Did you make any New Year's resolutions yesterday?
I did. And I bet many of you made a similar resolution, too.
In fact, raise your hand if one of your New Year's resolutions involved weight loss. Now, keep those hands up if the amount of weight you want to lose is at least twenty pounds.
Those of you who didn't raise your hands in the first place, or who put them down because you only want to lose five pounds or so, can feel free to skip reading the rest of this. It's not that you're not welcome to read it, of course, but you may find some of it a bit incomprehensible. My skinny friends often do find my struggles to lose weight to be a bit incomprehensible, in fact; if I had a dollar for every time I heard things like, "You just need some willpower! You'll have so much energy! You'll love this exercise program/device/group sports activity! You just have to eat a salad for lunch every now and again!" etc., well, I'd have enough money for a liposuction (not that I'd ever do that, but still).
Those of us who aren't either naturally thin or naturally athletic or naturally healthy eaters know that it's not that simple. Serious weight loss requires a lot more than just a little extra willpower, the skipping of dessert (which many of us don't routinely eat, anyway, despite the stereotypes), the adoption of an exercise program, or the eating of a few salads (no dressing, accompanied by mineral water). If that was all it took most of us would have achieved our weight loss goals a long time ago, because most of us have done those things before or are doing those things now. And on their own those things simply aren't enough to create the kind of long-term, sustained weight loss required to lose more than a few pounds; in fact, on their own those measures are likely to lead to the pitfall of yo-yo dieting.
No, what is necessary for a long term, sustained weight loss followed by a long term, sustained maintenance of a healthy weight is nothing short of all-out warfare. The "Battle of the Bulge" is a conflict like most adventures in bellicosity: there is an enemy we face, and we have to enter the fight with the willingness to do whatever it takes to emerge victorious. In a word, what we need is resolve.
Because contrary to what the skinny folks believe and the miracle diet fads push, we will be hungry, especially in the beginning when we're tracking calories, measuring portion sizes, avoiding snack foods and emotional eating binges, and recording everything we eat. These are necessary steps to take, but taking them exacts a toll on our bodies, which have become accustomed to our willingness to satisfy the earliest hunger cues instead of waiting for real hunger to hit before eating. And contrary to the "You'll have so much more energy!" idealism, the reality is that that energy won't find us until we've already endured the shattering drop in energy that comes from calorie restriction--but without at least some calorie restriction there is no such thing as weight loss.
The paradox is that while we're going through the initial hunger/energy drop phase of the weight loss plan, we're also simultaneously supposed to be beginning the exercise portion of the plan (any plan, because any realistic weight loss plan involves both dietary improvements and exercise). Many of us give up at this point, because the calorie restriction alone isn't likely to produce any noticeable results, but adding the misery of exercise to the misery of hunger and the feeling of weakness is often more than some of us can handle. Instead of decreasing our stress, the expectation that we must exercise for a specific amount of time each day adds to it; shorn of our usual way of dealing with added stress (eating) we find ourselves crashing and burning before the dial on the scale has even registered the first two pound drop.
So, many people will put weight loss on their list of New Year's resolutions, but many of us lack the resolve going into this fight to endure it, or even the vision to see the battle for what it really is. I've made that mistake many times over, and I'm determined not to make it again (in fact, you might say I've resolved not to make it again).
That's why I'm writing this: there's been quite a bit of research showing that successful weight loss takes accountability. For some people this means "weighing in" or "measuring in" at a gym or exercise club; for others this means having a diet partner; for still others it means keeping a diet diary that a close friend or family member is allowed to read. I've decided that this year, you will be my accountability. I want to lose between 30 and 35 pounds this year; I'll officially update this on April 2, July 2, and October 2 to let you know how it's going--and I promise to be strictly honest whether my results are joyful or disappointing.
If you'd like to join me, put a comment in the comment box to let us know how much you want to lose this year, too! (You can be anonymous or pick a different nickname if you don't want us to know who you are; that's fine--I understand.) Whether you chose to update on the dates I've mentioned above or not is entirely up to you. We can all keep each other in our prayers (even you skinny people who kept reading this anyway!).