With summer and warmer weather approaching, I thought this would be a perfect time to share some of my wisdom with those looking for the magic cure or diet strategy. I have worked with thousands of individuals on their diet and exercise programs. As a lecturer to fitness and health professionals, I am constantly asked, “What are the secrets to weight loss?” The mystification of weight loss and gain never ceases to amaze me.
The popular media, diet books and fitness magazines make the concept of weight control appear to be under the whimsical control and folly of sprites, gremlins or other mythical and mystical creatures. I do not understand the confusion, for every day I am bombarded by the obvious contributions to the ever-increasing American waistline.
Since I have an audience of health and fitness professionals, I thought I would take this opportunity, pull no punches and launch full on into a rant. I would like to take a moment and apologize in advance if anyone should be offended by the unfiltered truth. If the straight dope bothers you, I am sure there is a new diet book that claims to shift the body into some magical fat burning zone. Or that will tell of the proper way to combine your food so as not to befuddle and confuse your digestive system. So put down the copy of Eat Right for Your Hairstyle, it’s time to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
To Control Weight for a Lifetime:
- Don’t eat more calories than you burn. To lose weight, eat fewer calories than you burn.
- Think about what you eat. Is it going to make you look or feel the way you want? Will it bring you closer to your goal? Or will it make you feel miserable, run down and take you farther from what you want? Yeah, I know, when I was younger I could eat blah, blah too and not gain weight. But guess what? We don't move enough now to get away with it. You want it? Move more. You cannot or don't want to move more? Then don't eat it!
- The saying "You are what you eat" is true. Before eating a food, ask yourself "Do I want to BE that?!?"
- Eat smaller portion sizes. Most restaurants give you way too much food to be eaten at one sitting. If we were served a reasonable amounts of food at a restaurant, we would be appalled and never go back, muttering "rip off" the whole time. At home, most of us still load our plates with the mindset of when we were younger and more active. This is one of the most difficult adjustments for a lot of people. You absolutely cannot eat the amount of food you would like, sorry. Seconds? Doubtful.
- If certain foods haunt you and you cannot eat them sensibly, consider giving them up. For me, this is fried food. I made a choice years ago to eat no more fried food. Yeah, it happens four to six times a year, but that isn't much. I have known very few people that can eat their downfall food in a controlled manner on a regular basis. It may be easier to make a clean break and bid it farewell.
- Eat s l o w l y. This will give your body the opportunity to sense the food coming in and register fullness. When you are full, bad foods lose much of their appeal.
- Dessert is a habit, not a physiological need for survival. Habits can be broken. Just get out of the habit.
- Just because you feel the desire to eat does not mean you are in need of food. It is important that we understand the difference between hunger and appetite. Hunger is the true physiological need for nutrition. Appetite is a desire to eat and has nothing to do with need. Most people consume food based upon appetite - environmental and learned eating behaviors. Heard this one before? After eating a large meal, you utter the words, "I need something sweet." This is a conditioned response, possibly going back to the days of clean your plate, and you can have dessert. Listen, I just saw what you ate. You don't need anything.
- Do not buy junk food. If it is there, it is too easy to eat it. (Refer back to the second bullet point above.) Also, if you have a craving for junk and it is not there, then no harm done. Just sit back down and finish watching TV.
- If you must order pizza, get thin crust (no cheese in the middle or other stuff like that), ask for “easy on the cheese,” steer clear of the pepperoni and sausage (try chicken, Canadian bacon or ham), but feel free to pile on the veggies. And by the way, no you do not need the cheesy bread for $1.49.
- Instead of ordering pizza, make one using the pre-made crusts available at stores. Use the thin crust, low fat or non fat cheeses, low fat ham or turkey pepperoni and your other favorite toppings.
- When eating pizza, don't eat the whole thing!
- Know when you are going to eat. If you know that you will be eating every four hours, stick to that plan. Do not eat before or after, even if someone is trying to get you to or if food is available.
- Sweets, cookies, cakes, pies, doughnuts and ice cream are foolish food choices, and there is really no justification for eating them on a regular basis. The previous items in low fat or no fat versions are still foolish food choices, and now you are kidding yourself and trying to justify eating poorly.
- Yes, you can eat fast food. Repeat after me:”Grilled chicken sandwich.” If you get cheese, no mayo. You want mayo? No cheese. Fries? No.
This is by no means an all inclusive list, but I think you get the point. There is no secret to weight loss and control. In today’s society, it takes diligence and restraint. High calorie, palatable food is everywhere. The big problem is that few people move much during the day. This lowers the caloric requirements for maintenance. If fat loss is the goal, then calories must be below maintenance. This leaves little room for error or extravagance. Ultimately, it comes down to the dreaded “L” word: Lifestyle. If you want to eat whatever you want, then you have two choices:
- Move a lot.
- Gain weight and stop complaining and looking for places to lay the blame.
It is that simple.