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Diabetes Developments - A blog on latest developments in diabetes by David Mendosa

How Will You Celebrate Success?

October 22nd, 2012 · 4 Comments

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Losing weight can be easy. I’ve done it hundreds of times.

Mark Twain actually said that about stopping smoking. But losing weight and stopping smoking have a big difference.

When you stop smoking, you stop. When you lose weight, you still have to eat something. This makes losing weight even harder to do than to stop smoking.

But, you might think, that to stop smoking is harder because tobacco is addicting. So you think that you aren’t addicted to the food you eat?

Wheat is Addicting

If you eat wheat in any form, you probably are addicted to it. Wheat, which is almost everyone’s dietary staple, contains opioids.

When I got serious about managing my weight, I didn’t realize how big a role that wheat played in my diet. Because I slowly cut back on the amount of wheat I ate, my addiction to it worked against me for a long time.

Much better, I know now, would have been to cut out wheat all at once. When I stopped smoking many years ago, I went cold turkey. Of course, I was miserable, but for not as long as I was while I tapered off eating wheat.

We can go cold turkey on wheat. In fact, as Dr. William Davis writes, eliminating wheat from our diet is one of the best things we can do for our health.

We can’t go cold turkey on food. But once we break our wheat addiction the cravings subside on their own. When we combine a wheat-free diet with one that in low in carbohydrates, losing weight finally gets much easier. That’s because eating carbohydrates actually makes us hungry, as I wrote here in 2007 and mentioned in passing here recently.

Some people who have a lot of weight to lose will quickly lose a lot of weight on a no-wheat low-carb diet. But to ensure success most of us need to set a goal and determine how we will reward ourselves when we reach it.

Those of us who have diabetes have even better reasons to lose weight than the other two-thirds of Americans who are overweight. Being overweight makes managing our blood sugar much harder.

Until I read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, I didn’t understand how our ingrained habits work and how they made daily decision-making much easier while at the same time making change much harder.


Habits Can Change

More than anything else, understanding this new book was the key to how I changed my habits and finally succeeded in maintaining my weight goal. I set myself a specific daily goal and decided how I would reward myself when I reached it. I wrote about that here in “A New Way for People with Diabetes to Lose Weight.”

Understanding the reward that our old habits give us and setting a new reward is the most important part of the habit cycle, Duhigg says in his book. When I seriously began to manage my weight seven years ago, I knew that I would have to give myself a big reward for this major effort.

Before then I couldn’t do a lot of things, some because I simply weighed too much. One of these was to take a ride in a hot-air balloon, something that I had wanted to do ever since I saw several in the air above me on the summer day in 2004 when I arrived in Boulder, Colorado, where I live.

I checked it out and found that a hot-air balloon ride is expensive. But worse, they had an individual weight limit of 250 pounds. When I broke through that level, I took one of those rides, the cost be damned.


My Hot-air Balloon Ride Four Years Ago Was Memorable

Now this is your time to think how you will reward your weight loss success. The next step after setting your goal is to decide how you want to celebrate when you reach it. How are you going to reward yourself when you reach your weight goal?

This is a mirror of one of my articles that Health Central published. You can navigate to that site to find my most recent articles.

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4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Abhi // Oct 22, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    Hi David,

    Thanks for this great article! I’ve read the ‘Power of Habit’ and found it useful too. I like your advice very much. However, many people, including myself, find it very difficult to keep working on our long term goals despite the many benefits that achieving these goals might bring.

    Personally, I tend to work towards a goal consistently when I set up a small reward for completing a certain activity or give myself daily or weekly rewards for completing a set of activities that will take me closer to my long term goal.

    The reason I’ve quit many times in the past, especially with my weight-loss goals, is because I would never reward myself on a frequent basis. Hence, I feel the article would have been even more helpful if you would have mentioned setting up small frequent rewards as well. I remember this strategy is also recommended in ‘The Power Of Habit.’

  • 2 David Mendosa // Oct 22, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    Hi Abhi,

    Yes, I should have made the point that you make. Setting a big goal can sometimes feel overwhelming. It helps a lot to break it down into small chunks.

    I think, for example, of the wise words of another author, Anne Lamont. In her book, “Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life,” she takes as the theme something her father once told her brother.

    “Thirty years ago,” she wrote, “my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.’”

    Bird by bird is, of course, equivalent to pound by pound.

    Best regards,
    David

  • 3 Abhi // Oct 22, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    Hi David,

    Thanks once again for the great advice.

    Regards,
    Abhi

  • 4 David Mendosa // Oct 22, 2012 at 9:18 pm

    Dear Abhi,

    And I appreciate your suggestion to break down the goals we set into discrete units!

    Best regards,
    David