When starting any weight-loss program, it’s really easy to become impatient and want to see results quickly. Whether we have a special event we want to look our best for, or just wanting to be a better physical version of ourself, we sometimes make big changes to our diet in hopes of losing as much weight as we can, as quickly as possible. We cut carbs. We cut fat. We cut out almost everything we enjoy eating, often times driving ourselves, and everyone around us, crazy. Why do we go to such extremes?
Because the sooner we lose the weight, the sooner we can get off this stinking diet! And THAT my friends, is the problem.
Whether you have 10 pounds to lose or 100 pounds, I’ve learned that “slow and steady” wins this race. Shocking the body, by cutting too many calories too quickly, will likely slow your metabolism. Sure, you’ll notice some extreme results if you “extreme” diet, but sadly, these results will most likely be short term; and as soon as you return to your old ways, now with a new, slower metabolism, you will burn less calories during the day, the weight will return, and you’ll be right back where you started.
A better option, in my opinion, is to slowly modify your eating habits. Make small changes, slowly cutting down on, and eventually eliminating these foods that are “weighing you down.” For instance, if you’re having a fast-food breakfast everyday, try limiting it to a few times a week, alternating with a more nutritious breakfast. Then, maybe only have that fast food breakfast once a week, as a “treat”. Eventually, you won’t even want it anymore, and you can omit it completely. You basically train yourself to enjoy a healthier way of eating and replace those poor habits, with good ones.
I know, I know… It’s not that easy. I know it isn’t, and I’m going to tell you why.
Bad habits are hard to break, that’s for sure. Losing weight would be a lot easier, if it was just about breaking a bad eating habit. But a big problem is that so many of us are addicted to sugar. Unfortunately, once it’s in your system, you just keep craving it. The more you eat it, the more you want it; and with so much added sugar in fast and processed foods, eating them on a regular basis, will typically cause weight gain, not to mention a bunch of other health problems down the road.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Ever have those days when you just can’t seem to satisfy your appetite? You fill your belly with a meal or snack, only to find yourself hungry again a little while later? Why do you think this this happening? A body needs nutrients to function. The brain receives a message that your basically running low on fuel, and it’s time to “gas up.” To satisfy your hunger, you fill your belly up with something quick and convenient (probably high in sugar and/or not very nutritious.) The hunger subsides… for a little while anyway. But having not received the nutrients the body is in need of, shortly thereafter, your brain gets another message from your grumbling belly, so you eat some more, and so on and so forth. You see where this is going? When trying to satiate hunger, it’s important to think about what you are trying to satiate with. If what you’re eating is a bunch of “empty calories” (foods that have little to no nutritional value), compounded by it’s high sugar content. Not only are you going to wind up overeating because you are not giving your body the nutrients it’s asking for, but you’re also going to keep on craving that sugar.
I’ve done a few “cleanses” in my time, and although, I don’t believe they are the answer to long-term weight loss, I did find that they helped rid me of my sugar addiction. Once the sugar was out of my body, something very special happened. I didn’t seem to crave it anymore. Certain sweet foods, actually became TOO sweet for me to enjoy, so I cut them out. Foods high in sodium, suddenly were too salty for me. My palette had changed and I started craving natural, whole foods.
But cleanses are not for everyone, and quitting something “cold turkey” is really difficult to do.
If the idea of giving up sugar all at once scares you, or makes you anxious, why not think about simply reducing your sugar intake? Cut down on the cookies, the cakes, the donuts, and chips; but maybe not eliminate them completely. Have a cheat day, where you can enjoy one of your favorite treats.
Start incorporating healthy complex carbohydrates, rich in vitamins, nutrients and fiber into your diet. Sweet potatoes are sweet! Fruit is sweet, but NATURAL sugars make them so. When I’m craving candy or pastry, I’ll opt for a healthy carb substitute. Depending on how hungry I am, I might add a handful of walnuts, or a spoonful of nut butter. These are good fats which will help satiate the appetite even more. Keep in mind, “everything in moderation”. It’s very easy to sit down with a bag of anything, and eat the whole thing. Remember the portion control. Take one serving, and put the rest away for another time.
My previous blog entry Let’s Talk Diet… discusses balancing out those complex carbs with lean protein, fiber, and good, healthy fats.
My snack of choice is a handful of nuts. Almonds or pistachios are my favorite, and their high calorie fat content actually holds me over until mealtime. Protein bars and shakes are also great “in-between” meals, or snacks. Protein shakes can be made at home, or if you prefer the convenience, can be purchased already prepared. They generally satiate my hunger, can satisfy a sugar craving and hold me over until mealtime. But again, be sure to check those nutrition labels, as they are not all created equal. Be on the look out for that sneaky, added sugar.
As we get older, our joints, muscles and bones weaken. Injuries and repercussions of some surgeries can also be a nuisance when trying to find the right form of exercise. Activities we did in our youth, or when we were stronger, may no longer be options for us, and this can be frustrating and at times, even depressing.
I practiced yoga for a long time. Those of you who have followed me over the years, know what an enthusiast I was. Last year, I hurt myself. I had to give up my beloved yoga, and believe me when I say, I was devastated. Physically, before my injury, I was strong, and always had great energy. The injury had caused me to take a step back. I had to heal, had to recover, and unfortunately with the decrease in physical activity meant, I also “had to” gain weight. Feeling weak, vulnerable and depressed, I knew that I had to find a replacement activity, as lying around feeling sorry for myself was way out of character and just not an option.
I guess what I’m trying to say here is, there are always reasons and excuses which can make us feel like we are unable to do something. We get in our own way. Don’t allow this to happen. Find an activity that works for you, and just do it. Start slowly. Do what you can, for as long as you can. Don’t push yourself too much in the beginning. This can lead to “burning out”, getting discouraged and ultimately, giving up. But if you slowly ease into a regimen, you can make it part of your routine, and then as you get stronger, you’ll do more. Most people will begin to feel better and look better; and as you start to see these changes happening, you’ll find yourself even more motivated.
Walking is a great low-impact exercise. Want to take it up a notch, try hiking, or light jogging. If you have foot, ankle, back or other medical issues, ask your physician or medical professional what the best exercise for your personal condition would be.
If you’re physically able, light strength training can prove to be beneficial. But don’t get overwhelmed. You don’t need to go out and join a gym, hire a trainer and hit the weights hard. Start slowly with your core. I’ve actually been doing a ten minute/day plank exercise routine that I found on the internet. It’s quick and I started to see great results within a few weeks. If this sounds good to you, search “10-min plank routine,” and a bunch will show up. Find one that you like and try it. You can always modify as needed, and remember to consult with your medical professional before starting any fitness routine.
Biting off more than you can chew too early on, can make you doubt yourself and discourage you from continuing, so don’t. Take baby steps. Have realistic goals. Love the body you’ve been given and try to make it as healthy as possible. With weight loss and taking steps towards a healthier lifestyle, you really need to retrain your mind. You don’t want to eliminate everything that you enjoy eating because that will lead to feeling deprived and potentially binging. Start slowly and make small changes to poor eating habits. Little by little, you incorporate those good habits. You will soon see results, feel better, and have more energy.
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Photo Credit: Brent Weber