It’s Not a Diet, It’s a Lifestyle Change

One of the tough things about being an overeater is you have developed a vast network of neural connections and patterns of behavior that work against you on a daily basis. This includes the way you see/ respond to food, your eating habits, your exercise habits, your self-image, and on and on. All of it profoundly affects your choices, and virtually none of it contributes positively to your overall health.

One thing that is a huge stumbling block to lasting positive change is the difference in effort needed for weight loss and gain, what I call the “Hole Effect”. It takes tremendous focus, determination, and effort to keep yourself on track to lose a great deal of weight. This can be visualized as a worker digging a hole, the worker needs to work hard, and be determined to keep at it despite sweat, fatigue, and unfavorable conditions. All the dirt gets piled up at the top. If the worker shirks his duty, all it would take is one good push to move all that dirt back into the hole, and he would return to find all the work undone. Weight loss is the same in that respect, it takes a long time and a lot of effort to get it off, but your old habits can pack it right back on in nothing flat. Worse, you could (as I did) put on twice as much, and now you have a mountain to dig through on the way back to your original hole.

This is discouraging to a shocking degree, and the psychological effect has added to your already hard-to-overcome network of barriers.

What I think helps is to think of your work not as a “diet” (which connotes a process with a finite end) but a “lifestyle change”. Chronic overeaters and alcoholics share this dilemma. You are never done being an alcoholic, you will need to fight it for the rest of your life. For those attempting to leave their overweight past behind, a similar outlook is important: going back to those old habits is not an option. You will need to change how you think about yourself and behave in order to get where you want to be and stay there. You will need to build a new version of yourself, and replace the old network with a new one: one that works to better your overall health and enhances your existence in positive ways.

This is not easy, I’ll have more thoughts on how to make these lifestyle changes, but believe me, we can do it, we can start right now, and we can do it for the rest of our lives.

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