- Where I’ve spent much of the last three years
- Where I’ve more frequently been slipping to
- Where I am now
- Where I will be in a week or two
Before you tell me, yes I know diets don’t work. You’ll quickly put back on everything you lost (and then some) after the diet is over. The only thing that really works is changing to a more healthy lifestyle.
This is both true, and missing the bigger picture.
Left to my own devices, I will consume more calories than my body requires and thus over the course of time gain weight. Whether this is caused by habit or is wired into my physiology is a moot point: the evidence shows that in the absence of other forces, that’s what I will do. My solution, the only one that has ever worked for me, is to create a second force that works to tip the balance the other way.
Creating that force is pretty easy: develop an awareness of how much you are consuming1, track your weight over the same time period, and feed those two variables back into your routine. This is the principle behind pretty much every diet out there not of the “eat only brazil nuts and beef jerky” variety, and while your mileage may vary, it’s what works for me. So long as the feedback is in place I can manage my weight. In its absence I revert to form.
What's really dumb is how I forgot this. I had everything nicely under control for a while, then somewhere in the middle of moving across to the other side of the country I fell out of my system and back into habit. Combine that with a couple of bouts of depression that I probably should have sought treatment for, and that left me feeling largely apathetic about my own existence for most of two years, and there was really no incentive for me to pick it all up again.
Somehow, I managed to convince myself that this meant the accepted wisdom was right and that diets don’t work, rather than reaching the obvious conclusion that if you stop caring about something, of course you'll fall back into old habits. Then there was the whole “You’ve turned 30 now, your metabolism has started to slow down, it’ll be so much harder now…” self-deception.
Which was all rubbish. I’d convinced myself it was hard, so it was hard. Once I got over that mental hurdle, so far it hasn't been that hard at all.
1 The first time I did this I went the whole calorie-counting route. Now I just rank each meal/snack between 0 points (a piece of fruit) and 3 (an all-night beer bender). This seems to work fine and it's a hell of a lot easier to remember when I sober up.