I‘ve been working with self development advice for a large percentage of my life. I’ve come across a lot of concepts and ideas as well as invented quite a few of my own. But the following is one of the most important ideas I’ve stumbled across in my life:
“Action isn’t just the effect of motivation, but also the cause of it.” – Mark Manson
If you’re like most people, you’ve likely already given up on your new year’s resolution. Yes, it is indeed only the second Monday of the year, but that’s how these things usually go. More hype then anything else. An idea of big changes and success, which quickly fizzle when it comes time to take the first steps in the physical world.
For the sake of those who are more interested in significant changes, I will go over the exact techniques and mindsets that helped me lost 100 pounds within a year (385 lbs -> 285 lbs). Many of them have been spread out throughout very posts, but here I will do my best to encompass them all into one broader story.
To keep this exceedingly simple and practical, what I spent most of my life doing was eating as if on auto-pilot. As I would casually walk by the kitchen, I would make sure to grab a snack for the road, as frequently as every hour. A college experience filled nearly entirely of fast food certainly didn’t make the matter better. Yet, regardless of the cause or fault, or whatever else, it was still my responsibility to do something about it.
The actual trigger being a trivial bet with a co-worker, whether I could eat healthy longer, or whether he could quit smoking longer, led to a fairly lengthy journey, that still goes on until this day in one form or another. I went to gather my own information, reading other success stories and what others had done. It turned out, diet and exercise would be the answer. Using the communities of reddit’s r/loseit for inspiration and tracking calories in MyFitnessPal, I was off.
The first phase was lowering my calories by about 1000 daily, and eating the same foods as before. A light transition to prevent the body and mind from a harsh objection to what I was doing. The first few weeks relatively painful, it took conscious daily effort to not grab snacks, and to stay diligent with the calories counting. Living with my family at this time, made this a little extra difficult. Realizing that a latte and piece of loaf cake at a coffee shop could be in excess of 700 calories, be finished in 10 minutes, and not satisfy hunger at all, made me smarter in deciding how to consume my calories.
At this point, after only 3-4 weeks of very conscious effort, it became effortless. The habits were in, and I continued to introduce healthier foods, eat fewer calories, and started with 30 minutes of walking per day. For the majority of this year I was eating 1400 calories per day. The second half of the year I was doing 30 minutes of light cardio a few times a week.
After a lifetime of eating on auto-pilot, never quite sitting there and eating a whole bucket of ice-cream, but still frequent adventures into the kitchen, it was this same auto-pilot which helped make it effortless. It may be overwhelming to look at a year period and tell yourself you will do a behavior for that long, but telling yourself you’ll keep it up for one day, is much easier on the willpower.
This daily focus was a large part of the success, in addition to mid-term goals of changing my diet or exercise routine every couple of months, and the long-term goal of losing 100 pounds in a year.
Two other major factors were vital for this success. First, was planning for failure. Looking at obstacles, such as being invited out by friends, and planning for it. This would mean potentially eating some food at home before I go out, and then having a smaller appetizer, or a salad, if I was going to be going out anyways. Alcohol is a large factor in quick and empty calories, if you’re comfortable just saying no, that’s for the best. If you feel out of place, have a glass or pint of beer, and sip at it throughout the night. Either way, if your friends do judge you, get better friends.
Second, forgiveness is key. If you do have a night of a big juicy cheeseburger, three or four pints of beer and a lovely strawberry cheese cake to finish the night (guilty as charged), it’s not the end of the world. If you beat yourself up for being a failure, you’ll likely find ways to make yourself feel better, like eating poorly. If instead, you can have compassion for yourself, and say “yeah, last night wasn’t the best idea, but today is a new day”, you will still be doing your new year’s resolution six months from now, twelve months from now, or maybe even, for life.
Awareness of your poor habits (and of how many calories are in a damn PSL), short and long-term goals, planning for obstacles and self-compassion are the qualities and techniques that came to me over time in various ways throughout my year of losing 100 pounds. After roughly 15 years of poor eating habits, it’s clear I had no special talent for willpower or staying focused throughout this journey.
Whether you want to lose weight, learn a musical instrument, change careers, or anything in-between, I am certain these qualities will help you in your journey as well. And as a bonus final lesson, just start. I didn’t wait until I had all the research done on calories, or all the motivation to eat healthy. I just started eating less, and then once I was starting to go down a new path, I adjusted the direction as required. There will never be a right moment to start, you will never have all the information you need, there’s no point in waiting for flow. If you start with the smallest action you can take, you’ve already put your life in a new direction, from there, after a time, it will develop effortlessly.
Additionally, you may check out this article my story was featured in as well.