Lately, I have had so many people ask me questions about how to start and maintain a healthy lifestyle that it's almost surprising. These questions are predominantly coming from people who have struggled with being overweight for a number of years, have tried several approaches, and they're tired of the constant roller coaster they they're on. They're tired of being overweight.
Being overweight is a tiring thing in and of itself. Carrying around extra weight is not an easy thing to do. It puts extra stress on a person's heart, joints, and muscles, not to mention the mental stress of carrying around the extra baggage.
Weight gain is a vicious cycle. We overeat because we're sad/depressed/lonely/stressed out (and some people eat because they're happy), then we gain weight. The weight gain leads to sadness/depression/loneliness/stress, so we eat more, then we gain more weight and repeat the cycle again.
When I was suffering with this cycle, I felt like I was on a boat in the middle of the ocean. Constantly rocking on the waves, holding on for dear life. People don't really know where to turn, so they jump on board with the quickest fix they can find. Crash diets, pills (both over-the-counter and prescription), fasts, "detoxes", "cleanses".
If these things worked, they would not exist anymore. People would try them once, get "thin", then never have to worry about their weight again! Wouldn't that be fabulous?
The truth is, none of these quick fixes work.
The only way to lose weight, keep it off, and lead a healthy life for the rest of your life is through good old fashioned hard work. Everyone knows that there are two key components to the healthy lifestyle equation: eat well, and move!
I am not a professional, but I can tell you what has worked for me.
And, because I'm an accountant and I like numbered lists...I bring you...
The numbered list!
- Make a commitment to yourself. Commit to love yourself enough to eat only the best food that is available to you, and to reward your body with physical activity. Our bodies need to move, or they get rusty!
- Get a thorough checkup from your doctor. Not only to ensure that you are fit for movement, but because many of us tend to ignore our basic needs, which includes going to the doctor. At the rockiest point in my unhealthy lifestyle, I had gone 5 YEARS without seeing a doctor at all, and that is scary.
- Find a role model. I'm not talking about movie stars here. Find someone at your gym, in your neighborhood, or one of your friends who you admire from a healthy-living standpoint. Learn as much as you can from that person. Don't try to BE that person; just be yourself, while using some of the knowledge and determination that they have infused into you!
- Find a support system. Families are generally the biggest support that one can ever have, but let's be honest. Sometimes, our family can also be the biggest source of sabotage in seeking out a healthier lifestyle. Of course we love them, but they have usually helped us get to these unhealthy places. If you need to step outside of your family to find support, don't be afraid! Look for a walking or running group in your area, or even check with local gyms to see if they organize free group events. You'll meet some great people while you're building a support system along the way. If your family is on board, even better!
- Throw away your blasted scale! Your health and happiness are not dependent upon the number on that scale. You don't need it, I promise.
- Set a goal. Not a WEIGHT LOSS goal. They just don't work (and you can't weigh yourself anyway because you just threw away your stupid scale). Set a FITNESS goal: "I'll run my first 5K on October 10, 2009!", "I'll do 25 push ups in a row by September 5, 2009!", or "I'll run for 5 minutes without stopping by December 12, 2009!" Be realistic, but don't be a wussy.
- Learn to shift your focus from seeing exercise as a punishment. Exercise is a reward for your body after all that it has done for you!
- Don't beat yourself up if you have a bad day. We need the bad days to remind us to appreciate the great ones.
- If you feel that a psychotherapist specializing in eating disorders can help you, please don't be afraid to reach out to one. Many insurances cover the cost of this type of therapy. My eating issues required a healthy dose of professional help. For me personally, this was the best decision. I was able to de-program my mind from an unhealthy "diet" mentality through cognitive behavioral therapy. I learned to love myself, respect my body, and start LIVING!
- Many small changes = one big change! Start by changing one small thing at a time: swap out your processed grains (white rice, white bread, etc.) for the whole grain versions (brown rice, whole grain bread,etc.), park your car as far away from the store as possible, or swap out the sugar-y juice in your fridge for whole fruit.
- Start reading labels! If you can't pronounce it, do you really want to eat it?
- Read more labels! Find out what the true portion sizes are on your favorite foods, and try eating just one serving at a time.
- Use proper tools every single time you eat! Eating a Snickers bar? That's ok, but please do sit down at the table with a plate and eat it! This will give you ample time and space to fully enjoy what you're eating.
- There is no "right" and "wrong" way to eat. Eating right is all about balance.
- Be kind to yourself.
I encourage anyone who is struggling with their weight or trying to find a path to healthy living to please reach out to others. That "skinny" chick at the gym might have just lost 150 pounds and need a friend too!
There is also no shame in seeking out professional help. As mentioned above, this was the best decision that I have ever made, and it changed my life for the better. Alternatively, you can also search for books on cognitive behavioral therapy related to eating disorders.
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