I was listening to a show this week (Sirius XM) on which the doctors were discussing weight loss, weight loss surgeries, and a whole host of diets (for the latter part, they were largely fielding questions.) What I appreciated most was that they really focused on “healthy lifestyle choices” beyond and above anything else.
“Diet” is a four letter word. And a BAD one. Diets don’t work for the majority of people largely because they are composed of meals, or supplements, or restrictions that aren’t going to hold up long-term. So yes…people might lose weight in the shorter term…but then they become discouraged when they go off track and gain it all back. It doesn’t have to be that way!
Marketing sometimes has a way of presenting the false realities that such programs promise in highly appealing, shiny packages…but the fact of the matter is that our overarching approach is what will make the difference. If we can’t stay consistent over the longer term, it isn’t the “right fit.”
Before you lose hope…there IS a right fit for YOU…you just need to uncover it.
Also important to mention here is that not all of the “diets” or programs out there bad – if a specific plan works for YOU, there is nothing wrong with that! The point is that it just needs to be a routine you can manage consistently…whether you are on the plan, or you go off it.
Some of the better known out there – for example, Weight Watchers – are going above and beyond and teaching people HOW to eat. Bravo! With Weight Watchers you learn portion control…how to do it, why it is important, and how to apply it even if you drop the guidelines of the program itself. It also teaches accountability. That stuff is really valuable, and it’s where a lot of folks go awry. How can you blame them? Seen portions in America lately? How about the marketing pushing more food for less money? It’s like, “why not, then?!,” right? BAD NEWS.
I really believe that staying at a healthy weight can be reduced to a few key principles. In my mind, these are as close to “magic bullets” as you can get – now, they do take a little work and dedication, but they also result in the kind of “magic” that people are hoping for…and they deliver positive results consistently, and across the board, beating out any pill we can take.
Magic Bullet 1 – BEING HONEST and ACCOUNTABLE
The first of these is being honest and accountable. If we can’t be honest with ourselves, we are fighting a losing battle. It’s okay to say “I’m not where I want to be.” We don’t need to beat ourselves up, or bring ourselves down. But we do have to step back and recognize that we need a change, that it’s OKAY to need a change, and that change is achievable. It wouldn’t be on your mind if it didn’t matter to you, or you were feeling full of energy and the picture of health… The mirror is the hardest thing to face sometimes but when we do, we take full control of our life…meaning we can have what it is we are after.
Staying accountable means that we not only recognize and admit to ourselves that we have room to do better, but that we really manage our choices. I think it’s fair to say many of us are our own worst critics and almost don’t want to admit what’s really going on. We need to remember that no one is going to punish us for being honest with ourselves, or for having the cookies we didn’t really need. But ignoring it isn’t going to get us on track either.
Magic Bullet 2 – LEARNING TO SAY NO
There’s a lot of pressure to love food in our society! Many cultures are food-centric – mealtimes are the perfect gathering place for friends and family, right?! Restaurants, bars, home kitchens, on holidays or for events…it’s were (and when) we tend to get together. But we don’t have to follow the masses when we order for ourselves…and we don’t have to go hungry either! If you are out with a group and they order tons of tempting appetizers, for example, you can always order something more healthy for yourself. While maybe not as tantalizing as the less-healthy options, you will have something to munch on that you’ll feel good about later. You don’t owe anyone any explanations or justifications.
Along with this…when we are out and about on our own, we can also use “NO.” No, as they say, IS a complete sentence – and we need to stand our ground if we want change. It’s smart NOT to shop hungry, for one thing. It’s also important that we NOT buy thing things we know aren’t great for us – once they’re in our own kitchen, it’s easy to go downhill. When we don’t get it, we can’t be tempted by it. Period.
Magic Bullet #3 – IT ISN’T ABOUT WEIGHT LOSS…IT’S ABOUT FAT LOSS
The number on your scale isn’t always what you think it is… Because muscle and fat have different weight values, it’s possible to appear to be “overweight” on a scale and incredibly fit and healthy. Likewise, the number on the scale might read low, but the person (perhaps a slim frame) isn’t so healthy internally. When we think about Body Mass Index (BMI), however, we have a much clearer picture of where we need to be. These numbers, keep in mind, are guidelines…but they are more helpful as far as our overall health is concerned than the number on a scale (unless yours is fancy and calculates BMI!)
A BMI that is too low will bring a host of issues with it, as will one that is too high. You can find a very basic calculator here, more about BMI and the mathematic formula here…and more information overall here and here. Or…you can head in for a check up and get a no-bullshit answer from your doctor.
This goes back to being honest with ourselves and really understanding the health concerns we might be unkindly imposing on ourselves. A lot of people called into the radio talk with questions about losing weight and the doctors we as much with me on this – it’s more about the fat loss, and getting to a healthy weight for our frame…which will then eliminate quite a few heath risks, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease, among many…many others.
Magic Bullet #4 – EXERCISE
There’s no pill that can give us the kind of benefits we get from exercise. There just ISN’T. And, as the saying goes, there is no chance we can out exercise a bad diet. Tough reality check but…it doesn’t work that way, and it never will.
Exercise isn’t an easy one for everybody but… We were all children once upon a time and I’m willing to bet we all played lots of games and ran around. Best part? We probably LOVED it.
When did it become work??!
It doesn’t HAVE to be work. That doesn’t mean you aren’t going to be exerting yourself – you need to push a little bit! – but you don’t have to be miserable. Treadmills, for example, are torture for me. Instead, I might jog outside…or go for a hike where I’m walking, but doing so on uneven (but beautiful!) terrain. Volunteer work is another way to keep moving without having to do something I can’t stand (like cardio! 😉 ) I get it in by default in that case – win-win!
Adding in music that you know will get you going is a great option, as is finding a friend to pair up with. Think about activities you DO like doing and be creative – if you want to start by hula-hooping, do it! Getting moving is sometimes the hardest part…but once we do, it doesn’t feel as terrible as we made it out to be!
Nutrition is probably 80% of the overall picture…but exercise will keep our body healthy too, whether that’s keeping metabolism up, our muscles strong (and with it often our bones), as well as keep the heart and blood pumping the way they need to.
Magic Bullet #5 – CONSISTENCY, MAINTENANCE…and NOT GETTING DERAILED
Consistency is absolutely vital to success (across the board, frankly.) Maintaining is WORLDS easier than having to play catch up, and it is a lot less stressful to boot. If we can make healthy choices for ourselves and stick to them most of the time, the few blips and foibles aren’t going to have much of an impact.
Along those lines, we need to be sure that we don’t make a mountain out of the minimal impact a slip may have…because that’s a surefire way to derail. When we start to beat ourselves up for enjoying a special night out, or having a treat once in a while, we might go into “well, I’m not doing well, so to hell with this whole ‘healthier me’ thing…” Don’t fall victim to that downward-spiraling trap – it isn’t necessary. If you choose a less healthy option, just let it go. Enjoy that you could have it…and move on with your better decisions.
Wallowing in misery begets more of the same…and it’s going to be a lot harder later to get back on track. Hold yourself to sticking to the plan most of the time, and you will be okay. One or two bad meals aren’t going to add ten pounds. Keep doing it, though, and you’ll have a lot more work to do down the road to get your health back… The easier road is to stay consistent as much as you can.
Magic Bullet #6 – MAKING GOOD CHOICES
Society needs to get away from fad diets and stringent plans – if you have health issues and something of that nature is required, that’s okay. But for the average population, they’re not a great idea, and generally a recipe for failure…the last thing we want / need.
No one can say exactly what, when, or how cavemen ate their meals – we are speculating based on what science has discovered. Some cultures seem to have less illness than America does, so we might take cues from them…but there are many other factors at play including environmental and inherent…so even then there’s room for speculation. Then there are the “anecdotal”s where a method worked for a few, but we don’t know why or how, or whether the same positive results will apply to a broader population…
Instead of trying to be stringent or extreme, or abandon one thing for in total embrace of another…how about using common sense? What REALLY matters when it comes to foods…?
Processing vs. Natural – the less processed, the better. Processed often means a departure from natural states, such as we get with additives like dyes and chemicals, sugars, unhealthy fats. These human-derived products (meaning we weren’t designed to process them) are unhealthy for the body.
Sugars – a category in their own right – are a massive problem. Eliminating sugars, or the bulk of them (especially the processed kinds, vs. a whole, fresh fruit, for example) will lead to weight loss pretty quick, as well as a likely change in energy, mood, even sleep. The more we can stick with “whole,” non-sugary foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, eggs, nuts, lean meats, poultry and fish, the better our bodies will behave. Your car responds to the fuel you put into it, right?
Balance – we don’t have to eliminate certain categories completely when we eat a diet of “whole foods” unless we don’t respond well to it. For example, I don’t eat a lot of carbohydrates – my body has decided they no longer work well for it. When I do eat them, I have variety of symptoms that make me feel sick and uncomfortable…so I know they aren’t the right choice for me. It’s about learning what works for our own bodies (maybe some trial and error) and going from there…
Portions – This is a big one. I love big portions because I love eating food…but my body doesn’t really need as much per sitting as my eyes or stomach are suggesting! Sometimes it helps to have a lot of small means more frequently and to start the day with a good breakfast (if you can stomach it – depending on the time, I sometimes need food right away (if it’s between 3 and 6am!) or I need to wait (if it’s after 6am.) Everyone is different but starting the day with fuel is important so you aren’t ravenous and out of control later…
Here’s a link to my own tips and tricks for staying full – 10 Tips To Feel Full – Yes, Really! (Because Hangry Is Horrible!) because not feeling hungry makes a difference!
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When we abide by these common-sense principles, we will see changes in our health, our physique, very likely our moods, as well as our energy levels, and definitely our overall health and well-being – it’s impossible not to.
Getting to a healthy weight and maintaining it is more about a consistent and overall approach, using common sense about the foods our body really needs to function optimally.
We don’t have to miss out on the fun (or good food!) in life, we just have to remember that moderation (e.g.: smart portions) is key…and maintenance is a hell of a lot easier than restarting all the time.
You have what it takes!!!