Looking back on my weight-loss journey, there's one really crucial lesson I learned that I wish I had known from the get-go. It has nothing to do with how much to eat or which workouts burn the most calories or how to eat less sugar.
The most important—and most unexpected—lesson I learned was to maximize the amount of pleasure I was getting in my life. This may sound pointless or unrelated to weight loss, so I'll break down why this is actually one of the most important things you can do if you want to lose weight.
When you pick up your very first diet book or go to your first support meeting, the focus of your life immediately changes. Rather than focusing on that cute guy at work or your desire to improve your photography skills, you spend your time and energy counting calories, measuring food, and scheduling your workouts.
There are two fundamental problems here: (1) When your brain is consumed with food-related thoughts, you can't focus on all of the other, way-more-important aspects of your life. So your life inevitably begins to become dull, and you end up feeling like you aren’t really “living.” (2) Dieting puts you in a deprivation mindset. You constantly tell yourself you can’t have what you really want, and that can trickle into the rest of your life. You start living in a way that leaves you feeling unsatisfied and devoid of pleasure. It all boils down to this: When food becomes your primary source of happiness, you're going to eat more of it.
That's how so many people find themselves on the weight-loss roller coaster for years—or even decades.
In order to break this cycle of frustration, deprivation, boredom, and eating, you need to incorporate way more non-food pleasures into your life. The more bliss you feel on a moment-to-moment basis, the less you'll need to turn to food to get pick-me-ups. Prioritizing your pleasure will also affect the way you eat; all of a sudden, shoving a package of Oreos into your mouth in two minutes flat won't seem nearly as appealing.
When I started down this path, I had to discover what pleasure meant for me.
It takes time to start living each moment from a pleasure-filled perspective. But as you slowly move toward this way of living, food becomes just one more fun aspect of your life, not the be-all, end-all.
Here are some tips to add more pleasure to your day-to-day life:
1. Think back to what you enjoyed when you were a kid: Did you like being outside? Were you into arts and crafts? Did you love playing with your mom’s makeup? When you think back to this time, it gives you insight into who you really are underneath all the food and diet thoughts. Start here, see what you remember, and brainstorm how you can incorporate more of these activities into your life now.
2. Ask yourself as often as possible, “What can I do right now to make this moment more pleasurable?” This can apply to even the most mundane tasks; if you’re doing laundry, how can you make it more enjoyable? Maybe you put on your favorite slippers or play jazz music as you wash and fold. During your morning commute, maybe you can start listening to a new podcast that interests you. And when you sit down to eat, how can you beautify the experience and maximize the pleasure you get out of it? Candles, pretty dishes, and music can help do the trick.
3. Add “fun” to your calendar every day: When I was first on this journey of living life in a pleasurable way, I created a “fun” category in my Google calendar. It was bright green, and I made sure that I scheduled in a green activity every single day. Whether it was meeting a friend for a walk in the park before work or window shopping in the evening or planning a relaxing lunch break in the middle of my day, there was always something. And you know what? The more fun I had, the more weight I lost.