Well ladies, it's the New Year and we all know what that means--time to stop eating and start exercising. How many years have you made that commitment just to return to the same bad habits within a matter of days? You know the old Wednesday afternoon discussion about how good you were on Monday and Tuesday so it's time for a "treat" (the edible kind, of course.) What is with us anyway? We are able to make compromises in every other part of our lives. We understand that it isn't likely that we can have a warm, loving relationship with our partner and "date" on the side. We know that we can't afford every pair of marvelous shoes we would like, and parenting brings lots of sacrifices for its rewards. Yet, we seem to think that we should be able to eat everything we want when we want it and still be trim and healthy. Go figure!
So why does the thought of a big piece of Death-by-Chocolate cake or a sizzling platter of cheese covered nachos turn us into three-year olds who want what we want right now with no understanding of consequences? The reasons are two many for this article, but let me give you just a few: brain chemistry that we now know responds to high fat, sugar and flour foods the same way it responds to drugs ("give me more, I like it!"), an economy driven largely by our desire to eat, a society that makes food the answer for everything--need I continue? Bottom line--healthy eating is just plain hard. We haven't even talked about exercise yet!. So how are you going to make those changes this year and stick with them for more than two days at a time?
Let's start by answering one basic question: why do you want to do this? Chances are you want to lose some weight and keep it off. Maybe you or a family member has been diagnosed with a life-style related disease that has scared you into the reality of what you have been doing to your body. It could be that you recently went on a trip and found that you couldn't keep up with your friends, or even worse, your kids. Whatever the reason, you must focus on the benefits of the changes you are about to make. Terms like losing weight, getting fit, being healthy are just too nebulous to motivate. Instead, you must stay focused on what these changes are going to mean to you--"I am going to be able to wear cute clothes again. I can take that hiking trip next fall and keep up with the group. I won't end up on diabetes medication like my mother. I will live long enough to enjoy my grandchildren." Whatever is important to you must stay front and center of your daily thoughts regarding the positive changes you are making. And that brings us to the key to success--your thoughts.
Ladies, if you take nothing away from this article, please let it be this--the way you think about food will determine your success. Confused yet? You thought you were going to get lots of tips and tricks to implement your New Year's resolution didn't you? I may throw a few in at the end, but if you don't change how you think no helpful hints or how-too guides will help you. The most common question I have been asked over the years is, "I know everything I am supposed to do,so why can't I make myself do it?" Answer, because you haven't done the basic work of changing your "food talk." Yes we all have it--food talk. Things we say to ourselves before we eat those calorie-packed, health-destroying, make us hate how we look and feel foods. Let's review a few of those common phrases: "That smells sooo good. I deserve to have a treat. I hate to waste food, (and the really big one) I'll just have a little." Until you get these old patterns of thought out of your head, you will never be able to make the permanent changes you want.
So what are you supposed to think? Think thin--think healthy--think about why you are going to make the better food choice. When you catch yourself having those old food thoughts, replace them with new ones like: "That food doesn't smell good, it smells like fat! I don't deserve some silly food that will make me happy for five minutes, I deserve to be trim and fit and healthy." Do you see where I'm going with this? Every time you have a choice to make, it is going to be like those cartoons with the devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other fighting it out in your thoughts."Eat it. It's just a little. You can start the healthy stuff tomorrow." No! That's how I got to this point in the first place. No more tomorrow. I don't need to eat that. I know what it tastes like, and I would rather know what it's like to feel good about my body again." Make a long list of the things you have heard yourself say when rationalizing or justifying bad food decisions, and replace them with positive thoughts that keep you focused on the new you. If you can walk away from those Stuart Weitzman boots, you can walk away from that cherry cheesecake.
And now for my final bit of advice. Beware the deprivation mindset. It hits us all in many situations, but when it comes to food, it is guaranteed to be your downfall. You know what I'm talking about. You've put some positive changes in place. Maybe you have eliminated sugar loaded soft drinks. Maybe you have stopped having that dish of ice cream at night. Whatever it is, that devil on your shoulder will quickly let you know that this new behavior is no fun at all. You begin feeling like a victim. "This isn't fair! I'm tired of not being able to have the foods I want. I'm sick of thinking about everything I eat. I deserve to have fun food in my life." Recognize that three-year-old we were talking about? This is the deprivation mindset. Feeling deprived. Well, ladies, get over it. No one is depriving you of anything. You are choosing to make wise choices in order to have the body and healthy life that you want. You are in control. Life if filled with compromises. We know that everything has a price and so does eating what you want when you want it. When you decide that the price--being overweight, feeling bad about yourself, damaging your health--is too high, you will decide to make the better food choice--one choice at a time, hour to hour, day to day. Before you know it, you will have made healthier eating part of your life and those arguments between your shoulder pals will be less frequent.
Now that you know how to make yourself do what you need to do, just what is it again that you need to do? It really is simple. For all the fancy books and gimmicky diets, it is all about calories in and calories out. Bummer! Where's that magic wand when you need it? Here are a few important facts to help you focus. To lose a pound of fat you must use 3500 calories more than you consume. When you exercise, you burn roughly 8 to 10 calories a minute. When you consider that a breath mint has 20 calories, you can see why you cannot exercise your way to weight loss. You must control the calories-in side of the equation. Don't misunderstand, exercise is hugely important for more reasons than I can go into here (that's another article.) Trust me, you must make exercise part of your life. How many calories should you be eating? Sit down and I'll tell you. A general rule of thumb is 10 calories for every pound of body weight so if you want to weigh 140 pounds, you should be consuming no more than 1400 calories per day. There are lots of variables--age. percentage of your weight that is muscle and amount of activity (here is where exercise is sooo important.) But this will give you a reference point. I'll leave you to play with these numbers to see just what you need to do to reach your goals,but to get you started do just three simple things.
First, keep a record of what, when, why and how much you normally eat. I know this won't be pretty, but you have to know what you are doing now to identify the changes you need to make.Pay special attention to your food talk. Do this for a week. Then look up the calorie amounts of what you are eating. Ouch! It is like reviewing your credit card statement (speaking of painful.) How do you know what expenses to cut if you don't know what you are spending? Secondly, begin to make those better food choices by learning the calorie content and nutritional composition of the foods you eat. There are lots of reference books on the shelves and data bases on the web. Measure in order to control that portion size and select lower calorie options. While eating for weight management and eating for health are not always the same, they do tend to be related in that many lower calorie foods like fresh fruits and vegetables are also very nutritious. Whole grain products are healthy and they will satisfy you longer, but watch out because they are energy packed and you must keep portions small. And make sure that you have balance in your meals and snacks with protein and healthy carbs making up most of your calories with the right kinds of fats in the smallest amounts. Keep that journal faithfully and keep the emotion out of your eating. This is not about being "good" or "bad". It is about calories in and calories out. Every food, like every great pair of shoes or to-die-for piece of jewelry has a price. Spend your calories thoughtfully.
The third thing is get moving! That's right, exercise. You will be amazed at how little you have to do to make a difference. If you are really out of shape start by walking. On a scale of 1 to 10 where one is "I might as well be window shopping" and 10 is "I see a bright light and I'm heading for it" work at a 4-5 range for 10 to 15 minutes four or five days a week. Add 5 minutes each week and then increase your work level by one number each week until you can work out at about an 8 for 30 or more minutes. It is much easier than you think. What's really great to know is that you can get the benefits of exercise--calorie burn and improved health--even if you divide the sessions. So lack of time is no excuse,. If you can't squeeze out 30 minutes, do 10 minutes two or three times a day. Do whatever you can do, just do it. Then, find a personal trainer. I know, when you're a hammer everything looks like a nail and I am a personal trainer. That said, women simply must do resistance training to keep that muscle mass for lots of reasons. To do that safely and effectively you need to have expert help to get you started.
There it is. Everything you need to know to start you on the path to a healthier, more gorgeous you. You are worth it. You deserve it. You can do it!
This time -- I really mean it. Now put down this newspaper and go for a walk.