Monday, March 11, 2013

New Lessons in How to Lose Weight

Here's a look at my next The Life Well-Led column for the Mensa publication, The Intelligencer.

A Mensan Tries to Lose Weight
New Lessons Learned

You'd think that Mensans would be smart enough to figure out how to avoid being fat. Alas, a quick look around at a Mensa event proves that too many of us haven't solved that brain teaser.

I'm trying yet again to lose that 20 pounds--I have a 40" waist! Danger!

But instead of relying on the same inadequate approaches-- Eat only until you're not full, beware of danger times, don't eat after 8 pm--I decided to use whatever IQ points I have to develop new tactics..

To that end, I decided to make weight-loss top-of-mind for ten days and to keep a log of my thoughts and relevant behaviors. I learned a few things. Perhaps one or more might help you.

First, before starting my ten-day attempt at discovery, I wrote these thoughts about my eating:
  • I rationalize pigging out: "It's only one meal. It won't make that much difference." Or, "It's a rare opportunity--I'm passing that great donut shop."
  • I need to rehearse what to do when hungry, for example, "Eat those peeled baby carrots and salsa that sit eye-level in my refrigerator. If I'm out, remind myself that fat people get sick and die." (I'm still healthy but my prime motivation to lose weight is to stay that way.)
    • Since I value intelligence, it may help me to say, "Only stupid people overeat. A moment on the lips; lifetime on the hips. And then you die faster."
    • I need to use the cognitive-behavioral therapy strategy of saying aloud, with feeling, five times a day for a week, my prime reason(s)for getting slimmer: In my case, "I do not want to be one of those people with diabetes, or have a heart attack or stroke, getting wheeled into surgery, and maybe dying." 
    I need to say that aloud, with expression, so it really penetrates my brain, restructuring my memory neurons, so that fear stays top-of-mind at the moment of truth when I'm tempted to, for example, go to an Indian buffet rather than eat a salad.What should your mantra be? 
    Here were the significant notes in my ten-day diet diary:
    • I value preparedness and so, unconsciously, I eat to prevent getting hungry. Instead, I'll make a game of seeing how long I can go without eating anything calorific.
    • I flashed on how unhealthy it must be to be carrying around a 20-pound weight, 24/7 for decades.
    • When I have a break between clients, the first thing that typically comes to mind is, "Get something to eat." I must substitute something else.
    • When I lost a pound, I thought irrationally, "See, it's not so hard to lose weight, so I can afford to cheat." Bad Marty!
    • Eating less is much more of a reward than is eating more: I feel good throughout the day. I'm actually standing taller.
    Thoughts after the ten days

    Not once did I say the aforementioned motivational
    mantra, even though the research on behavior change says it's very helpful.

    For me, what seems most helpful is to stay in the habit of, in advance, thinking what I'll eat at the next meal--mainly low-cal stuff--and then staying vigilant to stay with that plan all the way until I've finished eating.

    Oh, in the ten days, I lost two pounds. And although I probably ate an average of only 1200 calories a day, I didn't feel very deprived. The small sense of deprivation was far outweighed by the good feelings, all day, about getting thinner.

    Only 18 pounds more to go...and a lifetime effort to keep them off. Oy.

    1 comment:

    Anonymous said...

    Exercise helps a lot with weight loss.

    Careful though. Where exercise hurts is when people reward themselves by eating a little extra something for getting out there and exercising.


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