January 1st is just around the corner. Each year, well-meaning people make the resolution to finally lose weight. As if by magic, wishful weight-seekers desire … nay, believe that their bad habits will be swept into the dustbin, along with those 20 pounds they desperately want to lose.
But by many accounts, by January 22, all bets are off; the “dieters” have fallen off their wagons, and they’re back to their usual eating patterns.
For some, there are genuine reasons that make it more difficult to lose weight. People who are disabled are challenged to burn calories. Some have medical conditions and or take medications that interfere with normal metabolism. But, some days (admit it) your actions belie your words. You may be a stress-eater, or you’re extremely time-challenged and fall back on fast food, or your social obligations make it that much more difficult to stay moderate.
However, there are differences between legitimate challenges, and just plain ol’ excuses. Take a look at the following and see which resonate with you. See if January 2016 will be the year to eat better, move more, and stay on track to a healthy, new you!
I’m too busy to eat right. Challenge. Although “busy” is a challenge, you may need to work harder — and smarter. My motto is, “prepare to succeed”. I like to remind my clients that most of you have had experience and success in your businesses and professional lives. When you have a project, you identify the goals and the challenges that need to be overcome to accomplish those goals. Then you identify a schedule of tasks to complete, and the resources you need to accomplish them. You don’t even begin a project until these factors are in place — and once they are, you check your progress along the way. If you’re missing your timelines, you identify why, and take steps to make corrections.
And so it is with weight loss. First identify the foods/situations where you’re challenged to eat healthfully, then identify strategies to change the status quo. If dining out is your challenge, identify meals in advance that are more healthful — avoid the restaurants that don’t accommodate your needs. Stock up on nourishing foods and easy-to-prepare recipes to make at home — and get rid of those treats and snacks that are keeping you overweight. Identify substitutes so you don’t feel deprived. Prepare meals ahead of time and double or triple the recipe to save the extra portions for another time.
I’m too busy to exercise. Excuse. Exercise doesn’t have to be formal; it’s not necessary to join gym to get a workout. But moving more is part of the plan — research shows that activity is the single most important lifestyle change that predicts permanent weight loss. Don’t be intimidated by thinking that you have to do one hour a day, right from the start. Gradually increase activity, as little as five to seven minutes a day, and try some simple and non-intimidating strength training exercises. Turn on the radio and dance around your house. Join a yoga class or work out with a friend for motivation and accountability. Cuenca is a built-in aerobic activity city — make the Escalinata or any of the number of staircases into El Centro your “stair master”. Join in the activity opportunities around Cuenca — including free aerobics classes in a number of the parques. Track your activity with a digital device, or just on the calendar — visualizing your progress is motivating. With each day, you’ll get closer to your permanent healthy weight goal.
I don’t have time to exercise in the morning. Excuse. This is a continuation of “I’m too busy to exercise”. It’s not necessary to exercise first thing in the morning…no, the best time to exercise is when you have the most energy, when you feel most comfortable. Some like to exercise first thing in the morning, so they know it’s done for the day. Some are not morning people, and find their energy kicks in after 5 PM. Research shows that whenever you do exercise, it’s beneficial. Getting at least 30-60 minutes of accumulated daily activity — even in 10-minute increments — helps you maintain your weight loss.
I’m always hungry! Challenge. This is a common complaint for people trying to lose weight. Some hunger is to be expected, for example when you wake up in the morning you’re sure to be hungry, because you fasted all night. When you’re starting on a new weight loss plan, the best strategy is to avoid being hungry. Hunger can weaken your resolve —it’s not necessary to eat less — but it is necessary to eat smart.
The smartest strategy, especially at the beginning, is to eat small meals more frequently. The best smaller meals contain some protein, healthy fat, and unrefined carbohydrate, such as a half-sandwich, a handful of nuts, or a piece of fruit with peanut butter (unsugared). Eating every couple of hours helps you maintain stable blood sugars and avoid highs and lows, which may trigger cravings. Your hunger could be because you’re increasing your exercise, so have a small snack before or soon after an extended workout, and stay hydrated with water, not sports drinks (high in sugar).
I’m just not motivated! Challenge. This complaint is a common one — but identifying your priorities can help. You may be motivated to work hard, because you want to do a good job and get promoted; you may be motivated to get good grades and graduate. Being motivated for weight loss means having to focus on your goal — lower risk for disease; more energy; look better in your clothes — and realize that it won’t happen overnight, but that it happens one day at a time. Your motivation becomes increasing internalized as you as you identify your priorities, day after day. No one can make you motivated; that comes from within. Work at it, take baby steps, and with each small success you will be motivated to continue, to your goal, and beyond.
It seems every time I lose weight, I gain it back. It’s too frustrating to start yet again. Excuse. Someone once stated, “One definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again while expecting a different outcome.” This pertains to “dieting”, when people consider “going on a diet” as a temporary change in behavior. When they “go off” their diets, it’s typical to return to the usual foods that made the “dieter” overweight to begin with — and the overweight habits too. By “dieting” you’re almost certain to regain the weight. The answer to avoiding yo-yo dieting is to commit to a lifestyle change…a lifestyle choice. Not temporarily, but permanently. Does that mean you can never eat the foods that you love again? No. It means that most of the time, you’re going to choose healthful foods, avoid junk, and you’re going to be active. Guaranteed, if you don’t return to the way you used to eat and your former inactivity, you won’t regain the weight.
How do I say NO to my friends who never serve healthy foods, or want to go to restaurants that I know make me fat? Opportunity! No doubt, living in today’s world means exposure to foods designed to make us fat. Wherever we go, we need to make healthy choices. But, you have the power to choose! If you go to a party, to work, a business meeting, a vacation, or just down the road to your neighbor’s house, you can give yourself permission to say “no”. It’s true, no one can chew it and swallow it for you; only you have that power. No one can tell you “don’t take a walk”. It’s your choice — aren’t we lucky to have this opportunity!
You can say, “Thanks for offering, but no thanks.” You don’t even need an excuse, just a “Thank you so much, but no. Maybe next time.”
After a while, with practice, it gets easier. But you need to practice, because like many, you’re not accustomed to saying “no” to food. In this case, “no” is your “yes” to a trimmer and healthier you!
All Diets Work!
In my book Making Weight Control Second Nature: Living Thin Naturally, I describe that by “going on a diet”, you are by definition eating differently than you were eating before. You’re changing from the eating pattern that made your weight such a problem to adopt someone else’s suggested eating pattern. It doesn’t matter what “diet” you go on, if you follow that “diet” you’ll lose weight. But if you return to your old pattern once you lose weight, you’ll typically return to your pre-diet weight!
So, adopt a new eating pattern that you can sustain permanently. Avoid the “obesogenic” foods that in themselves are linked to obesity, namely fast foods and processed foods laden with man-made fats, drenched in sugars, and preserved and flavored with chemicals.
Eat to Live
I like the Mediterranean-type eating plan. As outlined in MayoClinic.org, the Mediterranean diet emphasizes:
- Eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts
- Replacing butter with healthy fats, such as olive oil
- Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods
- Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month
- Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week
- Drinking red wine in moderation — always with food, and preferably with friends (optional)
This eating pattern also recognizes the importance of being physically active, and enjoying meals with family and friends. Enjoy your food, recognize your excuses, create strategies for living well, and don’t “diet”, instead, eat to live long and prosper!
Susan Burke March, MEd, RDN, LDN, CDE, a Cuenca expat, is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian, a Certified Diabetes Educator who specializes in smart solutions for weight loss and diabetes-related weight management. She is the author of Making Weight Control Second Nature: Living Thin Naturally—a fun and informative book intended to liberate serial dieters and make healthy living and weight control both possible and instinctual over the long term. Do you have a food, nutrition or health question? Write to her at SusanTheDietitian@gmail.com