Dear Dr. Mo: I can’t seem to make myself really start with a weight loss program – I always come up with a reason not to. I really have to lose some weight and it is a number 1. priority but I am failing to start. What can I do?
Dear reader: It’s like with any other activity we feel a pressing need to perform – if we have to do it, most of us will rather do anything else instead.
This neat and classic evasive tactic our minds are using to postpone something into the future is called Procrastination, and I am sure you are aware of it.
If we approach it the usual way, losing weight becomes just another priority (like you said) we don’t feel nice about doing and procrastination kicks in. Suddenly, we realize that January 1st is too early to start because so many different holidays and occasions are stacked right within that period – we should wait a few weeks. Or, we realize that we can’t start tomorrow because we haven’t prepared enough of the alternative foods or that we are taking this trip soon and it wouldn’t be easy to start losing weight at that time or we are waiting to get really better from that flu we caught recently or ______________ (fill in the blank) etc.
These are all good, legit excuses.
I often times find vacuuming my apartment so urgently important that I just can’t sit down and read an article I have to read by the end of the week – I have to vacuum, and then I need to sort out some files and I have to go and get some spare fuses and I must first read a few chapters of this new book I bought and surely I absolutely must make some green tea, take a picture of it, post it etc.
It’s human to procrastinate. If you’re like that, keep on doing it – but do so mindfully, while gaining something out of it; here’s what I mean:
When it comes to writing papers, reading articles, preparing projects, preparing exams and similar, usually we are taught to set some time aside every day and to do it bit by bit strategically over time towards our deadline, right? Well… not necessarily so.
You can instead – procrastinate!
You can spend weeks doing something else, thinking, traveling, reading stuff that are lower on your priority list, you can tend to your plants, draw, take photos, learn a new language, ride a bike, spend abundant time with your kids – it’s not like you are not doing anything it’s just that you are not doing the one thing that’s number one on your to-do list of priorities. You are being so creative and productive while actually procrastinating!
And then, when the deadline comes really close, you have no more room to postpone anything anymore, you make yourself do it and under such pressure you become focused and finish your task within a far smaller time frame. A lot of people actually work better this way so why fight it?
So, the same can work for weight loss (only you can’t cram it into a short period of time but a principle stands). Here’s what to do:
1. Don’t put it very high on your priority list like you were doing so far – put it somewhere in the middle or towards the bottom; there must be other more pressing matters you have to attend to so put them higher towards the very top.
2. Don’t set one of those ever-looming dates like January 1st, or Monday the next week or the first day of spring or your birthday and NEVER set it to begin ‘tomorrow’. All these fixed dates are fabulous for procrastination and can leave you feeling a failure.
3. Don’t pressure yourself with losing weight – make it rather a project you’ll start at some point, when you feel ready – don’t even think about it for a while. Surprise yourself with that start – wake up one day, go through your to-do list and discover that instead of doing the number 1,2,3 and 4, you could actually work on the number 7 (1 being most important and 7 being say, almost unimportant) – start your weight loss project.
4. If and when you do start it, don’t be rigid. Allow yourself minor fluctuations, learn and adjust as you go – indulge your cravings with occasional treats, skip an exercise just for the fun of it, get drunk – only flexibility will let you feel comfortable, relaxed and will keep your will power strong enough for when it really matters.
5. Have a clear goal for your project but don’t set fixed dates for reaching it – allow flexibility, as much as you feel you need. Perhaps you’d like to lose 2 kilos per month – some months you’ll lose only a few hundred grams and that’s perfectly OK – it is still taking you closer to your goal and that’s the way you should look at it.
Knowing that you can be flexible will relax your mind and actually increase your will power and this will result in success.
Let your weight loss activities become a procrastination of something more important on the list. Let it (procrastination) work for you.
And a few quick technical tips to get you started (whenever that happens):
Aim for 50% carbs, 30% protein and 20% fat in your diet and weight loss plan – flexibility is again key – you can be at 45% carbs and 35% protein or 60% carbs if you exercise a lot. Check out Avocados for instance, for protein with some good calories and healthy fat, add some Mangos for pre-biotic fiber, flavonoids and juiciness and generally mix fruits and veggies to fill you up.
Don’t mesure yourself every day – don’t even do it every week – weight can vary during a week. Do it once every two weeks and do it in the morning.
Water can change your daily weight and give you false and discouraging results.
Always count your calories: women shouldn’t really go below 1200 calories per day and men shouldn’t go below 1800 per day – you can average that and say that 1500 is as low as you’ll go but really, every person has different needs based on their circumstances.
I am writing this article instead of doing something (seemingly) more important I have planned for today.
Procrastination won the day.
Yours in health,