"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