To hear people talk at this time of year, it’s inevitable that many of us will pack on a few pounds during the holiday season.
There’s some truth to that.
It happens. But it does not have to happen to you.
I say that because I know from personal experience. It’s actually possible to lose weight at this time of year. That’s what I did once.
On Thanksgiving Day of 2000, I declared on this page an intention to lose a bunch of weight. Then, after a year of monthly published updates, we unfurled the “Mission accomplished” banner in the autumn of 2001.
I had lost 70 pounds. And I was pretty smug about it.
The slimming took place gradually over what the features section billed my “Year of Downsizing.” But I got off to a good start, and that made all the difference.
(More on that in a moment. If you are someone who would like to drop some weight despite the caloric tsunami headed our way, brace yourself for a pep talk.)
If you’re still reading this, you might wonder: What has happened to my waistline since 2001?
Well, I have slowly regained about half the weight. At the rate I am going, I would be right back where I started by the year 2021.
But I don’t think that’s going to happen.
No, I didn’t succeed in turning myself into a consistently disciplined eater. And, yes, I have been gaining about 3 pounds a year since my self-impressed victory lap.
But I did change my life in one important way back then.
I went from being dangerously sedentary to being fairly active. And that stuck. I still get some decent exercise at least five or six days a week.
In certain respects, I’m in better shape today than when I was at my lightest 10 years ago. All my walking and bike riding have unquestionably made my legs stronger.
Though, it also should be noted that I am older now. There’s a good chance dropping a few pounds is only going to get tougher.
But I’m on it.
Years ago, I declared in print that I wouldn’t ever allude to this weight thing again. I’m breaking that pledge for one reason.
This whole “everyone gets fatter between Thanksgiving and New Year’s” thing annoys me. People make it sound like it is an inescapable fate.
Don’t believe it. You could weigh less by 2012.
I wouldn’t presume to tell you how to do that. There are seemingly thousands of others eager to offer advice.
But I can tell you what, in my estimation, has to happen if you are going to succeed:
You have to experience a magic moment.
Allow me to explain.
Lots of us intending to lose weight start out with a good plan and the best of intentions. That’s the easy part, of course.
So we try for a little while, and then we run out of steam. It’s an old story. The chips and Christmas cookies win again.
But every once in a while, something else takes place.
You start being more mindful about food. You increase your activity level. And then, after a few weeks or maybe longer, it happens.
You catch a glimpse of yourself in a mirror or pull on a suddenly not-so-snug sweatshirt. And you realize, it’s working. You are changing.
It is an emotional moment that comes as a delightful surprise, even to those who think about their weight every three minutes.
As motivators go, no book, program or encouragement from a friend can touch that.
I firmly believe that anyone who experiences that recognition of early success has a decent shot at going on to meet his or her goal.
Of course, you need to be realistic. You can’t declare yourself on a “diet” one evening and then march into the bathroom and step on the scale the next morning expecting to have lost 5 pounds.
We’re all different. It is easier for some to lose weight than it is for others. It’s hard to imagine how frustrating it would be to do all the right things and see no results.
I have joked with friends since 2001 that it’s easy to drop a few pounds if you know a big new photo of you is going to be in the newspaper every month. Certainly that sobering level of accountability played a role in my experience.
But the real reason I achieved my goal was that after my own magic moment – actually, there were several – doing what needed to be done became a pleasure, not a chore.
Maybe, if you are a superman or superwoman, you can make progress even if you despise your regimen and feel perpetually hungry and deprived. For us mere mortals, though, it is a lot easier if you have positive feelings about eating less and exercising more.
So next time you hear someone predict that we will all put on 5 pounds over the holidays, just remember: Whether you gain weight or not is up to you.
Personally, I plan on losing a few pounds before the end of the year.
But don’t expect to see anything about that in print. I’m done writing on this topic.
Unless, of course, I weigh in with another update 10 years from now.
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