Get ready for the long game

Many people have the opinion that when you are on a “diet” you can only eat “rabbit food” or days of broccoli soup; or you have to go hard-core and become a vegan, or you must cut carbohydrates (the “enemy”) completely; or you must go gluten-free and eat cauliflower pizza bases or zucchini noodles; and you can never have bread again. Ok ok, stop.

All these ideas and the diets that promote these eating habits are just short term solutions. Yes, you can cut your carbohydrates drastically and eat no bread for months and drop weight. You can become a vegan, and thats great, if thats what you want. If gluten-free is something your body needs to do because you have celiac disease or sensitivities, thats fine. If you actually like cauliflower pizza bases or you prefer to manage your carbs using these great alternatives, perfect.

The issue with most women and men who struggle with their weight, myself included, is that all this information and all these new diets and products that crop up just confuses everyone.

I was having a conversation with a dietitian last week and, ofcourse, they have a wealth of knowledge about food, food groups, nutrition and have fantastic, useful advice for weight loss. The problem is when someone else (like me)  is 10, 20 or 30 kg overweight; its just too much information out there; and you feel desperate and helpless and just don’t know where to start, so you try the latest new “rapid weight loss” diet.

The truth is if you start cutting your carbohydrates drastically, you will actually drop the weight, and you will lose it, fast. And you will feel great; and that high will keep most people going for a few months. Rapid weight loss is wonderful. I know. I have dropped 7kg in one month.

But the problem is, the inevitable (crash) happens. You don’t really know you are going to crash because it happens so slowly at first. You start with just a taste of something, maybe a bite of a sandwich because you have lost so much weight, and you feel all proud of yourself that you think you can try any food and you will be in full control. Then the next day again, another little bit of starchy carbohydrate, maybe a piece of potato with dinner. By the end of the week you are back on toast, pizza, donuts, cupcakes (!!); and then its goes on like this for months and you eventually find yourself back to square 1, or worse, you pick up even more weight that you started out with in the first place.(!) Its just a disaster and you feel terrible, and you feel like a complete failure so you give up for a while. Until you try it all again.

Its a bad cycle and its so common, but you can stop it. When you are considering starting your new “diet”, and you are all excited and determined to make these big changes to your food and eating habits, you need to stop and ask yourself if you can live like that every single day for months and years. Be honest with yourself.

What I have learnt through my years of trying all these diets, losing weight, picking it up again and trying something else; it just doesn’t work. Those eating plans which demonize foods and tell you to make drastic changes are all short term solutions; and weight loss is a long game. Its like a marathon. If you sprint in the beginning, you will end up tired and you can’t finish the race.

If you want to lose all your extra weight (fat) and keep it off, you have to make changes that you can sustain in the long term. Tell yourself that over and over again. Its the one point I want to get across in this post, because once you believe it, you will start to make better food choices, and your mind will start to view your weight loss journey differently.

I have to be honest that it was quite a struggle for me to come to terms with this myself, because I knew how good it felt to lose weight quickly. I have now had a slow and steady 18kg weight loss over the last 5 months’ and many (many) times I just felt like cutting carbohydrates because I wanted the weight come off faster. I think we all think like this nowadays in our world of instant gratification. We are used to getting what we want immediately, seeing and expecting (demanding!) results. But this is not how it works. I literally have had to force myself to eat a carbohydrate so that I stick to a long term sustainable eating plan; and now looking back I am glad that I did because it has become a lifestyle that I can easily manage and maintain. I now genuinely believe that the changes  I have made to my lifestyle and eating habits are sustainable, but it takes consistency and patience.

So, before you start preparing food and going shopping for your new eating plan, prepare your mind; for the long game of weight loss.




Siham Arieff
Siham Arieff

Siham is a wellness writer, stroke survivor, mom of 3 and coffee lover on a health and fitness journey who recently relocated back home to Cape Town, South Africa.

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