Sunday, January 28, 2007

Kaizen for you and me

You're likely acquainted with the quote, "A journey of a thousand miles must begin with the first step." The phrase tidily embodies Kaizen, a Japanese term for the philosophy of making small steps toward continual improvement. While Kaizen is more often found in business literature as a way to improve production, it's also a way of losing weight --ounce by ounce, inch by inch.

But many people seem put off by this small step approach, and I fear that here is where some of you may disengage. You want that weight off NOW, this minute. No matter that it took months and years to gain your 20 or 30 or more pounds.

Still, in your heart of hearts you know that, outside of surgical intervention (even that has no guarantees) there is no innovative, overnight way to drop pounds! Losing weight happens when we burn more calories than we consume. This takes time, this takes effort, this takes facing the fact that we must change our behaviors.

And do me a favor, stop blaming your weight problems on “stress.” Stress doesn’t make you gain weight, depression doesn’t make you gain weight, anxiety doesn’t make you gain weight. What makes you gain weight is your behavior. "I am unhappy (stressed, depressed, anxious, guilt-ridden, blue, grumpy, unloved, and old). Therefore, I will be "nice" to myself and eat a chocolate eclair. Now, of course, you are unhappy, stressed, depressed, anxious, guilt-ridden, blue, grumpy, unloved, old AND fat.

I know that many of you will not be moved to begin changing your eating patterns by my puny efforts at logic, lecture or double dares. Perhaps, however, you might be better persuaded by considering the case of the raw chicken.

There, in front of you, on the kitchen counter is the pale, naked, goose-bumply, 6-pound roasting hen you've brought home from the market. As you gaze at it, it begins morphing before your very eyes into 6 pounds of chicken fat, yellow, thick, gooey, sticky, globular gook, oozing across more than a square foot of your counter to depths of over six inches.

Now, you cannot tell me that if you remove six pounds of a similar fatty substance from your own body that, no matter who you are, how old you may be, and how much you currently weigh, that you are not going to look and feel better for having gotten rid of it.

So go pick a diet, any diet you find reasonable (most of them are) and stay on it for the month of February. Sweet, fun-filled, tidy little four-week February. The time will fly by.

This is the Ground Hog Diet because you start it on Ground Hog Day. Weigh in that morning, naked and after you pee. Then set a goal to lose no more than 7 pounds by the end of the month. Then do it.

There is a rule I'd like you to follow -- but just one, and this is it: Once you weigh on Friday, you may weigh yourself only once a week thereafter -- same day, same time, same outfit, same empty bladder. Deal?

E-you later, darlings. I've got to go cook a chicken.

Special note: I would suggest there are literally hundreds of thousands of web sites devoted to diets and recipes and tips to succeed. Some of it's legit; some of it's nutty. But try to avail yourself of some of the more reliable information. Find some of the truly clever hints to get you through rough spots during the day or that tell you the best kind of food journal to keep (one that notes not only what you are eating, but WHEN you are eating).

Here's a page from an intriguing web site called the Open Directory Project to get you started:


  1. Hi Auntie Rose: I used to work as a weight loss counselor at Nutri Systems and one of the things we practiced was how to say no to people who offer us food we shouldn’t eat. What we usually say is something like “I really shouldn’t” which everyone knows is a euphemism for “ask me again and I’ll accept”. So the profferer (I don’t think that’s a word because it has a little red line under it but I like it anyway) says “Oh, come on, a little won’t hurt.” Whereupon we rationalize that we don’t want to hurt the giver’s feelings so we say “Well, ok, just a little”. It’s best to use absolute terms when responding such as “No thanks, I never eat dessert”. It also helps to visualize. Ice cream becomes a tub of lard. French fries become a lump of grease.

  2. I like the idea of practicing saying, "No." Sometimes I think it would be helpful if we had little pre-written, all-occasion scripts we could whip out during the course of the day in order to say the "right things."