This is part 4 of the 4-part "Seven Keys to Permanent Weight Loss Success" series.
Key #6: Control your rewards
You've heard it before.
"Have a free day. Eat cheat meals."
It sounds exciting, doesn't it? For several days, you focus on ultimate discipline. You eat perfectly "clean" and don't deviate from your diet ... not even a little bit. But that's because you have a great motivator ... the promise of a day or meal where you can literally go "no-holds barred" and eat anything and everything in sight!
If you start to feel a twinge of guilt about your plans to assault the nearest buffet, you can simply flip to the pages of your favorite book and reassure yourself with the claim that this meal is necessary because it will boost your metabolism. It's okay. Have it all. Chow away. Stuff yourself. You earned it, and it won't make a difference, right?
Well ... maybe, and then again, maybe not.
Cheat meals, free meals, reward meals, or whatever names you choose serve their purpose. I know that I would not have jumped headfirst into my first physique transformation if I did not know I could dive back into my binge habits once a week. And it worked ... for awhile. I stuck to the program and was losing weight.
As time progressed, however, I noticed a few disturbing trends.
Monday to me was simply a countdown to the day I could eat anything I wanted. I was obsessed with it. Sure, I was eating clean throughout the week, but I could barely focus on anything else other than the idea that one day I would be going crazy. When that day came, I would actually plot out a course through the city so I could hit as many fast-food and donut joints as possible. We went to buffets and then hit the store and bought pounds of junk food to bring home and consume before midnight.
I realized that this wasn't control. It wasn't even reward. It was addiction. I thought back to when I quit cigarettes. How did I do it? Did I stop smoking six days out of the week, and then have a day where I smoked as much as I possibly could?
My body was giving me a few clues as well. I would feel bloated, disgusting, nauseous, and would often get sick after a free day with a cold or sinus infection. I felt like I spent the first half of the week recovering from the last day and the next half barely holding on to make it to the next splurge festival.
That's when I decided it was time for things to change. I did not want to remain a slave to food. I could not imagine going on like that for the rest of my life, but this was supposed to be a permanent change, right? So I put my foot down.
I started with only allowing myself one or two reward meals per week. I called them reward meals because cheating is not what I was doing ... I planned them, and deserved them. After several weeks of this, I noticed a significant change: I was no longer desperate for those meals, I was enjoying my healthy meals more, and when it was time to have a reward meal, I didn't "waste" it on junk food or fast food ... I'd go to a nice restaurant, sit down, and truly savor it.
Then I began to focus on my portion control. I was still over-eating that one meal, and I would feel like I had a hangover for the rest of the evening. So I made a pact with myself that I would never eat so much that I couldn't have my other meals that day ... in other words, even with a reward meal, I'd control my portion sizes so that I was still ready to eat again after a few hours.
This is when I suddenly found myself in the driver's seat. The food was no longer in control, I was. I still enjoy pizza, ice cream, and many other treats. But now I control my rewards. I don't have to go overboard. I don't have to use one meal as an excuse to jump into a pattern of binge eating for the rest of the weekend. I can decide, ahead of time, what and when I will enjoy my reward, and then eat just enough to satisfy my psychological craving without going overboard. I switched from a free day festival (like smoking a carton of cigarettes) to controlled indulgence (like enjoying a nice cigar).
Here's some final points to consider ...
People are 250% more likely to suffer a heart attack after overeating Most of the people I know who successfully lose weight and keep it off control their rewards and do not have a splurge meal Your metabolism takes more than a day of splurging to kick into high gear ... you are better off having a planned week of eating more calories, but from healthy foods
Key #7: Consistently refocus goals
This last key is perhaps the most important.
When I was digging through some old documents, I came across my original goals list. This was in 1999 when I began my fitness journey.
My main goal was to reach 40" and I made a little side note, "if possible?"
Imagine that. A 44" waist and I wasn't even confident that I could lose four little inches!
After my first 12 weeks, I did not have a 40" waist. I had a 38" waist. I blew past my goal. So my new goal became a 36" waist, which I new was my limit because I was "big-boned." 36" gave way to 32" and at 6% body fat I was able to slip on a pair of 30" jeans ... over a foot (30 centimeters) had been trimmed from my waistline.
Goals can change, and that's okay. Constantly refocus your goals. You may be capable of more than you imagine or currently allow yourself to be. Some of my goals that I created after learning the power to transform include running a half marathon and starting my own business, both of which I have accomplished and neither of which I would have thought possible in 1999.
To refocus your goals is to learn who you are. Maybe you thought you could lose 40 pounds of fat in three months, only to discover you lost 20. That's fine. Set a new goal to lose 20 more over the next three months. Maybe you thought you would never bench press more than 100 pounds, but just did 110 last week. Great! Set a new goal to bench press 150 pounds. As you learn your limits (or rather, how to move past them) don't be afraid to set your goals higher.
Don't make the mistake, however, of falling into the trap of not having goals. This is what many people do ... "When I reach 150 pounds, I'm going into maintenance." That is an excuse to settle, and settling means going backwards and ultimately falling back into your old patterns. By consistently raising the bar, you are able to remain fit. Fitness is about action and movement, not about complacency and "settling."
If you want to live a fit and healthy lifestyle, you must realize you are not on a journey to trim fat or increase your running speed. Ultimately, you are in pursuit of greatness.
These points that were created by people just like you have illustrated that permanent weight loss success is a process, not an event. It relates to the people you interact with, the mindset you adopt, and your core beliefs - even how willing you are to transform them. Studying these points is not enough. You must internalize them and take action. Only then can you become the journey to become your best.