Are you looking to lose weight in 2012? Are you dreading the thought of restrictive diets, hours of exercise, and counting every calorie? Have you already broken your diet and exercise New Year’s resolutions?
Going ON a strict diet or exercise program implies that eventually you will come OFF it. And then what? You’re right back to the eating habits and behaviors that caused you to gain weight in the first place. With such a vicious cycle, doesn’t it sometimes seem easier to keep on the weight?
The truth is, you don’t need restrictive diets, miserable exercise routines, obsessive calorie counting, or the subhuman willpower in order to lose weight and keep it off. These simple tips will help you get on the path to weight loss without discipline or denial.
1. Whole foods – Start eating more foods that are unprocessed and closest to their natural source, such as fresh organically-grown fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices, brown rice, quinoa, whole oats, eggs, and fresh meat. If in doubt about whether something is a whole food, a simple rule of thumb is “If it doesn’t have an ingredients list, it’s a whole food”. While preparing and cooking whole foods can seem daunting if you’re used to cooking out of a can or box, remember that anything that comes in a can or a box can be made into a whole foods recipe. After all, it was made with whole foods before it came into that box! There are hundreds of recipe sites on the internet; just search for a simple cook-from-scratch version of the dish. Examples I’ve found in the past are simple ground beef stroganoff, sloppy joes (great with ground beef or lentils), and taco seasoning. Not only will dishes with fresh ingredients taste better, but they’ll be healthier too. Boxed and canned food is loaded with sodium, preservatives, mysterious “spices” (often hidden MSG), and many other chemicals additives. The more you can incorporate whole, natural foods into your diet, including a mix of both raw and cooked foods, the better you’ll feel and the more weight you’ll lose.
2. Movement – Does the word “exercise” make you cringe? Does it conjure up images of women in leg warmers, a super-fit instructor screaming orders to the jiggly, out-of-shape crowd in front of her, or endless situps and jumping jacks? The good news is that it’s not necessary to incorporate a strenuous and/or difficult exercise program into your life in order to lose weight. However, it IS necessary to incorporate movement into your daily routine. People often avoid exercise because it’s work. Our ancestors didn’t run marathons or spend hours doing P90X to get in shape. They got exercise by working in the fields, walking everywhere they went, and doing everything by hand rather than by machines. In this age of convenience, tv and video games, and jobs that keep us indoors and sitting all day, we’ve become a sedentary society. Therefore, we have to be a bit more creative with our forms of movement. If you’re not used to doing much, start slow. Walk 20-30 minutes a day, take the stairs instead of the elevator (even if you just walk one flight then take the elevator the rest of the way), attend a yoga, Pilates, or a dance class. The key is to try different things until you find what you like, and then start slow so that you don’t burn out before you build up a routine.
3. Stress inventory – Unless you’re overeating, your body is not supposed to hold on to more fat than is necessary for survival. However, when you’re chronically stressed, your body isn’t functioning properly and therefore is in survival mode. Your body holds on to the fat it should be burning in an effort to protect you. The result is that you end up gaining weight, especially when you’re not doing any regular movement or exercise and you’re not eating whole foods. Take an honest inventory of your stress level. If you are chronically stressed, you must give yourself a break in order to lose weight and keep it off. Of course, this is easier said than done, right? If you were good at reducing stress, you’d have done it already! But small steps can help. Where does most of your stress originate? Kids, job, spouse, illness in yourself or a loved one?
Identify your points of stress so that you can find ways to make them less stressful. Since doing what you’ve been doing isn’t working, brainstorm ways that you could do things differently. Better yet, have someone else do this with you and keep an open mind. Don’t immediately write off suggestions; someone outside the situation may have a clearer, unbiased view of it. Once you’ve identified your most stressful areas and some suggestions, put together a clear plan to make incremental, but important, changes. Give them a chance to work.
It may also be helpful to incorporate relaxation techniques, such as yoga, meditation, spiritual practice, a hot bath, or anything that helps you find peace and calm. Avoid the excuse that you don’t have time for these things. Just 5-10 minutes of self care a day can make a huge difference in your whole mindset. You can’t effectively take of other people, tasks, and responsibilities if you’re not taking care of YOU. If you’ve tried all these things with no relief, you might consider a stress support supplement, such as Rhodiola or an adrenal support supplement to help support your body in letting go of the stress.
4. Love yourself – You might wonder what loving yourself has to do with losing weight. Well, as it turns out, everything. The connection between mind and body has repeatedly been proven: how you feel about yourself is reflected in your outward appearance and behaviors. If you feel you don’t deserve to have a comfortable, appropriate body weight, then you won’t. This may be hard to swallow, but listen to your self-talk sometime. What do you tell yourself about you? Do you say “I’m so stupid, clumsy, ugly, or fat”? Do you think you’re a bad parent, friend, spouse, employee, neighbor, etc.? And how has this served you so far? All this negativity and lack of self-love that you heap on yourself is carried in your body somewhere. Some people drink or do drugs, some people have chronic illness or disease, some people carry too much weight. Start down a better path by first changing your self-talk. Pay attention to the things you say to yourself. When you catch yourself saying something hurtful, stop yourself, and immediately turn it into something positive. Even if you don’t believe it at the moment. Keep repeating good things about yourself, to yourself, on a daily basis. It can be as simple as “I love myself. I’m perfect just the way I am.” Because you are. And when you believe that, the weight will come off much more quickly.
5. Get support – If all this seems too good to be true, you might benefit from some extra support. Grab a friend , family member, or co-worker to join you on your weight loss journey. A partner provides accountability, which keeps you inspired when it’s tough. Also, find support in reading (or audio books if you prefer). Authors such as Louise Hay, Marianne Williamson, and Geneen Roth are extremely inspirational in the areas of weight loss and loving yourself. For more personalized support, a personal trainer can develop an exercise plan with your specific needs in mind. And finally, a health coach can provide support in setting and achieving goals in all these areas. A health coach will listen carefully and help you to navigate the world of contradictory nutrition advice to determine what changes are necessary for you to be your best self, inside and out.