or what times of day are most convenient to exercise, and what dampens our motivation, can help us work out a more effective plan for exercise.

And if we can work out what kinds of situations or moods make us want to snack more, for instance boredom, doing housework near food, spending the evening alone or whatever, we can try to work out what we could do to remedy the situation, such as at least having very low-calorie snacks near us, doing something to increase our enjoyment of something we find a bit boring, like putting music on in the background, and so on.

If we start thinking of all our bad habits, we don't have to feel hopeless about things and think we're failures; we can think that what's on our mind is useful information, since knowing what the problems are means we can work on addressing them with solutions.

If We're Finding Weight Loss Irksome or Difficult, or it Slows Down or Reverses

It can seem unfair because some people can eat all kinds of unhealthy things and not put on weight. I think it is easier for some people to lose weight than for others. I think it's partly to do with hormones. There are natural changes at certain times of life like the years before menopause for a woman, that I think makes it more difficult to lose weight. Also some people are born not being able to regulate their appetite as efficiently as others - they don't feel full.

But still, if we see someone piling unhealthy food on their plate, it's best not to make too quick a judgment about how unfair it is, because we might not know how they eat the rest of the day or over a period of weeks, or how much activity they do - they might do a lot more than us. Comparing ourselves to others can lead to a lot of needless worry and envy we can do without. It's best to just try to focus on doing the best we can.

Sometimes people lose some weight but then the weight loss slows or they even put on weight, and they get discouraged and can't understand why it's happening. But sometimes, when the weight loss plan's been going for a few weeks, people become less focused on it because it doesn't seem such a high priority as it was at first when their determination to lose weight was at its peak, so they can become less diligent about sticking to the plan because they're busy thinking of other things, and, hardly realising it, they can just have a little bit more of this food and a little bit more of that, and the weight can start going on again. Or they can be so pleased with their success as the weight begins to come off that they become over-confident or complacent and don't pay enough attention to what they're eating. Instead of getting discouraged if we start to put on weight again or stop losing it, we can try thinking through what we've been eating - whether our portion sizes have been increasing or we've been snacking more and so on, and adjust our habits back to what they were at first. Sometimes it might help to make written notes every time we eat something, so we can look back at them and see if we've eaten more than we thought we were.

If we start to get fatter again after having done quite well at losing weight, or we've stopped losing it when we still want to, trying to be conscious of whether we're reducing our exercise and snacking more on food with a lot of fat or carbohydrates in it and so on can help us realise where we're going wrong so we can get ourselves on course for success again.

Increasing Chances of Losing Weight and Keeping it Off

There are several things we can do to increase our chances of succeeding when we try to lose weight again:

Even the Perfect Diet Wouldn't Necessarily Work

Fed up

A diet that had the most chance of working long-term would be one that didn't ban any enjoyable foods - banning them makes people more likely to feel deprived and start craving them so it's easier to give into temptation and eat them. A good diet would also allow a wide range of foods, rather than making people stick to just a few things they might get thoroughly fed up of. A good diet would of course be healthy as well. And it would allow for the occasional treat, so people could have one sometimes without getting discouraged about having broken the diet. Anyone on it will be guaranteed to lose weight.

But such a diet might still be difficult to follow. There could be several reasons why:

Those are all problems we might have when trying to lose weight; so we need to find ways around them, rather than simply just resolving to eat less and exercise more, which is basically what we need to do to lose weight.

Thinking About What We Can Learn From Our Past Dieting Experiences

We might be able to learn a few valuable things that could help us plan for future weight loss by thinking through old dieting experiences - what worked and what didn't and why. It might not just be to do with the diets themselves but with other circumstances. For instance, having a really good reason for losing weight such as getting married in six months and wanting to slim down for their wedding day might be really motivating for someone. Then once they're married, they might relax their diet and the weight goes on again. So from that, they can learn that they lose weight best when they have a good reason to, and think through what other reasons they've got for wanting to lose weight, reminding themselves of the good ones and trying to remotivate themselves.

They might also learn that relaxing a diet can lead to fairly quick weight gain, so it's best to experiment with finding low-calorie foods that are enjoyable and then sticking to such things permanently, with exceptions for eating old favourites in strict moderation, rather than dropping a diet and going back to the way they were eating before.

Or if they realise that when they're stressed or upset by other people's attitudes they start comfort eating, they can try and think of alternative things they could do, such as being more assertive and standing up for themselves when others are unkind, working out how they could deal more effectively with stressors in their lives and so on.

And some diets might be more effective than others. For instance, if people have found less restrictive ones were better because they felt they could stick with them for longer, they might be wise to decide to try them again, but just not go back to old eating habits that caused them to put on the weight in the first place later.

More drastic diets can benefit people in the short term who have serious weight problems, but it can be best if professional advice is sought along with them.

Some Strange and Untrue Claims are Made for Some Diets

The weight loss book warns readers to beware of falling for false claims about how some diets work or how effective they are. It says if a claim sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

It says some strange claims can be made, such as that a diet can help remove fat by detoxifying the body, or melt fat away. It says people should also be distrustful of claims that a diet will raise metabolism.

Also, it simply isn't possible for weight loss to be quick, easy and emotionally painless, so anyone who claims their diet can be like that for people isn't telling the truth.

Diets that restrict people to eating just one or two foods are bound to fail, because people can't happily live like that for long, and also people need a variety of foods to get all the nutrients they need. It's important to have foods containing vitamins, whole grains, protein and other things.

Diets that imply a lot of weight can be lost without increasing activity levels aren't reliable. and diets that severely limit people's food aren't likely to be stuck to for long.

Diets like that can be cleverly marketed and tempting because of their promises; but they'll be very difficult to stick to long-term, so they won't help with actually keeping weight off once it's lost; and some of them could be risky to stick to in the long term. Yet giving them up and going back to old ways will mean putting back all the weight that was lost.

One popular diet is the high protein/low carbohydrate diet. That kind of diet is high in animal fats from meats and cheese, but has severe restrictions on carbohydrates so people can't eat much bread, pasta, rice, potatoes and other things, including even some fruits and vegetables. People have to take vitamin and mineral supplements! The reason people lose weight on it is simply because they're reducing their energy intake. But restricting healthy foods like that isn't good for you; some doctors are concerned that for those who go on the diet for some time, there might be health risks to the kidneys, liver, heart and bones, and that it might increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Diets That Are Better For You

There are diets that are healthy and good to stick to, for instance diets that advise reducing animal fats, such as ones found in some fatty meats, butter and cheese, and replacing them with healthier alternatives like fish, poultry, low fat spreads an reduced-fat cheeses. Some diets suggest such severe restrictions to fatty foods they're very difficult to stick to; but it isn't necessary to have severe restrictions on fatty foods to lose weight; making several smaller changes can make quite a big difference over the long term.

And reducing fat intake isn't just good for helping us lose weight; it's also good for helping us reduce our risk of diseases like heart disease and diabetes.

Another type of diet that's good is the low-glycaemic index diet. It means eating foods that take longer to digest, so it's longer before we feel hungry again. Some foods give us an immediate boost in blood sugar, but then it slumps as the foods are digested so we want more. But other foods raise the blood sugar more steadily so we don't want more so soon. Foods that are filling for longer are considered low-GI, whereas foods that are digested quickly and lead to hunger again sooner are called high-GI. Low GI foods include wholemeal bread, wholemeal pasta, peas, beans and lentils, most nuts, muesli, brown rice and other whole grains, and most fresh fruits and vegetables. High GI foods include white rice, white bread, breakfast cereals like cornflakes, rice krispies, coco pops, cheerios and so on, and dates.

Such diets won't lead to dramatic weight loss, but they'll protect against diseases like heart disease and diabetes because of their focus on healthy eating. Combining them with reduced-fat diets could lead to weight loss plus an improvement in health.

It's also thought that increasing intake of fruit and vegetables quite a lot can help protect against diseases. The weight loss book suggests several ways they can be increased:

Some people find the support of others trying to lose weight helpful, so they find it useful to join groups like Weight Watchers.

Making Sure We Don't Go Back to Eating Everything we Were Before After We've Been Losing Weight for a While

Cake

This book warns that it's best to see a doctor before making a drastic change in diet, to check it'll be allright for us. Maybe that's because the diet we're thinking of trying might not be healthy, for instance it might cut out too much protein, or even too much fat! I was interested to learn you actually need some fat in your diet!

The book says there are some diets where you eat combinations of things together and cut out other things, that promise magical results, but there isn't any scientific evidence they work any better than other regimes of cutting down on fatty food. If they work for people, it'll just be because the people have stopped eating fattening food. But the weight will likely all go back on once the diet stops. So something that's easier to stick to but which we know we're comfortable enough with to stick to for years is better. So weight loss won't be so quick, but it'll be steady. Or we could cut down on food drastically for a while, but then just not go back to eating everything we were before.

Sometimes it might be hard to change at first, but then we get into new habits as we do things more and more, so they get easier. For instance, cooking healthy food might take longer than just ordering takeaways or just taking convenience food out the freezer and bunging it in the oven, so it might feel like a hassle to do at first; but we might be able to prepare it more quickly as we practise; and we might get to enjoy doing it, especially if we can listen to a good radio programme at the same time or something. If we like the healthy food, we might miss it if we went back to eating what we were before.

I remember when I was little and I first started drinking tea, I would always drink it with sugar in. But one day I decided to give up sugar in it so I started drinking it without. It tasted a bit strange at first, but then I got to like it and I don't like sugar in tea now.

Maybe that would work with other things, for instance if someone always had a fried breakfast, but then they switched to muesli. It might seem odd at first, but once they found a muesli they enjoyed, they might start looking forward to it, and they might even start thinking fried food is too greasy for them after a while. Maybe it's a similar thing to what can happen with smokers; my dad used to smoke, but then he gave it up, and now whenever he goes past someone smoking, he says things like, "Yuck, someone's making the place smell disgusting! We have to put up with the stink they're making; it's revolting!"

Certainly, the thought of having to eat less of some of the things I like doesn't sound good. But maybe I'll get to like some of the healthier alternatives just as much. And the weight loss book points out that though we might resent having to give up so much of the foods we like, actually, making sacrifices means our health will end up better, so we're likely to live longer, so we can eat those foods for longer; we're just not eating so much of them in one go.


Part Three
Doing More Exercise


Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.
--Edward Stanley

If it weren't for the fact that the TV set and the refrigerator are so far apart, some of us wouldn't get any exercise at all.
--Joey Adams

A man too busy to take care of his health is like a mechanic too busy to take care of his tools.
--Spanish proverb

I gotta work out. I keep saying it all the time. I keep saying I gotta start working out. It's been about two months since I've worked out. And I just don't have the time. Which uh..is odd. Because I have the time to go out to dinner. And uh..and watch tv. And get a bone density test. And uh.. try to figure out what my phone number spells in words.
--Ellen DeGeneres

Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it.
--Plato

Weight lifting

I'll start doing more exercise. I don't think I can do anything strenuous, because I'm not fit enough. But I could put music on when I'm on my own sometimes and dance to it. And I could find some gentle keep fit exercises on the Internet to do, or buy one or two CD's of keep fit exercises, or pluck up the courage to go to my local sports centre and ask if there are any gentle keep fit classes going on there. Going to one of those could be good, because I might meet people who are trying to lose weight just like me there, and I could make new friends.

Then again, there was a television programme the other day where there was a man who was 34 stone! Wow! At first, he wasn't keen on going to the gym because it costs a lot. But then he started, and they put him through an exercise regime. So maybe I don't have to start off quite as gently as I think. I might surprise myself. He actually managed to lose over three stone in about ten weeks, from exercising more and eating less and more healthily! So it clearly can be done.

realistically though, we can't really expect to lose weight we've spent years putting on in mere weeks, I don't suppose. It's probably best to be relaxed about the fact that it'll probably take a while, unless it's urgent for the sake of a person's health that they lose weight very quickly. Then reducing food drastically might be an idea for a while, before gradually introducing more foods, but healthier ones than they were eating before. It's best to see a doctor before doing something that dramatic though.

I think people can often feel happier and more energetic and confident when they've started losing weight and doing more exercise and eating more healthily. That's what I've heard. In fact, this weight loss book says there was a group of people who'd tried for years to lose weight, sometimes succeeding but putting it all on again, but then they started exercising a lot and found a weight loss regime they felt they could stick to long-term, and they lost a lot of weight without putting it all back on. The book says we might worry that eating less or differently will make us unhappy, and we might think it's better to be fat and happy than slim and miserable; but it says when these people lost weight, they started feeling happier and more confident. And they were pleased they could do more things as they got fitter.

I know that sometimes it can be hard to push myself to get out and do exercise, for instance if it means going outside and it's cold; but I know that sometimes I haven't felt like going out, but when I made myself go out, once I started exercising I found it was quite tolerable.

Thinking About the Amount of Time we Spend Exercising

Trampolining

It seems like a nuisance to stop to do exercise every day; but something made me think: Even exercising for an hour a day isn't spending anywhere near as much time exercising as we can spend sitting down. There are ... oh what is it? ... 168 hours in a week. ... 56 of them are hours that we might sleep, if we say eight hours a day are sleeping hours. OK, so that makes ... erm ... 112 hours we're awake during a week, roughly. Really, if we exercise for an hour a day, that's only seven hours, so that still leaves 105 waking hours we might be sitting down or doing other things that aren't energetic. So an hour of exercise a day isn't much really, percentage-wise, even if it feels like it.

It's a lot easier to put on weight nowadays than it used to be, partly because there's so much nice tempting food around and portions can be pretty big; and because most people spend a lot more time sitting down than we ever used to, for instance because our jobs involve things we have to sit down to do, rather than working on the farm as people often did in the old days. Then there are lots of fun things to do sitting down, like playing on the computer, watching television and so on.

But this weight loss book I'm reading says that to lose weight, you have to burn off more calories than you're taking in! That sounds daunting! It makes it sound as if you ought to be exercising for half the day, and cutting out all the best foods! I'll find out how much exercise burns off how many calories. ...

Estimates of the Number of Calories Burned Off By Some Popular Exercises, and How Many Calories Some Popular Foods Contain

Lumberjack

I've found a website that says the number of calories burned off during exercise depends on several different things, including the weight of the person exercising - the heavier they are the more calories they burn off. It also varies according to the amount of energy the exercise is done with, as well as the energy levels needed to do the exercise; for instance walking will burn off different amounts depending on how fast it's done, but running will usually burn off more. It also depends on how much muscle a person has - the more muscle, the more calories they can burn off in a shorter amount of time.

But as an estimate:

The number of calories we burn off doesn't just depend on what the exercise is. Though running can burn off a lot more than walking, except for the fact that very fast walking burns off more than slow running, running won't burn off all that many if we can't keep it up for long, naturally. Ability to stay the distance is part of what burns off calories.

Also, an exercise we're not enthusiastic about might burn off a lot more calories than something we like better, but if we decide to do that and then can't motivate ourselves to get up and do it half the time, but we'd feel like doing the exercise we enjoyed every day if we decided to do that instead, that one will help us lose the most calories, even though it burns off less than the one that burns off more per hour.

People burn off calories all the time, not just during exercise. Even while sitting around doing nothing, the body burns off calories, because of all the processes going on inside it. Just fidgeting a lot will increase the number of calories burned. So we'd be burning off some of the calories we burn off during exercise anyway. But obviously exercise will increase the amount being burned off at any one time a lot.

Licking an ice-cream

As for how many calories there are in certain foods:

Basically, it seems that some fresh fruit and several vegetables have around 25 less times the number of calories as chocolate does. So we can eat a whole lot more of them before we put on the same amount of weight.

Apparently, three thousand five hundred calories is equivalent to a pound of fat. So seven hours of fairly high-intensity exercise that burns off about 500 calories a time might burn off a pound or more. So exercising for an hour a day every day of the week could do that.

For a lot of people it might be more practical to exercise for less time or less intensively in any one go though. With walking, for instance, it would probably take longer, though it might be quite enjoyable to do if we enjoyed going where we were walking.

But if about four ounces/100 grams of solid milk chocolate is equivalent to just over 500 calories, it would take an hour or more of fairly high-intensity exercise to burn it off.

We do need to bear in mind though that exercising too intensively isn't good for us; for instance, a lot of running or very fast walking can be wearing on the joints. Also doing too much too soon can strain muscles. If it begins to hurt, it's a sign we need to slow down. And it's best to build up gradually to intensive exercise so the muscles get used to it.

Contemplations on Beginning an Exercise Regime

Thinking

I've heard that half an hour's brisk walking every day does most people a lot of good; but walking briskly might not be so good for me, because I might put too much pressure on my knee joints with all the weight they're carrying. They're a little bit arthritic as it is, and the doctor says it's aggravated by the weight they're carrying, so I wouldn't want to make it worse. Gentle walking will probably do some good though. And as I slim down, I could speed up. I could do several circuits of the park every day, at least when the weather's nice. I might find that a bit boring, so I don't know if I'll be able to discipline myself to do it. But maybe I could get someone to go with me sometimes. And if I decide on a set time of day to do it, I'll know that's my walking time, so I won't keep telling myself I'll do it later and never get around to it. ... Well, that's the theory; I don't know if that'll make it easier in reality. It's worth a try though.

I know there are nice things to look at in the park. I'll make a special point of noticing the flowers, children playing, birds flying around, and other things that make it look nice so it seems a more pleasant place to be, so I'll hopefully look forward to going there more.

And I could perhaps make going round it a bit like a sport. I could time myself going round, and try to improve by a few seconds each time. As long as I discipline myself not to go too fast at first, I should be allright. I could write down how long it took each time, and at the end of each few weeks, I'll look back at the speed I was at the beginning of them, and notice how I've speeded up. That'll be encouraging, and it'll motivate me to carry on, especially if I notice I'm feeling more energetic.

And it'll be even more encouraging if I'm weighing myself and noticing my weight's going down, and if I go to my doctor, and my blood pressure and cholesterol level are getting lower. I know exercise can lower the blood pressure. And my change of diet will probably lower my cholesterol level.

I won't push myself to walk too fast at first in case I hurt my knees, but as the weight comes off, I should notice they're not hurting so much in general, so I can risk making them do a bit more work.

Thinking About What Kinds of Exercise to Do

Diving

And perhaps I'll brave the stares and start a bit of swimming.
Well, perhaps I'll wait till a bit of my weight's come off because of my change in diet and the other exercise I've been doing, and then do that. But maybe I'll try giving it a go sooner than that.

I know self-consciousness might make exercising in public quite off-putting though. I'll be worrying that people are looking down on me for being so fat, and for not being able to do things as fast or for as long as they can. Still, I won't know they're thinking those things. I might be worrying they're thinking much worse things than they are. And even if some people are thinking I must be a useless fat slob or something, their opinions are ignorant, so I'll have to ask myself if they really matter.

Still, it's not as if I have to go exercising in the most public place possible. My brother lost quite a bit of weight after he moved house and job and started walking part of the way to and from work instead of going all the way by train as he had before.

Garden

Also, things that use a lot of energy like some kinds of gardening or housework use up some calories. Exercise doesn't have to be public things like going to the gym or swimming.

Also, it doesn't have to mean reserving a huge chunk of the day just for exercise. We could do several little sessions of activity during the day instead of one big one, for example. For instance, for some people, walking part of the way to and from work, walking several minutes to a nearby park in the lunch hour to eat their lunch, and taking stairs instead of the lift, would be something worthwhile. Exercise can help people feel refreshed, and they can actually work better when they've had a break and been refreshed.

And people who don't get much privacy can really appreciate the chance to go out walking sometimes, because it gives them the chance to be alone and mull over all the issues of the day.

My brother once had a keep fit routine he used to do and he said it actually made him feel more energetic. They say exercise can do that for people. I've never noticed myself, I don't think, but perhaps sometimes it has for me. They say it can increase confidence as well, but it would have to be the right kind of exercise, since some might just increase self-consciousness if it's in public and the fat people doing it are worried people are thinking bad things about them. Still, finding something we're happy doing and feeling fitter will probably make us feel more capable and confident, and give us a sense of achievement that'll be nice. It'll be even better if we can tell we're losing weight because of it.

Apparently it's best to work up to doing an hour's worth of activity a day for exercise to be really effective in helping people lose weight; but that doesn't have to be done all at once, and anyone who isn't that fit can build up to doing that bit by bit. That's far better than trying to do too much in one go and then giving up altogether because it's too exhausting.

Making Sure We Don't Over-Do Exercise

Star jumps

Sometimes, people assume they'll be able to do exercise as vigorously as they could when they were younger even though they haven't done much for years. So they try, and then give up on exercise altogether when they find they simply can't achieve the level of exercise they used to straightaway. But even if at first it makes us short of breath or exhausted with muscles aching, that doesn't mean it always will; it just means the body's got unfit over the years and needs practice to get in shape again. It's better to start things gradually and work up to more and more. And the weight loss book says that thing about No pain, no gain is a myth. People shouldn't think they need to put themselves through a hard slog where their muscles are aching. If the muscles start aching during exercise, it's a sign that the person needs to ease off a bit. Even if the muscles start aching almost immediately after the start of exercise, it's good to ease off and go more slowly, or pause for a little while, perhaps sometimes pausing for even just a few seconds, trying again, pausing, trying again and so on, or choosing a gentler exercise. Putting far more strain on the muscles than they're used to can cause injury. So no matter how quickly a person wants to lose weight, they need to listen to their body's signals that they're doing more energetic exercise than the body's happy with. The muscles will get to be able to tolerate more and more exercise without aching over time. And they'll grow bigger.

Also, doing exercise even though the muscles ache is more likely to put a person off exercise altogether than starting off more gradually but enjoying it is. So if a person tries too hard at first, they can be put off and go back to doing nothing, so they get no benefit at all from exercise. It's best to enjoy it but go at a slower pace that at least means you're more likely to stick at it long-term.

The weight loss book says there's a good guideline that helps us know whether we're exercising at a vigorous enough pace to have any effect but not over-doing it: If we're breathing harder than usual but we can still say a few sentences without gasping for breath, we're probably exercising at a good pace.

It says though we might feel a sense of pride in the amount of exercise we're doing immediately and that'll help motivate us to carry on, there probably won't be a noticeable change to our body shape, weight and fitness for the first ten to twelve weeks of regular and increased exercise, unless truly large amounts of activity are being done, which for most people would be impractical, what with other commitments. There's also a danger of over-doing it if too much too soon is attempted. It's best not to expect a lot of weight loss quickly, or we might well get discouraged and give up altogether when it doesn't happen. Even someone who used to run marathons twenty years ago but hasn't done any exercise for a long time might have a fair bit of difficulty doing much running, so even they might have to build back up to that level of fitness gradually; and because they're not fit enough to do all that much in the first few months, they might not lose much weight at all.

Still, exercise is necessary to help keep weight off. And if we start to think of exercise as a slog and become less motivated to do it, we can at least remind ourselves that losing weight isn't the only thing it's good for; exercise helps lower blood pressure which decreases the risk of strokes; and it helps with quite a few other things.

I've heard that when people do more exercise, they can feel much better. I've heard it can even help people who are depressed come out of their depression, at least if their depression's mild.

Wanting to Eat After Exercise

Eating pizza

The weight loss book says some people don't see the point of exercising because they just feel hungry afterwards and want to eat more. But it says that research has shown that genuine hunger doesn't increase much at all after exercise, except when a lot is done in one go and the exercise is as intense as an athlete might exercise. What can often be happening is that people get a food craving after exercise which is really a desire to reward themselves, or temptation to eat because there's enticing food nearby. For instance, going to the swimming pool can mean doing some good exercise, but leisure centres often have cafes, and the nice food in them can tempt people to eat afterwards, especially if they have a tradition of doing that. Just seeing the food or thinking about it can bring on a food craving. It's that, rather than the exercise, that does it. It's like when someone smells chocolate or pizza or something else they enjoy and immediately they crave some, sometimes before they really register that they've smelled some.

But also, sometimes people exercise just before a meal time like dinner. For instance they might go for a swim in their lunch hour, or on the way home from work. Then they are likely to be genuinely hungry and might eat more because they're more in the mood because of the exercise. So sometimes changing the time of exercise can help if it's practical to do that, or taking a healthy snack along to eat instead of the sugary things available in the cafe. For instance, it could be a banana, a small bag of nuts or dates and so on. It'll take the edge off hunger until the meal can be had. Or it can serve as the little treat people might crave after swimming or other exercise. It's best not to eat too many things like nuts or dates though, unfortunately, because they're fattening. Fresh fruit might be the best thing to eat, especially for people who think it's a worthy substitute for chocolate, ... if there are any people like that!

An alternative the book suggests is to eat a healthy snack a couple of hours before exercise; that can decrease the chances that hunger will come on.

Burning Off Calories Through Exercise

Playing volleyball

The weight loss book says some people over-estimate the number of calories they'll burn off through exercise so they think they can eat quite a bit of fattening stuff and not worry about it. Or they expect to lose weight more quickly than they do and can be disappointed.

It says exercise can burn off a lot of calories, but it has to be quite intense and done often to do that, and it's more than a lot of unfit people can manage, at least at first, till they've built up their fitness.

But it says that as a general rule, half an hour's "moderate" activity will burn off 200 to 250 calories, depending on the kind of activity. It says some people think they can compensate for that, and treat themselves to things that are actually higher in calories so they quickly eat more than they burned off. For instance, they might think they must have burned off the equivalent amount of calories to those in a large slice of pizza and think they can get away with having one. But actually, the number of calories in one of those can be as much as about 400, and it would take about an hour's constant exercise to burn off the number of calories in that.

So some people diligently do exercise every day and are pleased with how well they're doing, but then they're dismayed to discover at the end of a month or so that they've actually put on weight! It can be discouraging. But it often happens because fleeting thoughts have gone through their minds about how it'll be good to have a reward for being so good and keeping up the exercise, and on impulse they eat a little high-calorie treat like a couple of chocolates or cookies and so on, or a second helping at dinner. Often a thought that's only around for a couple of seconds can cause people to do things on impulse that will have dramatic consequences for the rest of their day, or for their weight loss regime, and so on. People can eat little high-calorie treats regularly without even thinking about it for more than a couple of seconds, and then they can forget they've done it, so they can be mystified when they discover they've put on weight!

So if discouraging things happen like putting on weight after we made a lot of effort to get some off, it can help if we look back and try to remember what else we've been doing that might explain it. Then trying to think of little non-edible things we can use as treats, or at least low-calorie things, can help us get back on track.

Even Increasing Activity in Little Ways Can Make Quite a Difference Over Time

Dancing

There must be several little ways we can increase activity in our lives.

Increasing the amount of walking done can help. That can be done by simple things like parking the car further away from work and walking a bit further to get in, or getting off the bus or train a few minutes before you usually would and walking the rest of the way. Using the stairs instead of taking the lift or escalators, even only going downwards at first, can help build up activity. For those who work in an office, getting up and giving messages to colleagues in the building instead of emailing them can help increase activity. Walking to the local shops or to nearby friends' houses can help.

Things That Can Put People Off Exercise and Why They Don't Have to

Discouraged

The weight loss book says there are several things that can put people off even starting on an exercise regime, such as being put off by having had bad experiences in the past such as not being good at sports at school and being made fun of by other pupils or always coming last.

Oh yes. I remember hearing someone say he'd become really obese as an adult till he had a stroke, and he thought it had happened partly because when he was little, he was considered mentally advanced for his age and was put in a class at school above the one most people of his age were in. That suited him academically, but he couldn't compete with the other children when it came to sports. He was often last. So he developed a dislike of exercise and didn't do any for years and years when he grew up.

The book lists other things that might put people off exercise, including:

The thing is that exercise can be done in several different ways, and some will be more suitable for some people than others. So someone who's been put off some kinds of exercise like sport might still find others a lot of fun, like energetic dancing, in a friendly atmosphere rather than a competitive one.

Alternatively, some kinds of exercise that are thought boring might be livened up if a bit of competition is introduced, such as walking around the park with music playing quietly on an iPod, seeing if you can get round it before the song ends. I've tried something like that and it can make it more fun.

It's important to find an exercise we enjoy, or it'll be difficult to stay motivated to keep it up. Sometimes it can be worth trying out several till we find something we like enough to feel happy committing to doing.

Aerobics

Sometimes people might not be clear about exactly what puts them off exercise, but they just have a 'yuck' feeling whenever they think about it so they never get around to doing any. It can help if they give some thought to it, thinking back to work out why they feel that way, so they can work out what to do about it. For instance, if their dislike of exercise goes back to when they were at school, they can think back and ask themselves what it was that put them off, whether it was the competitive nature of it, feeling self-conscious while having to undress and change into exercise clothes in front of the others, or something like that. When they've worked it out, they can think about ways they could exercise where they won't have to do any of those things. For instance, if competitiveness put them off, brisk walking and gardening might suit them better. Exercise doesn't just have to be done by something specially intended for the purpose; any energetic activity will do. Or an aerobics class might be fun.

If self-consciousness put them off exercise, they might feel happier if they can persuade a friend to go with them for support.

People who aren't confident they can manage to do a decent amount of activity sometimes feel like that because things in the past damaged their confidence, perhaps feeling bad about being ridiculed for not being as good as others. But just because people aren't good at something at one time in their life, it doesn't necessarily mean they'll always be bad at it; and since there are several varieties of exercise, people can be better at some than others.

The book says that most people aren't naturally good at sport in any case, but will need a fair bit of teaching and practice to get good.

Or not feeling confident about being able to do exercise can have something to do with physical problems. Again, some kinds of exercise can be easier for people with certain physical conditions to do than others; and building up gradually to doing more can help with general unfitness.

Child doing sport

If lack of time is an issue, and for lots of people it must be, the book recommends not doing the day's exercise in one go but splitting it into several ten minute slots. Also, other things can double as activity times; for instance, a family day out in the park can be an opportunity for doing energetic things such as running around with the kids; and we could try thinking up more energetic ways of doing the housework we have to do anyway.

And it's often the case that after a refreshing break that might include activity, people can get on better with what they have to do anyway. Going at a faster pace for feeling refreshed will make up for the time spent away exercising. Exercise can also reduce stress by being an outlet for feelings of tension.

Exercise can be an opportunity to meet more people, for instance if people join a dancing class, local walking or ramblers' club or yoga group.

And sometimes planning to exercise at different times of day from usual can help. For instance, if someone always plans to go swimming in the evening after dinner a couple of times a week but finds that it's so easy to get involved in other things they never get around to it, they might find going for a dip on the way home from work or in the lunch hour easier.

Some people are put off exercise because they think it'll be expensive. But it's not necessary to do something that costs lots of money like joining a gym; going for brisk walks only requires a good pair of shoes, for example.

Some exercise can be boring; or sometimes people can start off feeling enthusiastic but lose interest after they've done it several times. Doing a variety of activities can help keep interest going, as can exercising with others you can chat to as you exercise.

Exercise bike

Exercise can also disappoint if people expect to lose more weight than they're in reality likely to. For a while, it's better to focus on the achievement of actually getting motivated to do the exercise than what the results might be.

I've started doing that actually. Experts recommend that to ward off high blood pressure and things like strokes it's good to exercise for half an hour a day five times a week, at least. It gives me quite a bit of pleasure to exercise for half an hour and then think, "Yes! I've done the regulation half an hour!" But then, they say to actually lose weight, it's best to do more, maybe an hour a day. So I've started trying to do that now.

As for anyone who's scared of getting injured or damaging their health, if they believe they've got good reason to be, especially if they have a health problem already, it's probably best if they see their doctor before starting anything and ask for advice. Also, starting off gradually will build up the body's endurance and suppleness slowly enough that the muscles are less likely to be strained.

So basically, we need to think through what's stopping us doing more exercise, and plan how we can work around the problems.

Developing More Active Daily Routines

Fast dog walking

Eating while watching television can be unhelpful for weight loss, since it's easy to eat more while doing that, or while doing something else, than we would if we sat down to eat while not concentrating on anything else but just the eating. Actually, I've noticed myself that I can eat bigger portions before I feel full when I'm doing something else while eating than I can if I'm just focusing on the food. I'm not sure why. It's probably partly to do with eating over a longer period of time so you can fit more in, or being distracted so we're not so conscious of body signals saying we're getting full. Also people can sometimes not enjoy food so much if they're distracted by something else and not paying that much attention to what they're eating as they shovel it in.

Watching television can also be bad because of the tempting adverts that can make us want to buy more tempting fattening food.

So spending less time in front of the television can be good. Also, chances are that the less time we're spending blobbing in front of the TV, the more time we'll be spending doing something at least a little more energetic that'll help us burn off more calories.

Chopping wood

Also, doing household tasks and other routine things more energetically can help burn more calories off, and if we do several things more energetically, it can start to make a noticeable difference. The weight loss book says there are several ways people have managed to put more energy into their household routines, including:

Cycling

We might be able to think of more things if we think through our daily routines and work out what other more active things we could do.

It may be that we can make several changes without really having to make huge and inconvenient adjustments to our daily routine. Some might fit into it quite well, so we're more likely to stick to them because they're less inconvenient. For instance, if we realise we eat too much when we go out to lunch with friends, one option would be to stop going, which might make us feel a bit deprived, but another option could be to suggest a change of restaurant to one we find with some healthier options for meals. We might be able to make adjustments that fit into the routines we have, rather than having to make big inconvenient adjustments to them.

At first, it'll be best to start slowly and get used to the new routine of fitting exercise into our lives. But we can give more vigorous exercise a try in time, since that'll burn off more weight than gentle exercise, as well as being good for the heart. Cycling and swimming are classed as aerobic activities that are good to do. Then again, I once read about someone who said he knew someone who seemed to be getting a fatter bottom after doing a lot of cycling, for some reason - I can't remember what now. Perhaps it wouldn't happen if we combined it with other exercise.

The book says we might only manage ten minutes the first time we try exercise, but though it might not seem much, it's best to resist the temptation to push ourselves to do a lot more, since if we feel exhausted or we really didn't enjoy it, we'll be more likely to give up altogether. So it's best to go at the pace our body seems to want to go at.

The Importance of Doing Warm-Up Exercises Before Vigorous Aerobic Exercise

Yoga

The book says that when we're doing more vigorous exercise, it's best to do a warm-up routine at the beginning and a wind-down routine at the end. That way we're less likely to strain our muscles, since sudden vigorous movement can do that. Building up slowly to energetic exercise means we're less likely to tear a muscle. A warm-up routine can get the blood circulating better so more gets sent to the muscles to help them work.

It's best to do some stretching exercises as well, to increase the range of movement in the muscles slowly. Stretching exercises do need to be done slowly so as not to pull muscles.

The warm-up exercises should last about five minutes. As well as stretching, they can be something like marching on the spot or fast walking.

The book says it's also important to do cooling down exercises at the end of an exercise routine, since it can reduce the chances of aching muscles later or the next day. It recommends marching on the spot again, or walking, slowing the pace as we go. Also it suggests doing more slow stretching exercises, being careful not to over-do things.

The Important Things to Remember When Thinking About Starting Exercise

Skipping

We might have to experiment with doing different kinds of exercises before we find one or a few we really think we'll be happy to stick with long-term, and discover how best to fit them into our existing routines. If one kind doesn't suit us, perhaps another one will suit us better.

It can be best if people who are totally unfit start off by developing a more active daily routine before planning an exercise regime, to build up a bit of fitness first.

It's essential that we make sure we have appropriate clothing and good shoes with sturdy soles and soft insides if we're going to do vigorous walking or running. It's also important to make sure we drink a decent amount of water so we don't get dehydrated, especially if we're sweating. Sports drinks aren't necessary unless the exercise is especially vigorous and lasts a while. It's recommended that people drink six to eight glasses of fluid a day, a bit more if we're exercising energetically. Taking sips of water before and during activity can help, as well as taking a couple of glasses afterwards.

When we're thinking about what kind of exercise might suit us best, it'll be good to think not just about what type of exercise we'd prefer, but also about things like whether we'd prefer to exercise alone or with others, how much money we're willing to spend, and whether we'd prefer to exercise indoors or outdoors. Boredom is one of the biggest turn-offs to exercise or keeping it up, so it's best if we think of things that'll make it more interesting for us, such as doing a variety of exercises rather than just one, and congratulating ourselves when we've achieved a certain amount.


Part Four
Eating More Healthily, and Snacking Throughout the Day Without Putting On Weight


To safeguard one's health at the cost of too strict a diet is a tiresome illness indeed.
--Francois De La Rochefoucauld

The biggest seller is cookbooks and the second is diet books - how not to eat what you've just learned how to cook.
--Andy Rooney

I keep trying to lose weight... but it keeps finding me!
--Author Unknown

Pears

I might well be able to get my weight down partly by eating healthier food. I think one reason why my diets have failed in the past is that I've always tried to just eat less of the foods I really like, and it's been so easy to give into temptation, and eventually I've given up the diet altogether. But maybe if I find some healthy, low-calorie foods I really like, which I might, I can eat quite a lot of them, and yet still lose weight.

Thoughts on Snacking All Day on Low-Calorie But Less Exciting Food

Certainly, chocolate seems much, much more fun to eat than vegetables! But it's interesting to contemplate that I could eat a huge bowlful of chopped fresh fruit or vegetables and have the satisfaction of knowing I wasn't getting fat, ... whereas if I ate the same-sized bowl of chocolates, ... wow! An instant extra layer of fat!

Perhaps I'll go out looking for some recipe books of healthy recipes, and then put the ingredients I need on my shopping list. I'll see if I can find some recipes that are quick to cook. I'm sure there are some. I find cooking a bit boring. But maybe it wouldn't be so bad if something not too distracting but fun was going on in the background while I was doing it. And I wouldn't have to do it all in one go every day. Maybe I could spend time in the evenings with the radio on, or listening to audio stories from the library, preparing food for the following day, like chopping vegetables. And it could be time that I now spend in front of television programmes that aren't actually that good, so they're really a bit of a waste of time, thinking about it.

I'll enjoy doing that, knowing I'm working towards a healthy goal. And I might enjoy the stories and radio programmes I have on in the background quite a bit more than the television programmes I now sit in front of. I'll investigate what audio stories the library have, and read the radio listings.

Besides reducing the amount of fat I eat, I know I ought to avoid salt in food, because too much of that can put me at risk for high blood pressure and strokes. Since I'm already at increased risk of having those because I'm so overweight, I don't want to aggravate that. I've heard that canned food and microwave meals often contain a lot of salt. Eating fresh vegetables and doing my own cooking would help with that.

I'm not going to expect too much too soon from my change of lifestyle. I know that going on a crash diet would be unhealthy. If I aim to lose just a couple of pounds a week, I shouldn't be disappointed, and might be very pleased if I lose more.

Rabbit

I do like some salads, or rabbit food, as some people call it, and I've enjoyed eating salad in the past when I've been bothered to make it. I could prepare a lot of it in the evenings, and put it in a box or a bowl in the fridge, and then the next day, I could take it out and put it by my side, and nibble on it throughout the day, instead of going to get cakes and biscuits. And I could eat some chopped raw vegetables as part of a healthy meal in place of quite a lot of the fatty foods I now eat for dinner as well. It means buying a lot more of them, but it isn't going to be much of an expense when I think of all the money I'll save on all the cakes and biscuits I'm no longer buying. I'll try out different vegetables to find out which combinations I like best in salad, and which individual ones I like to gnaw on best.

Feeling queasy

Actually, the thought of salad reminds me of something that happened at school. I didn't like most school meals, but there was one I loved. We didn't have it very often, so I was really pleased when we did. It was cheese salad. I remember one day when I was about five years old. I had a slight stomach ache on the way to where we ate, but I didn't think much of it. I was looking forward to eating my favourite meal. But suddenly, without even feeling as if I was going to be sick first, I threw up in my salad. My favourite meal ruined! I cried about that, and one of the school staff told me off for it, saying there was a mentally handicapped girl there who wouldn't make as much fuss as me. But she didn't ask me why I was crying. I wasn't that bothered about having been sick; what was bothering me was losing my favourite meal, after I'd been so happy we were having it, and knowing it might be some time before we had it again.

... Anyway, never mind school days! ... But thinking about it, if I enjoyed the kind of salad they did so much then, I expect I'll find some combination I really enjoy now.

I've hardly ever bothered to prepare salad myself before, because I thought it wasn't very filling and took a while to prepare. But if it isn't very filling, and it isn't high in calories, it just means I can eat more of it.

Well, actually, cakes and cookies and things sound a lot more appetising than salad most of the time. But I think the idea of salad sounds worse than it is a lot of the time because it conjures up images of piles of limp wet lettuce covering little bits of wet cucumber that doesn't taste of much. But I've had much nicer salads than that. Mixtures of chopped raw vegetables can be nice.

Eggplant

I didn't used to think I liked vegetables like cabbage and broccoli and things, because at school, they were always soggy over-cooked flavourless mounds of boringness on a plate that the teachers insisted we ate whether we liked them or not. And the vegetables we got at home weren't much better; just lumps of cooked almost flavourless boringness that had to be eaten because grown-ups were somehow convinced such things could be good for us. I wasn't convinced myself; after all, we were told that boiling vegetables took the vitamin C out of them, and yet we were still told eating them was good for us! I got to like cakes and pizza and chocolate much better! I knew they weren't good for me, but they certainly tasted much better!

But then I tasted a variety of raw vegetables, and realised they had flavours vegetables simply don't have when they're cooked! And some of them were nice. I especially liked raw carrots. So I started eating them by the big bowlful. But then I started getting tummy aches afterwards. I looked on the Internet, and discovered that carrots aren't that easily digested raw so they can do that to people. Then I tried mixing them with bits of cucumber, radish, cabbage and one or two other raw vegetables, and I didn't have any more problems. Then more recently I just ate some cheese with a big bowl of carrot sticks and didn't have a problem. It seems you don't have to eat much else to prevent problems; but of course I can't be sure that's true for everyone.

It certainly seems more appetising to reach for a cake. But I've had some enjoyable times nibbling on mixtures of raw vegetables all day. I haven't been bothered to make them often though. I could try doing more of it.

Chili pepper

It can take a bit of experimentation to find out what's best though! I tasted a couple of raw Brussels sprouts and thought they were nice; so I tipped some in a bowl with some bits of raw carrot, thinking they'd be nice. But as soon as I started eating more, I discovered they've got a hot peppery after-taste, some worse than others! Not the kind of thing I like, so maybe I'll stick to cooking them in future. But then, I'd have to mix them with something nice if I did, since I'm not that keen on them on their own. I remember when I was little, sprouts seemed to be things eaten on special occasions but not most of the year. I wondered what was special about sprouts! They can taste a bit yucky! Perhaps that's why they weren't eaten that much the rest of the time. But then there was a television programme about how to make vegetables more appetising. They put sauces and things on them. It was funny what they did with the sprouts; they chopped them up, raw, and put them in yoghurt! They served them for pudding! The children they served the pudding to didn't normally like sprouts, but they loved this pudding with chopped-up raw sprouts in it!

So who knows what strange but nice combinations we might discover!

Actually, I think baby sprouts are much nicer to eat raw; they haven't got the peppery taste older ones have, I don't think.

Some Healthy Foods, and What The Vitamins and Minerals in Them Do

Reading

I've found some interesting information about what health benefits some healthy foods can have. It makes them sound well worth eating! According to the websites I've found and a book I'm reading, here's what some of them do:

Cucumber

Zucchini

Cucumber is mainly water and hasn't got as many nutrients as some vegetables, but the high water content makes it very low in calories, so someone losing weight can nibble on lots of it throughout the day and not worry about putting on weight.

There are some very useful nutrients in it though. It contains several substances that can protect against heart disease and several types of cancer. One set of substances called cucurbitacins are thought to help block several methods by which cancer forms. Besides those, it contains antioxidants such as beta carotene, vitamin C and manganese, which help neutralise free radicals; and it also contains substances with anti-inflammatory effects.

Cauliflower

Cauliflower is rich in vitamin C, among other nutrients, and may help to protect against cancer, particularly cancer of the colon. It contains the same cancer-fighting compounds as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and radishes.

There's a lot more information about different healthy foods in this article: Some Healthy Foods, and What The Vitamins and Minerals in Them Do.

I think I'll look for recipes, or maybe try making some up myself, that consist of things like wholemeal pasta or brown rice, mixes of chopped lightly cooked vegetables, and garlic or herbs for more flavouring. Maybe I'll investigate healthy foods a bit more as well to see what else I could use.

Contemplating How to Make Healthy Food Taste Better

Chef

It's amazing how different things can taste cooked to how they taste raw. When I was little I always felt disgusted when peas were put on my dinner plate and I was expected to eat them. I thought they were yucky things! But then I tasted raw peas, straight from the pod, and I thought they were gorgeous! I discovered that in the local supermarket it's possible to buy packets of what they describe as hand shelled garden peas. They're like peas straight from the pod, that you don't have to bother getting out the pod yourself. You can actually buy them all year round, so I don't know where they come from. They taste quite nice. But I bought some the other day that didn't seem very fresh. I thought they might still be allright if I cooked them. So I did. And they turned into the monstrosities I remember disliking when I was little! It was allright though, because I mixed them with chicken in sauce and rice so the flavour was disguised. I couldn't taste them that much at all.

That reminds me: Me and my brother were visiting a family years ago, and the mother cooked an interesting combination of food - I can't quite remember what now. My brother wasn't happy, since he didn't like some of the things in it; but when he tasted it, he loved it. In combination, those foods were nice.

Actually, I've put raw vegetables with food like pasta before, and the flavour seems to disappear much more than I'd expect, for some reason.

Then again, my sisters say they don't like nuts, and they feel sure they can taste them even if they're just one ingredient among several, though I don't know if any of that's psychological. I can't taste them in what they say they can.

Anyway, I had cooked cauliflower in a restaurant the other day, as part of a roast dinner. Some of the cauliflower was in white sauce and I thought it was nice. Some of it wasn't in sauce though, and it tasted as boring as how I remember it tasting when I was little.

So it seems the flavour of things can sometimes be transformed by the way they're prepared.

Pineapple

Also, flavourings can make them a lot more appetising. I sometimes put a bit of cheese with things and it makes them nicer; but that's fattening. I'm going to try garlic; I've discovered it's possible to get ready-crushed garlic from the local supermarket, which will cut down on preparation work a lot. I know I like garlic bread, so I might well enjoy vegetable recipes more if I throw some garlic in with them for flavouring.

I could try making meals with wholemeal pasta. If I put some pasta in the microwave to cook, I could put the garlic in with it; I've found out that putting garlic in the microwave for a little while takes all the heat out of it. It's the same with onions. So that makes it much nicer for me personally to eat them. So I could mix pasta with garlic and then when it's cooked, fling some chopped vegetables in with it. Maybe I could put a can of sardines in with the pasta when I cook it as well, since oily fish is supposed to be so good for you. They say sardines are supposed to be the best oily fish though, better for you than tuna and things, because sardines are only small and don't live long, I think, so they've had less time for mercury to accumulate in their systems from the pollution in the ocean, which can apparently be a problem with fish that have been around longer when they're caught like tuna, although they do monitor pollution levels in fish to make sure they're not too bad.

I could try flinging other flavourings in with what I cook, like dried mixed herbs; I've noticed you can get them from the supermarket in jars for not much money. I'll try vegetable stock cubes as well. And perhaps I'll experiment with spices. I know some aren't hot.

I've discovered it's possible to buy ready-chopped vegetables in the supermarket, and they're not all much more expensive than the vegetables you have to prepare yourself. In fact, it's possible to get huge packets of carrot sticks. I've bought some. I've discovered you've got to be careful when you're buying them though, because - I think it's because they keep them wet in the packet - they start to smell horrible fairly soon and don't taste that good. They don't keep as long as whole ones. So it's certainly advisable to check the sell-by date on them before getting them. It's worth trying them for the convenience though, I think.

I know there are vegetables I do enjoy eating, and if I can get recipe books of healthy meals, I might discover there's a whole variety of different foods I can make low-fat healthy meals with that I didn't even know about. And I might be a bit wary about trying new foods, but if I just buy a small amount at first, I might find out that I really like lots of things I'd never heard of before.

Choosing Healthier Varieties of Food

The weight loss book says it's good to eat wholegrain foods instead of more refined ones, and the reason for that is that there are vitamins and minerals around the outside parts of the foods that people don't get when those have been got rid of. Oh, so that's why they say wholemeal bread's better for you than white bread, and it's best to eat brown rice, wholemeal pasta and the like! The book says whole grains can help protect against diseases like cancer and heart disease because of the extra minerals and vitamins they contain. It also says whole grains help keep the gut healthy, and contain bulk without many calories so they can help people feel fuller for longer.

Grapes

Wholegrain foods aren't all that fattening. But I know we do need to be careful about what we put with them for flavouring and so on, because some things commonly used are fattening. For instance, it's nice to have cheese or cheese sauce with pasta. But cheese is high in fat.

Actually, I've started eating wholemeal bread with seeds in it. It's nicer than ordinary wholemeal bread. But I've noticed that when I toast it, the longer I toast it for, the crisper it gets, and that means it gets drier, so the longer it's toasted for, the more butter or margarine I need on it. I've noticed I've been using loads. Thinking about it, that must be really fattening with great globs of almost pure fat going down my throat. So I think I'll try toasting it for much less time so it hasn't dried out so much. I might only need half the amount of butter or even less. And it might be just as nice.

There is a type of white bread that tastes gorgeous when toasted; you buy it in paper, if they still do it. Maybe occasionally I could still have that. After all, it's not as if we need to feel duty-bound to never ever veer from the healthiest foods; it's just helpful to know what they are so we can eat more healthily more often.

The weight loss book recommends we eat quite a lot of wholegrain foods every day, but says that naturally that doesn't mean feeling obliged to eat things we don't like; some people might hate the thought of switching from white bread to wholemeal, for example. They could still eat more healthily by making changes in other ways, such as swapping a sugary breakfast cereal for muesli.

Limiting Fatty Foods in the Diet

Strawberry

Everyone needs a bit of fat in their diet. It isn't all bad. But you often hear that most people could do with reducing their fat intake. The weight loss book says fat's very rich in calories but doesn't easily make us feel full, so we can eat a lot of it without realising how many calories we're getting through because it doesn't seem as if we've eaten all that much. It says that's one reason people can be surprised at how much weight they've put on because they didn't stuff themselves. Eating a certain amount of high-fat food will put far more weight on than eating the same amount of food that hasn't got all that much fat in it. Some foods contain a lot of fat without actually seeming to be fatty, so people can eat them without realising how high in fat they are, and that can be one reason why losing weight can be a struggle, especially since they might think they haven't eaten all that much food so they don't understand why they aren't losing weight.

Fat content can make food more tasty so it's tempting to eat more of it, but the body stores it easily so it can make us put on weight easily. The book says a diet high in animal fats like fatty meats and high-fat dairy products, fried foods and butter, can put us at greater risk for heart disease and cancer.

So it's best to buy low-fat alternatives, although high-fat favourites don't have to be cut out of the diet altogether. A treat now and then won't do us any harm.

Still, we do need to be a bit careful. The book lists several fatty foods we need to be aware of, most that everyone must know are problem foods but some that might come as a surprise to some:

Reading food labels carefully could help us reduce fat in our diet, looking on the back to see what the food really contains rather than just trusting the manufacturer's promises or hype on the front.

Then again, I've heard that many ‘low-fat’ foods have extra calories from sugar, so in the supermarket, I'll have to look at the ‘energy’ content as well as the ‘low-fat’ label. The book says calories are called kilocalories on labels, or kcal for short.

It says that as well as low-fat things not being as low in calories as we might imagine they are, they can sometimes be a bad option because people who assume they're low-fat can be tempted to eat more of them and end up eating more calories than they would have done if they'd bought the ordinary variety.

The book says the portion sizes of a lot of snack foods, processed foods and food in restaurants have gone up in recent years, so people can think they're eating the same amount when actually they're eating more. Also, people will tend to eat the amount put in front of them, whether it be a small, medium or large portion, so big ones in restaurants will be eaten without much thought, especially when the person eating them has paid for them and wants to get the full value of what they paid for.

The book advises that we avoid any offers that seem good value such as "Eat all you can"-type offers that seem bargains but they'll mean eating more high-calorie food that'll mean we struggle more to lose weight.

Drinking Alcohol and Sugary Soft Drinks Can Interfere With Weight Loss

Party

I know that part of my weight problem has come about because I drink too much alcohol. I know I drink beer and cider partly to cheer myself up, and partly because I think I may as well, because I don't think it's worth looking after myself because I look so bad anyway. But if I aim for a new, healthy, much slimmer me within six months, or maybe a significant improvement within three, I'll have a goal, so it'll be worth giving up the beer to help me aim for it. Well, perhaps looking a lot better this time next year might be a more realistic goal to aim for. We'll see. I'll aim to lose quite a bit of weight in less time than that, but I won't expect too much, so I won't be disappointed and depressed if it doesn't happen so soon. All I need is a substitute for alcohol, ... one which isn't comfort eating! I'll think about that.

The weight loss book says drinking large amounts of alcohol can sabotage a person's efforts to lose weight, because it's high in calories. It talks about the things most people must already know about alcohol but with more detail, saying that for health reasons, quite apart from losing weight, it's best for a man not to drink more than 21 units of alcohol a week, with a maximum of four in any one day, and for a woman not to drink more than 14 a week, with a maximum of three in one day. A unit is equivalent to a small glass of wine, half a pint of beer or lager or one pub measure of spirits or sherry.

It says losing weight doesn't mean it's necessary to stop drinking alcohol altogether, though a doctor might advise that because of other health reasons, or might advise restricting alcohol quite a bit to help with weight loss.

Apart from the fact it's a high-calorie drink, alcohol can mess up a weight loss plan because when people have had quite a bit to drink they're less likely to care what they eat, and alcohol can make some people feel hungry.

Apple

Sometimes we can eat more when we've been drinking and not think anything of it, soon forgetting we ever did it. Keeping written notes of when we eat and what we eat can bring home to us just how much we can let our weight loss plan slip sometimes and in what circumstances, so we can plan better to make sure those things don't happen so much.

If when we think about it we realise we do eat more when we've had a bit to drink, it might be just as well to try and think of ways we can limit our drinking. The book suggests a few, such as not buying so much, using smaller measures, or if we're out, drinking half pints instead of pints, diluting alcoholic drinks with sugar-free non-alcoholic things or alternating alcoholic drinks with diet soft drinks.

Wow this book's a kill-joy! ... Well, perhaps it isn't really, since it's only saying all this stuff for our good, of course of course, and it's not telling us to cut out high-calorie treats and alcohol altogether.

But it goes on with more doom and gloom:

Crying

It says soft drinks can contain loads of sugar; sometimes one can contains about ten teaspoonfuls of sugar or more! So it says if we drink a lot of them, losing weight can be a problem for us, since it's easy to drink a lot of those things, simply not realising how much sugar they contain!

The book says research in children has found that sugary soft drinks can contribute a lot to weight gain, since children tend to like to drink a lot of them, or parents might give them a lot without realising just how high in sugar they are. The book says it's thought that the body doesn't recognise and deal with sugar from soft drinks in the way that it does from food, so the sugar can slip by undetected till it's too late to digest it, or something.

I find it hard to believe, but the book says that the portion sizes of a lot of soft drinks in restaurants and supermarkets have increased a lot in recent years. So it says anyone who drinks a lot of sugary soft drinks would do better to find an alternative. At least there are alternatives, like diet soft drinks and sugar-free squashes.

Thinking About How Easy it Is to Put On Weight and How to Start Preventing it

Apple

When I'm a lot thinner, I'll be more confident because I can go out without worrying that people are saying horrible things about my weight, and I might have a lot more energy, so I'll feel happier doing the things I enjoy again. I'm going to look forward to all the things I'll have the confidence and energy to do when I've lost weight. I'm going to think of them all one by one and imagine doing them in as vivid detail as I can, perhaps often. I'll enjoy doing that. Then I'll be happier about giving up the fatty foods and drink I like now.

One thing I love is cheese! Well mild cheese anyway. It's one of those things like chocolates, where once you've had some, you crave more and more. Sometimes, it's probably best to cut out foods like that instead of trying to eat them in moderation, or at least keep them for special occasions. I notice that with foods like cheese, if I don't eat them, I don't miss them; but as soon as I start eating them, I want more. So it's probably best not to buy it. Then again, I do start to miss chocolate if I haven't had that for a while! It'll be nice to allow myself a bit of that sometimes.

Still, I've discovered that sugar-free chewing gum tastes nice, and that sometimes satisfies my craving for sweet things. I tend to put a few bits in my mouth together. They tend to last about one and a half hours! So I can enjoy the taste of something sweet all that time without getting fatter.

It's weird how easily I seem to be able to put on weight though. Just a few chocolates, and the next morning I feel as if I've got a whole new layer of fat I didn't have before! Perhaps most of it was there before and I didn't notice or something. But still, I am surprised at how much weight I can put on when I don't seem to have eaten much.

But the weight loss book points out that people don't have to stuff themselves with food to put on weight. Even small increases in portion size, or how often a certain food is eaten, over the long-term, can mean a surprising amount of extra calories; or a small decrease in exercise levels can, such as when people switch from walking to the bus stop on their way to work to taking the car. Over a year, the decrease in activity really mounts up. Or if we simply have an extra forty calories a day, - and it's extremely easy to do that without even realising, - then over a year, that adds up to thousands, and all the extra weight!


Part Five
Planning Out Changes in Our Food Intake and Exercise Levels We Feel Sure We Can Stick To


Not afraid of heights – afraid of widths.
--Author Unknown

My advice if you insist on slimming: Eat as much as you like – just don’t swallow it.
--Harry Secombe

Treadmill

The weight loss book recommends we make a definite plan for exactly what we're going to do to increase our exercise levels, and what we're going to do to change our eating habits, since just resolving to do something without planning what to do and when to do it might mean we don't get around to doing anything much. Making specific and detailed plans for just what kind of exercise or energetic activity we're going to do when, and what foods to reduce and by how much, and what to eat instead, can mean our efforts last longer and we make more.

So, for instance, instead of just resolving to eat less chocolate, we could plan for just how much less to eat on a normal day if we eat a fair bit, for instance thinking: "Up till now I've been eating a whole chocolate bar a day, but from now on, I'll just eat a quarter of one."

Important Things to Bear in Mind When Thinking Up the Weight Loss and Exercise Plans

The plan can't possibly be too rigid, or it won't allow for special occasions and other times when our behaviour's bound to change a bit; but still, planning changes in quite a bit of detail might give us more direction and impetus to change things.

The plan can't be all that complex and detailed though, or we probably won't have a chance of remembering it. It's best if it's something we can bring to mind easily. There's no need to be so precise about our diet and exercise plans they become a real hassle. If they are, chances are we won't stay motivated to stick to them anyway.

We could write our plans down though to jog our memories.

The Importance of Being Specific About What We're Going to Do

Walking in the rain

We do need to be quite specific about amounts of exercise we're going to do and food habits we're going to change, so we've got a clear idea of what to stick to. For instance, if we just resolved to walk a lot more, we might start off walking a lot the first week, but then not walk nearly so much the next. But if part of our plan was to go to the park and walk there for fifteen minutes every day at mid-day unless it's raining, chances are we'll do the same amount constantly.

Making a Plan we Know Will Be Allright With Our Family

We also need to make sure we'll be supported in what we do. For instance, if we resolve to get home later from work because we've decided to go for a dip in the swimming pool on the way home every Tuesday and Thursday, it'll be worth talking it through with the people at home to make sure they're happy with the idea or persuade them it's a good one, so we don't get complaints when we start doing it.

The Plan Can't Be Too Difficult

The plan has to be easily achievable - if it's too ambitious, chances are we'll decide it's too difficult after a while and give up. If we start small, we can move on to more ambitious things when we know we can achieve the smaller things so we're more sure we'll be able to keep up the more ambitious things long-term.

Deciding on a Definite Date to Start the Plan, And a Date to Review How Well It's Working

It can be best to decide on a definite start date for our plan, whether that be the next day, the Monday after the weekend, or whatever, to reduce the temptation that we'll put it off.

Also, it can be good to decide on a date when we'll think through what we're doing and what we've achieved and decide whether the plan seems to be working or whether it needs adjusting, for instance because we simply can't make it to the gym as often as we thought we'd be able to, or because we realise we're still eating too much to lose weight and need to reduce our food intake some more or switch to more low-fat alternatives, or whatever.

Alternatively, if we find we're doing well on the plan and feel convinced we could do even better, we can plan for more challenging things to do.

It will also give us the opportunity to try to work out what's going wrong if we're not losing weight but we're not sure what we're doing wrong.

It's best not to review our plan that soon, because new habits and routines will take a bit of time adjusting to so it might take a bit of time before we're diligent at carrying them out and regularly losing weight so we can say the new plan's definitely working or not working.

We can decide on a date to review whether the plan's working and write it down somewhere we'll notice it.

Naturally, if we notice before then that something's not working, it'll be best to adjust it then and there rather than waiting till we review our plan.

An Example of a Weight Loss Plan

The weight loss book gives us examples of the kind of thing we could decide on, such as:

"Starting next week, I am going to cut down on portion sizes for my main meals. I will choose slightly smaller plates to put my food on and I won't just pile the food up twice as high! I will probably have to make sure that I eat bulky food like pasta to fill me up. I'll carry on having biscuits with my coffee at work, but I will make sure I don't have more than three a day. Nothing else changes -- I'm going to keep it simple and try not to break up my routine too much. I'll do this for four weeks and see how I am doing."

And one for exercise:

Walking a dog

"Walking is good, and I don't mind doing it. Starting next week, I am going to get off one bus stop earlier on my way to and back from work and walk the rest of the way. I'm also going to make sure that I get one long walk in at the weekend. I don't mind when it is - I'm going to keep that flexible - but it will definitely happen and it will last for at least 45 minutes. I'll try this for three weeks and see how it is going. I'll be interested to see whether I am a bit fitter -and enjoying it - or whether I need a bit more variety in my activity routine."

Though we might be tempted to stick to a plan we've done before, especially if we lost a lot of weight on it, we ought to bear in mind that if we only went and put all the weight back on afterwards, something about it didn't work. So we'll need to think through what didn't work and try to plan for how we could make sure it works better this time, or try something new.

If we're a bit hazy about what we want to do or what will work best for us, we could still write down ideas, and work things out as we write. Writing things down means we don't have to remember everything and keep it all in mind at once.

If We're Having Trouble Motivating Ourselves to Start Our Weight Loss Plan

That could be because we've made things too difficult for ourselves so we need to start off with something simpler. Or it could be because we've got all kinds of negative thoughts about trying it and they're putting us off. If that's the case, we can bring them to mind and analyse them to see if they're about genuine problems or they're just hyped-up worries. And if they're about problems that can be got over, we can try to think of solutions.

Cold

I think I know the kind of thing it means: I've started going out walking, but I don't like going out when it's cold. I get thoughts that just tell me I don't want to go out because it's chilly out there and I'll be cold. But I know my fitness will suffer if I don't keep up at least some form of exercise. So if I can motivate myself to do so, I could answer my thoughts by thinking that it'll probably be allright if I put a thicker coat and gloves on, and that I might enjoy it while I'm out there, trying to encourage myself.

The book says off-putting thoughts that commonly crowd people's minds are things like, "This will never work!" "It's too much effort!" "If I don't do it perfectly I'm failing." "This is going to be horrible!" We can ask ourselves if those things are true or whether things aren't really all that bad, and what we could do to make things less of a burden.

Also it can help motivate us if we remind ourselves of the reasons we've got for wanting to lose weight.

Jumping in leaves

It's important that our plans aren't so boring or hard to do that we realistically can't imagine doing them for long. These are things we're going to have to do more-or-less for the rest of our lives if we're going to keep weight off after we've lost it, though naturally we'll adjust the plan quite a bit as our health and time commitments change and so on, and as we find new things to do that we enjoy more than what we've been doing so we want to switch to them.

That doesn't mean we should think and think about what to put in the plan till we're sure we've got things to put in it that we'll be happy doing for years and years; problems might come up when we start that we just hadn't anticipated, and we don't need to be all that bothered by that, because we can always adjust them later. So it's best to get started even if we're not sure the plan's one we can stick to well.

If our enthusiasm for our plan flags, it's best if we can try and remotivate ourselves by thinking of the reasons we've got for wanting to lose weight, and also if we again think about what thoughts are getting in the way of us wanting to carry on. We can decide if they're flagging up real problems, and decide what we can do about them if they are; or try reassuring and inspiring ourselves if we're really just worried or apathetic but there isn't really much of a problem stopping us.

Hula-hooping

If we notice that something keeps getting in the way of our attempts to lose weight, or we notice something that helps us stay motivated to carry on, or some way of exercising or low-calorie food we particularly like, or a method of doing things that makes carrying on the weight loss plan more appealing, we could write it down so we're less likely to forget it. Then if it's something getting in the way, we can think it through and decide what to do about it. Good ideas or insights into why we're having problems might spring to mind while we're busy out exercising or somewhere else, and they could sometimes slip to the back of our minds again unless we make a special note of them.

It's best not to be too hasty to change our plan as we're going along though, since sometimes things seem hard to get around to doing at first, but then when we become used to them, we can discover we're getting some enjoyment out of them, or not feeling as deprived as we did at first, or our chosen exercises are becoming easier to do as we get fitter, or we didn't like giving up time to do extra things at first but we discover we're happier to do that than we thought we would be. So something we didn't like much at first can become less of a hassle all by itself as time goes on. So it can be worth waiting to see if it does if there isn't any obvious problem getting in the way but things just seem a bit difficult at first.

Dealing With Feelings That Discourage us

Relief

But whenever the weight loss plan gets irksome, at least we can reassure ourselves that we're working to achieve something that's going to be good for us, even if progress is slow. Sometimes, feelings can make us think depressing thoughts about things that don't seem nearly so bad if we're in a better mood. So sometimes the answer to any bad feelings we have about the weight loss plan might not be anything to do with the need to adjust the plan itself, but they can be remedied if we do things to cheer ourselves up that have nothing to do with our weight, like watching a comedy video, going somewhere where we can watch children playing, having a soothing hot bath or shower, putting some make-up on to make ourselves look better and give ourselves a confidence boost, finding something funny on the Internet, looking at old letters from friends - unless that'll make us sadly nostalgic for the past, listening to our favourite music, surrounding ourselves with nice-looking plants and things that smell nice, and a number of other things.

If we've gone for weeks and succeeded with our weight loss plan, we could treat ourselves to celebrate, not with food, and not necessarily with anything big, but perhaps with an outing to see something enjoyable, or something else we'll like. If we know we've got something to look forward to if we stick to the plan, it might motivate us to carry on when it seems like a bit of a slog. And we'll deserve something nice, or at least to really congratulate ourselves, if we succeed!

But if things really aren't going well, we don't have to think of it as a discouraging disaster, but as a learning experience. We can think through what's gone wrong, and what we can do differently to solve the problems so we can make a better go of things.

Problem Solving Skills

Having ideas

If we're having serious difficulty sticking to our weight loss plan, or difficulty losing weight despite sticking to it, we could try sitting down to spend some time working through the problems in a systematic way. If problems just don't seem to have solutions at first, we might discover some we'd just never expected to find if we look at things from a different angle, though we might have to do a fair bit of thinking before we discover them.

There's a technique of systematic problem solving that has five steps:

  1. Writing down exactly what the problem is; thinking it through can clarify it in our minds so we have something detailed to work through, since sometimes we can just have vague thoughts of discomfort flowing around our heads. Writing it down can help us remember the details.
  2. Then we think of as many possible different solutions as we can, even if some sound a bit daft; possibilities might still arise from the thought of them. We write them all down as well so we remember them.
  3. Then we think about which one of the solutions we've thought of sounds most promising.
  4. Then we try it out.
  5. Then later, maybe days or weeks later, we think through how things are going, and decide whether the solution's working, or whether we need to pick another one or do the problem solving process again to find one we didn't come up with before, perhaps because things have changed a bit so we need to consider new things. When we first decide on a solution, we decide on a date when we're going to think about whether it's been working for us.

Clarifying the Problem

When we first think of the problem, we need to clarify it in specific terms so we know what direction to go in with solving it. We write down specific details of what's wrong. For instance, if we just think we'd like to be happier, we might have trouble knowing what to focus on to help us achieve that. So if the problem initially seems to be that we'd like to be happier, we can ask ourselves questions to clarify what we'd really like before we write down what the problem is, such as:

"What would my life be like if it was a happy life, within the bounds of realistic possibility? What specific things would be different? What would I be doing that I'm not doing now? What would I not have to worry about that I'm often worrying about now?"

Our answers to questions like that will help us clarify what we want, and then we can try to work out how to get it.

Once we think we have the problem clarified though, we can ask ourselves if what we're assuming is the problem really is, or whether what we think is the problem is really only a symptom of something else, and if so, what.

On crutches

I think I've got an idea of what that means. I once heard someone say she got health problems and couldn't do much around the house any more. She said she was upset that she couldn't do cooking any more. But when someone had a talk with her, she thought it through more and it turned out that what she really wanted was to feel useful again, since her self-esteem was suffering because she felt bad about not being able to do what she used to. So really, anything that would raise her self-esteem would have solved her real problem, or anything that made her feel more useful. Some things might have been easier for her to have done than cooking and made her feel just as useful, things she didn't have to move around to do.

Chef with a pancake

The weight loss book says there was someone who thought her problem was that she found it hard to discipline herself to stick to having small portions of food when she was out with friends. She thought her problem was lack of self-discipline; but really, there were other ways of looking at it so the issue of discipline or the lack of it didn't even come into it; for instance, if she ate less earlier in the day or did quite a bit of exercise, perhaps it wouldn't have mattered so much that she had big portions; or if she ate some low-calorie food just before she went out, she might not have had the appetite for a big portion; or if she had a big portion of salad, it wouldn't matter that it was a big portion.

Child screaming

Another mistake we can make is to feel sure we know what the problem is, when really, it's only part of the problem. For instance, someone who leaves work to have a baby might gain quite a bit of weight in the following year and think she must have done it because she's been comfort eating because feeling a bit isolated and looking after a crying baby has made her a bit miserable. So she might focus on how to stop herself comfort eating. But in reality, though comfort eating might play quite a large part in her weight gain, there might be several other reasons for it, such as becoming less active due to leaving a job that involved a lot of walking around and doing other active things, and not walking some of the way to work as she had before. Being less active could mean she has more time for snacking. The food she ate in the canteen at work where she had lunch might have been healthier and lower-calorie than what she eats now. She might have started snacking at night since she has to get up a lot to comfort the baby. So it could turn out that all those things could do with being thought through, not just the comfort eating. Just making efforts to stop comfort eating might not be that effective because she's still putting on weight because of the other things.

Still, it's very important not to spend ages in deep thought about what the problems really are, or we risk never getting around to thinking up possible solutions. A solution that only solves part of the problem might be much better than nothing.

Thinking of Several Alternative Possible Solutions

It might not be that easy to think of solutions, so just throwing around ideas might give us a better start, thinking of possibilities, not focusing too hard on whether they'll really work at this stage but just letting ideas flow into the mind, even if some of them are a bit wacky, and noting them down in writing. We might be able to modify the funny ones afterwards in ways that make them more suitable. Sometimes, thinking of daft ones first gets the creative juices flowing and then it's easier to think of others. We can try and think of lots if we can.

Thinking Through Which Ideas Are Best

We can look through all our ideas, throw out ones that really won't work, and think about how well the others would work in the short term, medium and long term.

Before we throw out an idea, we can think through whether there might be something to part of it after all. For instance, someone might come up with the wacky idea that they could discipline themselves not to eat so much if restaurants had alarm clocks they'd put on the tables of people trying to lose weight and they'd go off loudly after ten minutes to remind them to stop eating. That would just be a joke idea, but the thought, "alarm" might lead them to think of the idea of wearing a watch with an alarm on it and setting it to go off ten minutes into a meal as a private signal to themselves to slow down their eating. They might still think of far better solutions than that, but something might come out of the idea.

If it's difficult to pick a solution from the ideas we have, we could decide to try out a few.

Also, if we're stuck, we could write down all the pros and cons we can think of of each fairly attractive solution. Then we could look through the lists, searching for pros and cons of equal importance, and each time we find a matching pair, we could cross them both out. After a while there will probably be a fair few more of either pros or cons.

If we do that with each possible solution on the list, we can choose the ones with the most pros and least or least important cons left at the end.


Part Six
Changing the Family's Eating Habits, and Trying to Prevent Their Bad Ones From Influencing Ours


To lengthen your life, shorten your meals.
--Proverb

If food is your best friend, it's also your worst enemy.
--"Grandpa" Edward Jones, (1978)

In general, mankind, since the improvement of cookery, eats twice as much as nature requires.
--Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

I'm going to try to change the whole family's eating habits, because my children are becoming too fat, and I think it's partly my fault. I have to change for the sake of the children even if not for myself. I want to do my best to make sure they're healthy. And I do want to be around to look after them while they're growing up, and to see their own children if possible. So it is worth making an effort.

I'll test healthy recipes on the whole family till we find things we all like.

I could try preparing bowls of chopped raw carrots and maybe other vegetables and leaving them by the side of the kids when they come home from school, in the hope that they'll get to like nibbling on those and so eat less sweets. I'll eat some of them first and tell them how nice I think they are - I love raw carrots, and truly fresh raw cauliflower, and some raw cabbage; it's just that I haven't been bothered to prepare them in the past because I've enjoyed fatty convenience foods so much. But I'll start eating more vegetables now, and if the children like the raw carrots and other raw vegetables I prepare, I'll do them often. I know it's traditional for children not to like vegetables, but if they're in snack form, and they eat them at their leisure while they're enjoying something else, and they're raw so they've got a lot more flavour than they have when they're cooked, they might start to enjoy them. I'll see.

I think they're influenced by television advertising to a large extent. They clamour for me to buy the sugar-filled soft drinks and sweets they've seen advertised. I could try taking them out for walks more to get them away from the television for a while, and talk to them about how unhealthy things like sugary foods can be. I was thinking of buying them their own televisions to go in their bedrooms, but maybe that isn't a good idea. They'll be able to watch adverts for unhealthy food without anyone knowing then, giving me more trouble at the shops, as well as watching other things I'd prefer they didn't, like violent programmes, perhaps. I'm sure the television's influencing them. If they don't have televisions in their rooms, I'll have more control over what they watch.

I've just read that people shouldn't aim to eliminate all fat from their diet though, especially the diets of young children, since fats can contain essential nutrients. Young children are better off drinking full-fat milk than skimmed milk, because vitamin A dissolves in fat, and the vitamin needs to be dissolved for the body to be able to use it; and the fat in full-fat milk contains it. When some of the fat's taken away, the vitamin A goes as well. So just while children are growing most, it's best if they have it. And everybody needs about an ounce of fat in their diet a day, so vitamins that dissolve in fat can dissolve in it.

Family and Friends Might Unwittingly Make it Harder for Us to Lose Weight

Family eating

The weight loss book says a lot of people find it harder to lose weight because they're constantly being tempted to eat, because others are eating around them, or they buy nice snacks for others and get tempted to eat some themselves. For instance, someone living in a house with friends who all cook for each other might find it much easier to fit in and eat with them, especially if their food's nice, than eat something different and maybe feel a bit deprived. Or if someone else does the shopping, they might buy some enjoyable but fattening things and prepare them at mealtimes. Or friends might bring round unhealthy food it seems rude to refuse, or prepare unhealthy meals when we visit them. The children might beg for unhealthy food when we're out, and work colleagues might often bring some to the office, and invite us out to places that sell unhealthy food for lunch. Our job might be one where we're inactive for hours a day, and some workplaces might have vending machines selling chocolate temptingly close to some people's desks.

That's not to say anyone should be blamed for making it more difficult for us to lose weight, at least if they haven't deliberately been unhelpful, since after all, we have a choice of whether to eat the nice food around us, and chances are we'll do it uncomplainingly and in fact very willingly a lot of the time, since who really wants to resist nice food! So other people might very well have got the impression we enjoy the nice food, which will be a correct one. So they might not see any reason to change what they do. So we can't blame them for giving us nice fattening food or eating it around us; we'll need to explain clearly how we really feel and what we'd like to happen if we'd prefer they stopped, except for those who've tried that already, naturally.

Communicating Very Clearly About How We'd Like Things to Change

Some people feel sure they have told those around them they don't want them bringing nice food into the home and so on, but all they've really done is given vague hints or sarcastic or sulky comments that didn't convey a message as strongly as they'd thought they did, especially given they ate the food cheerfully enough. If we want to get a message across well, we'll need to explain it clearly and say what we'd like to happen from now on, in specific terms that give them clear directions, such as, "I'd rather you didn't buy cake for desserts from now on; it'll help me lose weight if we have low-fat yoghurt instead", rather than just something like, "Can you bring less unhealthy food into the house from now on?" That doesn't make what we're saying clear. For instance, it doesn't say just how much less of the unhealthy food we'd like them to buy, how unhealthy it has to be before we classify it with the unhealthy food we'd rather they didn't buy, and whether we mean all the time, even on special occasions, or just some of the time, and if so, when.

Reading the paper

Apparently, some people think they've been saying clearly what they want when they haven't really ever said it with enough conviction for it to be likely to have been taken much notice of, or at a good time. For instance, they might have made short comments when the person they were talking to was tired or distracted and not concentrating that well, and the person didn't think they meant it that seriously, since after all, they eat the food happily. Also, when discussions like that have come up before, the one asking for changes might always have given in as soon as the other person has raised objections, so the person raising them assumed the issue wasn't all that important. We could try and imagine things from the other person's point of view and think about how well we would have picked up messages like the ones we've been giving.

The weight loss book recommends we have a serious talk with anyone who's behaviour we think is hindering our weight loss plans, just to make sure they're giving us all their attention and we come across as really meaning what we're saying.

Angry

Apparently some people just give vague hints and then get more and more annoyed that they're not being taken notice of, and also because they're thinking the other person just can't care about their health and must be really inconsiderate and that kind of thing, which is unfair because they're not making their message clear, but they don't realise they're not, and one day they've had enough and shout and bellow in anger at the one they think is doing something unhelpful about how inconsiderate they're being. They might have been getting angry partly because they've been interpreting the other person's behaviour in a much worse way than was fair. The person on the receiving end will likely just get angry and shout back defensively or get upset, because after all, the person trying to lose weight never explained clearly what they wanted before, and they always ate what was put in front of them and seemed to enjoy it. It can just create bad feeling.

So it's better if we don't brood on who's to blame, but contemplate how to describe what we would like done in the future, explaining our mixed feelings about food - how we love it but know we need to eat less, and making specific requests of them about what we don't want them to do in future, and what we'd prefer them to do instead of what they do now.

The weight loss book says these conversations are often difficult and it's hard to make sure they'll go to plan, since after all, a person might feel they have to cut out some of their own pleasure to help us, so they might not be keen on what we say. It wouldn't be very appealing, for example, if we told a friend that we didn't want to go for pizzas with them any more but instead would like them to go with us to a salad bar. It could take a bit of imagination and compromise as well as good-humour if we're going to persuade them to change.

Dealing With Difficulties we Could Have if Friends and Family Aren't Keen on Changing Their Ways or Helping us

Weight lifting

Friends and family can also unwittingly make it more difficult for the one losing weight to exercise enough, for instance by trying to persuade them to hang around and chat instead of going swimming, or protesting that there isn't enough money for gym membership or to buy sports equipment and so on, which might be a reasonable concern.

Also, people can deliberately discourage us, for instance by laughing at our first slow attempts at exercise, or insisting that it'll be impossible to lose lots of weight and keep it off.

Other things that can make it more difficult to lose weight are having to stay in to look after children and so on.

Sometimes, it's not that easy to lose weight without other people's active help. For instance, we might need a baby-sitter if we're going to go out and exercise, or when we're shopping, to prevent us having the hassle of being nagged for unhealthy food; we might need a partner to do their share of the housework so we've got time to go out and exercise; we might need someone to give us a lift back from the gym in the evenings when it's dark; we might need a partner to agree to us spending money on gym membership or other things that'll help us lose weight, and so on.

It can be good to have a good think about everything that hinders our plans to lose weight, and then decide what to do about them.

As well as thinking about what's been influencing them to go wrong in the past week or so, we can think back to what's made them go wrong in the past that could quite possibly make them go wrong again now if we don't make plans to deal with them differently.

As well as asking ourselves what parts of our plan to lose weight have failed because we just haven't had the help we've needed or we've been hindered by temptations others have unwittingly put in the way, we can ask ourselves what's failed because we've just assumed people wouldn't be willing to help. We might have been being overly-pessimistic, though it might have taken a few persuasion skills to get their help.

Writing things down

It might help us remember all the things other people have done, unintentionally or otherwise, that have hindered us from losing weight, if we write down each one as we think of it. It'll mean we can think about how to deal with each one before it slips the mind.

When several have come to mind, we can rephrase them in terms of exactly what we need, rather than what the problem is, so we get an idea of how we want to move forward. So, for instance, if one problem we've had in the past is, "I'd like to exercise more but I've never had a baby-sitter for the kids at times when I've wanted to go out", we could rephrase that so it's forward-looking, and write, "I need either my partner, a family member or someone who'll come here for not much money, to baby-sit the children while I'm out".

Or if a neighbour discourages us from walking for exercise, perhaps because every time they meet us in the street they laughingly say something like, "Oh, you're going through another one of your weight loss fads are you?", we might start off by writing down that the problem is that they discourage us, but then we can rephrase it as something like, "I need to think of a way to stop my neighbour's discouraging comments getting to me."

When we've rephrased the problems in ways that are forward-looking, we can develop plans to deal with the problems. For instance, we can think through who best to ask if they can baby-sit the kids, when it would seem most convenient for them, and how best to ask them so as to be more likely to get a positive response, for instance waiting till they're in a good mood, and making sure we don't irritate them by criticising them for having failed to think of our needs for exercise and offering to baby-sit in the past.

As for a neighbour who discourages us with taunting comments, we could think of several possible solutions:

Alternatively, trying to think of things from a whole new angle might help us find solutions where we don't actually need other people's co-operation. For instance, we might not have done much exercise in the past because no one's been available or willing to give us a lift back from the gym when it's dark. But rather than trying to find someone, perhaps we could think of how it might be possible to change our routines so we could go earlier, or change the form of exercise we do, so, for instance, instead of going to the gym on a weekday, we could see if we could cycle part or all of the way to work and back. It could work for some.

Or if other people's discouraging comments are hindering our weight loss plans, we can ask ourselves whether such comments have always hindered us, or whether there was a time we still got such comments but carried on regardless. If there was, we can ask ourselves what we can learn from it to help us in the future.

Encouragement That Doesn't Work

Upset

Some friends or work colleagues might hinder us from losing weight while they're actually trying to encourage us. They might be well-meaning, only wanting us to succeed the best we can, and yet still contribute to our failure. For instance, they might do it by encouraging us to go on a stricter diet and to do more intense activity or exercise than we're happy with. They might reason that the more drastic the weight loss plan is, the faster we'll lose weight. They'll of course be right; but a weight loss plan that stops us having so many of the things we enjoy, or makes us exercise to the point where we really don't enjoy it, isn't something we could possibly stick to long-term, so we're likely to give up, or to throw it in and have a binge-eat to compensate, or just eat more of the things we enjoy every now and then. So long-term, it won't be effective for us, even if we get impressive results in the first month or so. They might not understand why we could possibly want to lose weight more slowly than we could; it might seem illogical to them; so we'll have to get all our reasons clear in our minds so we can explain them, so we don't feel pressured to do things we're not keen on.

When People Try to be Helpful But They're Actually Being Irritating

Annoyed

Some people can say things that are well-intentioned, meant to spur us on to greater effort, but they can come across as nagging or nannying, or as if they're watching and judging our every move. So it can feel uncomfortable.

For instance, people might say things like, "Should you be eating that? You know it's fattening", or, "You've missed your exercise session twice this week. You're never going to lose weight like this!"

Or they might reassure us that we don't need to lose weight, even though we know we do. Perhaps a marriage partner might say that while trying to reassure their partner about their desirability, or a friend might say it to cheer the person up.

Or an enthusiastic family member might tell us cheerfully they've made us a little green salad for tea, and it might depress us because we're really in the mood for something warm and filling.

Or someone might sit us down saying they'll give us advice about the best exercises to do, and go into so much detail about things they say are the best thing to do that we can end up discouraged about whether anything else would be any good, or feel so overwhelmed with detail we just don't feel like exercising at all.

When people feel as if others are trying to control what they do, a typical reaction is to rebel and do the opposite of what they want. But of course it'll sabotage our plans to lose weight if we do.

So if we can think of any similar things that are going on in our lives, it can help if we write them down, and then, again, think of ways we can handle things in ways that'll change things, or at least stop them bothering us so much.

For instance, we could perhaps explain to some of the people trying to help us like that that what they're doing isn't helping and why, and what we'd like them to do instead that really would help us. If we can try to put a positive spin on what we say, for instance by requesting what they could do to help us instead of what they're doing, and not blaming them or criticising them for what they have been doing, beyond what's really necessary to explain ourselves, then they'll often be more likely to be co-operative and not argue.

Thinking of What to Say to Persuade Friends and Family Members to Change the Way They Behave Towards us

Talking

If we have a conversation with the people doing things that are hindering our plans to lose weight, there are several things we can do to increase the chances that it'll go well and they'll agree to do what we want, though naturally nothing we do can guarantee it:

Firstly, we need to think through what we'd like to say and make sure it's fair, reasoning ourselves out of thoughts that might actually be unfair or just cause trouble if they were voiced. it's good to consider whether we might be thinking things that are unfair that would just cause trouble if we accused the person of them. For instance, it might be easy to start building up resentful thoughts about how it seems that since we're not getting the help we need from the other person, it seems they just don't care about whether we get ill from heart disease or whatever because we're getting too fat. It might not be that they don't care at all; they might just not have thought about the risks. It's best not to make judgments, because we don't really know what their motives are and what they've been thinking. Or we might feel resentful because it seems they haven't been listening to us when we protest about their behaviour; but it's as well to consider whether we've actually been making ourselves clear.

If discouraging thoughts come to mind about how there's little point in attempting the conversation because the person probably won't care about what we're saying and won't be sympathetic or understanding, we can ask ourselves what evidence we really have that that's the case. Perhaps the reason they haven't been sympathetic before is because we haven't explained how much our weight loss really means to us and why, and if we did they'd understand better.

It's best to try and put resentful judgments about why they're behaving the way they are to the back of our minds if we can, making up our minds to reserve judgment, because we don't really know their motives. Then we can focus on approaching them about the actual behaviour we don't like, rather than letting our opinion of their personal motives and so on clutter the conversation and risk leading to a quarrel that won't solve anything.

Another thing we need to do before the conversation is decide exactly what we'd like to get out of it. We need to make direct requests of them about how we'd like their behaviour to change, or we might not get anywhere. If the conversation ends with them just resolving to just help us eat less, for example, it's quite vague, so maybe not much will happen differently. For instance, they won't be sure exactly what we'd like to eat less of, or how much less we'd like to eat, or when we'd like to eat less - all the time, even on special occasions, or just some of the time, or how we want them to help us. So we need to make specific requests, more on the lines of, "Please can you not buy ice-cream any more? I find it really tempting, but I shouldn't eat it so often really because it's making me put on weight; so I'd prefer temptation was taken out of my way, except on special occasions like parties. Let's try buying more melons and eat those for pudding instead, shall we?"

When we've decided what to say, we need to choose a good time to say it. It'll be best if we allow plenty of time for the conversation, choose a time when neither we nor the person we want to talk to feels stressed, and make sure it's private, rather than risking embarrassing them in public.

Having What Might Be a Difficult Conversation Where We Try to Persuade Someone to Help us or Change Their Ways

Arguing

There might never be a perfect time for some conversations; we'll just have to try to pick a fairly good one.

Again, it's best if we try to coolly explain the situation rather than going in with blame and accusation, which will likely just put them on the defensive and lead to an argument. Our opinions of their motives might be wrong anyway. If we find it difficult to put aside thoughts of resentment, we can try to imagine we're a neutral person looking in from the outside, trying to look at both people's points of view.

The conversation will probably go better if we keep it focused on the actual behaviour we want changed and how we'd like it to change, rather than our opinion of them. We can tell that if we think of what to say and then think about how we'd feel if someone said it to us: If someone said something to us like, "You don't care about my health, do you; you will keep insisting on eating tempting food around me!" we'd probably want to argue rather than listen patiently ourselves.

If we do say anything that could be construed as a judgment, or if it's an opinion rather than a fact, it's best if we say it's just an opinion and we know we might have got it wrong.

Saying thanks

It'll contribute to a better atmosphere where they might feel like being more co-operative if we say something positive about them, such as how we appreciate all the effort they make to contribute to running the house, and also acknowledge that our own behaviour has contributed to the problem.

If we explain our feelings, such as acknowledging we're not much good at resisting good food or that it doesn't take much to dissuade us from doing exercise, and how we feel torn between wanting to enjoy ourselves and wanting to lose weight and that's why we need their help, then they might be more sympathetic to us.

That'll likely just be the start of the conversation; we also need to be willing to listen to anything they want to say about the matter, since it might change our view of it. They'll know if we're not really willing to listen, and it might alienate them and put them off helping. But if we're open to taking anything they've got to say on board, they might well feel more positive about helping.

And it might really help us to find out how they view things. For instance, we might have been thinking they're inconsiderate and don't listen to us, because they haven't been keeping tempting food out of our reach, but it might turn out that they assumed that if we didn't want to eat it, we simply wouldn't have, and the fact that we did meant we must have been pleased to have it. They might think the hints we gave that we weren't happy didn't really let them know we weren't happy with what was happening when we were going ahead and enjoying the food they'd got.

Seeing things from their point of view might make us feel relieved that things aren't as bad as we thought. And it might make it clearer to us how to communicate in a way that'll help them understand our point of view more.

Conversations might not always go well though, despite our best intentions. That's especially if going along with our wishes will mean they have to give up something nice as well. The weight loss book lists several possible reactions they might have:

It's easy to lose confidence in what we're saying when the other person seems to think they've got a good reason to oppose us.

Surrender

To prevent ourselves from feeling compelled to give up the whole idea, we can think through beforehand what compromises we'll be willing to make and what we simply won't be willing to give up wanting no matter what. If we can try and anticipate how they might react, we can plan how we might respond.

Talking about our feelings and just how much losing weight means to us can sometimes get more sympathy and willingness to co-operate from someone who'd otherwise just brush off what we said.

But naturally, that doesn't mean talking about any bad feelings we've got towards them; that would just make them want to argue and they'd stop listening or caring what we said. It might make us feel better for a few seconds telling them we're really angry with them for not helping, for example; but then when we discovered that only annoyed them because they hadn't been deliberately unhelpful, we might end up regretting having said it. So the kinds of feelings it's best to talk about are the ones to do with how much losing weight matters to us.

Yeah yeah, I think I've got the point now.

And we shouldn't be afraid to repeat our point of view if it doesn't seem to be sinking in or is being dismissed, and to emphasize how truly important it is to us.

For instance, if someone wants us to go out to a fast food restaurant with them and is trying to jolly us along and tease us into giving in, we can try just repeatedly explaining our point of view that it really matters to us because of both our weight and our health that we eat somewhere more healthy from now on, and that we don't want to put off starting. If we keep explaining that no matter what they say to try to persuade us otherwise, chances are they'll eventually give in when they realise we're simply not going to change our minds; and then if we can suggest a better place to go and they agree to it, they might find they enjoy it and would like to go again.

A lot of people find conversations like that difficult and awkward and don't feel confident about having them. We might very well not feel confident ourselves; but waiting till we are could mean waiting forever, so it's better to do our best to prepare and then go for it and hope for the best.

Worrying We're Being Selfish or Pushy if we Bring the Issues Up

Biting nails

The weight loss book says some people feel guilty about the idea of asking others to do things that'll mean they have to make changes in their lives they'd rather not make, or put themselves out to help more. But most if not all the changes won't have to be radical, and the person might come to prefer their lives the way they'll be if they change. For instance, swapping unhealthy food for healthier things might be surprisingly nice, given the enjoyable new flavours they might discover.

Or if we ask them to baby-sit for us more, or something like that, we could perhaps agree to do something for them in return that they'll enjoy.

If worried thoughts about feeling awkward starting the conversation still flow around our heads, we can ask ourselves if they're really valid; we might be worrying more than we need to. We can remind ourselves that the conversation is just the start of things; we're just telling them what we'd like, not ordering them to do something they'll have to obey. There will be room for negotiation, and it isn't as if we won't be listening to their point of view and making adjustments to our requests if we think that's the best thing to do. And they're perfectly at liberty to refuse to do what we'd like them to do. And after all, it isn't as if we're asking them to do some inconvenient things just for the sake of it; it's our health that's at stake!

The weight loss book says a lot of people believe they should put other people's needs before their own. But if other people deserve that kind of consideration, so do they. After all, there are people who once put their family's wishes before their need to lose weight for the good of their health for some time because they wanted to be unselfish, but it meant that their health got worse, so eventually their families had to make much bigger sacrifices than they would have done before to look after them. Really, the better we look after our health now, the better we'll be able to care for the family in the future. If they make a few sacrifices to help us now, it'll really be in their own interests.

Naturally, Even the Best-Planned Difficult Conversation Isn't Guaranteed to Go Well

Discouraged

Some people probably won't be willing or available to help no matter what. Others might be dismissive or scornful of our needs no matter how polite and well-intentioned we are. Some might make fun of us or be discouraging about how likely we are to succeed. Some people might say abusive things but insist they're joking.

It might be easy to be discouraged by such attitudes, since they might well be hurtful. But it's important not to let them or the discouragement put us off making the best efforts we feel we can to lose weight. Even without their help, there might be ways around the problems we have.

For instance, some people who can't get a baby-sitter while they're exercising might be able to find a form of exercise where they can take the children. For example, if the children are old enough to swim unsupervised in the swimming pool, a mother could take them there while she swims for exercise. Or maybe someone other than the person she asked at first would be unexpectedly willing to baby-sit. It would certainly be worth her investigating other possibilities.

We might be put off our plans to lose weight by abuse from others, besides the ones we've been asking for help; but it's worth having a good think about how to deal with them.

For instance, if a person feels timid about going out for a walk because some kids make fun of them, they can ask themselves questions to help them think of ways around the problem, such as:

We might still get angry or embarrassed or upset feelings after thinking such things through, and be nervous about being near the abusive people; but if we let our feelings put us off carrying out something as important as a weight loss plan, we're letting the abusive people win, and we're letting the ignorant, foolish and spiteful behaviour get in the way of something important. Of course, anyone who's at risk of genuine harm should take more serious measures to stop it.

But if when we think about it, it seems the main problem is really our feelings about what's happening, it's worth remembering that it's best if we're in charge of our feelings, rather than letting them lead us around. They can be good at alerting us to signs of danger, but sometimes they feel just as strong as they would if there was real danger, just because we've made them stronger and stronger by worrying about something, when we're actually exaggerating the threat more and more the more we worry. Or they could be stronger than they need to be because we got upset about the abuse last time we experienced it, before we thought it through and decided to think differently about it, so next time we're going into a situation where we might experience it, our brain will remember how we felt last time and give us the same feelings, as if to remind us that's how we felt, to warn us that that's how the situation makes us feel, in case there's danger in it. But if we know we don't have to feel that bad really, we can reassure ourselves.

Being Influenced By Beliefs About What's Normal

Eating

Often, people can have quite a few habits or beliefs that they take for granted as normal or the right beliefs, because of what they've come to believe through being around people who believed them, or having been taught them by parents. Some of those beliefs might be good in principle, but just not helpful for losing weight, such as, "Eat all the food on your plate; people in some parts of the world are starving; be grateful for what you've got and eat it all." That belief's fair enough normally; but if it means eating things that we don't really want when they'll make us fatter and we're already too fat, it's good to think about making exceptions.

Likewise with a belief about how it's rude to refuse any food offered by someone we're visiting; if we've got a good reason to do so, it's a good idea to refuse food we'd rather not have, and in any case it probably wouldn't hurt their feelings unless we were impolite about it.

Or a lot of people do things without thinking about whether they're good things to do, because they think they're just what everyone does. For instance, a lot of people might go up to their office in the lift rather than using the stairs, because they see other people doing that every day so they copy them without thinking about it.

The weight loss book says there was a man who would always buy a snack when he stopped at a petrol garage to put more fuel in his car. He didn't do that because he felt hungry, but because he thought it was the thing to do, because he saw other people buying them. Later it occurred to him that perhaps those other people just bought them occasionally, not all the time like he did.

Or someone in a group of friends where they often go out to fast food restaurants might assume that's just the way to have fun; so that belief's hindering them from losing weight.

So we can think about whether we might be doing things that aren't helpful for weight loss because we've been taking it for granted that those are the best things to do, when it wouldn't really matter if we did different things, and in fact it would be good.


Part Seven
Organising the Time so as to Fit the Extra Exercise, Food Preparation, New Hobbies and Commitments In


Much may be done in those little shreds and patches of time which every day produces, and which most men throw away.
--Charles Caleb Colton

You will never find time for anything. If you want time, you must make it.
--– Charles Buxton

Rich, fatty foods are like destiny: they too, shape our ends.
--Author Unknown

A clock

One problem is that eating more healthily, and doing more exercise, and getting out more, and learning new things, will mean I'm going to have to organise my time better, so I can work out how to fit all the extra things in.

I've found a bit of advice in an article about time management. I'll read it and see if it gives me some good ideas.

Yes, there are a few things I could do.

It suggests we cut down the amount of things we have to do ourselves by getting children to help with the housework.

The thing is, I like to do things myself so they're done properly. But there are probably things I could train them to do. Then I could organise a rota, and allot certain jobs to certain people all the time. So it could be one person's responsibility to do the dusting every week, and another person's responsibility to do the vacuuming, etc.
I could plan how they could help me with the cooking, maybe mixing things.
I'll think about what else they could help me with.

I might be able to cut down on the time I spend shopping by going at different times and finding out when the least crowded days and times are, and trying to go then after that. That'll make up a little bit for going more often.

And perhaps I'll keep a notepad in the kitchen and write down things we run out of when we run out of them, or things I notice we're running low on, so I don't have to go round the house before I go shopping each time deciding what we need.

And perhaps I could write a main shopping list on the computer of things we usually buy at least once a month, print out copies of it, and then just tick off what we need each week on one of them, instead of writing the whole shopping list from scratch each time.

I could write the list in order of the way things are laid out in the supermarket, so I'll come across the things in the order of the way they're written on the list. That should save a bit more time.

I'll try those things anyway. And I'll have a think about what other things I could do to save time.


Part Eight
Dealing With the Feelings That Make us Want to Eat More so They Don't So Much


Gluttony is an emotional escape, a sign something is eating us.
--Peter De Vries

People are so worried about what they eat between Christmas and the New Year, but they really should be worried about what they eat between the New Year and Christmas.
--Author Unknown

Comfort Eating

Miserable

Feelings can influence our eating habits quite a lot. For instance, I know I comfort eat. It seems the older I get, the more depressed I get when I hear about tragedies and doom and gloom on the news. And as soon as the depressed feeling comes on, I tend to think, "Quick, reach for chocolate!" Or something like that. It's just automatic. But sometimes, I eat a chocolate or cake or something, and it makes me feel better during the time I'm eating it, but when I finish, I go back to feeling just as depressed as I did before again! So I eat another one, and again I feel better while I'm doing that, but then I can feel depressed again afterwards. So I want some more chocolate! But then I wonder if the same thing will happen. So I think, "Hang on, I can't go on and on eating chocolate all evening!" So I realise that turning to something else to try to make myself feel better would help. What though!

Maybe whenever I get that feeling that makes me want to reach for the chocolate, I could think something like, "Hang on, this is just a depressed feeling; it's not actually telling me I need chocolate; I'm going to think of other things that might make me feel better."

Melon

The thing is, I've tried that once or twice, and I didn't like the idea of not eating anything, because I feel as if I want compensation for having just heard the upsetting thing, something nice to soothe myself a bit. So I don't want to just go away and try to forget about the feeling it brought on. Maybe a healthier food treat would do, something non-fattening. I'll have to think about what I like.

... I did try thin little crackers with seeds on them not so long ago and that worked well. The trouble was, I ate about five before I felt calmed down enough to go off and do something else. Still, five little crackers must have been less fattening than a few chocolates, if a bit too salty. I'll try and think of things that are even better.

Actually, I've noticed that when I play melancholy music it sometimes soothes me.

Sometimes it might help if I immediately try to think about whether there's anything I can do to help solve the problem, even if it's just something like writing to my member of parliament about it, urging the government to do something.

If there's nothing I can do, sometimes if I just go and get on with something else, the depressed feeling might just go away. But I'll have to try and think of more things that soothe me when I'm feeling a bit depressed that don't involve eating.

Thinking about it, of course one thing I could do is stop listening to the news! It seems they dig around for the worst possible things to let us know; there must be a lot of nice things going on that they just don't tell us about because they don't think they're sensational enough or something!

The weight loss book says it isn't just eating itself that feelings can influence us to do, but they can compel us to do other things that can make us put on weight; and we need to watch out for when feelings are influencing us more than we should be letting them.

Bananas

For instance, feeling bad about body shape can make us feel compelled to do irresponsible things like really over-doing an exercise session and risking injury, or going on a crash diet that'll make us feel unwell through lack of food the whole time till we give it up and possibly binge-eat a bit to compensate for what we were deprived of so we put on lots of weight in one go and end up feeling hopeless.

Of course, comfort eating wouldn't matter if we were snacking on tangerines or something.


Thinking About Ways of Changing Our Lifestyle So we Don't Have So Many Problems That Make Us Want to Comfort Eat

I've read that people need a certain standard of well-being to stay contented, and if they're not contented, it can lead to psychological problems that people can deal with by over-eating or getting addicted to something, or they can get depressed or anxious or angry all the time. When they get more contented, those problems can go away. The instinct can be to reach for the comfort food when we feel down; but a better way of dealing with things for the long-term might be to have a deep think about what's missing in our lives or what we need to make them better, and plan ways of fixing things where we can.

I've read there are a number of questions we can ask ourselves to help ourselves work out what's missing and what we need. I've read These are several examples of problems people have that need to be really thought through so they can improve their lives and the urge to comfort eat can be reduced, so it's easier to lose weight. The idea is that we first ask if any of these statements applies to us:

Anxious

When we've pinpointed all the things that are wrong in our lives, the idea is that we decide which order to work on them in, then think through as many possible ways of solving our problems as we can, before deciding which ones seem best, planning them through in detail and starting to make changes in our lives.


The book says it's important not to just blame one thing, such as comfort eating, for being the cause of our weight problem though, because there are probably several causes. For instance, some people might think their entire weight problem is due to them comfort eating or not exercising enough; but people with no weight problem comfort eat a bit, or don't bother exercising when they're tired or comfortable and don't feel like making the effort; so there's likely to be more to a weight problem than that. So we can try to think of everything that might be causing our weight problems.

Low Energy Levels

Drifting off to sleep

There are a few things that make me crave unhealthy food. I know comfort eating's part of the problem. But also, in the winter when there isn't much sunshine and the days get a lot shorter, my energy levels really slump and I feel as if I've got to reach for the chocolate and cake and things to give me more energy to carry on so I don't fall asleep all over the place.

Still, it's nice to know there are foods that give you a lot of energy that aren't fattening. I'll have to find out what they are and see if any are ones I like, and try them. I know I like dates! They're healthy. ... But then, they are fattening. Pity! Recently I hoped dried fruit wouldn't be as fattening as chocolate and I could eat it as a healthier alternative. I ate a whole cereal bowlful of dried fruit and nuts one day. I enjoyed it. But the next day, I seemed to have a big wad of fat on my stomach I'm sure I didn't have before I'd eaten them! I think dried fruit is fattening in that quantity. It's a shame.

Dried fruit could be a good alternative to eating chocolate in the winter even though it is fattening. At least it's healthy. But maybe I could find other ways of dealing with low energy levels that don't involve eating. Perhaps I'll go to the doctor and ask about light boxes, and whether there are any he recommends. I've heard they can help with that kind of thing, just little boxes that give off really bright light that you can put on the wall in front of you or something, and one can cheer you up a bit like sunshine can.

And I'll ask the doctor if I can have a blood test to check my levels of iron and other things just to make sure there isn't another cause of my low energy levels like anaemia.

Sleepy

Something that sometimes happens that I don't like is that I seem to wilt and my energy drains out of me, and I just want to fling myself into a chair and do nothing. But then I can go to sleep for hours! When I wake up I'm annoyed, because I feel as if I've wasted so much time. But recently I managed to catch myself a couple of times when I was just beginning to feel like flopping down and drifting off, before the feeling got too strong, and instead I got up, put some quite loud music on and did some keep fit exercises for a few minutes, singing, which probably helped fill my lungs with air so I got more oxygen to help give my body fuel. Then I felt better for a while. I don't suppose that'll always work. But I'm going to try it more often now.

Actually, when I'm sitting down and don't feel as if I've got the energy to get up, I could try putting my arms out to the sides and rotating them quite fast in big and little circles. I've tried that once or twice and it does seem to work. It seems to get blood circulating round the body more so it gets more energy or wakes up more. I don't know if it'll always work, but it's worked the couple of times I've tried it so far.

And something else I've noticed: Recently I had a horrible phase of feeling sleepy all day and hardly getting anything done, but after a few days it went away. I'm not sure how much it had to do with it, but I'd been feeling cold when I got out of bed in the morning because the weather's turned nasty, so I'd been eating hot toast with lots of butter on it through my sleepy phase. Then I started eating a big bowl of some kind of bran that I put quite a lot of seeds and sultanas in that I'd bought. The day I started doing that, I started feeling a lot better.

Making Sure we Don't Act on Feelings When It's Unwise

Unhappy

Feelings can have a big influence over what we eat and how much, so trying to analyse them and see them for what they really are rather than reacting to them on reflex can mean we eat less, so we're more likely to stick to a weight loss plan.

Feelings can sometimes be strong, and we might respond to them by eating more on impulse, when if we think through what makes those feelings strong, we might be able to deal with them in ways that don't make us want to eat.

For instance, if someone notices they get strong feelings of anger and resentment when they think someone's sneering about their weight or eating something nice in front of them, their impulse might be to eat something to compensate and soothe themselves. But it might be helpful if they ask themselves just why they get so angry and resentful at a sneer and just watching someone eating something nice. When they really think about it, they might perhaps realise that it goes back to when they were a child and they were sneered at in school, and people would eat nice things in front of them to taunt them and make them jealous, saying they couldn't have some because they were too fat. It might be that even now, someone eating something nice in front of them and seeming to look down on them because they're fat reminds them of that and immediately triggers off all the old angry feelings before they really even think about it. So they feel more angry than the situation merits.

When they realise that, they can have a talk with themselves about how the intensity of their anger isn't really being caused by the people who eat nice things in front of them or sneer at them in little ways now, so they don't need to feel bad about those people till they crave food as compensation. It might help them not to.

Sometimes, realising that a feeling isn't just being caused by something that's just happened but it's being made stronger by other things can make it fade away a bit, because we realise it's not telling us something that we need to pay a lot of attention to right then. So for instance, we can be feeling a bit miserable, but realise a lot of it has to do with just having been reminded of something that happened ages ago that was upsetting, but that we don't really need to think about any more. As soon as we realise that, the feeling will know it doesn't have to be so insistent because something important isn't happening right that minute that it needs to alert us to after all, so it can fade away quite a bit.

Likewise with any other feeling we realise is triggering off a craving for food for whatever reason - if we think through what's happening at the times when we eat more than is really in our best interests, we can try to think of ways of dealing with the feelings in ways that don't make us want to eat.

Trying to Work Out What Feelings Make us Want to Eat More, and How to Keep From Giving In to Them

Stressed at work

We might have to think things through quite a bit before we realise what all the feelings are that make us want to eat more. They might not just be the usual ones like sadness or boredom, but might include things like being in a really good mood, which might lead us to think we don't want to ruin things by depriving ourselves of the foods we love most. If we discover that is one of our triggers to eat more, we can think about whether there's anything we could do to still stay in a really good mood and yet not go overboard with eating nice things. It wouldn't mean going without the nice food altogether, just limiting the amount we eat.

We can try and think of times we've had the kinds of feelings that usually make us want to eat more and yet we didn't eat more; we can ask ourselves what we did that meant we didn't give in to temptation or didn't even want to, or weren't even tempted. If we can think of times like that, we could see if we can learn from them about things we could do again in the future.

We can think about whether there are things that make the feeling stronger that we could try and cope with differently so they don't, and things that have made the feelings weaker so they'll be good things to do again, or to devise strategies from. For instance, someone might realise that when they're busy, they can have exactly the same feelings for a little while that make them want to eat when they're not doing much, and yet those feelings don't have the same effect when they're busy, because it's easier to put them to the back of the mind. Or they might notice that if they have a strong craving for chocolate and then the phone rings, they get absorbed in conversation and the craving disappears. If so, then one possible solution when the feelings come on when they're not busy might be to distract themselves by doing something they'll enjoy or get absorbed in, if they can think of something.

The more we train ourselves to notice what feelings trigger off urges to eat in us, the less we'll just eat automatically when we get them, before we really think about why we want to; and the more chance we'll have of doing something else to cope with them instead, hopefully.

Thinking About Whether it Even Helps us at All to Give In to Feelings That Make us Want to Eat

Upset

What can motivate us to think about whether it's worth giving in to the feelings that make us want to eat more is thinking about how we feel when we have eaten more as a result of them - some people can just feel depressed that they gave into temptation and did something that'll make them fatter. So they feel worse than they would have done if they'd dealt with the feeling in another way. So we can ask ourselves what happens after we've coped with the feeling by eating. So if we feel better, we can think about how long we feel better for - whether eating solves the problem or whether we feel better at first but then feel bad about having eaten extra food. Some people find they feel bad about getting fat for longer than they felt good for when they gave into their feelings and ate something. We can also think about what the habit of dealing with feelings by eating will do in the long term to our health and to our future feelings about ourselves - whether we've got a really good reason for coping with the feelings another way.

It's natural to assume feelings are telling us something important that we need to act on soon. But really they can just be like habits - our brain's got into the habit of making us feel a certain thing when something happens so it still does even when the feeling isn't necessary. So we don't have to follow a feeling wherever it leads, although it can sometimes be difficult not to if it's strong.

But sometimes a feeling can be telling us something's wrong, and we're doing it a disservice by just trying to soothe it with food. For instance, a depressed feeling that keeps coming on might be to do with something going wrong in our marriage. If we just stuff ourselves with food to soothe it rather than working out what's triggering off the feeling and what we can do about it, we're not doing ourselves a favour; if we solve the problems in our lives, we'll be happier and those feelings won't come up any more.

Thinking About Feelings That Make Us Too Tired to Exercise

Asleep

Some people's weight loss programs are sabotaged by feelings of tiredness and hunger that make them want to eat quite a bit and not bother exercising.

The thing is though that when we get a feeling of hunger, it doesn't tell us how much to eat; so while we can assume we need to eat something big, we could try just eating a small handful of nuts or something, and that might satisfy the hunger feeling for the time being.

Also with a feeling of tiredness, it's easy to assume we need to sit down and rest or sleep - I know because I find it very easy to do myself! Nothing seems to matter compared with having a sleep or rest when I feel tired, even important things! I know it's bad, but it's difficult to change things. But though we might assume a feeling like that's telling us we need to have a nap right now and if it means we're asleep for hours that's just too bad, or that we absolutely need to rest for the rest of the evening and exercise will just have to fall by the wayside, really, all those feelings are really telling us is, "Right this minute, I'm feeling exhausted!" So though if we let sleep come we might sleep through the evening, - and then likely feel depressed and regretful about all the things we missed out on doing or the television or radio programmes we would have loved to watch or hear but we've now missed, we might be able to revive ourselves, and then enjoy the time we have left before bedtime, and be very thankful we did.

If we try and can't, then we'll likely have to give in to the feeling whether we like it or not because it's telling us that actually we really do need some sleep. But it'll be worth trying to revive ourselves, because we'll benefit if we can.

Also, the more we give in to the urge to rest when we would have been exercising, the more unfit we'll get, and that might make us feel tired more often, so we'll want to rest more, and that might lead to us exercising even less, so we'll get more unfit, more tired, exercise even less, and so on. Making the effort to haul ourselves up, liven ourselves up and do some exercise can stop that downward spiral.

Also, giving in to tired feelings during the day can mess up our sleep patterns - we can feel less like sleeping at night if we've had quite a bit during the day, so we don't sleep so well then, and that makes us want to sleep more the next day to make up for it. I've certainly noticed that with my own sleep patterns.

So it's worth trying to think of things that'll help us feel more lively when we start to feel sleepy during the day. I must remember to try that trick I discovered of putting my arms out to the sides while sitting down and getting blood pumping round the body and more oxygen into my lungs by moving my arms energetically in circles. Actually there might be a few exercises I could think of to do sitting down. Then when I've done them and feel energetic enough to actually haul myself up off my bottom, then I can do an exercise that's more energetic and burn off more calories.

Certainly that'll make me feel better in the long term. Giving into feelings that make me want to eat or not bother exercising, whatever they are, might make me feel good at the time, but the more I give in to them, the more likely it is that I'll end up feeling hopeless because I'm not losing much weight after all the effort I have put in!

Giving in to feelings can also give people worse feelings in the short term. I know that when I give into the urge to sleep during the day, I often end up feeling depressed when I wake up about all the time I missed. Giving in to the urge to comfort eat can cause us to feel ashamed or depressed later about messing up the weight loss plan, or annoyed with ourselves the next day when we notice how fat we still are.

So though feelings can be so strong we want to give in to them right then regardless of any bad consequences, it's better if we can find ways of soothing them without giving in to them.

Talking Back to Feelings

Unhappy

Something that works for some people in helping them control feelings is giving them funny names, or other names that bring home to them that the feeling isn't as important as it's easy to think it is, and then thinking of them as if they're characters with attitudes that they can talk back to and cajole out of their moods. For instance, a depressed feeling could be called Miss Melon-Cauliflower, after the word melancholy; an urge to eat a lot when we see a lot of nice food could be named after a character from a cartoon or book or something like that who eats a lot, and so on. We could call them things that we can relate to.

The book says one woman who tended to snack on things when she felt too busy or stressed called the sad feelings the hungries; she was actually hungry for a bit of company or a rest at those times, not really food, and calling her feelings the hungries was intended to remind her of that.

Actually, I think that happens to me sometimes. I feel a bit down and I reach for the food, but I think I'm really hungry for a bit of company, or for something interesting to do or read, because I'm doing something I find boring.

Someone else didn't feel like exercise any time she was feeling warm and comfortable. Well, who does! So she decided to call those feelings Mrs Adventurous, to remind herself she didn't need to take them with great seriousness, by gently making fun of them and trivialising them so she felt she could talk back to them, and the name would remind her to think they didn't have a seriously good reason for feeling the way they did but could be negotiated with.

So we could try and think of names we could call awkward feelings. But they also tend to bring thoughts with them that it can be useful to talk back to, because thoughts can persuade us to abandon our weight loss plans for a while. Thinking of thoughts as just opinions rather than facts can help.

For instance, if we see nice cakes in a shop window and feel like having a feast, and thoughts come to mind like, "Who cares; I can forget about losing weight for the next couple of hours! I'm not doing very well anyway, so it won't make much difference!" we can try to remember to think of them as opinions, and even treat them as if they're other people's opinions, or the opinions of the characters we've chosen to give our common feelings about food the names of, so we can talk back to them. Just as we would with an opinion we weren't quite sure was true, we can ask the thought if there are good reasons for thinking it's true, or whether in fact it's mistaken.

Questioning

For instance, a thought that our weight loss plans don't matter for the afternoon might usually seem thoroughly convincing; but if we question whether it's really true, we might realise that actually, having a feast might feel good while we're having it, but it'll take a lot of exercise to burn off all those calories, and we might feel bad when we start regretting eating so much, especially if we make it a habit.

Or if we have a craving for food along with a thought that tells us we need to eat something nice to cheer us up, we could try answering it, saying something like, "OK, I need cheering up; but do I have to resort to food to lift my mood? Let's think about what else might work."

The same with exercise: If we don't feel like it because we think it's boring, we could try to remember to talk back to the thought that's telling us it's boring, saying something like, "OK, how can I make this exercise more interesting? Or what other exercise could I do, because actually some are better than others. And isn't it true that I sometimes don't feel like going out but I enjoy myself once I'm there?"

Or if we feel a bit anxious about going out and exercising because we're worried people will stare and laugh at us for being fat, we can try to think of the worries as just opinions, so we can reason with them, saying things like, "Really, is it certain that people will laugh at us? And what if they do? Will it really mean something's wrong with us that we ought to be ashamed of, or will it mean there's something wrong with their attitudes - they just don't understand what it's like trying to lose weight when you're fat; but one day they might if they put on a lot of weight themselves. And they might. After all, I myself was thin once."

Or if we have a craving for chocolate and think something like, "I absolutely must have chocolate now!" we can try to question our thought and put forward alternative possibilities, such as thinking, "Really? Must it be chocolate? What about something just as sweet but with far fewer calories, like a piece of fruit? Or what if I find something amusing to laugh at on the Internet to give my mood a boost? This craving might just disappear."

And so on. When other thoughts follow feelings along into our minds telling us things that'll sabotage our weight loss plans if we let them, we can question them for accuracy, and reason with them in a similar way.

It certainly won't be easy though; when feelings are strong and thoughts are tempting us to do something, we likely won't want to talk back to them! Maybe it'll be a bit easier if we try and remember the main goal we're trying to head for though - losing weight so we can be quite a bit slimmer in a few months.

Dinner time

Actually, a feeling and thoughts that I've been giving into unwisely in the past couple of days has been: "I'm feeling full! But there's not much of this dinner left. And it does taste nice! I'll eat it anyway. Actually I really do feel full; it's not that comfortable to eat this. ... Yes, but there's hardly any left. Just a couple of small slices of pizza/just a layer at the bottom of this cooking bowl of cheese-covered broccoli and wholemeal pasta."

So I ate the things, when I really could have put them in the fridge and enjoyed them the next day. And now I feel fatter!!

Still, I feel sorry for people who never feel full so their bodies never tell them they've had enough to eat. It must be much harder to know when to stop then, so it's no wonder so many find it easy to get fat.

Examining the thoughts that go with our feelings could well help make the feelings fade, when the feelings realise they don't have such good reasons to be there after all. That'll mean our weight loss plans don't get sabotaged so easily.

Some feelings might still be very strong though. The weight loss book says there are some other things we can try to get them to fade:

Sometimes feelings get stronger the more often we give in to them, because the feeling of relief when we do can be so powerful it can feel like a strong incentive for giving in in future. So not giving in to them might take the edge off them after a while.

Also, it's best if we bring to mind all the reasons we have for wanting to lose weight, so we can reason with the thoughts that back the feelings up and persuade ourselves that despite the fact that we don't feel that good, we have such good reasons for losing weight that they should come before our feelings.

We can remind ourselves that often when we give in to our feelings, we feel worse later, either because we feel bad about sabotaging our weight loss plans, or we feel depressed that we missed out on time we could have spent enjoying ourselves or doing something useful because we allowed ourselves to blob in an armchair for hours, or whatever.

If we remember to call our feelings by any names we've given them, we'll remember not to take them so seriously but to think of them as things that can be challenged.

Only Ignoring Feelings When We're Sure They're Not Telling us Something's Seriously Wrong

Anxious

It's important that we only try to stop feelings bothering us when we can be fairly sure they're not telling us there's something seriously wrong. So basically, we should only be doing it if we're on a balanced healthy diet and taking a sensible amount of exercise. If the diet we're on is too restrictive and we're not getting the nutrients we need or not getting as many calories as we should be getting each day, feelings of hunger or light-headedness or anxiety or irritability may well be telling us we seriously need to eat more and better things. Likewise with exercise: If anyone does too much in one go, feelings of tiredness or muscle aches and so on will be telling them they have to slow down, and they will need to take notice of such feelings.

Also, if some people find their feelings are strong and upsetting most of the time, they might need to look into dealing with them in a more thorough way, such as investigating treatments for depression and anxiety and so on. Professional help could even be useful.

Another thing to remember is that we shouldn't be fanatical about weight loss or think depriving ourselves of food and comfort is something we have to do strictly all the time. Eating good food and resting in front of the fire are some of the pleasures of life that people should certainly have the right to enjoy. Enjoying them from time to time makes life better and it would be a pity to go through life without them. It's just that making a habit of doing them a lot can mean not losing weight, and that can mean future health problems, the possibility of not living so long so we won't be around to enjoy good food for as long as we could be, and being unfit, so little things get us out of breath, which might be worrying. Making the effort now to stay fitter for longer can mean we spend more of our lives healthier, and in a better mood because exercise can boost the mood.

So sacrifice now can mean we're free to enjoy good things for longer, albeit in moderation.


Part Nine
Motivating Ourselves to Stick With a Weight Loss Regime for the Long Term


Those who indulge, bulge.
--Anonymous

Thou shalt not weigh more than thy refrigerator.
--Anonymous

The cardiologist’s diet: If it tastes good, spit it out.
--Author Unknown

It's apparently common for people to start off losing weight enthusiastically, but then get complacent, or absorbed in other things, and gradually stop putting so much effort into losing weight without really realising they're doing it, so it starts to go back on again. Then they can be dismayed when one day they realise they've put quite a lot on.

Some people can just get fed up of losing weight, because it seems too much effort and they don't like having to limit the amount of food they eat. If we start thinking resentful thoughts about having to lose weight, it can be useful if we ask ourselves whether the thoughts are accurate or whether they might be exaggerated without us realising, since thoughts can get like that when we're brooding on them and getting more and more worked up about them - it's just the way the brain works.

For instance, we can start brooding on the idea that losing weight stops us having fun and that watching our weight forever will mean we can never just relax and enjoy ourselves. If so, it can help if we stop and ask ourselves questions like:

Whatever thoughts are stopping us feeling like losing weight, we can check them for accuracy like that, trying to look at things from different angles. Also we can remind ourselves of the reasons we have for wanting to lose weight.

We need to be conscious of having good reasons to lose weight a lot of the time, or it'll be difficult to discipline ourselves to carry on.

It's best if the reasons impact our emotions, because just knowing something on a mental level doesn't necessarily make a difference. For instance, we might be fully aware that if we carry on eating too much, we could end up having a stroke or heart attack like a friend of ours did; but if we feel allright within ourselves, the possibility of that happening to us might seem remote, so it doesn't have any emotional impact on us; what might stir up our emotions far more is the nice food we can see in the baker's shop, and we might want some, so we have some! Time and time again!

A Motivational Exercise for Helping us Lose Weight

Scared

What might well make more difference is if we imagine it's ten years on into the future, imagining how fat we might be and what health problems we might have, really getting into imagining some details about what it might be like if something bad happens. That will have an impact on our emotions! So the impact on us will be more powerful than it would be if we just knew on a mental level that something bad might happen one day. So we'll have more motivation to carry on losing weight.

The thing is that just imagining the bad things that could happen might just make us worried and paranoid and ruin our day. So it's best to think about the good things that might happen if we lose weight as well.

It's best to do that in a structured way, relaxing first so we're slower to get anxious, then thinking of the bad things that might happen, and then thinking about all the nice things we think might happen if we lose weight.

We might have to do the imagination exercise regularly to make sure our motivation doesn't flag and go away.

Relaxing

So first, we need to find a good way of relaxing:

I've read that there are several ways professionals recommend people could try to relax: One is sitting down somewhere comfortable where we won't be disturbed, and then spending a few minutes calming ourselves by first breathing in and out really really slowly several times. Maybe we could slowly count to ten as we breathe in, and then slowly count to ten as we breathe out. It needs to be slow so it's calming.

Hammock on the beach

Then we can stop thinking about our breathing, and instead imagine we're doing or watching something we really enjoy. It doesn't have to be calming; a football fan could imagine watching their favourite team, for instance. It just needs to be something we'll get absorbed in so when we start thinking about bad things, our imagination will be active so they'll have more of a dream-like quality than they would if we tried to think about them without relaxing first so we might just worry about them and feel hopeless about them and want to comfort eat to stop the feeling.

So we can think of something enjoyable first: It could be a memory of something nice like a day out. A common one is thinking about going down onto a beach and sitting in a deckchair, watching children play in the sea, and taking our shoes off and moving our feet around in the warm sand, feeling the warm sun on us and being made more cheerful by its brightness. Whatever enjoyable thing we day-dream about, it's best to try and make it as detailed as we can so we really get into it.

After a few minutes, the idea is that we imagine leaving the place we've been enjoying being in and walking down a road. After several seconds, we imagine coming to a fork in the road, where we can either turn left or right. Going left will represent the place where we imagine the bad things that might happen if we get fatter, and going right will be the place we go to imagine the nice things that'll happen if we try to lose weight.

Firstly, Imagining the Bad Things That Might Happen If We Get Fatter

Unhappy

First, we turn left. We imagine travelling down the road for a little way, and then we begin to imagine it's years in the future and we've grown fatter. We can imagine what it's like to be fatter, wobbling around perhaps as we walk, dragging our weight along, aches and pains in our joints from carrying all the weight. We can imagine the pain, and how embarrassed wobbling around makes us feel. We can imagine people passing us giving us disapproving looks and sneers, and children laughing at us, and how ashamed we feel then. ... Oh joy, I'm looking forward to this! ... Not. Then we could imagine we're diagnosed with diabetes because our body just can't cope with the amount of sugary and fatty food we've been eating, and we're told we're simply not allowed any sugary food from then on, and we'll have to be very careful about how much we eat and what we eat from then on if we don't want complications that might even make us go blind or give us circulation problems so bad we even have to have a limb amputated. We could imagine walking home from the doctor's surgery feeling sad about all the food we'll never be able to eat again and scared about what might happen if we're not careful.

Then we can imagine we have chest pains, feeling anxious about what might be wrong, and then we can imagine we're in a hospital bed with family around us all looking worried, and a doctor saying he's not sure we'll pull through. We can imagine feeling concerned about the family and how they'll feel if we die, and feeling full of regrets that we didn't do more to lose weight and eat healthily.

We imagine those things for a few minutes.

Then we imagine we're getting up, going outside and walking back down the road.

We imagine we're going back down the road till we get to the fork, and then we carry on going, so we're going along the right side of the fork where we turned left before. So we're going to where we imagine losing weight and thinking of nice things.

Imagining Good Things That Might Happen If We Lose Weight

Smiling

We imagine walking down the road a little way, and then imagine getting slimmer and slimmer. We can imagine walking taller with head held high, getting admiring looks from passers-by. We can imagine feeling pleased at the achievement we succeeded in of losing weight. We can imagine how it feels as several aches and pains we had from carrying all our former weight around disappear. We can imagine the pleasure we feel as people compliment us on how good we look or give us admiring glances. We can imagine wearing a nice swimming costume and paddling in the sea without worrying about what people will think. Or we can imagine going shopping and feeling pleased as we buy smaller-sized clothes than we used to buy. We can imagine going for job interviews or speaking to important people and not having to worry that they'll disrespect us because of our weight. First impressions and all that. We can imagine we're quite old, and yet still able to walk fast and do the active things we want to, enjoying walking somewhere nice on a summer's day, or going out with friends.

After we've imagined nice things for a while, we can slowly come out of the day-dream. Hopefully we'll feel more optimistic about how worthwhile it is to carry on making the effort to lose weight.


Uncomfortable

(Of course, what we imagine might not be an accurate representation of what will really happen; I mean, if we don't bother losing weight and get fatter and fatter, we might still be fairly healthy till we get to old age. Or we might spend years getting nice and slim, only to get some kind of cancer, or only to get heart disease anyway because there's something in our genes that makes us more likely to get it. But still, we're more likely to stay healthy for longer if we make the effort to lose weight and get active and eat more healthily.)

If we do that imagination exercise every so often, then when losing weight begins to feel like a slog or a nuisance, we'll hopefully more easily remember what the point of it is; and the feelings of optimism we got after imagining feeling good losing weight, and the bad feelings we got when we were imagining getting way too fat, will hopefully be more powerful than the feelings that are tempting us to give up bothering to lose weight because there's so much nice food we could be eating if we did or because it seems more effort than we're happy with.

Thinking of Good Reasons for Losing Weight

Cuddle

We could also think of good reasons we've got for losing weight, such as wanting to stay healthy to look after the kids; wanting to be fit enough to join in with them when they play active games; wanting to live longer so we can spend more time doing interesting things; wanting to stay in a job we enjoy for as long as we can rather than maybe one day being forced to leave it because we have a severe health problem; wanting to improve our love life with our partner, and so on.

Sometimes we might feel like giving up the whole idea of losing weight and think we have good reasons to. For instance, we might start to wonder what the point is since we might die tomorrow anyway, and think we'd prefer to enjoy ourselves as much as we can while we can. But if a reason that seems a powerful one does get in the way of us feeling motivated to lose weight, we can examine it to see if it really is a good reason after all.

For instance, the idea of wanting to enjoy ourselves as much as we can while we can might seem enticing; but realistically, if we do that, we'll increase our chances of dying young, and then we'll miss out on lots of years where we could still have enjoyed quite a lot of things but won't be able to any more. So actually, enjoying ourselves as much as we can while we can is a reason to do our best to keep healthy, not a reason to abandon the whole weight loss plan, as it might appear at first. Enjoying ourselves in moderation means we'll probably be able to enjoy ourselves for longer.

Or what's demotivating us might be something like, "It's too cold to go out and exercise!!" But then we could try to answer ourselves with an alternative suggestion, for instance, "I could still exercise; I could just stay indoors and do some lively dancing to some music for half an hour or so."

Reasons That Just Make us Feel Grudgingly Duty-Bound to Lose Weight Rather Than Enthusiastic

Unhappy

We're not likely to be that successful losing weight long-term if we're only doing it because we feel guilty about not losing weight, or because we grudgingly feel we ought to, because others want us to or we know we should. Negative emotions are more likely to make us comfort eat than to spur us on to enthusiasm. So it's best to focus on the reasons for losing weight that make us personally motivated, rather than ones that make us think we'd better lose weight even though we don't like those reasons for doing it. But sometimes negative reasons can be turned into positives. For instance, the thought "I suppose I'd better lose weight because I'd better look after my health" could be turned into, "It'll be great to know my health will have improved when I've lost weight."

When We Relapse and Eat More Food Than we Should

Having a picnic

We're almost bound to relapse sometimes and eat good food we know really that it wasn't wise to eat. We can allow ourselves to relax our weight loss regime on special occasions like Christmas.

Also, if we give into temptation on other occasions and then regret eating so much later, instead of getting down-hearted about it, we can put it in perspective by thinking about how often we haven't given into the temptation to give up losing weight; and we can think of it as a learning experience, asking ourselves what caused us to give in to temptation, and how we could possibly prevent it happening in future. So we don't have to get discouraged by it. After all, we simply can't expect ourselves to give up eating the way we have for years and carry on going with ultra-firm discipline without any relapses till we're perfectly slim. It simply isn't realistic to think that could happen; everybody probably relapses sometimes and has days when they eat more than they should. It's best to try to be relaxed about it and just resolve to redouble our efforts to lose weight for a while. If we find some exercise we enjoy and healthy food we like eating, it won't be as hard to do that as it would be if the only alternative to yummy fatty food was bread and water or something.

And if we go out for the evening or have some other reason to eat more than usual and then discover we've put on weight, it might be easy to get discouraged, thinking that if it's that easy to gain weight, it's doubtful we'll ever manage to slim down so there's no point trying; but actually, a weight gain after one evening out or something can be mainly fluid, which will go away on its own in time. Drinking less won't help us lose weight though; it'll just dehydrate us and have no effect on fat.

In any case, weight goes up and down naturally during the day and from one day to the next for all kinds of reasons, including hormonal and fluid changes, the kinds of things being eaten and how much is being excreted.

So weighing ourselves every day can be discouraging; it can be better to weigh ourselves once a week or once a month if it's a bit depressing to watch daily fluctuations.

On the other hand, some people like weighing themselves more often to keep themselves motivated to stick to new eating habits.

As for eating a little bit of fatty food we enjoy now and then, we don't have to feel guilty. After all, we're more likely to stick to new eating habits long-term if they're not so strict we feel deprived.

It can be useful if we have a good think several times a year, perhaps on the first day of every month - it's an easy date to remember, - about how well our weight loss regime's going and whether there are problems we need to work out how to solve and adjustments we need to make to our weight loss plans, and so on. Anyone who has a calendar or diary could make a note of the dates they've chosen to think about it there, so it's easier to remember to have a think then.

We could also ask our doctor to ask about how successful we've been at losing weight and whether we have problems whenever we go to see them, just so we're prompted to think about what's going right and what's going wrong and needs adjusting.

Support groups can also help keep us encouraged, where others can give us practical advice and understanding.

Sometimes if we haven't paid as much attention to our weight loss plans as before, our weight will start to go on again. It's best if people take that kind of thing in their stride if they can and just start again. Otherwise the feelings of dismay and sadness might lead us to believe trying to lose weight is futile, so even if we actually made good progress for a while, we might think it isn't worth it. Then we definitely won't lose weight! It's best to just expect that there will be problems right from the start and just resolve to start again with renewed effort whenever we seem to be putting on weight again. We could view losing weight like a long-distance race, where people aren't all that bothered if they fall a bit behind for a while because they realise what matters is keeping up a fairly good pace overall, knowing that if someone overtakes them, it doesn't have immediate importance, because there's time to take the lead again.

With every relapse, we can ask ourselves what we can learn from it to help us do things better from then on, trying to avoid the pitfalls that made us relapse last time. Every failure is a learning experience.

We can also think back to remember what we did at first that was so much more effective than what we're doing when we relapse, and try doing it again.

It could also help if we make notes of what we're eating and the activity we're doing all through the day to help clarify what we're doing differently that's leading to problems. Also, we can try to think of whether any thoughts are getting in the way of our success, such as the thought that it's all too much of a hassle and we can't be bothered. If we are getting such thoughts, we can question ourselves to ask whether the thoughts are helpful, or whether they're actually unhelpfully one-sided, because they're ignoring the benefits of losing weight and how much it means to us when we achieve something good. We can remind ourselves of the reasons we've got to lose weight, and how good the sense of achievement feels when we've lost some. Losing weight isn't all doom and gloom!

Likewise, when other negative thoughts cloud the mind, we can question ourselves to see if they're giving us the full picture.

If genuine problems have come up, it'll help to sit down and really think through how we might be able to solve them.

When Gloomy Thoughts Put us Off Losing Weight

Unhappy

Sometimes, we can have depressing thoughts, and be convinced they're true when they're really more like opinions, open to question. The more depressed or stressed we feel, the more we'll be convinced that the gloomy thoughts we have are true, because the feelings we're having will seem to be backing them up. In reality, it could be that the thoughts are making the feelings worse and worse, so the feelings are just responding to what we're thinking, feeling worse because we're thinking gloomy things. It can be a vicious cycle, with us thinking worse things because we feel worse, and then us feeling worse because of what we're thinking. All the while the bad feelings are making us feel convinced our thoughts must be true.

Tearful

For example, if a person woke up on a cold morning dreading going to work because their boss was a bit of a tyrant, they might start feeling a bit depressed and stressed; and then they might come to have breakfast and feel even worse because they knew they should avoid the fried breakfasts they used to enjoy. Because they feel bad, it'll be easy to start feeling miserable about that as well and lamenting to themselves that they're only allowed cereals, and how much of a let-down that is on a cold day when they're not looking forward to going out and really need the energy. They might be convinced that the only thing that would make them feel any better is a fried breakfast.

But if they were happier, they might think differently. They might, for instance, just start working out what alternatives they could have to a fried breakfast that would be warm and give them an energy boost, for instance eating a big bowl of porridge, or a few slices of wholemeal toast, or putting their bowl of cereal and milk in the microwave to warm it up and make it seem more cheery. They might also reflect on the fact that the real reason they weren't looking forward to going out the door was because they weren't looking forward to seeing their boss again, and they might resolve to think through whether there was anything they could do to change their situation, for instance trying to reason with the boss or get transferred to another department.

When people are stressed and miserable, they're more likely to get bogged down in miserable thoughts that make them think things are worse than they really are. It's just the way the brain works. Then their feelings get worse, and they have worse thoughts. Soon, many of them are likely to be comfort eating.

But if we recognise that that goes on and that our thoughts are often more like opinions than facts, and gloomy feelings can produce miserable opinions, then we might be less likely to automatically believe every thought we have. If we don't automatically believe it, we won't be so likely to immediately act on it. For instance, automatically believing the thought, "I simply need a fry-up on a day like this!" will make us crave one so we're more likely to give into the temptation to break our weight loss plan and have one. But if we just think of the thought as more like a theory, we can question it, for instance by thinking, "Do I really need one? Isn't there anything else that would do to boost my mood and energy instead?"

It's the same in all areas of life.

An Example of Someone Not Giving In to Depressing Thoughts But Planning How to Deal With an Annoying Situation Instead

Anxious

For instance, someone might be feeling like comfort eating because they're a bit stressed and depressed because they've got a relative coming to visit for Christmas who they don't like but who they felt duty-bound to invite. But instead of allowing their feelings to take control of them, and giving in to the urge to eat for comfort, they could think something like:

"Hang on, do I really have no alternative but to feel miserable over this and keep allowing thoughts to go around and around in my head about how bad it'll be, just bringing on more miserable feelings? Ms Annoying might be a nuisance, but is there any way I could stop her being such a nuisance as she usually is? ...

Grinning

Hey, how about if I ask everyone I'm inviting to think of a funny story or a joke to tell over Christmas dinner, and two or three if possible? If there's a structured conversation, Ms Annoying won't hog the conversation with her long long rants about her endless trivial complaints and criticisms of us like she usually does. And how about after dinner, we wash up as quickly as we can and then play party games, ... like hide and seek?!! ... Yes, we'll play that for some time. Hehehe. That'll stop what usually happens, when we sit in front of the television and she moans all afternoon about how television just isn't as good as it used to be, and tells us in detail about all the dozens of programmes this year she's hated but - for some strange reason - watched anyway!

Then in the evening, I could ask a couple of family members to talk about nice trips they went on this year. I know they'll enjoy doing that, and it'll mean the conversation doesn't go where it will till it gets hijacked by Ms Annoying talking about how Christmas teas today are a disgrace - obesity on a plate - and how the children of today are far too spoiled, and it was far better in her day when children only got presents if they were very lucky and very good, and then they only consisted of half a maggoty apple, and they were grateful! ... Or something like that.

Then after tea, I could arrange it so a couple of people read things of interest they've found during the year. I'll ask them beforehand to bring something. Not Ms Annoying, of course; somehow I don't think the Complete Collection of 20th Century Knitting Patterns and How Knitting All Day Improves the Moral Fibre - or something equally dreary - would make entertaining listening.

And the next day, ... perhaps we can go for a long long walk, admiring the winter scenery! I won't give her the choice of whether to go; I'll just tell her that's what we're doing. I know I can walk faster than her, so I can remain fairly well out of earshot of her and won't have to hear much of what she's saying; and she seems to be in a better mood outdoors anyway, ... or less likely to whine in public where people are watching.

And really, in future, I could invite her for less time than I do now."

Those are the kinds of planning and thought processes we could do our best to have instead of letting gloomy thoughts make us feel more hopeless, although obviously sometimes we'll find it much harder to think of positive ways of looking at things.

Questioning Whether Our Depressing Thoughts are Really True

Upset

A similar technique for dealing with miserable thoughts is to ask the thoughts how they know they're true. For instance, if we feel depressed and gloomy and start thinking everything's hopeless and we may as well give up the weight loss plan because we're bound not to succeed, it's difficult to do anything but believe it in a depressed state, but we could try to remember to question it, for instance by thinking, "Really, Thought? Everything's hopeless, is it? We're just bound not to succeed at losing weight? And tell me, Thought, ... just how do you know this?"

The thought might hold its ground and do the equivalent of calling for reinforcements, bringing in other thoughts to back it up, like a thought that tells us it's obvious we won't succeed because we've always made a mess of weight loss before.

Even if that thought is undeniably true, it doesn't mean the first one's true as well, the one that told us things are hopeless and we won't succeed in future. There's no way it can no that, and there might be good reasons we've got more chance of succeeding now than we used to have that it just isn't taking into account. I mean, we might have a whole set of new strategies to try this time. We can tell the thought that. We could even go into detail about what they are. If other thoughts pop up telling us, "That won't work!" "And that won't work!" "That won't work either!", we can ask the thoughts just how they could possibly know that new things we haven't even tried won't work!

Often though, miserable thoughts might flow through our minds while we're going about our day, and we're so engrossed in them we simply don't think to challenge them and ask them how they know they're true or anything like that. So we can just allow them to make us more miserable without really thinking about it. It can help if we practise spotting negative thoughts.

A Meditation Exercise for Practising Controlling Miserable Thoughts

Relief

Some people get better at spotting unhelpful thoughts by doing a kind of meditation called mindfulness meditation. People first sit down regularly and let thoughts come to their mind, but instead of getting absorbed in them or treating them as if they have to be dealt with then and there as people usually do, each time one flutters in, they just observe them in a detached way. So, for instance, someone might think to themselves something like, "Oh look, there's a thought about when my dad poured chocolate sauce on the roast chicken on Easter Sunday, thinking it was gravy. (It's floating away)." ... "Ah, there goes a thought about how I'm hoping the weather will stay nice so I'll get my washing dry before this evening. (Zoom, there it goes, out of sight.)" ... "Oh, there goes a thought about how fat I still am. Bye bye thought."

Instead of getting immersed in the thoughts, we imagine them making an appearance and then zooming or floating off down the road or down a stream or wherever we feel like.

It can help if we try and concentrate on something all the time a thought isn't popping into our minds. It could be anything that's quite calming, like a nature scene in a picture or a spot on the wall, the end of our nose or whatever we think will be quite relaxing. It'll help us not to get absorbed in the thoughts that pop into our minds, because when we've imagined each one zooming off, the idea is that we gently pull our minds back to focusing on what we're trying to concentrate on, and we can't think of that at the same time as the other thoughts.

We could practise for several minutes at a time. After a while, doing that with thoughts might come more naturally, so if we're going about day-to-day tasks and miserable thoughts invade our minds, we might pick them up in the same way and imagine them zooming off without thinking about them.

If they persist, we can try to remember to analyse them, thinking things like, "Oh, here's a thought about how I'll never look attractive again. What's it doing in my mind? Can I believe it? I don't see why I should, given that it can't possibly know whether I'll look attractive again, not being able to see into the future and all that. Bye bye thought!"

Other Kinds of Miserable Unhelpful Thoughts We Can Accidentally Get Absorbed In, and Why We Don't Need to

Unhappy

Another gloomy way of thinking is when we can focus on something negative that really did happen and condemn ourselves for it or think it means we're making a mess of trying to lose weight, but we've forgotten the positive things we did. For instance, if we ate far too much chocolate one day when we were feeling a bit miserable or wanted to celebrate something, we might look back on it and be full of thoughts of annoyance with ourselves for sabotaging our weight loss plan. But we might have totally forgotten that the next day we spent an extra hour in the swimming pool to make up for it, or that if we didn't do anything to make up for it, we still can; or if it's unrealistic to imagine we can really compensate for it properly, at least we've stuck to our weight loss plan for most of the week. So negative thoughts can make us miserable when they don't need to.

Or we can get immersed in miserable thoughts about how badly we're doing, blaming ourselves, thinking we must be stupid for not doing better at losing weight than we are. If we spot ourselves thinking like that, we could stop, and decide to try to analyse exactly what is going wrong and why, and what we could do better and how. That way, we make progress in thinking about how to change things rather than just making ourselves miserable for our failures in the past.

All kinds of things can trigger off thoughts about our weight, even things we hardly notice, such as going past a baker's shop and spotting our favourite food but knowing it's best not to indulge; seeing a picture of ourselves when we were younger and slimmer; catching a glimpse of what we look like in a shop changing room mirror; and other things that are bound to just happen while we go about our day. Thinking about how we can't have as many nice things as we'd like or how fat we are can set off a bad mood.

Relaxing

But if we're in a better mood to begin with, our thoughts probably won't get all that miserable in the first place when we start thinking about our weight, because we'll be able to think of things in perspective, not just thinking the worst and feeling convinced the worst is true.

If we often take time to relax, it'll help keep us happier, because when people feel calm, they're simply less likely to have the kinds of exaggeratedly gloomy thoughts that make people think things are much worse than they really are and there's nothing they can do about them.

So, for instance, finding time every day to sit down for several minutes and drift away in the mind to an enjoyable place can help.

Sometimes we can be made to feel gloomy by thoughts that are true, but they're not the whole truth, so even though they're true, they still give us a false impression of the way things really are. For instance, if we're making slow progress with losing weight, we might start reflecting on the fact that we've never been that successful at losing weight. The thought might depress us. But it wouldn't if we thought of some of the other facts, such as, "Every time I've tried to lose weight I've learned more about what does and doesn't work. I might not be as good at it as I'd like to be, but I'm getting better at it." And, "I've never tried to lose weight using this method before. I'm fairly confident this will work better than some of the other ones I've tried."

Other thoughts might include, "It doesn't matter all that much if my progress is slow; I know that with all this exercise I'm doing I'm getting fitter, and I'm bound to be getting healthier as well with my blood pressure going down and things, so it's well worth doing just for that." "It often takes people a few tries before they can do things successfully. And this time I'm feeling good about the idea of losing weight, so I think I'm more likely to stick to it."

So the original gloomy thought about not having much luck losing weight has been put in perspective, and it turns out that the real picture is far more optimistic.

Analysing Both Positive and Negative Thoughts to See If They're Realistic

Disappointed

Of course, while optimism is helpful, it's best not to have unrealistic optimistic thoughts that just lead to false hope and so more misery and hopelessness later if failure occurs. So a thought like, "This diet sounds fantastic; so many people are saying it works; I'm sure I'll lose loads of weight with this", is best modified as well. Testimonials from people on websites advertising new diets and so on can't always be relied on to be true. And things are just bound not to go entirely smoothly; for instance it's only natural for people to want to eat more at Christmas and on their birthdays, so their diet will be bound to slip a bit. Expecting slips in the diet and being willing to tolerate the slow-down this will cause in weight loss is better than having unrealistic hopes and resolving to try to do everything perfectly.

Naturally if our progress at losing weight is slower than we'd like though, we're likely to fall prey to depressing thoughts.

One question we can ask ourselves when we notice ourselves thinking gloomy thoughts is, "What would I say to a best friend who was thinking miserable thoughts like this?" We can comfort ourselves with whatever we'd say to a best friend going through the same thing.

We can also work out how much our gloomy feelings are biasing our thinking by asking ourselves whether we feel differently about exactly the same situation when we're in a better mood.

Stopping Miserable Thoughts By Turning Our Minds to What we Can Do Better in Future

Unhappy

Sometimes, we can start feeling depressed, and that makes us think one gloomy thought after another, and then we can assume we must be feeling depressed because things are so gloomy. But not only are our thoughts more gloomy than they need to be so we feel worse, but the reason we started feeling depressed in the first place wasn't because things were so bad, but because something quite minor happened that started us thinking gloomy thoughts that just made us feel worse and worse as they carried on. For instance, it could be that we did something that took a lot of effort and we were pleased with ourselves, so we decided to reward ourselves with a treat, such as chocolate or a cake. But when we'd eaten it, we started regretting it and feeling a bit hopeless about our ability to discipline ourselves to lose weight.

So when we start feeling miserable, it can sometimes help to think back, asking ourselves what happened just before we started feeling depressed. If we work out what it is, we might be able to decide what to do about it. For instance, if we started feeling depressed because we ate something that was bound to make us put on weight, we can ask ourselves why we did; and what we decide to do about it can depend to some extent on our answer. For instance, if we ate it because we wanted a treat, we can ponder on what non-edible or low-calorie treats we could have in future when we want to reward ourselves for something, or how we could compensate to some extent for eating what we ate, for instance doing an extra exercise session. Then if we're still convinced all the other gloomy thoughts we've had since then are true, we can ask ourselves what evidence there is for them, and what evidence there is that they're either not true at all or only part of the truth, and that the whole truth isn't anywhere near so gloomy really.

For instance, if we have the thought that we haven't got any discipline and we're always breaking our diet so we'll never be able to lose weight, we can ask ourselves if it's really true that we can never discipline ourselves and that we're always breaking the diet. If it is true, we can try to work out how to do things better in future. But if it isn't true, but in reality we only fail to discipline ourselves sometimes, we can reassure ourselves that we're not all that bad at disciplining ourselves and can do it sometimes, and ask ourselves what's worked to help us in the past that we could use in future to help us again, and also whether we can think of any new ideas that might help us.

Also, if it really is true that we've never succeeded in losing any weight or keeping it off in the past, we can ask ourselves what other things we have succeeded at, for instance learning a musical instrument, and ask ourselves whether there are any skills or good things we did that helped us that we could learn from and do to help us lose weight. For instance, if we managed to practise the musical instrument for half an hour a day, even when we weren't that keen, we know we can be dedicated to something and disciplined when we want to be. So we could reflect that maybe we do have the discipline to stick to an hour's exercise every day if we find a kind of exercise we can make more enjoyable.

The Pitfalls of Aiming to Reach a Target Weight

Weepy

Apparently some people aim to lose so much weight they're never likely to achieve it. Then if they don't, they can be miserable and disappointed, feeling disillusioned with their efforts, even though in actual fact they've lost a fantastic amount of weight and could be very proud of themselves.

Also, someone who has a goal weight to aim for will be disappointed if progress is slow; but someone who's just focused on progress and the reasons they want to lose weight will be encouraged if the progress is steady, even if it is slow.

But some people don't really believe they'll be able to lose that much weight so they pick a goal weight that isn't nearly as low as they could get.

And if people just stop making an effort to control their weight when they get to their target weight, they can easily put it all back on again. We need to accept that weight control will be a lifelong thing. But that doesn't mean cutting out all the things we enjoy eating for life, just being careful what we eat. A lot of people who have good figures maintain them by paying attention to what they eat, not depriving themselves for a while and then forgetting all about weight control like a lot of people who go on diets do, so they lose lots of weight only to put it all back. They're just normally a bit careful. We'll have to be careful all our lives; but that probably won't mean cutting out the foods we enjoy for good.


Well, I'll try and bear those things in mind ... if I can remember them. I'm looking forward to starting my new weight loss regime. Hopefully, I'll notice quite a bit of improvement soon. And going out more again and meeting more people will be nice.


Notes

This article is written slightly differently from most articles. All the information in most of the articles in this series is written as if by someone finding out a lot of helpful information for the first time, just learning about it. That person themselves isn't real; they're just a representative of a lot of others suffering the same thing. Any little anecdotes they tell about their personal lives or those of people they know almost always have really happened though, usually either to the author or to someone else known to the author. The article comes with a very short story about them to set the scene, and then presents all the self-help information as if it's what they're finding out and what they think of it.

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The Story

Depressed

Christine has been told by a doctor that she's obese. She knows she's very overweight. She can't do a lot of the things she used to do because she's not fit enough, and she's too embarrassed to go out and do others because of the stares she gets. The isolation is making her depressed, which makes her want to eat more for comfort. She's tried dieting in the past, but it hasn't worked.

Sometimes, she feels hopeless, as if she may as well just eat and eat, because she can't do anything about her weight, and so eating's the only thing she's got left in life.

One day, though, a friend encourages her, telling her stories of people who lost a lot of weight over a fairly short period of time, who started enjoying life much more afterwards. Christine starts to feel much more optimistic after this. She begins to feel she might be able to make a success of losing weight after all, and makes plans for how to go about it.



The End


Note that if you choose to try out some or all of the recovery techniques described in this article, they may take practice before they begin to work.

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Disclaimer:
The articles are written in such a way as to convey the impression that they are not written by an expert, so as to make it clear that the advice should not be followed without question.

The author has a qualification endorsed by the Institute of Psychiatry and has led a group for people recovering from anxiety disorders and done other such things; yet she is not an expert on people's problems, and has simply taken information from books and articles that do come from people more expert in the field.

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