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But It Tastes Better Fried!
Clients who are struggling with weight management sometimes tell me, “But it tastes better fried!” So let me ask you, given a choice between fried shrimp versus boiled shrimp for your restaurant appetizer, which would you choose?
It depends, doesn’t it? On your long-term goals, that is. If your long-term goal is to lose the weight and finally maintain your hard-earned weight loss for life – rather than continue to ride the weight-loss weight-regain rollercoaster – then you’re likely going to choose the boiled version, at least most of the time, depending on how often you eat restaurant meals. If, on the other hand, you are not thinking about a long-term goal, and your sole focus is on eating the best-tasting thing possible (even if the taste lasts only for the few minutes that you’re eating the food in question), then you’re likely going to choose the fried version (unless you have a dislike for fried food, and then you’ll choose the boiled shrimp so long as there’s a prolific amount of sauce to go with it).
So, what’s your choice? A taste that lasts for a few minutes – or lifelong maintenance? Let’s make this easier. When we think about the idea of successful long-term weight loss maintenance, in a way that’s a very abstract concept. It’s more useful to think in terms of what that could bring us, what it could do for us and for our lives. I’m talking about things like good health, continued ability to live independently and to move around freely, and freedom from chronic lifestyle-related diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, some forms of cancer, weight-related joint problems, and even some types of dementia. So again, when you have a choice between 10 minutes (on a habitual basis – I’m not taking about occasional indulgences here) with fried shrimp on your tongue versus a lifetime of good health, what’s it going to be?
But even if you’re highly motivated to maintain a healthy weight for life, this is not such an easy question to answer. The problem, you see, is that we humans are not wired to focus on long-term outcomes. The long-term health benefits of making mostly healthy food choices are too abstract, vague or distant in the future for us to think about in the present moment. And the consequences of repeated unhealthy food choices are also too distant (after all, one pint of ice-cream today is hardly going to make us suddenly develop diabetes tomorrow), or something we just don’t think about (ah, the power of denial).
So the key – and the challenge – for all of us is to define for ourselves some immediate benefits of making the healthy choices that we aspire to make. Unless you live in a cave somewhere in the wilderness, no doubt you’re faced, just like I am, with the opportunity to indulge in tempting but unhealthy foods every single day of your life. Personally, I rarely indulge in “treat” foods because I know that if I do then I’ll gain weight, and then I won’t fit into my clothes, and I don’t want that. As I like to say, “I’ve ‘been there done that’ too many times in my life, and I don’t want to ‘been there done that’ ever again.” So for me the immediate benefit is being able to fit into my clothes tomorrow. It’s not the only one, though. I also feel good about making healthy choices. As you know, it’s not easy, and I simply am intrinsically (internally) motivated to do so. I feel proud of myself when I make healthy choices. I feel good about respecting my body by feeding myself with healthy food. And I simply feel better physically when I eat simple, healthy, real food – without the addition of heavy, greasy, or over-sweetened sauces or dressings.
That’s MY motivation for sticking with my healthy lifestyle plan – each and every day, no matter where I am, no matter what day of the week or year it happens to be, no matter what kind of event I happen to be attending or what kind of setting I happen to be eating in. Consistency works best for me. Also, it’s just too hard for me to take the weight off once I gain it, and so I prefer not to regain any weight in the first place. For me, an event is never about the food. I’ve come to view food as fuel for my body rather than as a source of entertainment, and so I strive to make every calorie count. If it’s not going to provide my body with nourishment, I won’t eat it.
But that’s my motivation, and that’s what works for me. It may not work for you. The important thing is to figure out what does work for you, and to stick with that. Successful losers (people who not only lose weight but keep it off over time) learn to focus on their motivation and to keep that motivation in the forefront of their minds. If that seems like too much work, remember that we live in a “food saturated” world – we’re constantly bombarded with food, images of food, messages about food, and chemically-altered addictive foods wherever we are, and so it’s important to remember your motivation for getting it off and keeping it off. Think about what the weight loss (and maintenance) results in for you – don’t let it be just about the pounds or inches, or avoiding chronic lifestyle diseases many years from now. This can be anything from simply feeling good about yourself, fitting into your clothes, or feeling more confident in social situations, to knowing that you’re being a good role model for your loved ones.
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With your continued health in mind,
Doreen Lerner, Ph.D.
Director, Institute for Lifelong Weight Management
Creator, The Full Mind Weigh® to Lifelong Weight Management
The Institute for Lifelong Weight Management provides education and training. The Full Mind Weigh® is strictly an educational program and is not a substitute for medical or psychological evaluation or treatment. If you think you may be suffering from an eating disorder, please consult with a qualified mental health professional who is trained to evaluate and treat eating disorders.