I used to have the worst all-or-nothing mentality when it came to my weight loss. Sure, I now consider myself a moderate weight loss success story, having lost 60 pounds from my highest weight and kept most of it off for the past two years. While I may not be at my goal weight quite yet, I am confident that I will get there because my approach to weight loss has changed. I now know that anytime I do make a “bad” decision when it comes to my eating, it’s just one decision, one meal. And I can make a better decision next time. But I wasn’t always this way.
In my former life as a serial dieter, each Sunday night I would make the resolution to restart my weight loss in the morning. Come Monday, I would arm myself with a healthy breakfast and a long list of good intentions, but by day’s end I had already caved. Maybe my coworkers had ordered pizza for lunch. Maybe I agreed to go to the movies with a friend after work and couldn’t resist the siren call of buttery popcorn, sugary soda, and Sour Patch Kids. Regardless of the reason, it was more likely than not that all my best laid plans had gone to pot.
“Oh well,” I’d tell myself. “I can just start again tomorrow.” With the knowledge that I would be getting tomorrow off on the right track, I would then proceed to go nuts with my eating in the present. One more last hurrah. And if my bad habits continued the next day, too, no problem. I could just start again next week. And so the cycle continued.
I would plan my weight loss, I would fail, and then I would feel like I needed to wait until another good starting point came before I could try again. My diet could always start again tomorrow/next week/next month/after Uncle Ashton’s 40th birthday party. I was full of excuses as to why I didn’t have to pick myself (and my food choices) back up. I wanted to be able to say I did things right, which to me meant completely starting over.
The thing is, losing weight and getting healthy isn’t about finding the right time to start. The right time is right now, as soon as we are ready to make a change. The truth is that healthy eating in today’s world is a series of choices and decisions. Everyone has days where they will choose chips and dip over veggies and hummus. Everyone has days where ordering a pizza is just so much easier than cooking. And just because there’s one meal where we do choose the former over the latter, it doesn’t undo all the rest of our hard work.
It is ridiculous to try and pretend that we are completely immune to the lure of unhealthy food. Sure, I imagine there probably are people out there who honestly don’t like French fries, or who really do want kale salads when they have a food craving. But I’m willing to bet that 90 percent of the public doesn’t have those same proclivities. It is important to remember that if we do indulge, if we do pick the pizza or the chips, it doesn’t mean we have failed. So we made one decision to eat something unhealthy. So what? The next time we eat (and not the next day or the next week or maybe after Allison’s wedding) we will have another decision to make. And another. And eventually, the good decisions will outweigh the bad.
Our lives don’t come with a reset button, and neither do our diets. There is no starting over, there is only moving forward. It’s not all-or-nothing; it’s one step at a time.
Gretchen Powell is a fitness and healthy living blogger in Falls Church. She is not a registered dietitian, nutritionist, or medical doctor, and a medical professional should be consulted before undertaking dramatic diet changes. For more, visit honeyishrunkthegretchen.com.