Calorie Neutral is not A Diet.
I mean, it is a diet in the sense that it is – it has become – my usual food and drink. But it’s not A Diet that I go on for a few weeks or months and then go off, back to my normal diet of Doritos and peanut butter toast three times a day. Because, you know, that didn’t so work well for me.
Why this plan works, as Vicki Waters explains right up front, is because it’s behaviour modification. She outlined the path and lit it and I walked it, changing my behaviour to better suit the life (and the bathing suit) I wanted.
Garry Martin and Joseph Pear of the University of Manitoba lay out seven characteristics of behaviour modification (in Behavior Modification: What It Is and How To Do It). As you can see, they are easily adapted for DIY projects like weight loss through a healthier lifestyle.
1. Define the problem in terms of measurable behaviour.
My take: weigh yourself every couple of weeks or so, measure a few key places, and keep a daily food and exercise journal. The connection quickly becomes clear.
2. Alter the person’s environment to make it easier for her or him to function better.
My take: fill the fridge with vegetables and fruit, make sure there’s lean protein available for every meal and snack, set guidelines for what and when to eat.
(NB: it helps if everyone in the household is on board for this. At the very least, they should agree not to sabotage the plan and not to expect you to bake them cookies)
3. Methods and rationales can be precisely described.
My take: join a group like Vicki Waters’s program, follow the Mayo Clinic healthy lifestyle guidelines or Julia Cameron’s Writing Diet or find some other sustainable, health-based plan that explains itself and suits you.
4. Techniques can be applied to everyday life.
My take: I think eating fits in here without further explanation.
5. Behaviour modification techniques are based on both conscious and unconscious learning.
My take: consciously establishing sustainable new habits will kick the old, unhealthy ones to the curb. Even when I have an emotional crisis now, I no longer think of French fries and cake first. Or second or third. Seriously.
6. Psychologists who practice behaviour modification with their clients like to see scientific evidence that the treatment is responsible for the changed behaviour. My take: see Number 1.
7. Accountability is important.
My take: write down your goals and share them with other people, preferably supportive ones, although if you’re of a stubborn disposition then telling a scoffer might make you stick to your plans just to show them.
Hey, whatever works.