America is simultaneously the most obese and most weight-obsessed nation in the world. What’s up with that? Every January people resolve to “lose the weight” and yet, we rarely do. Is it perhaps because we get so focused on denying ourselves, that we forget what we should be giving ourselves.
Let’s talk about weight loss in a way that people can actually relate to. No crazy fad diets, no unrealistic expectations, no self-loathing. We’ve heard it time and time again for YEARS now! Eat a well balanced diet and get plenty of exercise. Other than the fact that it leaves out WHY people overeat, it really IS that simple.
From what I’ve read about weight loss and dieting, here are some thoughts and tips to consider to help those out there who would like to lose a little weight this year.
- Set A Realistic Goal: I’ll use myself as a example. In my adult life, I’ve never weighed less than 140 pounds, so I’m not going to decide to set a goal to weigh 120 pounds. That would require to give up too many things that I simply wouldn’t want to live without. Since moving to California, I’ve put on about 15-20 pounds. Now, BMI charts don’t always give you accurate assessments of an ideal weight, but I’ve used it as a guide and not gospel. According to the CDC, in order to be in the “normal weight” range, I should be under 154 pounds. Turns out, that would mean I should lose about 15 pounds! So that’s my goal: a healthy guide line by a respected establishment and a number that I have actually weighed in a relatively recent time.
- Give Yourself Plenty Of Time: When you set a resolution for a year, why not give yourself a whole year to accomplish it?! It’s not healthy to lose more that 1-2 pounds a week. More than that and you are crash dieting or just loosing water weight which will come right back. May I also mention, it’s really hard to lose 2 pounds a week for several weeks on end. One pound of fat equals 3,500 calories. That sounds like a lot, right?! But give yourself a long time line and all you have to do is shift some of your choices to loose a few hundred calories at a time. Of course we want results and we want them now, but just be patient. Keep telling yourself: it WILL work out! Just give it time.
- Look At Your Current Food Choices: Take a week or two and start a food journal to track your caloric intake. This is a good chunk of work, I know! This is not particularly fun, but it will shed light on your current choices and make the rest of the process easier. You’ll find what nutrients you’re lacking in and what foods you’re consuming in excess. I used the food log at the Calorie Count website to see where my extra calories were working their way into my diet. A surprising amount excess calories come from beverages! And not just soda either, apparently I drink a lot of juice which would add around 500 calories a day! Now that I know that, I can make different choices. Replace some of that juice with water or crystal light or low-sugar juices. I also don’t eat enough fruit! In addition to tracking what you eat, think about why you eat. When you reach for that snack, think about why you are doing it. Are you hungry or just bored? Are you eating simply because it’s in front of you? Are you indulging because you’re feeling bad about something or stressed out? When I’m working in an office, I use getting a snack as a reason to get up for a minute to walk around. Not the best idea. Perhaps I should get up and walk to the drinking fountain for a sip of water. Or if you have an oral fixation like I tend to have, chew some sugar free gum! You get the flavor and something to gnaw on without ingesting unwanted calories. Another fun fact for you, high-fiber foods help curb your appetite and make you feel more full!
- Don’t Think Of It As A “Diet”: Diets tend to give you too many restrictions. Don’t eat any carbs! Only eat food that fell off trees! Don’t consume anything that’s not a liquid!! The reason that people tend to yo-yo when they are on diets is because they do well following the rules, but as soon as they hit their target and they are no longer living under such restrictions, it comes right back. Most of these rules are simply unsustainable. If you were to tell me that I couldn’t have carbs for the rest of my life (or even for more than a month!) I would say “No way! Can’t do it!” But if I had to replace one glass of juice or soda with a glass of water or unsweetened tea, that sounds totally easy and doable. Replace some complex carbs with some fruits? No problem! Find a handful of these switcharoos and you’re on your way! Look at it more like a lifestyle change. That’s how long you want to have this healthier version of you, right? For your lifetime! Make easy changes that add up over time but that you can KEEP DOING!! Juice fasts simply aren’t the answer. You can’t consume nothing but juice for the rest of your life, but you CAN eat smaller portions of the food you normally consume and make sure to eat the foods that you NEED.
- Find A Way To Increase Your Movement: The flip side of the diet coin is to increase your amount of exercise. The best way to burn fat is to get your heart rate up and walking around a little more isn’t going to do it (unless you’re power-walking with weights). Sure standing burns twice as many calories as sitting, but it probably won’t be enough to make a dent (unless you go from sitting in a desk to one of those treadmill-desks). The point is you have to get up and sweat sometimes. Once again, using myself as an example, I know that I get bored with running on a treadmill day-in-day-out. I need variety! So I bought a bike and got a Living Social deal to a workout studio in the neighborhood that does burlesque, ballet, and pole dance classes (btw, pole dancing is REALLY hard!). I can get a variety of different dance classes, I can bike, I can jog to Zombies Run!, and I can do the work-out DVDs that I already have. Variety accomplished! I make an effort to work out three times a week. Sometimes I do more, sometimes I do less. It also helps that I have someone that I go to classes WITH! Finding a buddy that will hold you accountable really helps to make you strap on your sneakers! Also consider signing up for an event that you will have to train for like a 5k or, in my case, the MS150 Charity bike ride!
- Cut Yourself Some Slack: There are days when I’m too busy to work out or make a nice dinner, so I just sit on the couch and eat a frozen pizza. It happens. Oh well, it was one day! As long as you don’t do it everyday, you’re fine! Some nights I just really want pizza and beer chased with a little dessert pizza. Allow yourself to splurg every once and a while to keep from going crazy. People get cravings! Constant denial makes a person crabby, so if you have a bad day and you dig into a fat juicy burger, don’t fall into a shame spiral! Your work has NOT been totally un-done because you’re going to have plenty of time for better days. Expect some days when you won’t lose any calories, it’s just part of the deal. The point is, in the long run, you’ll chip away at the block small bits at a time (the key word being time) until you are sculpted into the healthier, leaner version of yourself that you want to be.
Good luck out there! Remember, be patient and be nice to yourself. You’ll get there!