When you embark on a new lifestyle change, it can be like packing for a trip. You need to plan ahead, predict potential problems and figure out ways to overcome them. You may need to detour, double back or change route entirely.

No journey goes in a perfectly straight line, neither will your weight loss journey

Even though we think of weight loss as a linear path from A-Z, that each week we will be slightly lighter than the previous week, the reality is that it is not that straight forward. Sometimes the scales don’t change week to week. Sometimes they take a giant leap forward. Every now and then they double back on themselves. Many people give up here – but I’ve never understood why.

You’re not going to climb a mountain in a perfectly linear line, sometimes you will reach an impossible plateau and have to circle at the same altitude while you find a safe path, sometimes you might have to go back down to get a clear route up. My point is, simply because you fell back a few steps doesn’t mean the expedition is over.

Make the right decisions early on

Your weight loss is more than simply walking from A to B, you have to think of multiple angles to undertake that trip. Take too much stuff and you won’t make it to first basecamp. Take the wrong stuff and your trip will end quickly and you may be worse off for it.

Imagine that you are packing for a climb, your goal weight is the top of the hill or mountain. But, the clothes we are packing represent the food we can eat on any given diet. The bag represents the total number of calories you can eat in a day. If you fill the bag with the wrong kind of “clothes”, you’ll be wasting all of that space on stuff you may not need. The bag will be difficult to carry, and some of the items may not actually be useful to you halfway up a hill. (While I love my duvet at home, I’m not taking it on this trip… You get that the duvet is something like a strawberry cheesecake in this analogy right?)

When packing for this trip you need to maximise the amount of space, and weight, you can carry by filling the bag with lightweight, warm clothes. In this situation the weight of the clothes represents the calories in each particular food item. You need to pack nutrient dense food.

Packing for Nutrition

Vegetables and lean meats are nutrient dense, but low calorie. These are ideal for packing on this trip. This is like packing base layers, thermal underwear, long sleeve t-shirts. By themselves, they seem to be not enough, but worn in layers they add up to a whole lot in a small package. They will keep you warm, but they won’t take that much space.

Foods like bread and candy, have low nutrients, but a lot of calories. Packing these is like putting a puffy coat in your bag. It will take up a lot of space that could be used for better things. While a puffy coat may seem warm at first, it will take up all the space in your bag and you won’t be able to bring anything else. Now your half way up the mountain and wish you’d saved space.

This perfectly represents high calorie foods, often people will binge on something they feel is healthy and good for them (bread, pasta, potato etc.) only to find they have exhausted their calorie budget and still feel hungry at the end of the day.

To have a healthy diet, you need to cut out the “empty calorie foods”. That would be like trying to take a duvet on the hike with you. It’s not necessary, and it will take up lots of space.

With clothes, you want a thin base layer that will be warm and light. This is like eating a healthy meal with meat and vegetables.

Drop the burger and fries. Take that woolly sweater out of your bag. You don’t need to use that to stay warm. It is a waste of perfectly good bag space.

Drinking alcohol is like trying to stuff an entire bedding set in your case. It may keep you warm for a ‎while, but it won’t help when you need your clothes later. Alcohol is purely empty calories. ‎

Don’t rush, enjoy the journey

While you still need to make progress forward, little jaunts to the side or back won’t end the trip. All they do is delay the summit time.

Having multiple stops is better than having to rush and sprint to the top, and not appreciating your destination.

Get a bigger bag

If the bag is food you can eat on a diet, you can get some room back if you exercise.

Exercising is like adding another small case to your current backpack. The same principles with the clothes apply. You always want to eat nutrient dense, low-calorie foods whenever possible. Exercise is just a way to allow you to eat a little more. Just don’t take more clothes than you can fit in the bag. Exercise doesn’t give you a reason to eat everything in sight.

Once you finally reach your destination, you will have room in your bag. Just remember not to pack too many souvenirs. If you go back to eating all empty calories, you will gain all of that weight back.

Don’t feel bad if your friends have bigger, nicer backpacks. Don’t compare your luggage to anyone else’s. Everybody uses their cases in different ways; there is no need to judge anyone else’s packing styles. They have a different destination than you do.

Your goal weight is like having your own private hilltop. Only you can get there. You can have some help getting there; but, ultimately, you need to make the effort yourself. Research different packing skills to wear your favourite clothes without running out of the room you need.

If you need help along the way, just discuss your packing skills with your friends. They may be able to help you fit the clothes you need in your bag. You may be able to provide each other some very good packing tips.

For those times that you want to splurge and take your duvet on a trip, make the best of it. Snuggle up in that duvet and savour it because you can’t do that all of the time. Learn to use that kind of clothing items on rare, special occasions. If you want to wear that big, puffy coat, just wear it once, and then you should get rid of it. Don’t keep these tempting pretty sweaters and big, pretty coats around to tempt you. Having a few items of luxury in your bag are almost as essential to finishing the trip as packing correctly in the first place. Many a mountaineer has carried something they won’t need to the top of the hill. Just so they can enjoy it once they arrive.

Hopefully, you will only have to take this journey once. Some of us may get carried away with clothes and get their bags overflowing again, it happens. If it does, just get rid of the clothes you don’t need to be wearing, and get back up on the saddle (or airplane or car). Remember that bag has a finite amount of space.

Remember, look for lightweight yet warm clothes to carry with you on your trip. Get some support from friends, family, or luggage coaches to make sure that you stay on track. Keep your destination in mind constantly. When you get there, all of that hard work packing will have been worth it. You will still have to watch what you pack, but you don’t have to be as strict about it once you reach your destination.

If the analogy is a little confusing, I’m not advocating the eating of clothing. Simply approach the way you eat on a daily basis in the same way you would pack your bags for a trip or vacation. When you reach for something high calorie, but with next to no nutrition, say to yourself “If this was a camping trip, would I need to carry this jumper, or should I take something lighter instead”.