The most important part of your weight loss program is cheese.

Cheesy cheese. I’m going to write something really cheesy in this post. Nonetheless, it will be true, and reveal the secret to you losing weight and keeping it off.

And I’m going to make you wait for it. Or weight for it. Or something. Because I’m going to tell you a story first.

We did a purge recently. We have kids, and that means stuff. Lots of stuff. If you have kids, you know about “stuff.” After much debate, we decided not to purge the kids.

One of the things we did purge is a lot of books. I wish I had a mansion with a library so I’d never have to give away a single book, and I could sit in my library and drink expensive cognac and feel superior. Sure, I’m married to a doctor, but she’s a Canadian doctor. We live in a three-bedroom house and I drive a Honda Civic. Her name is Rhonda. Rhonda the Honda.

Anyway …

I created a pile of books I didn’t need anymore. A lot of these were books about getting published. Guides to writing articles. Guides to pitching magazines. Guides to pitching agents. Guides to writing book proposals. I had a lot of guides. I didn’t need these guides any longer, because, you know, I’m kind of a big deal now.

I’m kidding about that last part. Maybe if I went low-paleo-south-carb-vegan-beach I’d be an actual big deal, but my point is that I’d learned what I needed to from these books.

I did use those books, sort of. And they helped me get better at achieving my goals of getting articles published, finding an agent, and getting a book deal with a major publishing house, you know, to a certain extent.

A lot of these guides were written in an authoritative “this is how you do it” style, and I remember writing up a lengthy book proposal following the guide called How to Write a Book Proposal to the letter.

And my book proposal sucked.

I spent a lot of time following someone else’s vision of what a book proposal was, and it wasn’t right. It wasn’t me. It took some time for me to figure out that I shouldn’t be listening too much to someone else how about to write my own story. I know how to write my own story.

So I looked at the book proposal writing guides (I had two of them), made a short list of the big picture stuff I thought was actually important information – it fit on half a page – and then just free-formed that sucker, straight from the heart, with maybe a bit of testicles thrown in too. Within a week I had me one of them slick New York City type literary agencies representing me, the kind with a fifth avenue address. A book deal soon followed.

And this process made me realize that I broke a lot of the supposed rules that applied to writing articles and columns that got me that agent and book deal in the first place. Sure, I read a lot of the advice from the experts, but then I adapted it all to suit me, my style, my life, and what my experience and my gut instinct told me. I’d say it worked.

Here comes the cheese.

Losing weight. Getting in shape. Being healthy. Finding your fitness Zen. All of these topics have experts expounding at length with THE PRESCRIPTION for YOU. They know the RULES and they are NONNEGOTIABLE. Sound familiar?

But because we’re talking about lifestyle here, more specifically: your lifestyle – it’s important for you to play a major role in writing your own prescription and determining your own rules.

Yes, the most important part of your weight loss program is “you.” To a significant degree, you need to write your own story about getting and staying in shape. Told you it was cheesy.

When it came to my writing career, I surveyed the landscape of experts, learned some stuff, and adapted all that information into something that was uniquely suited to me. This was familiar, because I did exactly the same thing when it came to getting in shape years before.

And that’s what you need to do. Find experts you trust. People who provide information based on evidence and not woo. People who share hard truths and don’t speak in absolutes. You know, people like me. But not just me. There are other Skywalkers. Go find them, but beware the Dark Side.

My goal is to get you to graduate. I want you to not need me one day. Not because I don’t want you to buy my shit. Please buy my shit. But really, eventually it will be time to leave the nest, grasshopper. You’ll have taken everything useful I can give you, along with information from other reputable sources, and you’ll adapt it and make it your own, and that will become your fit, healthy, and weight sustaining lifestyle until you’re a decrepit old fart and decide that it’s time to say screw this healthy living stuff and spend your remaining months swimming through a hot tub filled with Cheetos, cupcakes and Corona.

No wonder I left the sales and marketing world. I suck at customer retention.

Oh, wait! Tell your friends about me! TELL THEM TO LIKE ME ON FACEBOOK!

Whew. That was a close one.


This piece was first published on my old website on October 2, 2013.

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James S. Fell, CSCS, is an internationally syndicated fitness columnist for the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and He is the author of Lose it Right: A Brutally Honest 3-Stage Program to Help You Get Fit and Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind, published by Random House Canada.