Day 18: The Braid


UNITED STATES—To shed 30 pounds in 30 days here’s a great tool to hang onto: the braid. Fat is not caused by fate. It is caused by a braid of many strands of habits repeated through time; so is being thin. Carefully choose the habits you want to form your braid, and use it to reinforce and also constantly enjoy success in weight management. A braid of many strands is woven into a strong rope that binds us to lifelong fitness.

A major stand is to be free of malaise over dietary transgressions. To be free is to forget and move on: grant yourself a clean slate surely as the new sun gives us a fresh new day. Do not replay those painful moments when failing to abide by this or that principle of eating. In concrete terms this means no calorie counting. You will not count calories or keep a notebook of what you’ve had for each meal—that effort will be better spent on your finances, as J. Paul Getty did when listing what he spent his money on at the end of every day. Or do like me and count up the really big laughs you’ve had before going to bed.

On the 30 pounds in 30 days plan if you break the fruit before noon rule, or drink a beverage with a meal, if you skip morning exercise—you will not go to hell unless you keep reminding yourself of your lapse. Forget it and move on to practice the myriad strands forming your braid of habits. What happens with struggling dieters involves walking down this great sidewalk, feeling good and assimilating new habits, and then they go to Baskin-Robbins or eat a box of chocolates. Their mind and heart fall into a crack. They lug the shame around till it distills into malaise and besmirches the future. The ice-cream was not a crime, but just a momentary thing to be forgotten and blanked out.

Liking yourself is the best antidote to malaise. You can use other words, if you like: guilt, anxiety, qualms—it boils down to harboring malaise. Malaise is a red flag that you are going through a moment of self-dislike. To fully seize the moment we are best free of malaise and should avoid tracking our dietary missteps.

Hey, it happens to me: I’ll go into a risky situation like Three Kings Day, the January 6 coda to the year-end festivities. It means hot chocolate and a sweet bread wreath. And on the way to this family event, feeling rather like a person en route to the gallows, I said OK, I’ll choose a cup of hot chocolate, and leave it at that. I can make that cup of chocolate alone into a satisfying pleasure and preserve my no-food-with-beverages rule.

Well, it was a good plan, but it didn’t work. No excuses or explaining necessary.

Which brings me to a major strand of the braid: keeping quiet. Many people love to explain their dietary Waterloos for some reason. Please, do not discuss your defeats with others. Keep quiet, even within yourself much as you can, about your lapses and heaven forbid that you narrate each trough and valley in this private journey. Speech has a devious way of empowering those very habits that you seek to shed, and I’ve observed that people who belabor diet drama in conversation belittle their resolve to change and are therefore prone to failure.

Seize on each little success in your braid. This is really important. Seven positive facts/feeling/thoughts are required to counteract three negatives, according to neuroscientist Mark Waldman. There are parts of our brain that have no filter for negative fantasies; if you say ‘The sky is falling,’ the thalamus and amygdala treat it as if it were a true threat. To interrupt this human tendency to accentuate the negative, we can ask ourselves what strands of my braid am I succeeding with?

You may have drunk a beverage with a meal, but you managed to eat no bread. Chalk that as a success. And you did your pre-breakfast stretch and breathing routine. Now these are the successes you should tout to yourself and replay in your mind over and over to inspire and encourage yourself in keeping up the braid of habits.

As your shape steadily improves, drink in the complements with a smile; if someone should sincerely ask your secret, tell them about your braid of habits. Remember that a strand or many strands can break, but if the majority of habits are observed most of the time, you will hold firm on your path to lighten up 30 pounds in 30 days.

Humorist Grady Miller is the author of “Lighten Up Now: The Grady Diet,” available on Amazon Kindle.  He can be reached at

By Grady Miller