In this month’s Change Anything column, Tomas B. shares the specific strategies he used to lose weight.
In my late twenties, I lived in Vietnam as an expatriate. I loved eating pizza and having drinks with friends, and when I returned to the corporate office in Copenhagen for my next posting, I weighed 242 pounds.
After a year in Denmark, I took a close look at myself and realized I had to change because I did not want to face the inevitable consequences of my current weight. I have seen other obese people face lifestyle-related diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure and realized that, if I did not change, I would likely face these same obstacles. This realization motivated me to make the following changes:
Source 1: Love What You Hate — One of my biggest obstacles was changing my attitude about my weight and maintaining that point-of-view. At that time, our company had an unspoken rule that real men don’t weigh less than 220 pounds. I had to redefine normal and train myself to believe real men are healthy and not overweight. I deserved to have a healthy and energetic body that would last a lifetime.
To maintain my weight loss, I knew I had to view this change as a new lifestyle, not just a diet. I reversed my thinking by focusing on my long-term goal instead of the food I ate at each meal. I created healthy menus that also tasted good so I could stick to this plan. I knew my goal of being as healthy as I was when I was younger was attainable. Thinking of my “new identity” was a powerful motivator in weak moments.
I was further motivated by the realization that losing weight would enable me to be a role model for others and show that it is possible to change. I had seen many friends and peers die of untimely heart attacks because they did not take care of themselves, and after visiting my default future, I decided that would not be me!
Source 2: Do What You Can’t — When it came to restructuring my diet, I was fortunate that my parents had a healthy lifestyle. They taught me about the healthy behaviors I’d need to adopt in order to change my habits. I followed my parents’ example and started eating low-calorie breakfasts, lunches, and dinners as well as healthy snacks in between. My parents have always lived a healthy lifestyle—exercising daily and sticking to a healthy diet—and they taught me how to establish healthy habits and achievable goals. They taught me what a healthy lifestyle really is.
Sources 3 & 4: Turn Accomplices into Friends — I knew I needed to involve others in my weight loss efforts so they would hold me accountable. One of my colleagues weighed even more than I weighed and reached a similar realization about his lifestyle, so we started dieting at the same time. We ate lunch together every day, shared our progress, and encouraged each other to continue making healthy changes. I also connected with other colleagues and friends with similar goals to get tips and ideas for optimizing my own diet.
Source 5: Invert the Economy — I motivated myself to stay on track by introducing an important reward. As a life-long pizza lover, I rewarded myself with a pizza dinner every Saturday evening if I had stayed on track throughout the week. This weekly reward kept me motivated.
My colleague and I also made a bet. We committed to lose a minimum of forty-four pounds and determined that the loser would treat the winner to dinner. Although it was a small bet, it helped me keep my eyes on my end goal.
Source 6: Control Your Space — I knew that to make a complete change, I needed to restructure my space in a way that supported my new habits. Before, I kept junk food close by so to keep with my diet I cleaned out my house and got rid of all of my junk food, soft drinks, and candy. I threw away everything that was unhealthy, and I also stopped going out with friends and drinking alcohol.
To help me stay on track, I weighed myself every morning so I could watch my progress. This daily information kept me motivated. Over time, I began to understand that even if my weight fluctuated from week to week, a bad week with little to no weight loss might lead to a weight loss of four pounds the next week. This daily check-in kept me focused and provided me with immediate feedback on my progress to meet my ultimate goal.
By incorporating each of these small changes, I lost approximately two pounds each week, and within five months, reached my goal of losing forty-four pounds. This took place thirteen years ago, and I have since maintained my weight and my lifestyle. Eventually, I added exercise to my plan and now exercise an hour every day. Change is possible when you engage several sources of influence.
Editor’s Note: Similar stories of inspiring change will be featured in Change Anything, our upcoming book about personal change due to be released in April. If you have an inspiring story of personal change, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and include “Change Anything Story” in the subject line of your e-mail.