Feel like you are constantly dieting? Worried that your current plan will end up leaving you back at ‘square one’? You’re not alone.
Buckling down and changing the lifestyle that got you to where you were when you started the program is H-A-R-D. Following the ‘rules’ of 20/20 temporarily, with a goal of being able to go back to the way you were, is a plan unfortunately doomed for failure. Why? I’ll explain more below, and explain ways that you can create a lifestyle mindset, that can ultimately lead to long-term change.
The blessing and the curse of a program like ours is how intensive the support is. Seeing a trainer 3x/week, a dietitian 1x/week, a counselor every 1-2 weeks and the doc every 5 weeks adds up to a lot of face time with at least one person that is affiliated with your program. This is exactly what is needed to get you really into the routine that corrects your metabolic profile, weight and overall health. It is, however, also more check-ins than you will likely have for life (finances, schedule, life in general can get in the way). Here’s obstacle number one to lifestyle change: relying 100% upon your team to keep you on track without challenging yourself to staying accountable and mindful on your own. Obstacle number two, also related to this: not giving yourself enough time to wean off the support. Ex: not participating in a phase 2, not continuing with your trainer 1x/week for a few months after the program, not seeing your dietitian and counselor monthly. The fix is not to decrease support in the program, rather to view it in a different way and to have a plan for the time immediately following phase 2 (stay tuned for specific takeaways below).
The blessing and curse of a diet plan like ours is that it is elimination-style. The downside: this can create fear of certain foods (what happens if I don’t lose weight? I’m doing so well right now), leading to a lack of a desire to really get back to your ‘real life’ nutrition plan. Obstacle number 3 now presents itself: not experimenting with all the stages – at SOME point. Does not have to be in week 2, and does also not have to be in week 32. Be honest and clear with your dietitian. Don’t hold back with experimenting – this is what we are to help with! Contrary to popular belief, dietitians do eat some grains, beans, starchy veggies, sweets and desserts sometimes. The key, which is obvious but challenging to learn, is how much. A-ha, here we are at obstacle number 4: not embracing the maintenance lifestyle. Also known as 90/10, cheat foods, fun foods etc. Think: life with some splurges. AKA, life. When you are at your goal, embrace the challenge of having the foods you normally enjoy in moderation. Give yourself sometime with your 20/20 team to learn your maintenance plan, it won’t happen overnight. I recommend at least 2 months to learn, as exercise and lifestyle can change.
As I review the blessings and curses written above, I think of two last obstacles that are important for you to know. The first, obstacle number five: do NOT focus only on the number on the scale. Newsflash: you are SO much more than just a number! And the reason you joined the program is also so much more than that. It’s not that being at a certain weight is the end-all, be-all of your goal. It’s that it allows you to do/ feel/ achieve something else. Maybe that is have more energy, avoid getting diabetes or heart disease, be a role model for your children or to be able to skydive. I’m not recommending you throw the scale away overnight. Just remember to stay in tune with all the other goals you have, and keep them equally as important.
And, drumroll please… obstacle number six (last but certainly not least!): eating foods, or eating meals, that are a far cry from what you love. Your cultural preferences, your family meal dynamics, your pickiness – all are a part of how you define yourself nutritionally. If you force yourself to ignore these for the short-term, what does it gain you in the long run? I’m here to tell you it IS possible to eat both nutritionally balanced, per 20/20 recommendations, and in a way that you can sustain. It takes some finesse and a willingness to explore, and it can be done!
OK, this was lengthy. If you made it all the way through congratulations! If you are skimming, I totally understand and here are the bottom lines:
- You must find ways to be accountable to yourself, and to challenge yourself to keep up your lifestyle with less appointments than you had in phase 1. Give yourself at least one year to stay in touch with your team, but less often: see your trainer 1x/week, the RD 1x/month and the counselor 1x/month at minimum. Help them keep you accountable to your goals in between.
- You must give yourself time to wean off the support. See the timeframes in item #1? Notice they are less often than you had in phase 1 or 2. But they are still there! It’s like graduating college: you still need to see your parents sometimes, but maybe not as much as when you were in junior high and high school.
- You must experiment with foods that are outside your comfort zone at some point. You’ll never know what you need to learn about foods like dairy, beans or grains unless you try them. Does NOT have to be in the first few weeks, but it must happen sometime along your journey.
- You must have time to learn maintenance. It takes at least 1-2 months to learn the calories, exercise and lifestyle that will allow you to stay at your goal weight and body fat. Give yourself some time to do some trial & error with your team.
- You must not be a slave to the scale. You are SO much more than just a number! Remember that. Be honest with what behaviors get the scale moving, and focus on staying accountable to those.
- You must be honest to who you are with food. Maybe this means your cultural food preferences, the way you see yourself eating with your family long-term or maybe it means something else. But know who you are, and what is important to you, and make sure you are developing a plan that’s in line with your true food identity.
Be patient! Be courageous! Be always striving to grow. I know it sounds cheesy, but it is the truth. Remember that at 20/20 we are all about trying to help you maintain your weight loss and health for life. Help us to help you do that. Cheers!