How many diet books are published every year? How many products do you see being advertised on social media every day that make promises of weight loss and better health? My guess is probably quite a few, but they're just PRODUCTS. That's it. Healthy body weight and lifestyle cannot be purchased, and they take time to develop. More importantly, health is NOT a destination, but rather a vehicle to take you towards your major goals in life. So instead of treating health as something that we have to have, have to buy, or have to obtain by external means, why don't we think of it as something that we have the power to nurture and improve on our own, something that it is already within us?
Think of it this way: you buy a meal replacement shake because the company claims that it will fight hunger and help you lose weight, or you take supplements because you read somewhere that it will improve a particular symptom you're having. You buy the product, use it, and hopefully you get the results you wanted. But have you made any lifestyle changes besides purchasing that product? Have you addressed the root cause of your weight gain or symptoms? Furthermore, do you see yourself still routinely purchasing these products 10 years from now? 15 years from now? How much money would you have invested if that were the case? My point is that sustainable, healthy lifestyle habits take work and TIME. In a society of consumption and convenience, we tend to forget that we alone are responsible and in control over our health.
I'm not saying that these products aren't useful; they can be a great way to introduce yourself to idea of making changes, and they can help you start seeing some results rather quickly which can spark some motivation. However, they should not be seen as the answer or the cure. They should be supplemental and secondary to more sustainable lifestyle changes, not the primary method of weight loss.
I struggled with my weight for half of my life, and only in the last couple of years have I maintained a healthy weight without restricting calories or exercising excessively. It took a while to break my old habits and create new ones, and it took even longer for the new habits to become a part of my daily routine to the point where I no longer even think about them. During that process, I learned something VERY important; weight loss is not all about calories in and calories out! HOW we eat and WHAT we eat, as well as other aspects of our lives unrelated to food all play a role in our weight and overall health. I want to share what I have learned and what has worked for me in hopes that you'll be inspired to figure out what works for YOU. Please share your thoughts in the comments below or on my Facebook page!
Simple Weight Loss Tips:
1) Ditch the Processed Foods. How often do you cook from scratch? How many foods do you eat each day that are in their natural state (like fresh fruits and vegetables)? How many of the products in your refrigerator and pantry have added sugars, high fructose corn syrup, and/or hydrogenated oils? Seriously, go look; you'd be surprised where these ingredients show up! How often do you eat out? How many ingredients on the food labels in your house are words you cannot pronounce? How many claim to be "low fat"? Healthy bodies are nourished by real food, not artificial, food-like products. Many of these foods are calorie-dense but nutritionally poor, leaving your body feeling hungry despite the number of calories. We are malnourished but over-fed, starving but over-weight, and that it is pretty scary. .Eating foods that are in their natural states and preparing meals at home are the two easiest and healthiest ways to maintain a normal weight and to relieve many common symptoms.
2) Eliminate Distractions and CHEW! This sounds crazy, but just hear me out. How often do you eat in your car? Eat standing up? Eat while watching TV or scrolling through social media on your phone? Do you shovel in the next bite of food before you've ever finished chewing the last one? And how often do you finish your plate of food so quickly that you're shocked to look down and see an empty plate because you STILL feel hungry?! When we are being stimulated by the TV or our phones, our digestion is negatively affected because we are distracted and swallow our food only partially chewed. One of the main principles of macrobiotics, a healing diet based on fresh, whole foods, is CHEWING. Digestion starts in the mouth with the saliva. By chewing thoroughly, we not only improve our digestion (thus reducing gas and bloating), we are also able to maximize the nutrition we are getting from our food. When we eat slowly and mindfully we are less likely to overeat because we give our bodies time to feel satiated. By eating slowly can help to improve self-awareness and facilitate a sense of calmness. In this way, eating becomes a sort of daily meditation.
I encourage you to start by taking the time at least a few meals at week to sit down without distractions and focus on eating, JUST eating. Count how many times you chew per mouthful. If it is only 5-10, start aiming for 20 and slowly increase. The ideal number would be anywhere from 30-50 chews per mouthful in order to get the most out of our food. This was really, really tough for me when I first started, and I find it easiest to put down my utensils after each bite so I am not tempted to put more food in my mouth while I am still chewing. If this is something you have never though about before, I highly recommend you give it a shot! You will be pleasantly surprised.
3) Do not restrict calories or go on a strict diet. Many people think that eating less will lead to weight loss, and it does until your body lowers its metabolism in an effort to conserve energy. When that happens, the weight loss will stop even though you're eating hardly anything. Not only can this way of losing weight damage your body, it also can lead to feelings of guilt and shame when you finally give in and binge. When we go on strict diets and eliminate all of our favorite comfort foods, we tend shame ourselves when we "cheat" because we feel as if we are weak, that we lack will-power and self control. Please do NOT allow yourself to buy into that way of thinking. Trust me when I say that REAL weight loss takes time and that SMALL, but PROGRESSIVE changes are the healthiest and easiest ways to improve our health. Instead of eliminating foods you think are unhealthy right away, maybe start by just ADDING a salad or some vegetables and eating them before your regular meal. This way, you are getting more nutrition, adding minimal calories, and not restricting yourself. Over time, keep ADDING in more nutritious foods and the junk will slowly start to work it's way out of your life. The goal is not to restrict, but rather to add. Add the good stuff in and crowd out the foods you know you are not contributing to your vitality!
4) Find exercise that you ENJOY. I cannot stress this enough. Daily physical activity is so important, especially if you work at a desk all week. However, exercise should be something that makes you feel GOOD. For me, when I have had a tough day, a 30-45 minute workout takes away all of my stress, and I leave feeling so much happier and centered. I look forward to my workouts because I enjoy the activities I am doing, and I love seeing and feeling all of the progress I am making. By finding activities you enjoy, you are not only putting time aside for self-care and "you" time, you are also much more likely to stick to a CONSISTENT routine. So, have a sit down with yourself and find out what it is you like. Is it running? Yoga? Weight lifting? Walking? Do you like group fitness classes or working out by yourself at home? What motivates you? What would get you out of bed in the morning?! When you find something you love to do, you will automatically find it easier to fit it into your schedule!
5) Hydration and Cravings. Many times, food cravings appear when we are actually thirsty. Next time you are craving a particular food, pause and have a big glass of water. Wait a few minutes, and then ask yourself if you're actually hungry or if maybe you just haven't had enough water. Maybe the craving is purely emotional. Cravings are your body's way of telling you something so taking a few minutes to reflect and determine what is causing the craving and be so empowering.
6) 80/20 Rule. This one is my favorite! How many times have you gone on a diet and felt like you were missing out on your favorite foods? You go to a party and everyone is enjoying themselves while you're standing there staring at the dessert table torturing yourself trying to resist the urge to have something. Why do we do this to ourselves? A healthy body and mind start from learning to love ourselves. When we love who we are are, we can begin finding the value in honoring our bodies. We choose to eat foods that nourish us rather than make us feel sluggish. We begin noticing the subtle changes that occur when we eat food that is alive and colorful. More importantly, when we love ourselves we understand that enjoying a cupcake at a social gathering is MUCH more satisfying than fighting a mental battle. Health is more than food; you could eat the perfect diet and still be miserable. It's about balance. Love yourself enough to eat fresh, wholesome foods most of the time (80%) and to allow yourself to indulge without guilt here and there (20%). I love eating fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains and beans, but treating myself to dark chocolate or some ice cream here and there not only prevents future cravings, it also quiets that little voice that tells me to eat the whole bar or pint :)
My weight loss really took off when I eliminated most of the processed foods and added sugar in my diet. My taste buds completely changed, and I started craving real food as opposed to junk. I have lost 30 pounds over the course of two years, and although that may seem like slow progress, I am quite proud considering I wasn't even TRYING to lose weight. I just wanted to FEEL healthier and happier. But what started as an effort to eat better turned into a complete lifestyle transformation. The small changes I made slowly over the course of two years added up, and now they are effortless. They are a part of my daily life just like showering and brushing my teeth, and I've come to realize that that is how I am able to sit here two years later and write this. I absolutely love what I eat and physical activities I do. I used to not care about my health at all, but now I truly love and honor my body. That's what a healthy diet SHOULD do; it should lift you up and make you feel vibrant, not make you feel restricted and moody. Each day is a fresh start, so make choices that nurture your body and mind, and don't force yourself to do anything else just because you THINK it is right.
I have many more little tips and tricks that helped me along the way, but I think this post is long enough! If you found these tips useful, let me know if the comments if you'd like to see a part-two!