Image courtesy of Plan59
Since this is Cranky Fitness, what are the chances you're going to be reading some incredible new weight loss method guaranteeing permanent results?
Yep, you guessed it: pretty much zero! However, it's time again for Crabby to climb up on her soap box again and offer...
Advice about Self Improvement that You Already Know.
Today's question: What's the Secret to maintaining weight loss (or any other self-improvement achievement) for the long haul?
The answer: Accountability.
Yawn. There's nothing sexy about Accountability.
Making a commitment to Accountability is sort of like getting married to Mr. Rogers, or Eleanor Roosevelt, or Walter Cronkite. Accountability is not Hot and Hip and Hilarious. You're not going to have the rollicking good times you'd have going out to party with Blissful Ignorance, I'll Start Tomorrow, Hell--Why Not, or "LA-La-La I Can't Hear You."
But you're also not going to wake up in some scuzzy stranger's seedy apartment with your underwear on your head, reeking of White Russians and Kentucky Fried Chicken Nuggets and hating yourself. Accountability will cut you off and call you a cab before you self-destruct entirely.
Accountability doesn't have to be quite as dull as you think, however. Mr. Rogers (did he have a first name?) and Eleanor and Walter probably had a few tricks up their sensible cardigan sleeves for keeping things interesting, don't you think?
(OK, enough of that analogy, lets scrub those images right out of our heads!)
So here are a few tips on how to make Accountability your life-long partner. (You can still have an occasional sizzling fling with Reckless Irresponsibility too, as long as you don't let it get too serious).
1. Best Basic Accountability Tool: Write Everything Down
Not forever, but when you need to. It works, damn it. Keeping a journal or blog record or spreadsheet or whatever is a huge a pain in the ass--but it's the quickest and most effective way short of solitary confinement or a coma to get back on track when you've strayed.
2. But Accountability Can be Flexible!
Once you've gotten back into mostly reasonable eating and exercise habits, you may be able to ease up on the obsessive record keeping. (Or not!)
Accountability can mean mentally counting calories, weighing weekly, or keeping to a workout schedule--or doing nothing at all but observing that your pants still fit.
The trick to easing up, though, is having some 'trigger' events to let you know it's time to get serious again. When those pants start to get snug, you can't just blame the dryer and go out and buy a bigger pair. Promise yourself you'll drag out the gosh darned food diary again if you can't zip 'em up anymore.
3. Fight Accountability's Natural Enemy--Perfectionism!
There is a whole post on this here but it's impossible to stay accountable if you're afraid to be imperfect. YOU ARE GOING TO SCREW UP. Everyone does. The people who are successful know it, acknowledge it, and stay accountable.
Even the amazing Roni recently lost control over a sleeve of girl scout cookies. Did she pretend it didn't happen? No, she said, whoops! And then she got right back on track. She didn't hide the information from herself--or from her blog audience.
4. Know Your Cycle
Not your menstrual cycle--although that's helpful too, especially if you're big on retaining water. But some people do best with a steady approach and frequent check-ins, while others can tolerate more variance in how much effort they put into healthy eating and exercising. While "yo-yo" dieting is generally a bad idea, many people find that they can get a little sloppy over time, and then they feel a natural desire to self-correct.
Do you have this self-correcting tendency? If you don't, then you have to monitor how things are going with much more rigor, and check in more frequently so as not to let things get out of hand.
But say you're the self-correcting type, and you're going on a two week vacation. Perhaps you go totally bonkers while you're gone, eating all kinds of crazy-ass junk the entire time and having a blast. But then you come back and say: Yeeesh, enough of that, I feel Disgusting! And you go back to healthy eating and exercise with renewed vigor because it just feels right.
Are you this kind of person? Some of us are, some of us aren't. The trick is to figure out what works for you. If you enjoy periodic all-bets-are-off bouts of absolute naughtiness, and can recover from them, don't feel like you have to structure your approach like everyone else's. Staying accountable means staying accountable to your own goals, not someone else's.
5. Have A Three-Way
Or invite even more folks to the party! By inviting friends or blog readers or whatever to watch you and Accountability going at it, you add a level of commitment to the process that can help keep you on track. (But warning: by involving other people, you will also increase the temptation to lie or cheat rather than embarrass yourself in front of them. This is counterproductive! If you find yourself fudging, then stop sharing info. Honesty to yourself is more important than keeping others in the loop).
6. Recognize that "Accountants" are Often Considered Freaks
People who keep food diaries; who refuse a piece of cake at the office party; who order their dressing on the side or track how many miles they ran before work can be regarded as "obsessive" or "fanatical" by others. Even if you work or hang out with people who have totally unhealthy lifestyles, it's tempting to look to others to decide what's "normal." And counting calories or tracking your 10k times? Not "normal."
But face it: in our society, it's "normal" to order and eat a 3,000 calorie meal for lunch at a restaurant; to go from dawn to dusk and back to dawn again having gotten no exercise at all. It's normal to pack on more pounds every year and feel crappier and crappier but do nothing about it except feel miserable.
Be proud of your Freakishness! Go ahead and take Mr. Rogers as your date to the company Christmas party and don't let anyone give you any crap about it. After a few decades, you're going to realize that Mr. Rogers is actually looking pretty hot.
Note: after writing this post, Crabby was cruising around the net, behind on blog visits, and discovered a similar but better post recently written by BunnyGirl! So make sure to read that one too if you haven't already.