I had coffee the other day with a friend I hadn’t seen in some time and eventually the conversation turned to weight loss. Like a lot of people, she’s been fighting the same 20-30 lbs for years and she usually manages to lose a few pounds, only to put them back on. Sound familiar, anyone? I told her I was still doing Paleo and received the confused-not-quite-blank expression I’ve come to expect. Most people have heard of The Paleo Diet but really don’t know what it means other than the “It’s a lot of MEAT!” soundbyte.
Also, like most of us, she felt a little overwhelmed by “what do I do first?” Really, it doesn’t matter what you do first as long as you choose something within your capabilities and do that one thing only until you feel comfortable with it. This is rather a long-winded way of saying “PICK SOMETHING!” Too often we look at the landscape for weight loss (or any goal, really) and we want to make the best start that we can, but we get bogged down by: 1) the overwhelming number of ‘starting points’; and 2) the magnitude of the change we want to achieve. We don’t want to make a ‘wrong’ choice and fail, so we end up not really starting at all, or we choose too many ‘starting points’ and end up quitting because we get overwhelmed.
The other big stumbling block is the Diet Mentality, in which we get roped into thinking we are only “doing this” until we lose the weight we want to lose. We all know what happens next: the weight comes back! Obviously, once we stop ‘being good’ and go back to eating the way we did before The Diet, we’ve blown all our hard work! In order to maintain permanent weight loss, we need to make permanent lifestyle changes. This is part of that ‘overwhelming’ goal I mentioned before, but big changes come through small steps!
Because Sarah asked about Paleo, I told her that it’s mainly whole natural foods, no grains, legumes, sugars and a lot of non-starchy vegetables. Predictably, she made a face: she loves grains and cereals and isn’t a big fan of non-starchy veggies. A big part of her diet has always been white potatoes and ‘quick carbs’ such as pasta, bread, cereal and sugar. While white potatoes were never huge on my menu, grains of all kinds were a major staple of my diet, along with a fair amount of sugar. I told her when I started cutting these foods out of my diet, I did it one at a time. I started with potatoes since they were easiest for me, and once I had a handle on making healthier substitutions for the potatoes, I moved on to pasta, which was harder, until I felt confident enough to remove breads. In all honesty, breads of all kinds remain my biggest temptation and I told her that. You can offer me chocolate, candy, cookie or any kind of “treat” and I can turn it down without batting an eye, but offer me a biscuit? “Get thee behind me, Satan!” Even if I do turn it down, I will think about that biscuit for days afterwards! I tried to reinforce that it’s a series of steps and you don’t try to make every change at once.
I recommended she begin with a healthy breakfast like Elizabeth Benton (Primal Potential) suggests. You start with one meal and work on that one until you get it down, then move on to lunch, dinner and any snacks. I also recommended she get a food journal and a food scale. While there are a lot of weight loss gurus (Elizabeth included) who don’t recommend the food scale, I do because I am very aware of portion inflation. Just because Cheesecake Factory brought you one slice of cheesecake, that doesn’t mean what they brought you is ‘one portion.’ (It is likely three!) A food scale is a simple reality check for how much you are really eating. The food journal is just a simple way of keeping track of what you are eating, so later on if you aren’t getting the results that you want, you can see what might be behind that slow-down.
As I said, I was having coffee with my friend, which included a grande maple pecan latte, and a bag of Moon Cheese. Later on when I got home, those went in my food journal. While they won’t torpedo my diet, recording them keeps me honest so they don’t become regular parts of my weekly routine. Having an occasional sugary latte isn’t a catastrophe but when one a month becomes one a week and then several a week, those lattes will have an impact (as will several accompanying bags of Moon Cheese!). When I write them down, it’s easier to go back through the months and see where there may have been a few too many ‘special occasion lattes’!
I also recommended she listen to some of the podcasts aimed at giving listeners a foundation for fat loss and the reasons behind her recommendations such as the Fat Loss Basics Series (https://primalpotential.com/ep-121-fat-loss-basics/) and the episode on the Golden Rules (https://primalpotential.com/195-golden-rules-of-carbs-and-fat-loss/). I am not in any way affiliated with Elizabeth Benton; I’m just a fan and I think she offers solid advice based on your speed and the changes you are willing to make. Of all the weight loss professionals I’ve listened to, she is one who listens to you.
There are a lot of places to start and you don’t have to start with breakfast or go Paleo or even listen to Primal Potential, but you do have to make a choice. Choose one change you want to make, and once you’ve got that one down, move on to the next one. It might seem like you aren’t ‘going fast enough’ but does fast really matter when you won’t have to make that same trip again next year?