This is a guest post by Michael Prager.
When I get before audiences to discuss my campaign for personal sustainability, I illustrate it with a core fact from my time on the earth: I am maintaining a 155-pound loss for more than 20 years.
The first number, combined with my “before” pictures, gets their attention. But in my view, the second number is more worthy of huzzahs, especially when you consider that I’ve lost around 500 pounds altogether. Every time before this one, I’d gained back whatever I’d lost, with interest.
I suggest that most of the Americans who are obese or overweight — and that’s 2 out of every 3 adults, 1 out of every 3 children — don’t have a weight-loss problem. They have a weight-loss-sustainability problem. From the podium, I don’t limit this personal-sustainability question only to weight; the concepts apply to anyone with a personal struggle, whether its shyness, or punctuality, or procrastination. But here on Fooducate, I want to focus on the food.
So what’s the difference between those championship diet bouts that ended in failure, and what’s working for me now, so far? In the space available, I’ll only be able to touch on the bigger points.
1. How I ate was *a* problem, but wasn’t *the* problem. That’s why I could lose 130 pounds — Twice! In my teens, and again in my 20s. — but still be barreling toward 365 pounds as I entered my 30s.
2. Even super-sized willpower, which I seemed to have been endowed with, eventually runs out. I use that power at times, but relying on it alone has always failed.
3. Community support is more sustaining than self support, not so much “stronger” as “different.” I need both to offer and accept feedback and guidance from others with similar goals if I want to succeed.
4. Just as community support is more valuable than self support, spiritual support is more sustaining than community. This has nothing to do with religion: I was born into and assiduously trained in a tradition, but derived not spiritual connection to it. I engage in no religion today, but I pray morning and night, and many other times throughout the day. I don’t think it should work, but it does, for me.
5. Overeating is impossibly complex — triggered by factors physical, emotional, psychological, and more — meaning that there is no single “right way” to overcome it. What *won’t* work is adopting a limited, short-term “solution” and expecting it to solve a long-term issue.
6. “Everything in moderation” and “deprivation diets don’t work” — two common mantras of dietitians — are bad guidance. Based what I’ve learned both from professionals and peers, I have avoided — i.e., not moderated — a number of foods for at least 20 years, and it has been a boon to my life. Given that, I don’t feel deprived at all — I’m happy to know that I’m better off without this stuff, even if some of it is appealing to me. From the perspective of 20-plus years, which do you think I value more: Not having had certain flavor combinations, or having had decades of not only stable weight but stability over the expanse of that time?
7. I am certain that transformation is available to anyone. Look for others who are succeeding, ask how they are doing it, and adopt one or two actions in the same direction. The act of changing reinforces further change.