If you were lucky enough to have someone willing to invest in piano lessons for you when you were growing up – or any musical instrument lessons for that matter – then you probably remember your mother or father haranguing you to practice daily. They knew that in order to progress and become proficient, piano playing and reading music requires lots and lots of practice. In fact, when you want to achieve certain milestones in any area of your life, practice does make perfect or “better.” Somehow when it comes to behavior modification and dieting, this missive doesn’t seem to occur to many people.
You go on a diet. Particularly in January when the will to change is quite strong, you are convinced that this time you have the food and fitness equation all figured out. I’ve been there myself, at a very young age (14), and I was convinced if I just do the cabbage soup diet, or the no grain carbohydrate diet or the “you fill in the blank” diet, that I would lose the pounds and be so incredibly proud of my efforts and look so good, that I would never need my fat pants again. It took two years of cyclical dieting to finally join a support group and diet program that emphasized sustained habit change. The most significant impact of this commitment was on my view of the maintenance phase of a lifestyle change, once I reached my goal weight. The program’s mantra was to keep all the habits and lifestyle change behaviors in place, but to modify them just a bit to allow for my weight to hover at my goal, so I would not lose more weight (nor gain weight). In the past, I had reached a goal weight and immediately began to indulge, because “I was cured.” Those two years of up and down weight gain and loss taught me that you’re not fixed; you’ve simply achieved a goal. That goal is fleeting if you don’t continue to eat and exercise in a way that supports holding at that goal weight. That effort takes consistent practice, during the dieting phase and afterwards.
You have a disease called obesity and you eat more than you should, for a variety of possible reasons. To lose the weight, you need to practice habits daily that help you to create a healthy calorie deficit. That may involve things like portion control, choosing foods that are lower calorie, nutrient dense and satiating. It certainly requires you to stop the emotional eating and to consistently move your body in a way that burns excess calories, every day. If you have struggled with weight issues for awhile, it may require months and years of practice in order to minimize vulnerable moments that tempt you to succumb to overeating. It may take quite a bit of time to make you really miss your daily exercise if life gets in the way. Mostly, practice requires you to avoid going back to old habits once you reach your goal weight. That means not keeping unhealthy leftovers in the house or tempting foods that can break your willpower. That habit alone requires....practice. You cannot become complacent and believe that somehow you are stronger than a food temptation, Most of the time you are not going to prevail when tasty treats are close by, and a single temptation can turn into a several day binge and voila, before you know it you have gained five, ten, twenty pounds or more. Obesity is a disease that requires a management plan, with phases including weight loss and weight maintenance. Habits that are practiced are necessary and key to the success of that management plan. You can’t outsmart obesity, but you can “out habit it,” by putting behaviors in place that become your new norm for life.
Practice does make perfect. I am a walking example of 35 plus years of that mantra……and counting!
Published On: January 11, 2013