Updated May 7, 2013
I’ve been on the McDougall program for ten years, and I thought it might be a good idea to put together some “Success Tips” for you newcomers. Whether you are starting the program or maybe just considering it, I hope this information will be of help to you.
First and foremost, the thoughts that I will be sharing with you here are not intended to take the place of the basic information contained in Dr. McDougall’s books on this program. I will assume that you have already read at least one of the books and that you are familiar with the basics of the program. My intent is merely to share some insight based on my own experience with the program in order to help insure your success.
Secondly, if you have any questions with regard to the basics of the program after reading the book(s), you can post your questions on the discussion board where any of us “old timers” will be happy to answer them. Additionally, you can contact Dr. McDougall directly via email. He has proven to be very conscientious about responding to questions and comments.
(1) You must assume 100% responsibility for your life and your destiny! Your life is 100% your responsibility. You are at the mercy of no one else, and no one else can make you successful in achieving your dreams. The first step in gaining control over your life (especially in the area of maintaining a healthy body weight) is simply realizing that if you don’t change, then things aren’t going to change for you. If we have not brought ourselves to the point at which we realize that we are responsible for ourselves, then we are drifting in a state of unconsciousness. As long as we are drifting, we will never realize our dreams and desires. Will you join me in making a simple decision today that you are 100% responsible for your own destiny? It’s the first step in miraculously transforming your life.
(2) This program is a lifestyle! As you may have already discovered after visiting the discussion board, there are many reasons why people choose to go on this program. Some want to rid themselves of chronic health problems, and some want to feel better. However, if the posts on the discussion board are representative of the McDougall group at large, the desire to lose weight is by far the most common reason. The McDougall program is a very effective program for weight loss. However, let me say this very emphatically: IT IS NOT A DIET! IT IS A LIFESTYLE that we can and should embrace for the rest of our lives. The folks I know who have lost weight and kept it off are those who have made this program their way of life (myself included).
(3) Rid yourself of the diet mentality! Have you ever been on a diet that gave you permanent results? I haven’t, and believe me, I tried them all. During the past ten years, the number of “fad” diets that have come and gone is far too numerous to mention. It seems that everyone wants the magical, quick fix that is always promised by the newest diet. However, if you have ever been on the diet roller coaster, you are painfully aware of the fact that diets do not work. A diet, by its very nature, dooms us to failure. Diets involve counting calories, limiting portions, frequent weigh-ins and overall feelings of deprivation. When we go on a diet, our mentality is that we can deprive ourselves for a while (long enough to get the weight off) and then go back to eating our familiar treats. To begin with, I have never known anyone who could even stay on a diet long enough to get the weight off. I never could. One day it dawned on me that if I was ever going to be able to lose weight and keep it off permanently, I would have to resort to something other than dieting since diets absolutely do not work.
One of the best definitions of insanity that I’ve ever heard is “doing something the same way you have always done it and expecting a different result.” Ladies and gentlemen, if that definition is true, then I respectfully submit that most of us are certifiably insane. At some point, I realized this and decided that I was tired of living my life in such an “insane” manner. I finally decided to permanently get out of the diet loop. I think you know what the diet loop is; we have all been there. We start a diet with the best intentions only to crash and burn in a few weeks. Then we put back on all the weight that we lost plus a couple of extra pounds. A couple of weeks later, we are frustrated again because our clothes are tight, so we make a firm resolution to go back on a strict diet and absolutely stay on it until the weight comes off. Then two weeks later, we crash and burn again. By now you can probably see the endless cycle that keeps repeating itself in our lives. And it’s a cycle that leads to certain failure. So, one of the first steps in realizing success on this program is merely to stop doing what we know has never worked in the past. We must stop dieting.
There is a force at work in our lives and it is called habit. All animals and human beings on this planet are creatures of habit. We follow the same routines day in and day out based upon the habits we have acquired throughout our life. Some of these habits are what I will call success-supporting habits, and some are not. Yet, one thing is certain. We continue to engage in these habitual behaviors that we have learned and we do it whether or not those behaviors are producing the results we want in our life. Some of us learned unhealthy eating habits as children, and we continue to live our lives this way in adulthood. When we were children, many of us were taught to eat when we are not hungry. We were taught that we are required to be hungry at established meal times, and we were taught that we must eat all of the food that is put in front of us. Furthermore, I submit that our food preferences are nothing more than habit. People from different cultures in other parts of the world do not crave french fries and candy bars. We prefer foods of this nature because we were essentially taught to prefer those foods as children. Additionally, certain foods may have been used as “comfort foods.” Habits were formed and our adult lives are still being driven by those same habits twenty, thirty or forty years later. I could go on and on with this topic, but I think you get the picture.
The very best first step in ridding your life of the diet mentality is to eat when you are hungry. Now, this certainly flies in the face of the conventional dieting mentality. Whoever thought that it would be possible to eat whenever we are hungry and all that we want and still lose weight? Well, it is true. You can! As long as you are eating approved program foods, you can eat whenever you are hungry, and you can eat until you are full. There is no need to measure portions or count calories, because it simply is not necessary. The foods selected by Dr. McDougall are the foods that support health. If you find yourself still thinking that you must limit your food intake, then you have not completely divorced yourself from the diet mentality. Please trust me. I lost 85 pounds and kept it off without ever once measuring a portion or counting calories. If we wish to free ourselves from the diet mentality, then we must return to listening to our body and trusting it to tell us when to eat and when we are full. Young children do this naturally before being taught eating habits that may prove harmful later in life.
(4) Stay off the scales! A scale is not an accurate measure of progress in this program, and if you weigh yourself frequently, you are only setting yourself up for a lot of unneeded stress and aggravation. Now, some of you will want to disagree with me on this point, but here is my very best recommendation to you for success on this program: Weigh yourself one time. Write that number (your weight) on a slip of paper and file it away in a drawer somewhere. Then, GET RID OF YOUR SCALE! Believe me, you don’t need it, and it isn’t going to bring any peace into your life. Either give it away, or get someone to keep it for you. If you have it available nearby, you’ll be tempted to go in and stand on it much too frequently. You will know the program is working when your clothes start to become loose, and believe me, they will!
(5) Don’t put yourself on a timeline! There is something about trying to lose weight that makes people crazy. For some reason, we feel like the weight has to come off overnight. I don’t know if that is just part of the diet mentality, or maybe it’s because we have become accustomed to instant gratification. In any case, all a timeline will do is put you under a lot of unneeded stress. If you really want to be happy and at peace with this program and the rest of your life, consider divorcing yourself from the timeline aspect. If you are following the program, the weight will come off. I promise! And it will come off at a rate that is right for your body. How long will it take for you? It will simply take as long as it takes. I’m not trying to be flippant. What I’m trying to get you to see is that it really doesn’t matter how long it takes. If you’ve made the decision to change your lifestyle, you can be certain that the results will come. So, don’t put yourself under the added pressure of so many pounds per week or so many months to get the weight off. Let your body worry about that because it will take care of that for you. You need not give it another thought.
On a related topic, there is absolutely nothing wrong with setting goals for yourself. Setting goals is great and it may help you in your quest for success on this program. Setting an approximate weight goal or clothing size is great, but just don’t put yourself under the unneeded pressure of having to reach your goal in a certain amount of time.
(6) Choose a reward for success on the program. Excellent health and reaching your goal weight (along with the increase in your self-esteem that is certain to accompany your weight loss) are substantial rewards. However, it is okay to treat yourself to something special, whether it’s a new outfit or a special trip to somewhere you have wanted to visit. Having a reward waiting for you when you achieve your goal might be just the extra little push you need. It is also helpful to get pictures of what it is that you want and keep them where you can see them throughout the day. This in itself is not going to keep you on the program, but it certainly can help. In my case, it was a new suit of clothes. When I was 85 pounds heavier, I always looked somewhat sloppy in my clothes despite my efforts to present a good appearance. So, my reward when I reached my goal weight was a new suit that was tailored to fit me. That was a long time ago, but that suit is still very special to me because it represents the accomplishment of an important goal in my life. I think clothes were the ideal choice as my reward because losing the weight opened up a whole new world in the area of my appearance. But, by all means, pick a reward that is right for you. Only you know what will motivate you.
(7) Fill your pantry with approved foods. Write out a shopping list and visit your local grocery store. Purchase approved brands listed in the book, or select other brands which are acceptable. If you elect to purchase other brands, you must read the label to insure that the product does not contain any ingredients that you are trying to avoid. Stock your pantry with plenty of approved foods and snacks. If you still have your old favorites from the Standard American Diet lurking in your pantry, my best advice is to get rid of them. Either give them away or throw them away. The little bit of money that it will cost you to do this is a good investment in your future. If you have family members at home who have not embraced your new lifestyle, simply put their favorites in a special cabinet so that you will not have to be tempted every time you open the pantry. Adhering to this program by yourself while the rest of your family continues to partake of SAD foods can be a challenge, but I am here to tell you that it can be done. It simply involves a decision on your part.
Failure to plan means that you are planning to fail. One of the main reasons that many well-meaning people fail on this program is their failure to plan their meals so that they will have approved foods and snacks available at all times. Every Saturday, I plan out my meals for the following week because that seems to work best for me. This also insures that I can go to the grocery store and pick up whatever I need for the entire week. Please don’t allow yourself to be caught without anything healthy to eat in the house after a long, tiring day at work. That’s the time when most of us are susceptible to caving in and rushing out to McDonalds for a SAD meal.
(8) Prepare all of your meals at home. If you have already started this program, you know how difficult it can be to find McDougall-friendly foods in restaurants. So, when you are beginning this new lifestyle, I strongly recommend preparing all of your meals at home. If you work outside the home, prepare your lunch at home and take it with you. Trust me; it’s the best way to go. Nearly all of the recipes in the McDougall cookbooks can be put into a container and taken to work. When you get hungry at work, you’ll have a good meal ready for you. All you need to do is reheat it.
This is one of the critical areas when you are beginning this lifestyle. When you are trying to make a successful transition from SAD to the McDougall program, it is very easy to find an excuse to revert to your old way of eating. One of the particularly dangerous pitfalls is the failure to plan your meals and not having acceptable foods available at mealtime. If you work outside the home and you decide to go out to lunch at a local restaurant with your co-workers, the chances of finding a good meal consisting of approved foods every time you go out are slim to none. In talking with lots of folks on this program over the past couple of years, I would have to say that this is the greatest reason why many people “crash and burn” and revert to their old way of eating. Maybe you can go out with your co-workers occasionally if you find a restaurant that serves some McDougall-friendly food, but for now, please don’t chance it. During the first month or two, while you are changing your eating habits, don’t expose yourself to a situation that might cause you to fail. A little bit of planning and preparing your meals at home might be just the very factor that insures your success.
(9) The grocery store is a minefield! It is imperative to eat a good meal before you go shopping. If you are anything like me, going into the grocery store on an empty stomach may present temptations that are far beyond your ability to resist. Also, it is no secret these days that grocery stores utilize very effective marketing and merchandising methods just like most other businesses. Many prepackaged foods (especially snack foods) are positioned at key locations in the store to encourage you to make an impulse purchase of that item. If you are hungry while you are shopping, those donuts or Snickers bars may JUMP into your shopping cart. Eat before you go shopping. It is also a smart idea to make a list of exactly what you plan to purchase before going to the grocery store. Something that has worked out well for me is sticking with basic staple items and avoiding prepackaged foods whenever possible. Yes, meals do take a few minutes longer to prepare without all the prepackaged foods, but I’ve found the small investment in time to be well worth the effort.
One thing that I’ve learned in my years on the planet is that in order to be successful at anything, you have to keep your mind focused on what you want. Yet, for some reason, human nature seems to compel us to focus on what we don’t want. This topic is a passion of mine and I could probably write several pages here, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll just give you a couple of examples. If you have a weakness for candy and you know that eating candy is not in your best interest, then by all means stay out of the candy aisle at the grocery store. The marketing people will keep it in your face enough as it is (through TV commercials and magazine ads), so don’t pour gasoline on the fire by strolling down the candy aisle at Wal-Mart. Here’s another example: I love Coca-Cola. I always have and I probably always will. Nevertheless, I have learned that drinking Cokes is not in my best interest. Even though I hardly ever drink them anymore, they are constantly calling me. I’ve also discovered that the mind controls the body (in my case, the reverse of that used to be true). If the mind controls the body and we want to control our body, then we must gain control of our mind. If we allow our mind to dwell on something that we know is not in our best interest, the mind may give in to the body and we wind up having the Coke or the candy bar. Okay, here’s a secret that will help you gain control of your mind when you find yourself struggling to overcome some undesirable urge. “When thoughts do not neutralize an undesirable emotion (urge), action will” (W. Clement Stone). When you find yourself about to go give in to an urge and your mind is about to lose the battle, simply take yourself out of that situation by taking action. Take any action! Any action will work! When I find myself just about to give in to the urge for a Coke, I immediately stop whatever I am doing and I go hit some golf balls or take a ride on the bike (can you say “Harley”?). If I’m at work and I can’t do either one of those, I take out my notebook and I start writing. That’s the secret; just do something (anything) to take your mind off of what you don’t want.
(10) Consider dropping sugar from your lifestyle. Sugar seems to affect everyone differently. Some seem to be able to consume any amount with no problem while a small amount may send others into a tailspin. To some folks, sugar is very much like cocaine or some other addictive drug. Any amount leads to an unquenchable desire for MORE. Even the smallest amount can trigger a binge for the unfortunate souls in this group. If you would like to read a thorough discussion of sugar and its impact on body chemistry, I recommend a book entitled “The Sugar Blues” by William Dufty. In the case of my own life, my struggles with sticking to this program became so much easier when I walked away from sugar.
(11) Changing your lifestyle involves more than just changing what you eat! If you have a weight problem like I did, chances are that you are somewhat sedentary. You can dramatically improve your results on this program by getting some exercise each and every day. It does not have to be painful or strenuous. You just need to get out and MOVE. A 30-minute brisk walk is fine for most folks. I’ll be honest with you; when I first started walking I didn’t care much for it because the old habit of coming home and sitting on the couch was still calling me. However, after I’d done it for approximately 30 days, I actually started looking forward to it every day. It definitely improved my metabolism and it always assists me in clearing my mind after a stressful day.
(12) Put your thoughts to work for you! Okay, this next one may sound a bit far fetched, but I promise you that it is the absolute truth. All of the great teachers who have walked this planet over the centuries recognized the connection between our thoughts and the results we see in our lives. Allow me to give you a few examples:
“All that we are is the result of what we have thought.” (Buddha)
“As you think, so shall you be.” (King Solomon)
“As a man thinks, so is he.” (Christ)
Essentially, each and every one of us becomes what we think about on a consistent basis. What you are today is merely a reflection of the images of yourself that you have maintained in the past. As I indicated earlier, part of our human nature seems to include focusing on what we do not want instead of focusing on what we do want. However, if we can train ourselves to reverse that and focus on what we want, we will be much more successful at reaching our goals in every area of life.
Let me put this in practical terms for you. Do you think thoughts about yourself as being as you are now (overweight)? If you do, here is a process that will help insure your success in losing the excess weight. Start thinking of yourself, not as you are, but as how you wish to be. Start thinking of yourself at your goal weight. See yourself in vivid detail. What kind of clothes would you be wearing if you were at your goal weight? You must see yourself in vivid detail as already having accomplished your goal. Now, as you can imagine, this can be a little difficult if you have never tried it. However, it definitely becomes easier with practice. Start forming that new mental image of yourself several times per day, especially before going to sleep each night and upon waking up each morning. The more vivid you make your visualizations, the better your results will be. Some of you might think that this is a lot of hocus pocus, but you need only put it to the test in your own life. Please don’t take my word for it. Just try it and watch the miracles begin to happen. There is true power found in this practice if you will practice it. By the way, the Olympic athletes do this, as do most other top performers in any field of endeavor. Success leaves clues!
(13) One of the most powerful tools that you can employ to change the results in your life is changing the words that come out of your mouth. If you questioned the last suggestion about changing your thoughts, then this next one will be equally mysterious. As in our thought life, our human tendency is to speak about things as they are as opposed to how they could be. This is not limited to how we speak to others. It also includes the manner in which we speak to ourselves. We all do this (talk to ourselves), although some of us are more aware of it than others. Just as in the case of changing our thoughts, we must begin to speak of our situation as we desire it to be, as if the results we desire are already here. We must create our own positive affirmations that will help us realize our desires. You can easily write out an affirmation or two on a note card in just a few minutes. The affirmation should be stated in the first person format, and it should begin with the words, “I am” (or something similar). If you need a little help in developing your affirmations, I recommend a book by Dr. Shad Helmstetter entitled, “What To Say When You Talk To Yourself.” Now, if you are anything like me and this is the first time you’ve heard of this concept, then you most likely view this as some New Age Psychobabble. However, I assure you that this will work for you if you will make the effort on a daily basis and just do it. Folks, this really does work, and it doesn’t take all that long for it to kick in. Let me give you an example from my life. Here are two affirmations that I wrote for myself and started repeating in order to help me reach my goal weight:.
“I eat only when I am truly hungry and I never eat for any reason other than true physical hunger.”
“I resolve emotional problems by recognizing them and working on them, never by stuffing myself with food.”
Did it work? YES! Here’s the proof: A couple of weeks after I started using the affirmations I was on my way to work and passed my favorite donut shop. Now, you need to know that my car would practically turn into that donut shop on its own. That particular day I wasn’t hungry at all, but I still had the urge to pull in and get some donuts. However, just as I was about to pull into the parking lot, I heard a little voice inside me saying “I eat only when I am truly hungry, etc.” Folks, the only other thing that I can say to you about this is put it to the test and see the miraculous results for yourself.
(14) The longer you stay on this program, the easier it gets. On the one hand, this sounds very simple, but on the other hand it probably sounds quite difficult. What I really mean is that the longer you stick to the program and avoid those old favorite SAD foods, the easier it gets to avoid them in the future. As I indicated earlier, many of our food preferences are based entirely on habit. Consequently, the longer we abstain from those old favorites, the easier it will be to abstain from them in the future. Our abstinence weakens the old habits and helps us replace them with new, healthy habits. This is something that you will have to prove to yourself, and the only way is simply to do it and watch what happens.
(15) Your life does not begin after you reach your goals. It is now! Don’t wait a single day to start enjoying your life. Life is now! You can easily incorporate the McDougall lifestyle into the other areas of your life. Realize that you have charted a course for a very healthy and happy future, and start living. Don’t wait another day! PLEASE LISTEN TO BUCK: YOU DO NOT HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL YOU LOSE THAT 50 POUNDS TO BE HAPPY AND START LIVING. My friends, life is now. Go for it!
I hope these success tips will be of value to you. Also, I want you to know that I want each and every one of you to succeed. If I can be of any help to you, please let me know.
You can reach me at this email address: email@example.com.