Raise your hand if you’ve attempted a diet. Okay, keep your hand up if you’ve also had some degree of success with that diet. Now keep your hand up if those diets continue to be successful today… I’ll wait.

Odds are the majority of you have put your hand down, and that’s because most ‘diets’ are not sustainable. ‘D-I-E-T’ is the worst four-letter word in the English language.

To me, diets represent something you’re doing for a specific moment of time to lose weight. Whether that’s a New Year’s diet to satisfy a resolution, or a summer diet to gear up for beach season, diets are always tailored towards fast results to solve a larger issue. Diets focus on the What (weight loss), and not that much on the How, When and Where. Before we dive in, I want to remind you that I’m not a nutritionist or a personal trainer. I’ve learned a lot about what works for me from my experiences with weight loss, and while my advice may not work or be appropriate for everyone, my hope is that the journey I’ve taken can help people realize it’s never too late to make a change and get healthy.

The How

Every overweight person has heard at some point that they need to make “lifestyle changes”. Learning to incorporate natural and healthier food into your diet is definitely important, but not as important as how you incorporate them.

How should you eat food? Well for starters, stop eating while lying down. Lying down increases the chance you’re going to cannonball into some serious passive eating, in which you’re eating for no particular reason other than you need something to do while watching TV. For me, it got to the point that I thought I couldn’t watch TV unless I was eating. The mental gymnastics that took place to rationalize that kind of thinking was impressive.

For instance, if I was watching a show while snacking on a bag of chips with some soda, and finished the soda before the chips were gone; I would tell myself, “Ken, there’s still chips left and the show’s not even over, just get another soda to wash down these chips.” So, I would get another soda and finish off the chips. But wait, then the chips would be gone and there’d still be soda remaining. Well, this is where I’d tell myself, “Ken, there’s still soda left, and a whole new show is about to start. Just grab some more food until the bottle is empty.”

This cycle of reasoning continued until the cupboards and refrigerator were barren. It had nothing to do with being hungry or satiating my appetite; rather, it had to do with this ridiculous notion that food and TV were connected. That each activity was dependent on the other.

One of the best ways to avoid this vicious cycle is to eat sitting down at a table, desk, or anywhere that allows you to enjoy your food distraction free. That can be easier said than done when life loves to throw curveballs at us with family and work. But make it your mission to sit down three to four times a day away from distractions to enjoy your meals. Make sure that when you do sit down, everything you’re going to need for that meal is in front of you. No more trips to the refrigerator that give you another opportunity to grab something else. Don’t worry so much about what you’re eating—that will come with time. For now, just focus on sitting down and eating a meal properly.

The When

There are 86,400 seconds in a day. If you’re like me, about 43,200 of those seconds are used savoring what you’re eating, 43,199 seconds are spent contemplating what you’re eating next, and the remaining second is used debating if a napkin is necessary.

Eating consumes my life. So when I began to lose weight, the hardest part was learning to eat only at specific times during the day. This structure was paramount to all of the success I would eventually have. Learning to eat three to four meals a day, and eliminating snacking between them (even before I ever started eating healthy) yielded big results. When your body operates on a regular schedule, good stuff happens. That slow metabolism you have speeds up a bit.

When you want to eat those meals is completely up to you. But here’s the caveat when getting started; Eat enough to make yourself full. Don’t concern yourself with portion control, measuring servings or calories.

As long as you remain in that one location while eating, and avoid snacking between those meals, your only other priority should be staying on schedule.
The common theme between the How and When is habits. Breaking those will be the hardest part of evolving your lifestyle. Avoiding snacking before bed and ordering that pastry with your morning coffee are massive leaps to take. That’s why your entree into weight loss should never be an all-in affair; it should be something you gradually progress with. When are you finished? Never. Fostering a healthy lifestyle is something you’re going to have to work on throughout your life, but constructing a solid foundation now makes the road ahead a lot less turbulent.

Now you’re probably wondering why I haven’t mentioned exercise at all yet in this post. That’s because working out can be frustrating, and you don’t want to do anything that’ll wobble your new lifestyle off the tracks. But, getting in some daily exercise is important. So, When should you workout? Whenever you want to. Don’t concern yourself with getting into a heavy workout routine right off the bat. Do what feels comfortable, and as your lifestyle changes, and the weight starts to drop, do more and more as it becomes easier.

The Where

The mirror. Wait, what?

Where you’re going to draw your biggest inspiration to begin this journey is from the person looking back at you. Not your family, not your friends, but you. Support is a terrific thing to have. Depending too much on others, however, can sometimes become a crutch that breaks over time.

You can do this. You can break the rhythm of poor habits and decisions that have made you overweight. This isn’t impossible, it’s just going to take time. That’s a hard pill to swallow, but it’s a reality you need to absorb. You’re not trying to get into ‘New Year’s shape’ or ‘Beach ready shape,’ you’re trying to get into ‘the rest of your life shape.’

Listen, losing weight sucks. It’s never fun to keep attempting something only to end up disappointed again and again. But this time’s going to be different. I promise. Because you’re not going to jump into this head first. You’re going to slowly break those bad habits while you test the water out with your toe. Then, when the temperature is warm enough, you can slowly enter the pool until it feels just right.

Nobody starts running by knocking out a marathon first. You need to walk before you run, and weight loss is the same. Good news is, I’m here to be your pacer every step of the way.

And once you get a good stride going, and learn How and When to eat, I’ll help you recalibrate those taste buds and make the foods on your plate a bit healthier, and tastier!