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Sustainability Plan

Thursday, January 06, 2011


"An apple a day keeps the doctor away."

Let me ask you a simple question. The food you ate today and the quantity you ate, the amount you exercised as well - can you see yourself doing that for the next five years?

One thing I spoke to my behaviorist about this past month was "Sustainability." I explained to her that sustainability was the one and only reason THIS TIME was different from every other time I've tried to diet.

If you look at Wikipedia, the definition of "sustainability" is simply "the capacity to endure."

Sounds simple enough, right? More and more this word has been used in terms of "going green" and creating a sustainable earth. Which, by the way, beyond all the nonsense means "how can we live so that the world sustains the same state (or better) that it is in now? What can we do to continue to make sure the earth reamains a productive environment and an atmosphere in which we can sustain life?"

But if you think of sustainability in terms of weight loss, the idea is not that far off.

What can I do today to ensure that my healthy habits are sustained and that my body and my healthy lifestyle continue to be productive and support the life I have come accustomed to living?

Okay, so quick "desert island" question. If you had one food you could eat for the rest of your life. Any food on the planet, a recipe or a food from a restaurant or something grown in the earth, what would it be?

If you're thinking with your stomach and taste buds you might say something like "chocolate cake!" Why? Well, duh! Because it tastes good! But after that momentary lapse of judgment passes, you realize what you really need is a diverse recipe of fresh ingredients, full of flavor, able to be adjusted daily in order to suit the needs of that day, with every major nutrient included in order to sustain your life. (What's the good of a island if you die a week into the enjoying of it?)

I told my behaviorist simply, "I think to myself when I eat any food, before I start any exercise regimen or build any healthy habit -- can I see myself doing this for the next five years? Five years from now, could I wake up in the morning and still be fine with something like a 1/2 a wheat bagel with whipped cream cheese and a coffee? Will I still be okay walking 7 miles a week or exercising 3-7 times a week?" If the answer is no, then I know I'm not building a healthy lifestyle.

For some people, cutting out carbs is the way to go. But I have to tell you, it didn't pass my sustainability test. I can not imagine not having a single carb in the next five years.

For some people, cutting out coffee is just fine. But that didn't pass my sustainability test either. Mornings and java just seem to click in my head and I just know I would miss it and eventually break.

Now there are things like chocolate cake (I know I use this all the time...can you tell how big a fan I am of chocolate cake?), McDonald's french fries, milkshakes, ice cream, and other such "bad" foods. When I asked myself, "What can I sustain?" the answer was simple. I cannot tell myself I will never eat another McDonald's french fry. I will. I have. What I can say is that I won't eat them every day, or even once a week - heck, not even once a month! Every few months, I might eat a small, medium, or even LARGE McDonald's french fry. And then I'm done. And I'll last another few months. For me, the trick is fitting these treats into my daily calorie goals and not even missing a beat as far as my calorie bank goes. For me...THAT is sustainable.

Sustainability is so important to me because, let's be 100% honest, I will NEVER be able to go back to eating whatever I want. Some people were made with the ability to do that. I was not. My body requires structure and limitations, just as most children do. Whatever I do today, whatever life I build right now, is going to define the majority of what my life will need to look like 5, 10, or even 20 years from now.

If I want to sustain my healthy body, I will need to sustain my healthy lifestyle.

THAT is why diets don't work. Because there's always an end date. A goal weight. And people think to themselves, however secretly, "If I can just get to that weight, then I won't have to try so hard and I can go back to doing whatever I want." From one yo-yo dieter to another, that doesn't work, Missy or Mister. Once you go back, so does the weight.

And what sustainability does, is helps you build a life of consistency. It doesn't require an effort of 150% now for 50% effort later. It requires you to stay at about 80%, pushing now and again, failing now and again, but nearly at that 80% most of the time. This ensures that you don't burn out on what you're doing. It ensures that when the bad times come, those stressful moments, you'll know how to walk out of them practically unscathed. You'll learn along the way how to deal with disappointment and come back from it and back to yourself and your way of life again. It's not 100% 100% of the time. It's 80%. It's manageable. It's sustainable.

So, let me ask you again. Whatever you did today, can you sustain that life for the next five years? If it helps, think in terms of weeks instead of days. Can you sustain this week for the next 5 years? Can you even yourself out to that 80% at the level you're playing at now?

Can you drink diet shakes for the next 5 years? If not, do you have a plan to susbstitute the same calorie base and maintain that?

Can you continue to avoid carbs for the next 5 years? Are you in danger of reaching a breaking point and going back to where you were?

Can you work out at that level and intensity of exercise or more for the next five years? Can you get to the gym 3-7 times for the next five years? (Come on, 3 days is NOT that big of a deal...and remember, 80%. So go 6 days one week and 2 the next and it will all even out in the end.)

Sustainability. Not perfection. Not a diet. A sustainable lifestyle. To help keep you productive.

*photo source: Wikimedia Commons, USDA, Scott Bauer
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • VON_1962
    Wow, you are so on target with this blog! Love it! Sustainability is a great word and I love how you incorporated it into being healthy and fit for life. What a great perspective. I totally agree with you, you can take anything but don't take my carbs and take your hands off my coffee! Cheers to you and your success!
    3649 days ago
  • HEALTHY4ME
    Well thanks this has really hit home and given me more "food for thought" lol. I will hae to think of this, I am not a fast food person but don't cut out my cookies but do have to learn to eat them much more moderately! LOL
    thanks for some really great ideas.
    Cindy
    3649 days ago
  • JIBBIE49
    emoticon
    3649 days ago
  • LYON77
    This is a great way to look at this. I have friends who dont exercise and dont eat any fruits or vegetables but will try Atkins, or start taking diet pills and suddently lose a quick 8 lbs while I struggle to lose every ounce! But, I have to keep reminding myself that I will never cut out an entire food group or take a diet pill or diet shake just to see a quick loss. I am proud of the fruits and veggies I eat, I know that carbs ARE good for me, I know how great my blood pressure is and my heart and lungs are! And I know for SURE that what I am doing is sustainable for the rest of my life!
    3656 days ago
  • SARAWALKS
    emoticon blog, Esther, and so very true. I've hit my first goal and it is good to think "sustainable" right now! I've been missing your blogs due to my trip but I'm back with you now. Have a double fantastic 2011! emoticon a little late! emoticon
    3658 days ago
  • ATREAT4ME
    Bingo! I love your 80/20 rule and w"ill call it the "Esther Principle: Turning Pareto on its head" Lol. You are fantastic!

    A toast to you, to Vegas, your bday, and the Esther Principle.

    Go forth and sustain my friend!
    3658 days ago
  • SLR00570
    This was a great blog! For a while now "Instant gratification" was the phrase my life revolved around. What will make me feel good now. Which usually was the McDonalds french fries. But I like sustainability. This will be added to my new group of words to live by this year.
    3662 days ago
  • HEALTHYME47
    Very nicely said. I like to think in terms of tradeoffs, as in, "I can eat ANYTHING. But I can't eat EVERYTHING". So I'll do thinks like have the fries but not the shake, or split a dessert, or whatever. Thanks for writing this.
    3664 days ago
  • ABBYEMERSON
    I absolutely love the elegance with which you describe sustainability. You've hit the nail on the head. I'm so tired after a very long week, so my response is a bit dulled down, but this entry really meant something huge to me in my journey, in this moment in time.

    Thank you!!!!
    3664 days ago
  • KITHKINCAID
    I'd say right now I'm at 100% with the 28-Day Bootcamp stuff. So I don't know that I'll sustain that once I'm through it. But I might add it in every once in a while as a boost. Otherwise, 80% is great for me.

    Great blog. I love that word - "Sustainability" - that's what we're all doing here, is learning sustainability - and the successful ones are the ones that understand that concept.
    3664 days ago
  • MAGPIE17
    Great blog, Esther! Great, great blog!
    3664 days ago
  • BTINTERNET
    As usual, you've gotten it exactly right. I am with you on the McDonald's fries (or the ones at the Bistro :-) ) - I don't eat them all the time, but every so often I want a few. For me, I could go the rest of my life without cake, but despite the urgings of friends I cannot/will not give up all carbs. I have cut them back to manageable levels, and that's manageable long-term, not "I can do this for six weeks" or "I can do this til I reach goal". Lifestyle includes life - that means outings, McDonald's, cake, wine, chicken wings (looks at Mezzo), etc.

    Have a great trip hon, and see you soon!
    3664 days ago
  • EMMYKATE616
    excellent, excellent! i have done a really slow loss, which for me is so that it can be practice for the rest of my life. when i'm not able to eat only 1200 calories or exercise 20 hours a week.
    3665 days ago
  • GETFIT2LIVE
    You nailed it--that's what it takes to make a LASTING change. My whole lifestyle has changed over the last year. I am a champ at dieting, but I failed in the past to keep off what I lost because as soon as the diet was over, I went back to the old way of eating. Not this time; I LOVE the foods I eat, LOVE to run and work out, and I don't ever want to give those up. Yes, I will undoubtedly have a McDonald's french fry again, and I will definitely have chocolate cake again, but in reasonable quantities and only occasionally. Learning to make lifestyle changes that are sustainable is the key to long-term success; thanks for articulating that so well here!
    3665 days ago
  • no profile photo CD7466362
    *my body requires structure and limitations*

    Structure to be sensible but still have fun; limitations to know often or how much I can waiver and still be on the right path, seeing positive results. I like that it's a major thought process (that expands to physical actions.)
    3665 days ago
  • no profile photo CD7009225
    I love the use of "sustainability" to discuss this topic. It is so true that what we are doing we will have to do for the rest of our lives. I have talked about it from the other point of view, that I am never going to live a life that is totally "deprived". I like your approach better: "sustainability". Thanks for sharing your awesome insights!
    3665 days ago
  • ADVENTURE-GIRL
    This is probably the best advice I have ever heard since I started this journey. Keeping this lifestyle doable is very important for long lasting results.
    3665 days ago
  • no profile photo ECAMPBELL8
    AMEN sister! preach on! You are awesome. I'm saving your blogs cause I need them! THANK YOU! emoticon emoticon
    3665 days ago
  • AMBERHENLEY
    Awesome blog. Diets absolutely do not work and I wish more people knew that. We all have to find what works for us and stick to it. We can't just lose the weight and then go back to our old ways. Almost always that ends in gaining back all the weight and then some. I used to think that I was cursed with a bad metabolism, but now I see it as a blessing. I am so much healthier than those people who can eat what they want and never gain an ounce. Good luck to you on reaching your goals!
    3665 days ago
  • HARMONYBLUE
    Nail on the head. Great blog. It was very similar to what the doctor told me at the start of my journey. I had heard "diet's don't work; it has to be a way of life" but it never clicked until we started talking about the way I ate, the things I could do without, the things I could substitute to keep me full and happy but healthier. Give up bread. Never. Give up white bread for whole wheat. Absolutely. Give up pasta. Nope. Add two cups of broccoli to it for a low cal filler when I feel like pigging out. Yup. Oatmeal? Never would have dreamed that would be something I could never live without LOL.
    3665 days ago
  • _COSMOPAULATAN_
    Let's see... I ate soup and a sandwich, chicken wings and bruschetta. Washed it down with white wine and some water. And I didn't work out at all. Yeah... I could sustain that!
    3665 days ago
  • SKINNYMISSKASEY
    I've done it so far a year. I believe I could do it more. I can't cut out my carbs. You NEED carbs for energy. I've seen a lot of people do the low-carb diet but gain all their weight back.

    It's possible! Just have to exercise, portion control, and strong will!
    3665 days ago
  • MAIA2011
    Once you go back your back (side) comes back.

    BA-zing!
    3665 days ago
  • DOWNTOWNJEN
    You eloquently stated what I've been trying to get across to people in my life - thank you! I couldn't agree more!

    It's so funny - I ask myself these same questions nearly every day. Just today (in fact about 30 mins ago) I came back from signing up at the gym closest to my house - my insurance pays for it. I really had to sit and think - do I want to join a gym? Will I use it? I don't drive due to visual impairments so I must walk. Will I still want to exercise once I walk the 1.2 miles there? Will I be ok to walk back? Ultimately I joined. I need to do some balance work and strength training - and I am willing to give it a try at the gym. If I find it is not sustainable - then I'll quit and continue with my other forms of exercise. Simple as that.

    It's all about sustainability - which in the end, is all about balance. It's definitely NOT about perfection!
    3665 days ago
  • BEATLES34
    you are some sort of freakin' genius.
    man oh man.

    3665 days ago
  • AIRPEACH
    Working on that. Thanks for a well-written reminder!
    3665 days ago
  • MICHELLESMILES_
    Loved this....I have done the low carb diet many times and have lost then gained it back plus some. I was going to 100 percent give up diet soda but I can't so just trying to get the water in to.

    Hope you're feeling better today!
    3665 days ago
  • BECKYB73
    Good one, Es.
    3665 days ago
  • HOLISTICJESSICA
    I love this blog! This journey is about sustainability. Yes, I can continue with what I have done today. Other days I may not be able to answer that way, but today I can.
    3665 days ago
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