Rule #1: You have to want to change your behavior. Weight Loss = Behavior Modification
I'd put "Make the decision" as my FIRST rule of weight loss were I to make a list (and I might eventually). All change--and behavior modification is to me a nice fancy, science-y term that means MAKING CHANGES to our patterns of action--begins with a realization and a decision.
Realization: I'm fat. It's impacting my life negatively. If I don't change I can't do X, Y, or Z and bad things will happen to me (early chronic health conditions, early acute health conditions, more expenses, fewer job opportunities, problems socializing, fewer dating chances, lower self-esteem, less confidence, early death, etc).
Decision: I will make the necessary changes in my life to stop being fat and forestall or avoid certain problems due to this fat--and improve my life.
Then you go and start figuring out what BEHAVIORS need to be MODIFIED (ie, changed). Some examples (not from my life, just making some for illustration):
Modification 1: I will have 3 meals of no more than 500 calories each and keep a calorie count daily, instead of my "eat what I want" no matter how many calories that I do now. (subsets of this can go on in terms of modifying recipes, setting up meal times, banning fave restaurants if they have no good options or too many temptations, etc.)
Modification 2: I will cook dinner 5 days of the week and eat out 2 days, unlike now when I eat all my dinners out.
Modification 3: I will increase the number of fruits and veggies to 6 a day, in contrast to my 2 a day now. To do this, I will go to the Farmer's market at least once a week to stock up.
Modification 4: I will get up at 7 instead of at 8 to do 30 minutes of exercising and 30 minutes of motivational reading and meal planning for the day.
And so forth....
I've had great nutrition KNOWLEDGE since my teens, reading books, reading magazines, taking a nutrition course in college, even reading dietitian program texts. I've seen 4 nutritionists since my 20's, and I generally impress them with my knowledge of nutrients and my good eye for calorie counting and knowing what a serving is.
Knowledge is not as much "power" as the adage may lead one to think. Knowledge NOT applied is just knowledge. It's only powerful when USED.
Behavior modification is about overhauling actions--big and small. Again: CHANGE. We fatties need to change the way we eat and the way we move (or don't). We eat too much. We prolly move too little. We may make poor spontaneous or emotionally driven choices. We make excuses--legitimate or silly--for why we stuck that burger, third slice of pizza, handful of M&Ms or second doughnut in our mouths. We don't properly plan, strategize, and follow-through.
To change is to accept responsibility for what we can: what we eat, how we move, when we eat, how we sleep, our medications, hiring professional assistance, etc. To change is to find ways to make up for where we have unavoidable deficits instead of using them as habitual excuses for staying obese: disabilities, medical conditions, limited budgets, unsupportive family, etc. EVERYONE has some kind of obstacle, or many, be it...
~budgetary (hard to get a lot of fresh foods or pay for a gym)
~environmental (works in a bakery, candy shop, restaurant; imprisoned)
~relational (unsupportive family, friends, coworkers; feeder relationship)
~medical (endocrine/metabolic issues, mobility issues, cardiac issues, etc)
~psychological (trauma that relates to seeking food or seeking a fat body)
~emotional (comfort eating, associating food with pleasant memories)
~spiritual/ethical (hedonistic gluttony, food exorbitance).
Changing ourselves makes losing weight and keeping it off hard because, well, you know already: making new habits is hard. It means you have to do things DIFFERENTLY and sometimes that difference takes a lot more planning and effort--at least until the habit is so well-established that it's automatic. Because temptations make you want to go back to old, pleasant, rewarding ways--rewarding in ways other than on the scale.
It's always gonna be easier to pick up a phone and order pizza or Chinese and have food magically appear in disposable containers than to shop for good groceries, chop veggies, peel fruit, saute or bake or grill or steam, serve it, and then wash pots and pans and dishes. Always. It's always easier to do a drive-thru then head to teh supermarket, choose, pay, come home and prepare it. Always.
DECIDE it's worth taking the extra trouble to set aside time for meal prep (or at least meal/calorie planning so one knows what to buy at convenience eateries) and for regular exercise. Then one has to...modify...behave in that new way...change...
Whether it's giving up booze or sugar, giving up cocaine or pizza binges, giving up an established pattern requires energy--it can be so exhausting to the mind and body to learn new way of behaving. This is not an assumption--it's documented. Read SWITCH to see.
I had to do work in my life to get over outbursts of anger. I've had to exercise self-control sexually to live up to my religious beliefs (and trust me, when you're single, abstinence is tough, but not as tough as dieting, hah). I've had to exercise self-control not to tell assorted people in out there to F-off, at work and at school and in family life. I had to change my life to adapt to a university program, modify my behavior to get great grades. I had to alter my routine to work at X employer or Y job site. Change is usually tough at first, then you adapt.
I often and for long periods decided not to exercise self-control about food choices--and yes, that's ALWAYS a decision what we choose to eat and how much unless one is captive and the food choices beyond one's control-- and I didn't exercise at all. I am now in the process of modifying those gluttonous and slothful habits (among others).
Just like substance abusers, sex addicts, the bad-tempered, chronic fibbers, name-your-vice relapse, dieters also relapse (go back to old ways of eating and not voing). And then we have to try again--or we mess up your health. Part of modifying my behavior is to immediately get back on the calorically-restrictive eating habit rather than just feasting away for weeks or months and then, sluggishly, crawling back to the, "Oh, I need to diet" mindset after I regained part or all of my pounds lost.
Immediate, or at least PROMPT, course correction--that's part of behavioral modification for weight loss. (Maybe that's a rule, too. )
So, that's why things like blogging (for me and others) and challenges (like Allan's) are valuable. They force me to strategize, change behavior, add new habits, reinforce better behavior to get to my goal and achieve ease and familiarity and HABITUATION with a DIFFERENT set of behaviors, those that establish and maintain...a healthier weight.
Yeah. Stephen is right. Behavior modification is key. It has subsets, particularly EATING LESS AND MOVING MORE.
But once you break down the behaviors into smaller units, then you get the particular pattern that works for individuals (how to shop, how to stock pantry and fridge, how to cook healthfully, how much water, when to drink, supplements, exercise schedule, tricks mental and otherwise that get one to do this stuff, etc). This is where more the personal, the individual, the unique comes in.
Still, if you look at the habits of successful "losers" and "maintainers"....I think you find more commonality than difference. They had to eat less. They had to move more. They had to find foods they liked that fit the caloric needs. They had to find (at least most) activities they enjoyed to burn calories and firm up. They had to find ways to stay motivated. They had to find support (whether through books, groups, blogs, family, friends, organizations, or their own souls.) They had to look long-term, not crash diet short-term. They had to sacrifice.
But first they had to firmly, clearly, unequivocally DECIDE to start the journey of change. :)
Have a trimming Thursday, folks!