Putting Your Weight on Project Status
You have made the important decision to lose weight, and you want to do it right this time. But to do so, you must be willing to put your weight on what I like to call Project Status. This means that you must consciously decide to actively, purposely work on improving your weight and your fitness level each and every day. Putting your weight on Project Status means giving your health and vitality a new, higher priority in your life, such that they become of conscious importance to you. You stay committed to working on them, disciplining yourself by working on all seven keys to weight loss freedom. (I've summarized the keys for you in the box on pages 25-26.)
You get out of this project -- your weight -- what you put into it. It will be from your commitment to set a personal standard for yourself -- one that says you will not quit and you will not push aside your goals for a trimmer, healthier body -- that your success will follow. You must be willing to reach for what you want and reach right now. To be in Project Status means that you do not neglect to take care of yourself first, and now is the time to start doing that.
Before beginning the nutritional plan in this guide, you must take some essential first steps that will help you reach the peak of your effectiveness, and lay the groundwork for constructive, lasting change. This is very important -- don't hurry through these initial steps or avoid this part of the process. Take it seriously, and I promise you that you will have the foundation for the most effective and dramatic changes you have ever made in your weight.
Determine your get-real weight.
Your get-real weight is the healthiest and most realistic weight for you, based on your height, your bone structure, and your sex. It is not necessarily the weight of your youth, but rather a state of health and well-being that is congruent and in harmony with how you are physically and genetically configured. It is the weight that is "right" for you -- a stable, comfortable weight, at which you look good, feel good, and lovingly accept yourself from the inside out.
You can figure out your get-real weight by using my Body Weight Standards, a system I developed for my patients; it is a modified and more realistic version of height-weight tables. Though not perfect, these body weight standards are more reflective of what can be achieved and certainly a better measure of where most people should be, weight-wise.
Using the Body Weight Standards chart below, identify where you should be, so that you can move forward from where you are now. The lower end of the ranges are for small-boned people; the upper end, for larger-boned individuals. Be honest here: Don't subjectively say you are small-boned, when in fact, you are just the opposite. Your get-real weight is your target. Record it in the space above.
Dr. Phil's Body Weight Standards
My get-real weight is:_________________
Check and record your current weight and waist measurement before you start.
Do two things: First, step on the scale to weigh yourself to determine your starting point. Then, measure your waist with a tape measure positioned one inch above your navel. Taking waist measurements is important because weight distribution -- where you carry weight on your body -- can affect your health, for better or for worse. A too-large waistline circumference, for example, places you at greater risk for heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers.
A waist measurement of 35 inches or more for women and 40 inches or more for men is cause for concern and may indicate that you are at risk for heart disease or diabetes. Keeping tabs on this simple measurement can protect you in some important ways.
Write your weight and waist measurement in the space below, along with the date.
My weight: ____________
My waist measurement: ______________
Although I do not advocate obsessive weighing and measuring, you do need to monitor your progress toward your get-real weight with some regularity and reasonable frequency. You should weigh yourself at least at one- or two-week intervals to stay on target; then record your weight in a notebook or journal. The scales should show a weight loss that may be quite dramatic in the beginning, eventually tapering off to a steady, even loss of a few pounds each week. If you aren't dropping pounds at a steady rate, or if you gain weight, you should be motivated to course-correct some aspect of the weight loss plan to make it more effective, including changing your behavior so that it is harder for you to cheat.
Weigh yourself at the same time each week, because your weight fluctuates throughout the day, and you can weigh more at night than you do in the morning. Promise yourself you will not self-destruct if the scale moves up a few pounds, but instead make this a priority for action-oriented repair.
At monthly intervals, remeasure your waist and record these measurements. Watching your pounds and inches diminish will help reinforce your resolve and keep you moving in the right direction.
Clear your environment of "low-response cost, low-yield foods."
The presence of food is one of the most insistent of all triggers to eat or overeat, and you know this yourself if you have ever tried to sample just a few healthy items from a buffet table. This step is thus about removing tempting foods from your environment, including your home, office, car, or anywhere you store food. After all, you can't eat what is not there.
Specifically, I would like you to take an inventory of your environment, looking for and tossing out what I call "low-response cost, low-yield foods." So that you understand the terminology, these foods require very little response from you when you eat them. In plain terms, they are foods that you just gulp and gain -- easily ingested, overly convenient, and requiring little or no preparation on your part.
An excellent example of a low-response cost food is a microwaveable bean burrito. You zap it in your microwave in a matter of seconds, no preparation required. When you eat it, you don't even have to chomp on the burrito; it just slithers down your throat in a few quick gulps. What happens is that you consume an incredibly high number of calories and fat in a very short period of time.
Most low-response cost foods are also low-yield foods. That means they provide very little in the way of good nutrition, with a lot of calories packed into a very small amount of food. Sugar is an example of a low-yield food. It is very high in calories but practically devoid of nutrition, and for these reasons, it is best kept off-limits if you want to successfully control your weight.
Low-yield foods are engineered to be addictive; loaded with sugar, extra fat, calories, too much salt, and unhealthy additives; and of questionable nutritional value. What's more, they are processed and refined; that is, they have been milled or altered in some fashion that devalues their nutrition by extracting fiber and other nutrients.
To sum up, low-response cost, low-yield foods:
• Invite and promote fast, uncontrollable eating.
• Need little or no preparation time.
• Require little chewing or effort to eat. The food slides down your throat, and you barely have to chew it.
• Melt in your mouth.
• Can be too easily eaten straight from a package or container.
• Are highly processed.
• Are light on nutrition.
One of the most offending characteristics of low-response cost, low-yield foods is that they are hunger drivers. These foods do not keep you satisfied for very long and may make you hungrier later. Here's why: After you eat these foods, your body's natural stop-eating signals don't even have time to kick in. It takes about twenty minutes from the time you eat something until the hypothalamus in your brain shuts off your appetite. There's absolutely no way that burrito can offer any satisfying effects when it's overly easy to wolf it down in a matter of seconds. So you keep eating more and more of this stuff until you've eaten way beyond the point of fullness; and the unfortunate fact is that you're overfed with unnecessary calories and fat.
On pages 418 to 707 of this food guide, you'll find a comprehensive listing of low-response cost, low-yield foods by category. These are foods you want to limit or avoid. For now, here is an abbreviated list that will give you an idea of what to toss out:
• Cookies, candy, and any high-calorie, sweetened snack foods.
• Salty foods such as potato chips, pretzels, taco chips, nuts, and other packaged munchies.
• Sweet rolls, pastries, and doughnuts.
• Cakes, snack cakes, pies, and other baked sweets.
• Presweetened, sugary breakfast cereals.
• White bread, white rolls, white buns -- anything that is not whole grain.
• Crackers that are not whole grain.
• Cold cuts.
• Ice cream and high-sugar frozen desserts.
• Quick-fix prepared foods such as pizza, fried entrées and dinners, and microwaveable sandwiches.
• Syrups, jams, and jellies.
• High-fat spreads, peanut butter, and dips.
• Sugared soft drinks and beverages, including flavored coffees.
• Alcoholic beverages.
• Any packaged food in which sugar is listed as one of the first three ingredients.
• Any food that can be classified as "junk food."
• Any food that you habitually binge on.
Ridding your environment of low-response cost, low-yield foods is one of the best moves you can take toward setting yourself up for success. It helps you get past needing to feel motivated all the time over trying to lose weight. When your enthusiasm flags and your willpower conks out -- which it will -- you need to have your environment set up in such a way that it supports you. This crucial step of eliminating low-response cost, low-yield foods does this for you.
Stock your kitchen with "high-response cost, high-yield foods."
By "high-response cost foods," I mean foods that require a great deal of work and effort to prepare and to eat. The work output, or response on your part, that is required to ingest these foods is high, whereas the calorie payoff -- although healthy -- is low. A good example of a high-response cost, high-yield food is a ripe, juicy apple. It is coarse and takes a lot of chewing and grinding to get it down. It is also packed with fiber, which keeps your stomach from emptying too rapidly.
Why is this important? The fact that you must take time to prepare these foods, and that they take effort to chew, eat, and digest, is a real advantage to weight control. Why? Because high-response cost foods defeat the urge to eat on impulse and therefore support better control.
High-response cost foods are thus hunger suppressors, meaning they can control and curb your hunger. Because they take longer to eat, your body has more time to receive stop-eating signals from your hypothalamus. By the time you chew and ingest these foods, you're starting to feel full, so there is little chance that you will overeat. You will be amazed at how little food you'll eat, yet how full and satisfied you'll feel after eating it.
Most high-response cost foods also happen to be "high-yield foods." High-yield foods are those that supply a lot of nutrients -- in the form of carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other food components -- relative to the low amount of calories they contain.
High-yield foods are generally those of a more pure, basic variety and are closer to the state in which they are found in nature. They have not been critically changed during food processing, and thus are not usually laced with added sugar, fat, additives, and other health-defeating ingredients. High-yield foods are abundant in fiber, a weight-control ally that promotes feelings of fullness, stabilizes your blood sugar, and thus keeps your hunger at bay so that you're less likely to overeat.
High-yield foods such as fruits and vegetables are colorful too, a sign that they are plentiful in important food factors that reduce your risk of disease.
To recap, high-response cost, high-yield foods are those that:
• Take time and effort to fix.
• Require a great deal of chewing and ingestion energy.
• Cannot be eaten quickly.
• Suppress your hunger and curb your cravings.
• Are not "convenience foods" in any sense of the word.
• Supply a healthy balance of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other nutrients.
For successful weight control, stock your kitchen with high-response cost, high-yield foods. There is a comprehensive list of these foods starting on page 150, and you should become very familiar with them because they form the centerpiece of nutrition for healthy weight control. For now, and as you begin this plan, make sure you have these foods on hand:
• Poultry, such as chicken and turkey breasts (prepared without skin).
• Fresh, frozen, or canned seafood (nothing that is breaded, however).
• Lean cuts of meat.
• Fresh eggs.
• Fresh fruits and vegetables. Frozen is fine too, since they've been chilled immediately after harvesting and may contain more nutrients than fresh produce that has been sitting on the shelf or in your refrigerator. Canned fruits and vegetables are acceptable, but may contain high levels of sodium.
• Whole grains and cereals such as brown rice, bulgur, oatmeal, rice, barley, and millet.
• High-fiber cereals. Although a packaged product, these cereals are specially formulated with added fiber -- a hunger-suppressing ingredient in high-response cost grains and cereals.
• Reduced fat or fat-free dairy products such as skim milk, low-fat milk, sugar-free yogurt, and low-fat cheeses.
• Healthy fats such as olive oil, canola oil, and nuts and seeds. These fats appear to delay hunger and help you feel more satisfied after eating a meal that contains them.
(For a comparative look at hunger suppressors and hunger drivers, refer to the chart on page 24.)
Prioritize exercise into your life.
The fit, in-shape people of this world are doing something right -- that something is exercise. Exercise burns calories; in fact, you can lose a pound of fat in ten exercise sessions of approximately forty-five minutes to one hour each, provided you do not take in a surplus of calories. The more food you burn off through exercise, the less you store as fat. Exercise also accelerates your metabolism, the physiological process that converts food into energy, so that you are burning up more calories even at rest.
There's something else at work, too: Food behavior and exercise behavior are highly interactive, with a powerful connection operating between the two. If you exercise on a regular basis, a rather amazing phenomenon occurs: You'll begin to experience a weakening desire to overeat. Your food behavior will begin to change almost automatically, and you'll make healthier food choices as a matter of routine.
For effective weight control, it is best to start an established exercise program that involves three to four hours a week of aerobic activity such as brisk walking, biking, jogging, aerobic dancing, playing tennis, aerobic exercise machines (treadmill, stair-climber, and so forth), or swimming.
Added to your aerobic exercise program should be weight training, at least two to three times a week. Weight training just happens to be one of the most powerful ways to rejuvenate and speed up your metabolism. It helps burn body fat (nearly 100 percent of the weight you lose is pure fat if you weight-train). And it builds firm, well-developed muscle while you're losing weight. More muscle translates into a faster metabolism. The reason for this is that muscle tissue demands much more oxygen and calories to sustain itself than fat tissue does. Fat tissue, by contrast, is relatively inactive, while muscle is constantly burning fuel at a rapid rate even while you're at rest. When you add muscle to your body through weight training, your metabolic rate goes up and stays up twenty-four hours a day.
Weight training also makes maintaining your weight loss much easier and more automatic. In fact, a number of studies have found that weight training stands out as a proven lifestyle strategy for keeping excess weight off over the long term. So for healthy, ongoing weight management, you need to consider weight training.
Supporting your weight loss by exercising is a real chance for you to get permanent control of your weight, no matter how long it has been since you last exercised.
The next important step before getting started requires that you make yourself accountable with regard to your get-real goal weight. This means enlisting someone who will serve as your "teammate," someone to whom you commit to make periodic reports. This person should come from your relational circle of support (explained in key 7): family members and friends who you consider to be the closest people in your life -- the people you trust and value most. Figure out who would most strongly support what you want to accomplish and who would be willing and available to act in this capacity. Your teammate will be the person to whom you will have to confess if you fail to do what you plan to do.
At least once a week, if not daily, report on your compliance with your food plan, your exercise progress, the number of pounds you've lost, or other measures of progress. Knowing that you will check in with someone tomorrow keeps you on track today.
Your Personalized Food Diary
When you start this plan, keep a "personalized food diary" in which you accurately record everything you eat and drink, as well as other elements of relevance, such as your energy intake (calories). Whether you like it or not, calories still do count when it comes to weight control, so you do need to pay some degree of attention to how many calories you're taking in. Now don't lock up on me here. I am not asking you to become tediously preoccupied with counting calories. What I am suggesting is that you keep track of your calories for perhaps just a week or two, in order to make sure that you are not overindulging on overlooked calories.
Becoming knowledgeable about the calorie counts of foods you typically eat helps keep you on track in terms of how much you're eating. The calorie information in this food guide will provide valuable, at-your-fingertips reference material for doing that.
Use the Food Diary to Plan Your Meals
One important way to use the personalized food diary below is to preplan what you will eat and drink each day. By this, I mean that you commit to paper your menu for the day, including three meals and two snacks, then eat only the foods on that menu. The significance of having a food plan, prepared ahead of time, is that it frees you from making last-minute decisions about what to eat and prevents you from caving in to sudden impulses to overeat. Planning your eating in advance eliminates any doubt about what you will eat and removes your fear of losing control. With a food plan in place for the day, you can and will regain greater control over your eating. So use this diary as a meal planner, above all.
Use the Food Diary to Monitor Your Eating Behavior
But you do not have to stop there. You can use this diary to record important information about your nutrition and eating habits. For example, you can record the time of your meals, the place, what you were doing at the time, or, in some cases, the emotional states (happy, sad, lonely, bored, stressed, angry, etc.) that may have triggered you to eat "off plan."
This information can help you see, in unquestionable black and white, precisely which eating habits you need to adjust or high-risk situations that are sabotaging your efforts. Maybe you find that you mindlessly reach for foods such as cookies, cake, candy, or ice cream -- the so-called comfort foods -- when you feel tired after a long day at work. Or that being in certain places, like your car or office, triggers the impulse
Then you can thoughtfully review your entries, looking for red flags. Assess the obstacles that can have an impact on reaching your get-real weight. This means anticipating the times, places, circumstances -- even people -- that typically make it difficult for you to stay the course. That way, you can work out an advance strategy for avoiding these pitfalls, or at least outlasting them. You're in a better position to avoid them by changing your routine, changing your schedule, or changing your environment.
You can also plan very carefully what you are going to do at those moments when you have the urge to binge or overeat. This should involve "incompatible substitutes" -- activities such as exercising, relaxation, listening to music -- any activity that cannot coexist with eating. For example, when you feel compelled to soothe frustrations with a bag of chips, pick up your knitting needles instead and start knitting. Knitting is incompatible with crunching down on chips. Or take a walk. Walking around the block is incompatible with bingeing. Incompatible substitutes also take your mind off food and eating. So as soon as you feel the impulse, begin engaging, deliberately, in the incompatible substitute.
Keeping this food diary is crucial to the process of losing weight. It is a vital part of what psychologists call "self-monitoring," a way to keep tabs on your progress and performance -- not only to see where you need to take corrective action, but also to highlight the positive changes you're making. People who self-monitor their behavior are more successful at losing weight and keeping it off than those who choose to not self-monitor. So let me encourage you to self-monitor. What you do not acknowledge is only going to get worse until you do.
On the following page is a sample diary. You should make as many photocopies as you need of this page. You don't have to use the diary forever -- just long enough for you to see what's working and what's not -- and to get the hang of what you need to be correcting on a day-to-day basis so that you can take important and timely coping steps.
Personalized Food Diary
Day of Week: _____________________
Remember, you can use this diary as a meal planner to map out your meals for the next day, and as a log to identify correctable aspects of your behavior that you need to change. To help you fill this out, here are some important instructions:
• In column 1 (time), record the time of day you plan to eat. If you do not know which time you'll be eating, write down "breakfast," "lunch," "dinner," and "snacks."
• In column 2 (food eaten), describe your meal or snack. Write down everything you plan to eat at those meals. If you eat something you have not planned to eat, write that down as soon as possible afterward. (Note the time in the first column, too.) Leave nothing out.
• In column 3 (amount), write down how much you ate (the amount or portion size).
• In column 4 (compliance), note whether your meal or snack complied with your planned menu. Place a check mark in the allotted space if it did.
• In column 5 (calories), write down the calories you consumed for each meal or snack. Add up your calories at the end of each day. (Remember, you do not have to do this forever -- just long enough to get a feel for how well you're doing. Just a few days of calculating your calories can pinpoint overlooked sources of calories, plus provide some excellent nutritional self-diagnosis.)
• In column 6 (place), note where you were at the time of the meal or snack -- at your dining room table, in the kitchen, watching television, in your car, at your desk, at a social occasion, or at a restaurant, for example.
• In column 7 (circumstances), describe any noteworthy circumstances surrounding the meal or snack, such as your feelings or emotions, whether you felt tired or unusually hungry, or if the meal happened in response to a stressful event.
If you have taken the above steps to putting your weight on project status, you are ready to move on. Using the nutritional strategies that follow, you will be able to reprogram yourself for success rather than failure. Rewards will start rolling in quicker than you think. Your weight control experience will no longer be characterized by wasted moments and frustration, but by a sense of triumph and mastery. It's time to go for it.
• Lean animal-based proteins such as fish, meat, and poultry
• Fresh fruits
• Fresh vegetables
• Beans and legumes (e.g., kidney beans, pinto beans, or black beans)
• Whole grains and high-fiber cereals
• Soups, broth-based
• Healthy fats (such as olive oil, canola oil, or flaxseed oil)
• Nuts and seeds, unsalted and preferably still in their hulls
• Most fast foods
• Soda and all sweetened beverages
• Alcoholic beverages
• Sugared cereals
• Ice cream and frozen desserts
• Candy and other sweets
• Salty foods such as snack foods (chips, pretzels, salted nuts, snack mixes, etc.)
• Baked goods, including snack cakes, pastries, and doughnuts
• Any food classified as "junk food"
The 7 Keys to Weight Loss Freedom
Key 1 -- Right Thinking. Lay aside self-defeating, invalid mind-sets that do not work. They have the power to keep you from making different choices or developing new behaviors. Too often, we let these negative notions go unchallenged, and we act as though they were true. You must monitor what you're thinking and challenge whether it is true. If it's not working, replace it with thinking that works.
Key 2 -- Healing Feelings. Overcome emotional overeating by managing inappropriate reactions to stress; solving problems rather than dwelling on them; changing self-defeating thoughts, since more often than not, feelings follow thoughts; gaining closure on unfinished emotional business; and learning new ways to cope without resorting to food.
Key 3 -- A No-Fail Environment. Design your world so that you can't help but succeed. This involves removing temptations to eat and rearranging your schedule in order to avoid or minimize triggers to overeat.
Key 4 -- Mastery over Food and Impulse Eating. There's only one reason why you haven't changed the bad stuff in your life. You're getting something out of it. I'm not saying that you're getting something healthy or positive, but people do not continue in situations, attitudes, or actions that do not give them a payoff. This key helps you identify those payoffs, unplug from them, and replace bad habits with healthy behavior.
Key 5 -- High-Response Cost, High-Yield Nutrition. To lose weight, you must choose foods that support good behavioral control over your eating, that is, high-response cost, high-yield foods, organized into a moderate, balanced, calorie-controlled plan to ensure weight loss.
Key 6 -- Intentional Exercise. Prioritize regular exercise into your life most days of the week -- walking, jogging, aerobic dance classes, yoga, playing a sport, or lifting weights. Exercise does more than simply burn calories; it changes your self-perception so you stop labeling yourself as a couch potato.
Key 7 -- Your Circle of Support. Surround yourself with supportive, like-minded people who want you to lose weight and succeed at your health and fitness efforts.
Copyright ©2004 by Phillip C. McGraw