Over 20 years ago, I was doing some research at the regional library in the town where I lived. I decided to take a break from my work and do some browsing amongst the bookshelves.
I perused the shelves, here and there pulling out a few books that looked interesting.
Then I found a small paperback book that looked particularly interesting, especially given where I was at that point in my life.
The book was about losing weight.
I was interested in this topic at that point in time, because I was overweight….had tried various diets and sporadic exercise routines….would lose a few pounds, then rebound right back to where I had started.
So I was sceptical about reading yet another weight loss book.
However, this one was different.
It wasn’t a typical weight loss or “latest greatest diet with a fancy name” book.
It didn’t tout a specific diet plan. It wasn’t half-filled with the fluff most diet books contain, such as page after page of recipes you’ll never use or calorie lists you can find anywhere.
Also, this book wasn’t by a well-known fitness authority.
In fact, the author made it clear he didn’t know much about exercise at all.
In the book, the author tells the story of how he had been overweight, even close to obese, for a number of years. And how shitty his life was because of the weight.
He discussed some of the health problems he had experienced as a result of being overweight. But he spent most of his time discussing the psychological issues – the pain he felt – because he was ashamed of his appearance, of the fact he had no discipine, and of his inability to stick with anything.
He also conveyed the desperation he felt, that the best years of his life were passing away, indeed HAD passed away, and he was missing out because he felt imprisoned by his weight and his appearance.
Diets had failed him. And those failures had snowballed in his mind. He felt he would never be able to lose the weight, get healthy, and feel good again.
If you’ve ever had a weight problem, or are experiencing one now, you know exactly what he’s talking about.
His story certainly resonated with me!
Then, the author had a flash of insight.
He decided that the best way to get thin and stay thin….was to eat and act like thin people do.
In fact, this basic idea is close to the title of the book, as I recall…something like “If You Want to Be Thin, Do What Thin People Do”.
Simple concept. Blindingly obvious. Wy hadn’t I thought of that?
The author went on to chronicle his adventures in observing and speaking with the thin people he knew in his life – friends, co-workers, people he met, people he read about – and how he adapted their lifestyle habits into the fabric of his own life.
And eventually, over time, he lost the weight.
Not only that, but as of his writing this book, he had kept off the weight for years.
I’d say his approach was an effective one. And not just because the author achieved good results.
I know from personal experience, because I decided on that very day to follow his advice.
The key idea was – IS – to act like a thin person. Which means being less obsessive about food; making better choices about food; and basically eating a little less and not pigging out and bingeing.
This doesn’t mean you deprive yourself, or label certain foods as “forbidden”. (Doing this only exacerbates cravings and obsessive feelings about food.) It really means some common sense and moderation.
Activity is also part of the mix. If you’re heavy, you’re probably not exercising as much or moving around as much. It’s critical, especially early on, to get moving!
Activity – physical exercise, as well as involvement in hobbies or interests, is also useful in helping you focus outside yourself and not think so much about food.
This approach of “act as if” has been validated in psychological research.
You may have tapped into this resource yourself. For example, if you’ve ever felt depressed or in a bad mood, you may have put a smile on your face and acted cheerful with your co-workers – perhaps because you didn’t want to be labeled as a sourpuss at work.
After a short time of smiling and acting “as if”, you probably found you actually were in a better mood.
The author made it clear that acting as if he was a thin person was not always easy. He would sometimes, often mindlessly, slip back into his old habits.
BUt he would quickly catch himself and not berate himself over it. He would simply correct.
The basic question he continued to ask himself was, “Would a thin person eat this? And, if they would, how big a portion would they eat?”
Also, “Would a thin person participate in [fill in the blank with an activity you may have been avoiding or afraid to do because of your weight]? If so, then I should too, within my current capabilities.”
Seems simple, doesn’t it? But simple isn’t always easy. And simple can sometimes take time.
I followed this basic premise and, over time, I lost the weight I wanted to lose. I got in great shape. I went on to re-engage in activities I had put aside, such as martial arts (which I had dropped after high school).
Plus I ventured forth into new activities, like scuba diving and running in 10Ks and 8Ks.
But I’ll tell you now, the most difficult part was the start.
Because, if you’re doing it right – and not falling victim to some crash diet or weight loss gimmick – it will take a little time before you see results.
Don’t get discouraged by slow results, or seeming lack of progress up front. It’s been my experience that you will start to FEEL better before you actually SEE better in the mirror, or on the scale.
To keep yourself motivated, consider this:
Weight lost quickly will just as quickly reappear. A sudden, drastic decrease in calories will set off alarm bells in your body and brain.
On the other hand, slow and steady weight loss ensures you are losing fat, not lean mass, as well as bypassing your body’s natural urge to compensate and cause you to pig out.
Also – Fitness gains achieved quickly based on some crash course in exercising can also disappear quickly – usually because you are unable to sustain the effort or the time investment required.
On the other hand, slow and steady increase wins the race, because, over time, you are building a foundation of aerobic capacity and strength.
You Can Do It!
“Transform Body Mind and Spirit with Dynamic Energy Exercise!”
Copyright, Karen Van Ness, 2014