Rachel has been on many diets during her life. Some days the scale would be down, other days the scale would be up. On each diet she lost weight for awhile. Then progress halted. She plateaued. She got frustrated and quit the diet. Sometimes she gained the weight back (and more), other times she went right to another diet to try and keep making progress.
If this is familiar to you, I’d like to suggest another way. Instead of focusing exclusively on the end goal (eg. losing 10 pounds) try to focus mostly on improving what you are doing each day (eating better, improving exercise).
In How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life, Scott Adams (Dilbert cartoonist) suggests that to be happier and achieve more success in life we should focus on systems, not goals. A goal is a specific objective that you achieve (or don’t) in the future, whereas a system is something you do on a regular basis (ie. in the present). There’s also an article on goals vs systems by James Clear.
He says that the whole time you are trying to achieve your goal you could feel badly because you’re short of the goal. Then when you finally reach your goal you can lose purpose and direction (unless you set new goals). That’s often why many people starting gaining weight when they reach their goal weight. When focusing on a system you can feel happier on a daily basis because you take action each day. There’s a lot of detail and nuance here that I won’t get into (I highly suggest reading the book). The reason I’m mentioning this on a diet and weight loss blog is that I think it can help you with the mindset of weight loss (and muscle building/mobility if you’re into that as well).
Over the past few years, I’ve seen many people post messages on Facebook groups who are upset after weighing themselves that they aren’t losing weight as quickly as they hoped, or their weight loss has stalled or even gone up in some cases. I even wrote a blog post about the 7 Habits of Highly Ineffective Dieting. Other people (including myself) would respond, explaining why this weight issue can happen, telling them to be patient, advising them not to weigh themselves every day which can drive them crazy, etc. They are generally upset because they don’t feel like they are progressing towards their goal. In many cases, plateaus (lack of progress) are the reason people quit their diets (or switch) and end up gaining most if not all of the weight back.
I know this can be a difficult mindset to change. You might still want to have goals in the back of your mind (lose 10 pounds, get abs, gain 10 pounds of muscle, etc) but by focusing on creating a system of eating better and exercising you can hopefully feel much better as you take action each day.
Another way to look at it is by changing the questions you are asking yourself. Instead of ‘Did I lose weight today?’ (goal oriented), it could be ‘Did I eat healthy foods and avoid unhealthy foods today?’, ‘Did I eat lots of fruit, vegetables, legumes and whole grains today?’, or ‘Did I exercise today?’ (and in my case ‘Did I work on flexibility/mobility drills today?’). These are all systems oriented questions. At the end of most days, I feel good knowing I took action to get leaner and healthier even if I don’t have the physique that I plan to have.
Another part of using systems with regards to weight loss (and health) is to have a variety of foods prepared at home which makes the process easier. You can cook up batches of rice, beans, potatoes, quinoa, pasta, etc as well as use frozen bags of vegetables, fruit, even beans nowadays. Bagged salads and pre-chopped veggies can help as well – anything to get you to eat more healthy foods when you get hungry and don’t want to cook.
Feedback loops are also important. At the end of each day or week, you can ask yourself if you took action each day. If not, try to understand why. Maybe you noticed if you don’t workout in the morning you tend not to work out later due to being too tired. Maybe you noticed when you’re tired or stressed or aren’t prepared with food you tend to eat fattier foods or junk food. Use this feedback to make improvements going forward.
If you are interested in building muscle or improving flexibility these things can also benefit by having a system. Come up with a routine for each area that you do daily rather than haphazardly grabbing dumbbells at the gym and working out based on what equipment is available. In order to make progress (getting more flexible, having more muscle) you need to be making progress in each area – this is achieved by having a sequence of progressively more difficult exercises (I personally use Convict Conditioning progressions for calisthenics and am also signed up for Gymnastic Bodies. So with weights you’d be lifting heavier weights over time, doing more sets/reps, decreasing the time between sets (known as increasing volume). With flexibility/mobility, you’d be working on getting the joints moving again, stretching the muscles further over time and building strength at end ranges of stretches.
Another way to think about all this is that you are focusing more on the present moment. Present moment awareness is generally a happier place than thinking about the past (bad experiences, etc) or the future (worrying about what might happen). I’m also working on this, trying to focus on what I can do each day ie the process rather than the end goal.
So to summarize, it’s fine to set goals (I know this is a natural desire) such as losing 10 pounds or getting abs but try to focus most of your attention on your daily actions as part of a system of eating right and exercising. A system is more likely to result in success and a healthy, positive attitude as you focus on the fact that you are taking action each day and less on the fact that you aren’t at your goal quite yet.
I never liked mushrooms but these are amazing!
-1 pound (454 g) of cremini mushrooms
-1 garlic clove, pressed
-1 medium to large onion, diced
-1 whole grain baguette, sliced into 18 or more slices
-1/4-1/2 tsp black pepper (the more the hotter/spicier it will be)
-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (add more if you like it really hot)
-Optional salt to taste on each baguette slice (or use a little veggie stock powder when cooking onions)
Preheat oven to 350-400F. Slice up baguette into 18 or more slices. Put on non-stick Silpat sheet (or parchment paper). Bake slices for 10-20 minutes until crispy (keep an eye on) but not burned or too brown (depending on how you like it).
Dry fry onions in a non-stick pan on high heat, until starting to brown then add a little water to bring out the sugars (caramelize). Repeat this process as the water burns off. As the onions brown then add the pressed garlic clove and chopped mushrooms. The mushrooms will release some liquid so cook until the liquid is basically burned off (I don’t like it too dry). Add the black pepper and pepper flakes as the liquid is being cooked off.
Put the mushrooms on the slices and eat! See video recipe below for more details.
Jane Esselstyn 3-2-1 Salad Dressing
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp maple syrup (or agave, etc)
Use 3-2-1 ratio for other quantities, try other types of vinegar, mustard, etc.
I love this simple recipe. Nothing fancy is really needed, the beans taste so good!
Stir fries are generally pretty easy once you know you can use water or vegetable stock to soften vegetables. Feel free to vary this as per your own taste with different vegetables. Essentially you are just softening veggies, adding in the beans, peas, rice and spice and you’re done!
The basic idea is to use cauliflower, non-dairy milk as a base for your cream sauce. Think of the rest as possible additions, can be more or less quantity depending on your tastes. Be creative!
This recipe courtesy of Jerry U, one of my YouTube viewers. Thanks Jerry!
NOTE: Do NOT buy loose, bulk unpackaged split peas, as they may be old and not cook thoroughly. We learned this the hard way.
18 cups of water in a large pot (note: I couldn’t fit this many cups in my large pot so I used less)
16 oz BAG of rinsed green split peas (yellow ok too but imo not quite as tasty)
2 large peeled sweet potatoes
2 peeled medium carrots
2 stalks of celery and leaves
Total time = 1 1/2 to 2 hours, possibly a bit more
Puree the celery, carrots and onions in a blender or food processor. Chop the peeled sweet potatoes into cubes or chunks.
Bring water to a rapid boil. Put in the rinsed split peas and pureed celery, carrots and onion. Put in the peeled cubed or chunky sweet potatoes.
Keep the pot uncovered for this phase.
Cook at a medium boil for about a half hour, stirring every once in awhile. Keep at a medium boil for another half hour to an hour and stir more often to keep from sticking. Put in additional water if the need arises, a half cup at a time
When you see the soup start to thicken, put in the Italian seasoning – a thin layer over the top or to taste. Be careful not to put in too much. Put in a pinch of salt and pepper. Cover and bring to a simmer for about another half hour, or until the soup thickens, and stir now and then. When you see that the soup has thickened, take it off the burner, keep it covered, and let it sit on another cold burner for about 10 minutes. Try eating with some toasted whole wheat baguette slices. Enjoy!!