It’s funny, given that I’m a biochemist by training, I assumed early on in my career that if I give people information, they will connect the dots between what I tell them and their own lives. Then, they would make the appropriate choices necessary to change their diet and lifestyle.
Wow. I couldn’t have missed the mark any more than I did in this assumption! Information is valuable, yes, but it’s only one small part of what we need to succeed. The truth, I learned, was that most of us need a complete overhaul of the way we think about, and relate to, health-especially food. Mindset is so much more than knowledge. It’s a combination of our personal history, what we think of ourselves, our perception of what our peers and loved ones think of us, how we experience and react to stress, and so much more.
Most people are very good at losing weight. Almost no one is good at keeping it off over the long haul
With so much at stake, I’ve learned the hard way that there are five important rules to live by on your journey to success:
Rule Number One: Find Your Why
I did diabetic wound care on my father. He first lost his toe, then part of his foot, then had a below-the-knee amputation due to diabetic complications. It was a terrible process and very frustrating as I could not get my dad to make any diet or lifestyle changes to avert this process.
I made an iron-clad commitment to myself and my family that they would never have to go through that process with me. My “why” is that I want to be as healthy and active for as long as I can and to be as little burden on my family as possible.
Finding your “why” gives you a powerful, emotional and spiritual anchor that will help you maintain your long-term commitment to change.
Rule Number Two: You’re Only One Meal Away
Whether you eat paleo, keto, vegan or Mediterranean, your goal should not be perfection. It’s too harsh and unattainable. Instead, make a goal for yourself to be on track and sticking to your plan more days than not. I know when you’re starting out on your new health journey, it’s hard to imagine there will be days when you don’t stick to your plan. But let’s get real, we all have them.
Imagine yourself at any special occasion, like a special date, wedding, birthday party, family reunion or a holiday party. When you’re in that situation, maybe you make the hard choices and stick to your plan. Good for you! Or, maybe on that particular day, in that moment, you go off.
The next morning you wake up and your first feelings are failure. You feel like you blew it and you should just abandon everything. But, stop right there, take a moment, and think this through. If you are eating on a keto plan, and ate that piece of cake, you can either abandon everything OR realize that you are only one meal away from being back on track.
That’s it. Those are your options. Abandon ship, or shake it off and get yourself back on track. Here’s another way to look at things. Let’s say you eat three meals per day, seven days per week-that’s 21 meals per week. Does it really make sense that eating 19-to-20 meals “on plan” is completely undone by l-to-2 meals that are off plan?
Rule Number Three: The Yoda Rule
You don’t need to be a science fiction nerd to be familiar with the small green philosopher from the Star Wars movies and his now iconic line: “Do or do not, there is no try.”
If you’re going to tinker with a new way of eating, find someone you think is credible, someone with knowledge and training beyond your own, and follow their plan to the letter. This may seem a bit at odds with my “19 out of 21 meals” point I made previously, but it’s not. It’s not about a robotic-like perfection in your daily food choices.
The point is, when we start a new plan, we’re still hanging on to many of our preconceived notions we gained with the last plan(s) we were on. Don’t let that heavy baggage weigh you down.
The Yoda Rule tells you to pour your heart into this new start. Follow it with abandon, and trust your guide to lead you the right way. Also, trust enough in the process to give it a fair shake. I believe you’ll need to commit to at least 30-to-60 days to see how your body is really going to respond to this new adventure.
Rule Number Four: Maximise Your Returns on Investment
I really like the notion of finding maximum return on investment with diet and lifestyle interventions. What are some simple, actionable investments you can make to ensure success on a Keto diet?
- Eliminate liquid calories (or as many as you can). Folks consume a jaw-dropping amount of calories and sugar in everything from coffee drinks to juices and sodas. Liquid calories are particularly problematic as they do not really make us feel full, and they are incredibly easy to overdo.
- Eat high quality protein. As you start obsessing over your ratios, don’t worry if the protein is a little high. Eating enough protein during the day will help you avoid overeating (because protein is the most satiating macronutrient) and will help preserve your lean muscle mass, which is very important as we age.
- Do strength training exercises, ideally most days, but at least 3 days per week. A brief, full body strength session a few times per week can reverse what we’d call “biological aging” by decades.
Rule Number Five: The Long Haul
Understand that this is a long-term change you’re looking for-not a quick fix. Most people are very good at losing weight. Almost no one is good at keeping it off over the long haul. Folks tend to slide back into dodgy eating habits and not surprisingly, this is why folks rebound and tend to gain more weight than they lost.
Whether you go keto, paleo, vegan or what have you, if you don’t eat and live in a more healthy way, the weight loss and transformation is not going to stick. Again, to my “19 meals of 21” point above, this does not mean you never eat a dessert again or have something that is not specifically in your chosen dietary plan.
What it DOES mean is you cannot eat poorly 10 or 15 of your 21 meals per week and expect anything but poor results. If you want to affect longterm weight and health changes, you have to stick to the plan that works for you over the long haul.