Losing weight is never an easy proposition. It’s one that usually requires a tremendous amount of will power as well as the determination to exercise. Both can create a situation that puts one out of the mood to even attempt to lose weight but, does it really need to be that hard and, are we going about it all the wrong way?
Most of us have been on diets at some point or another in our lives. There are very few of us who haven’t at least made an attempt at getting in proper nutrition and physical fitness. For the most part, we’ve fallen off of that proverbial wagon, much the same way an addict can slip off the sobriety course. Why? Why is it so hard to lose weight?
In a sense, as living, breathing creatures, we cannot escape having to eat in order to live. In most developed countries, food is in abundance and, we see it everywhere we go. We cannot avoid eating. It’s not like we can put down the bottle of gin or stub out a cigarette and never go back to having a drink or a smoke again. We need to eat and food will always be around. That makes it hard as temptation stares at us everywhere we turn and we can’t cut it out of our lives.
Many of us feel that unless we are eating only salads, small portions and exercising ourselves into the ground at the gym, we are somehow not going to lose weight. As a society, we’ve come to learn that we somehow need to be deprived and hard worked to lose weight but, is that the truth?
If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you’ll know that it means “sacrifice”. It feels like deprivation and oftentimes, we find ourselves hungry, eyeing the cat as though he would make a perfect snack or, we look at those running shoes and spandex outfit we’ve bought ourselves and want to go hide under the bed with the now, shaking cat.
Diets work. We can lose weight if we stick to a plan. There are thousands of them out there, including crazy crash diets, fads, pills and wonder drugs. Losing weight is someone else’s gain. Our weight loss efforts go straight into their wallets and we are all suckers when it comes to losing it quickly. If there’s a gimmick out there that has been created, promising us to help us lose weight, we’ll likely jump at it.
The real problem is, diets…yes, even the crazy, insane ones that cut out entire groups of food or make us drink our meals, are only temporary solutions. We’ll get the weight off. Cut out enough calories for long enough and it will come off. The problem is, it often returns with a vengeance and brings more with it. Why is that?
No one can live on deprivation and feeling hungry forever. If you’ve climbed onto a wagon, chances are, you’re going to fall off of it at some point or another. Diets are the wagons. They’re pretty much impossible to stay on forever and there comes the weight, creepy or even sailing back on again. They’re meant to get off a certain amount of weight in a hurry but, they are not meant to stay on forever. With the exception of something more flexible, like Weight Watchers types of dieting that allow us to eat whatever we want in limited or regulated amounts, we simply cannot sustain something that gives us a sense of deprivation or cuts out entire groups of foods. Nor, can most of us devote ourselves to daily trips to the gym for extensive workouts forever. Injuries occur and eventually, for one reason or another, that gym membership is going to go by the wayside for a good portion of people. That’s why gyms will see an influx of new customers in January of every year but, have less than half that amount, 2 or 3 months later.
So, what does make sense? How can we lose weight and more importantly, keep it off.
- Journal. Start off by buying an inexpensive dollar store notebook. Write down everything you put into your mouth during a day, including non-caloric items such as water or black tea, without sugar.
- Write down what you’re eating as you’re eating it. Don’t wait for the end of the day and try to remember everything you’ve eaten. It doesn’t work. Your memory may be great but, it’s not a steel trap no matter what your friends tell you. You can always spend a few moments at the end of the day, doing your totals in calories but, journal in real-time.
- Be honest with yourself by weighing and measuring your foods. Get a set of digital scales. They’re cheap…especially, at places like Walmart or Amazon.com. A set of measuring spoons and a set of measuring cups are really cheaply gotten at your nearest dollar store. You don’t need to get expensive with them.
- Use your computer, your phone or your tablet to download a calorie counting app. Take your pick. You can even journal on some of them and not need a notebook. Spark People, Fitness Pal and several others offer free apps and programs for tracking and calorie counting.
- Shop the outer aisles of your grocery store. The middle aisles contain the “danger foods” but, you’ll also need to go into them for some things. Just remember that the bulk of your shopping should be done on the outside aisles not the middle aisles as most of us shop. The temptations dwell in those middle aisles, waiting to sabotage even the most hardened of dieters.
- Always have fresh foods available at home and, pack weighed and measured foods for your lunch and snacks. That doesn’t mean that you can never eat out but, start by trying to eat as many meals as you can, prepared from home where you can be sure of how many calories actually lay in those packed lunches/snacks.
- Eat every 2 to 3 hours. Don’t starve yourself to 3 meals per day. Doing that keeps us starving by the time we get to a meal and more calories get consumed than we’d even imagine when we’re hungry. Aim to get 3 meals and several snacks. Never go hungry.
- Find out what calorie level you’d need to be on in order to lose weight. We all have a maintenance level, a losing level and a gaining level. Use one of the sites like Spark People, My Fitness Pal or, simply google free calculators to find your level of calories for your weight, height, gender and level of physical activity.
- It takes 20 minutes for our brains to recognize that we have had enough to eat or, that we’ve long since surpassed that level and are not just satisfied but, totally overloaded. Take your time while eating. Enjoy each mouthful of food and perhaps, even put your fork or spoon down in between bites. Chew thoroughly and actually taste your food. Try to sit to eat (not standing or munching on the run), preferably with no distractions, such as reading or television. It’s easy to consume your entire portion, feel satisfied but, go back for more when you don’t remember what you’ve eaten and haven’t tasted it.
- Don’t get down on yourself if you’ve gone over during a meal and give up your entire new eating style. Chalk it up to a meal where you ate more than was planned and try to get back on track for the rest of the day or week. Don’t dive into a box of cookies or a cake, thinking “I’ve done it now. May as well give up and forget it.” Remember, it’s cumulative. We need a smaller number of calories over time to lose weight. It isn’t a “lost cause” because you’ve had one day where things weren’t exactly on target/plan or even a day or a week (like during vacations). Just get back to eating more healthfully and get back on it as soon as you notice the deviation.
- As for physical activity or exercise…the bulk of your weight loss will come from your eating, not running on a treadmill, no matter what the calories burned say on your digital read-out. You really can’t exercise your way though an entire chocolate cake’s worth of calories. While exercise is needed in any healthy living pattern, it need not be hours in a gym or forced. The calories that you can burn during any exercise period will not even remotely equal the number of calories extra that we can consume. Exercise is healthy for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which includes, emotional well-being. We need to move our bodies but, it doesn’t need to be hours in a gym, on treadmills or running 5 miles a day…unless, of course, that’s what brings you happiness. If you struggle with feeling that you have to exercise a certain amount, you won’t likely keep it up. Let’s face it, there are days when exercise just isn’t in our abilities to do for one reason or another. That’s ok. It’s not going to make up the bulk of your weight loss anyway. Even gardening, house cleaning, walking from the furthest point in the parking lot, taking the stairs, dancing in your underwear if that makes your day, doing the dishes by hand, a stroll with a friend after dinner or lunch or breakfast, walking the dog…everything counts. Just move more than you usually do and find some activity that you enjoy doing and keep on doing it. Just move your body. Most of us are couch-potatoes and technology has made that easier for us to do. We don’t even need to get up to change the television channel anymore. Heck, I’m not sure it’s even possible to do. Simply make it a point to get in more physical movement for now.
Losing weight doesn’t have to be a monumental task, complete with deprivation and exercising that none of us are likely to keep up with unless we truly enjoy doing it. It has to be a way of life. We have to feel “satisfied” and not hungry, starving or so tired out from exercise that we can barely get out of bed or put on our shirts because we’re too sore and tired. We won’t keep that level up for long and, we certainly won’t maintain our weight afterwards if we do this. We’ve got to be comfortable with how we live.
Diets don’t work long termed. It has to be a lifestyle change that can be maintained or we’ll be back to a diet again in a few months or weeks. Remember that there are people out there who are making big bucks on keeping you dieting. It’s to their benefit to trap you into that vicious cycle and keep you coming back, draining your wallet into their bank accounts.
There are a couple of books that I highly recommend reading.
Firstly, is The Diet Fix by Yoni Freedhoff M.D.. Freedhoff is a doctor who found that his patients were struggling to lose weight in spite of diagnoses of ailments that were weight related and could be changed. He admits that the average family doctor is simply not educated enough in nutrition to be of help to their patients. He gives straight forward, easy to understand advice and principles, teaching us how to turn the dieting world on its ear and stick to a way of living and eating that will be a slower but totally sustainable way of getting off and keeping weight off for life. It’s not a diet. It’s a pattern change.
Secondly, is I Can Make You Thin by Paul McKenna. There’s no diet involved in McKenna’s book. He’s teaching us how to re-train and re-set our brains towards a more healthful pattern of eating with behavioural modifications. He’s included a self-hypnosis cd with the book. (Use it or not, the principles in this book are invaluable by themselves.)
There’s also apps for your cell phone, computer or tablet in which you can journal and look up calorie counts. Both set your goal/target levels for your personal weight and activity level (be honest or you’ll be cheating yourself) by answering a couple of basic questions like current weight, weight goal/target weight (be realistic here too…if you were a toothpick in highschool, you might not look good at that weight now nor, be able to maintain it again), height and activity level. They keep track of your activities as well as your body measurements if you want to track them too.
There, I’ve done the research for you. You simply need to have the want to lose weight sensibly and without harsh dieting or hours in the gym.
Losing weight means a lifestyle change that can be maintained by YOUR lifestyle and comfort level. It needn’t be a struggle that you can’t maintain. Learn a few principles that diets won’t teach you and save your money for a trip to a beach somewhere instead of padding other people’s pockets.
Beyond anything else that can be said about dieting and losing weight, there are fit and healthy people who are not of ideal weight. The people you see on magazine covers have been photoshopped out of recognition. Even they don’t really look like that. Take a look at Oprah’s magazine covers. While she’s lost a lot of weight herself, she is by far, not thin in real life. She’s come a long way but, then again, Oprah has a personal trainer and a gourmet cook who travels with her to keep her on track. Take a look inside her magazine and you’ll find more realistic pictures of her than you’ll see on her covers. That’s a flaw that Oprah has to do something about as well. Even she has fallen prey to allowing herself to be whittled down, de-flawed and perfected in her cover shots. It does damage to other people in seeing these false images. None of these stars look like themselves while on covers so, don’t compare yourself to those standards. Even they don’t look like they do on those covers or articles.
Love yourself right now. Love yourself as you are. Think of who you are as a person and your good qualities. Those things don’t lay in the numbers on the back of a garment you can wear. Learn to appreciate your best qualities and even your less than best. You are worthy just because you exist. The numbers on a scale cannot measure those things. You have a lot to offer the world as you are right now. That’s the way that I’m seeing things from my little corner of life.