The Not-So-Secret Key to Weight Loss
Eat Moderately, Eat Well
Or, as Sadie Nardini, a NYC-based yoga guru, puts it, "Eat . . . but not a lot." Apparently my mother was correct when she exhorted my younger brother and I to practice moderation as we grew up under her watchful eye.
We all want the quick fix, not just for weight loss, but for everything. I know that I am constantly recommitting this error. I want better abs -- now. I want a raise -- now. I want, I want -- and I want it now. Americans especially seem to fall prey to this mentality. Unfortunately, this culture of impatience does not lead to positive results, especially in the weight loss arena. Diet pills, food restricting, exercise binges, and an over-reliance on chemical-laden low-calorie, low-fat foods examples of how we try to shed weight fast. But this type of get-slim-quick scheme does not yield lasting body changes, and certainly does not lead to improved health habits.
So what does work? Moderation. Patience. Practicing self-love instead of bludgeoning an already fragile self-image with guilt over diet slip-ups, exercise lulls, and unexpected weight fluctuations. Are these goals easy to achieve? No, not really. But they are worth cultivating for a balanced, satisfying life.
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Are you disappointed? Were you looking for the ultimate quick-fix secret to immediate weight loss? In my experience -- which has included emotional eating and two year battle with anorexia and over-exercise -- there is no such thing.
However, I can share my favorite piece of not-so-secret weight loss advice. Are you ready? Here it comes: eat less, and move more. But not a lot, as Nardini says.
For a long time I operated under the belief that I needed to use exercise to compensate for whatever food I put in my body. Due to my anorexic mindset, this included healthy, fueling foods as well as nutritionally void options. I thought that if I ate something with fat in it, I would have to run to the gym and elliptical it away or it would manifest as cellulite on my thighs or an extra bulge in my rear. Now I know better. This is not the case -- the body needs things like healthy fats, protein, and even culturally condemned carbohydrates, provided they are complex carbs based in whole grains.
Even though I have won my fight against anorexia and now maintain a healthy weight and a healthy mindset, it is easy for me to slip back into more disordered thinking. A common mistake I find myself making is believing that I can "make up" for poor eating through exercise, and I hear a lot of other people talking the same way. This is a fallacy. Our bodies are not trash compactors. We can't put garbage in and expect to wake up with a chiseled physique simply because we worked up a sweat at the gym five out of seven days of the week I don't want to diminish the importance of exercise because it is valuable in maintaining heart health, bone density, and metabolism, and a sedentary lifestyle is not the solution.
So what is the answer? How can we lose weight, and effectively maintain that loss? In my opinion and experience, the changes made in diet and activity have to be long-term lifestyle changes, not interim flirtations with fad diets or over-exercise.
Want to slim down? Eat less, and eat well. Focus on listening to your body's signals, feeding it when it needs fueling, and making nutritious choices. Instead of grumbling about what you can't eat, focus on what you can and should be eating: whole grains, healthy fats, lean protein, and 8 cups of fruits and vegetables a day. Try to eat no more than 2,000 calories per day. A balanced food plan is the foundation of a healthy life, complete with weight loss.
Once you have balanced your food consumption -- a task which takes time to complete -- begin to consider how to incorporate more activity into your day. Join a gym, use workout DVDs, or enlist with your local running club. Exercise doesn't have to be sweaty and grueling, though. Try yoga classes, scope out local dance studios' offerings, trade in your car for a bicycle or a sturdy pair of walking shoes. Hike, garden, or hula hoop your way to fitness. Exercise should engage your body and mind. If you don't like running, don't do it! Find an alternative way to move your body, because then you are more likely to stick with it for the long haul.
A Bright Future
The weight loss roller coaster can be a doozy of a ride. I know that I am easy prey for the doldrums of natural weight loss plateaus, the transient highs I feel upon achieving a goal weight, and the loopy fads that the dieting industry constantly throws into the mix. But maintain your guard against the get-thin-now media, because really, you don't want to just be thin now. You want to be healthy now -- and 10 years from now. You want to be healthy in order to support and enjoy your children and, later, their children. So eat, but eat well. Fuel your body instead of fighting it. Move, but not excessively, and in a way that you enjoy. Pursue moderation and you may find that weight loss is just a sweet bonus to the more satisfying pleasure of a rich and balanced life.
Consider This: Other Articles and Opinions
- Kitchen Courage: Eating right, living well
Read more of my thoughts on eating, cooking, and moving at my balanced living blog.
- What's the Best Diet? Eating Less Food
The "diet" that Tiffany Sharples proposes in this TIME article is more of a long-term lifestyle change.
- Why Exercise Won't Make You Thin
John Cloud explores food consumption compensation in dedicated exercisers in this TIME article.