I’ve been doing a ton of research on one of my long-term problems, which is that I gain a little more weight year over year. This has been happening since I was about 25 years old. I’ve had periods where I’ve lost some of that weight, but the overall trend is that every year, I have more weight than I lost.
How I’m Researching This Mindset
Although I’m talking specifically about weight loss in this article, you can actually apply this method of researching a mindset to just about any goal you want to achieve.
The first thing I did was write down the names of people I knew personally who have achieved the goal of reversing weight gain and maintaining a new weight. I was able to come up with about 5 women I personally knew, who I had enough access to that I could either ask them how they did it, or I’ve already asked them how they did it. I then made a list of habits or things they had told me they did to lose that weight. I just did this off the top of my head; I’m sure over the next several months I’ll chat with them in person and get more feedback on the topic.
Next, I looked at how celebrities lose weight. Well, actually, I looked at celebrities who seemed able to maintain their weight, which is pretty much all of them! It’s part of their jobs. I also looked for celebrities who seemed to transform their weight over time, rather than all at once, and really came up with one person I admired, Khloe Kardashian. Her approach seemed more reasonable than most, and it took her about a year to lose 25 pounds, which is definitely not a fast weight loss by celebrity standards. I added all of this information about what these celebrities say they do (of course, who knows what’s real or not) to my list of potential habits to try.
Next, I looked at what the “best practices” were for losing weight and keeping it off. I pretty much just Googled this. The phrase “naturally thin” was instrumental in finding articles on the topic.
Next, I looked at professionals. I was particularly interested in body builders, who build muscle and cut fat crazy quickly! Not surprisingly, there was another whole set of advice about habit-building from this group that was vastly different than the other two groups.
Finally, I just put out a Facebook post about the question, to get more everyday people to share their mindsets directly. Many did! Thank you to everyone who helped me.
Pretty much anyone could follow these steps for researching a mindset; in fact, most of the work I do with authors is to help them understand this concept of adapting the mindset and habits of successful authors. Success leaves markers, breadcrumbs along the path if you will. Follow the trail.
Transforming Limiting Beliefs
There are a few other things I did to prepare myself for 2017 weight loss, mostly around pattern restructuring. I’m a big fan of changing your mindset through forgiveness and gratitude, and I practice this every day. It’s what helped me opt out of the fear-driven mindset, it’s what helped me turn my creative business into something larger than myself, and I’m confident it’s what will help me lose the weight for good.
I had to ask myself a few questions:
- What are my biggest issues with eating less and working out?
- Can I accept that these things will happen if the reward is being thin?
So, for example, one of my biggest issues with working out is the amount of time it takes and having to change my clothes/shower more/wash my hair more. I factor in the constant showering to the time. I had to ask myself, “Are you really letting a few minutes plus a bit of extra laundry or hair-drying time keep you fat and unhealthy?” To which, the obvious answer was, “Hell No!”
Seems super obvious, but most people a) don’t identify what’s holding them back and b) don’t accept the consequences of the change they must make. I’m pretty sure I will be showering more if I increase my workouts per week, especially because I prefer to do two short workouts per day instead of one long one. The consequence is still there. But when posed as a decision between a little inconvenience and being unhealthy, the winner is obvious to me.
Others will have their own blocks against eating less and working out. In my experience, you’re probably not going to create long-term results without dealing with those first.
Breaking Down the Solution Into Categories
There’s a lot that goes into weight loss and a lot of conflicting advice out there. As with anything, most advice is going to work if an individual can commit to it. In practice, each individual needs to figure out what they can truly commit to.
In looking at the general category of this problem, which I’ve classified as “Budgeting,” I’m currently seeing a few subcategories worth focusing on:
- Eating less/Spending less – Reducing daily caloric intake
- Burning more/Earning more – Burning more calories through movement and exercise
- Daily accounting/Cash flow – Deadline-driven balancing to make sure the numbers work out positively per day, per week, or some other time-bound period
- Emotional eating/Emotional earning/spending – Dealing with pain and grievances in my thought patterns around eating, like eating out of boredom or stress
- Toxicity – How the world and my environment work against me. For example, our world is full of more toxins than ever, and our society is desperate to pump us full of artificial foods that make us fat. Our credit system in the United States is set up to addict people to spending more than they earn. All of our environment is heavily profit-driven, but there are ways to limit our exposure or opt out of various aspects of it.
I’m open to a solution that focuses heavily on one of the subcategories and ignores the others, or one that chips away a little at each of these categories to sum to bigger results. At the moment, I don’t know where my personal strengths are in solving problems that fit into each of these subcategories. This is something I’m hoping to learn, since learning to solve problems in this category and these subcategories would be easily transferrable to other areas of my life besides health and finances!
This month, I want to explore five new habits that the “naturally thin” follow. I have different reasons for picking each habit, but I can say that my largest motivation for picking a habit was my perceived ability to follow through on it. If I thought the habit was easy, I picked it! Here are the habits I’ll be tracking in January:
#1 – Do a 20-Minute HIIT Workout 4-6 Times Per Week (Subcategory: Burning more)
In my research on what bodybuilders do, this seemed to be the most important piece. HIIT workouts are very popular in the fitness industry at the moment, mostly because they are said to burn fat for 36 hours after the workout ends. Also, you can get them done quickly, usually in 15-20 minutes a day!
I have no idea if any of this is true; however, during the month of December I tested to concept of doing a HIIT workout in the mornings and really enjoyed the endorphin rush and body buzz I felt for the rest of the day. There are thousands of HIIT workouts on YouTube for free, so I just go to the third floor and get it done first thing, before my shower.
I also really enjoy stretching, so I’ve been doing a short stretch video afterward. I’m definitely getting more flexible again as a result! I’ve always wanted to be able to do the splits, and my splits are getting much better with practice. I will probably be pretty good at them in the next few months, and then I’ll move on to something else, like a handstand.
This is something else I read about, which is to not intend weight loss directly. You need personal benchmarks, things you are excited for your body to be able to do, to stay motivated about weight loss over the long haul. This makes perfect sense to me, so I’ve incorporated several of these little pushes into my plans.
#2 – Drink 100 oz. of Water Per Day (Subcategories: Eating less, Emotional eating)
Water is life, and people who keep weight off seem to drink it like crazy. My guess is that it helps keep your muscles hydrated and your stomach full, which is why it works. It’s also a simple, no-calorie substitute for food—something to help with the mindless consumption that most of us are accustomed to, perhaps?
I already drink primarily water, and I drink more than most people naturally. My biggest challenge is keeping track of my water intake. That’s easily fixed by getting water bottles that measure a specific ounce size. I ordered three 32oz. bottles from Amazon, so in a few days I should be able to fill all three in the evening, put them in the fridge, and work through them the next day.
#3 – Switch to 3-4 Small Meals Per Day (Subcategory: Eating less)
Both my husband and I have always been breakfast skippers who like a medium meal at lunch and a large meal at dinner.
But the majority of people who maintain their weight eat breakfast and eat 3-5 small meals per day.
I have no idea why it matters, but for whatever reason it works.
I’ve also read a lot about the flip side, with the intermittent fasting that many people do. In fact, a number of men in the Facebook thread mentioned that they eat in a time-boxed period each day, usually having a late lunch and early dinner to keep themselves from eating too much.
I’ve now tested both methods, and found that the time-boxing makes me hangry (hungry + angry), while the 3-5 meals per day is actually great!
I’ve read from some industry experts like Tim Ferriss that for women, the time-boxing does a number on hormones. Of course, no man in the world needed an expert to tell them that; they only needed to get married! Haha. My husband basically knows that if I say I’m hungry and he doesn’t feed me within about 60 minutes afterward, I become the Hangry Monster.
The 3-5 meals per day was something I resisted for a long time just out of desire for convenience. I thought it would be completely annoying to eat this way, but I’ve been experimenting with it and actually love it! It’s really easy to control portions and I feel like I’m eating a ton. Plus I get to eat a larger variety of things every day.
Switching this habit alone has helped me lose about 3 lbs. during December, and that’s with eating fully during the holidays, dessert and everything.
Now, 3 lbs. is not a victory to me, because I could easily gain it back. I’m excited to experiment with this habit more though, and see if it can help me cut calories without tracking calories.
My “measurement” tool for a “small meal” is basically whether it fits on my salad plate. The salad plates we have are about six inches in diameter, with a .8″ around the border.
#4 – Substituting Vegetables Wherever Possible (Subcategory: Eating less)
Patrick and I happened to do a veggie tray for an event we hosted on Christmas Eve, so we had sliced veggies as leftovers. I loved it! I found myself grabbing them for snacking (which counted as one of my small meals) more often than not.
It was also really easy to toss some sliced peppers and broccoli in a pan to sauté in the evenings. So I’m definitely going to be prepping raw veggies for the week from now on.
I also got one of those kitchen gadgets that turns veggies into noodle-shaped “pasta.” I’m excited to try it out!
I’ve always been a big fan of eating salads for lunch, but over the years I’ve noticed myself adding lots of cheese, avocado, olives, and other high fat items to it. This makes it pretty high calorie, especially since I love HUGE salads! I’m going to start incorporating small salads that fit on actually salad plates (rather than huge plates or bowls) into our food habits. It would be great to eat a few salads throughout the day instead of one massive salad at lunch, so I’ve temporarily cut out salads from my diet so I can break the old habit and start a new, healthier salad habit.
#5 – Start a Food and Exercise Diary (Subcategory: Daily accounting)
This one is going to be the hardest for me, and it’s the only one that I don’t know I can keep up with long-term. I’m approaching this one habit of “Tracking” a bit more like I approached it when I was learning to increase my writing speed. My assumption is that I’m going to track for a short period of time, like a month or two, just to better understand my habits and make small adjustments to get the results I want.
I’ll probably make my adjustments, drop tracking, and then pick it up again in six months or so to see what more I can do to optimize my habits.
In this way, the diary will be most useful if I see my weight loss stagnating or going up over a long period of time.
I currently already use technology to help me track, primarily my Fitbit which tells me roughly how many steps I’ve done per day, and my FitBit scale which I step on every day to capture my weight and body fat percentage. I’ll definitely know if I’m getting results; the food diary will help me know why I’m not getting results, should that happen.
Because of this, I’ve opted to just do a handwritten diary. This is going to be the easiest to maintain compared to some of the online or app tools, and this way I can easily keep track of my exercise and any emotional stuff that comes up each day.
Unlike with my writing challenge that I did back in 2013, where I tried to write 50,000 words in one month, I really don’t see the point in posting every day on these goals. I may do a mid-month update, and I’ll definitely post at the end of the month as well. Weight loss just doesn’t happen in big numbers the way word counting does, so I imagine most of my days will have a big fat zero where the weight loss amount should appear!
My biggest concern with the goals I’ve posted is whether they are specific enough. I know when I did my writing challenge, I aimed for 50,000 words in a single month… and I hit it. However, I also knew exactly how to get words.
I don’t feel like I know how to get weight loss results. I definitely understand theoretically that eating less and exercising more helps a person lose weight, and I also understand in great detail how calories in and out work in terms of the math. But for me, I don’t know how to predict what a reasonable amount of weight loss would be this month.
A big challenge is that there’s no clear way to control the goal. For example, let’s say I wanted to lose five pounds in January. If I get to the last week of the month and I haven’t lost any weight, do I try to to lose all five pounds in that last week? The only way I would know how to do that is to stop eating and go on a juice fast. But obviously that isn’t going to work in this experiment, not with the parameters I’ve set up. And I also know from experience that juice fasts can cause weight gain later.
With writing, I knew that I could just bust out a few 7000 word days in a row and get to my goal. I am not as comfortable doing that with my weight. Been there, done that—there are consequences that I don’t see as long-term productive.
Since I’m not setting a tangible goal, it’s entirely possible that I won’t see any results this month. I’ve decided I’m okay with that for now. I’m looking for results over the course of the entire year, not over the course of 4.25 weeks. Again, if my goal is simply to reverse my weight gain and go negative by 3-8 pounds a year consistently, then I definitely wouldn’t see those 3 pounds in the first month anyway!
I’d love any reflections on this. I’ve spoken to my husband about it, and his general inclination is to set a tangible goal, even if it’s just half a pound a week. Part of the reason I’m blogging this particular goal is to get feedback on it. My experience with having mentors is that they can easily spot where a newbie is building a plan that simply isn’t going to work. I’m open to that feedback, so if you have done what I’m trying to do and want to be my mentor, I’m all ears! Just leave a message in the comments.