No, this isn't a miracle cure or secret recipe. The answer isn't "olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic." The three things you need to lose weight are more abstract than that. In fact, they are all mental things, not material things.
The three things you need to lose weight are: knowledge, willpower, and a routine.
Knowledge of the Food You Do and Do Not Eat
To get knowledge, you need some experts or databases on your side. Recently, a blog-reader sent me their website nutrition calculator called CalorieQuality.com. It has a huge amount of information on the nutritional value of foods, even simplifying each food's healthiness down to a score out of 100.
If you want to expand your knowledge of what foods you shouldn't eat, and more importantly, what new and healthy foods you should pick up at the supermarket, CalorieQuality is a great tool. If you want to turn those healthy foods into unique and tasty recipes (that might even fight cancer) then head over to CancerWellness TV, the website I helped to co-found and fill with content.
If you don't know what food is healthy and what food isn't, it will be almost impossible to maintain a healthy weight.
Willpower to Control Your Automatic Behaviors
When you eat chocolate cake, the sweet and savory taste and high fat content are recognized as "rewards" by your brain. But we all know that not everything we crave is truly rewarding in the long-run. To develop the strength of willpower required to say no to that extra piece of chocolate cake, or that pizza, or that fried chicken dinner, we need to exercise our brain with meditation.
You know when you are making a mental difference when there is a brief moment of hesitation before reaching for that food. That little space between feeling the craving and reaching for the food is your willpower trying to keep you in control. Focus on that space between your automatic thoughts when you meditate, so that you can open up the space when you are faced with an unhealthy food choice.
Train yourself to be a deliberate and disciplined thinker. That's key to becoming a deliberate and disciplined actor.
A Routine You Can Realistically Keep
People are not good at changing how they behave. That's why willpower is the #2 thing you need to lose weight. But part of the reason why people struggle to start healthy habits is because they bite off more than they can chew (no pun intended).
How many people, after New Years, resolve to go to the gym for an hour a day, and only go once or twice? Somehow, by day three, their fatigue from the new gym routine is enough of an excuse to "take a day off," which becomes a week off, and then they realize they simply aren't exercising anymore. In fact, they don't want to exercise, they just want to be in good shape.
What you need to do is start with a routine so easy and simple that it seems like you aren't doing any work at all. Maybe you decide to do five sit-ups as soon as you wake up in the morning, or ten jumping-jacks. Something so quick and easy that it's easier to do it than to think up an excuse not to. You can think of excuses to avoid the gym all day, but taking 20 seconds to do five sit-ups isn't as easy to explain away by saying "I'm too busy."
Obviously, five sit-ups isn't going to burn any body-fat, but if you normally don't exercise at all, five sit-ups will feel like an accomplishment. Each day that you do five sit-ups, you'll experience positive feelings from accomplishing your short-term goal. Eventually, you will want to do more sit-ups, because you will have trained yourself to be rewarded by the immediate outcome of the exercise (the feeling of accomplishment you get after), rather than the long-term goal of losing weight.
You can even apply this to healthy eating. Buy a bag of fresh bell peppers when you go shopping, and resolve to eat one pepper each day. No cutting calories yet, no avoiding donuts. Just set a tiny goal to eat a healthy thing, and experience the satisfaction of achieving that tiny goal. After a while you'll be eating lots of vegetables because you enjoy it, and you won't be as hungry for the junk food. You accomplish your long-term goal by getting satisfaction out of completing tiny little short-term goals. That's thing #3 you need to lose weight.
And that's it for this week. Happy Stretching!