The REAL Secret to Weight Loss
Fat, Overweight, Chubby, Fluffy, Husky....Just Plain Big!
Okay, I admit it...I'm fat. Please don't try to make me feel better and use some other term for it. I weigh too much and I know it. I can grumble and whine all I want about how unfair it is that I didn't lose the weight after having babies and I seem to constantly crave chocolate, pastries, cheese, sour cream, whipped cream, and ice cream while having no urges whatsoever to exercise. I've been out of high school for 25 years now and would absolutely kill to have the body I had back then (despite being sure at that time that I was too chubby). Now 100 pounds heavier, I am desperate to lose even half of that if I can.
What Do I Do?
I know I'm not the only one who has tried all the things that sounded like shortcuts to losing the weight. Those TV advertisements for magic pills and supplements. How about 5 minute workout videos or the belt that sends electrical pulses to your muscles to make them contract? The grapefruit diet, the cabbage soup diet, Atkins, Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem, Jenny Craig, and the list goes on and on. Things start out okay and I usually lose some weight at first, but I get too busy, too bored, or too broke to continue. Even when I manage to keep going for a decent amount of time, the effects of the diet, pill, or device start tapering off. Despite all of this trial leading to plenty of error and little or no progress, I still find myself drawn to every promise of quick and easy weight loss.
Last year, I participated in a healthy heart challenge sponsored by our local hospital. They selected ten women and gave them nutrition classes and a personal trainer to work with. The things we were taught weren't exactly easy to hear. The secret to losing weight is to eat less and exercise more. You're probably disappointed to read that, but don't give up on me just yet.
The dietitian reminded us that we didn't gain all that weight overnight, so there was no way we were going to lose it in just a matter of days or weeks. All those "miracle" weight loss products really do is attempt to control your appetite. Even though it sounds like that should work, the reason that it doesn't is pretty simple. Habits....We develop these habits when it comes to eating. Do you eat while you're working, while watching TV, while driving, when happy, when sad, when stressed? Most of the eating we do is unconscious eating. That doesn't mean you're in a coma while eating, but you might as well be. Eating while watching TV or a movie? Do you even remember how the food tasted? If you want to lose weight, you can't include eating as part of your multitasking. Eating needs to be an event all by itself. Pay attention to every bite....savor it....truly taste the food. That will help your body and mind to connect and realize what you're eating, how much you're eating, and that you are now satisfied without having to eat as much. Undoing those old habits of munching as you work, drive, etc. will still be tough until that habit is broken. You also need to look at where your calories are coming from. Starvation will actually cause your body to store more food as fat, so you need to get enough calories each day. If you use whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean meats for those calories, you may almost find it difficult to eat enough calories each day. Where we've gone wrong is going overboard with fast food, fried food, and empty calories. Making the switch takes some preparation and thinking ahead, but it's worth it. Start small by making one change each week or two. Substitute one bad thing with one good thing and you're on your way...
Do I really have to exercise? YES! But don't freak out - it's not as hard as you think. Don't run out and get a gym membership thinking you will now be exercising two hours every day. There's no way on earth you will keep that up. Only you can decide where to fit the exercise in. You can park further away, take stairs instead of elevators, get up from your desk more often to walk around. Do simple exercises and stretches while watching TV. Add some stretch bands and/or hand weights and you will get even more out of it. The most effective way to start exercising is to find someone to be accountable to. Get a workout partner or share your plans and goals with a friend. Aerobics are great for improving your cardiovascular fitness, but dramatic weight loss is better achieved by lifting weights. Change up the exercises you are doing once in a while so you (and your muscles) don't get too bored.
The secret - there is no secret. You have to eat better and get more exercise. Every person is different and there are often different medical conditions that can make this even tougher to do. You should only lose 1-2 pounds per week. Losing too much too fast can spell trouble. Research has shown that fast weight loss doesn't last. Losing it slowly is more likely to keep the weight off. You will also need to approach this as more of a change in your lifestyle. Seeing it as a "diet" makes you think that you can stop at some point. Keep a food "diary" where you record what you eat. That will help you see how you're doing and what you still need to work on. The only way to lose the weight and make all this permanent is to truly change your habits.
Don't Shoot the Messenger
Some of you may be really upset with me, but you need to know the truth. Unless you find a time machine that will take you back to when you were skinny (or at least less overweight), this is the only way to fight the battle of the bulge. When I participated in the challenge, I lost weight (and inches), built up my stamina, lowered my blood pressure and cholesterol, and felt better overall. I wish I could say that I kept up with it. Unfortunately, marital problems and then an accident resulting in a broken foot derailed my efforts. I'm working my way back to full activity again and hope to get started again soon. In the meantime, I'm keeping my eyes open for that time machine...
One place to go for amazing free resources, recipes, exercise tips, and ways to track your eating and exercising is SparkPeople. There are great community connections and all the same things people pay lots of money for with name brand diet programs.
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