Losing weight is one of those goals some people carry throughout their adult lives, without ever quite achieving it, or finding that they fluctuate year-on-year between the latest fad diets and trends.
The crazy thing is, weight loss actually isn’t rocket science, and is far easier than you probably think. It’s about making a choice to have an overall healthy lifestyle and changing the way you think about food and your health. And that actually involves far less willpower and change than you probably imagine. On top of that, you don’t even have to give up chocolate or physically exhaust yourself every day!
What Not To Do
Making a lifestyle change is a lot easier than most people think, but, of course, there are teething problems and the hardest part to get through is the first few weeks, but once you’ve made the change, it will be so easy, you’ll wonder why common sense didn’t kick in earlier! Start by ruling out some unhelpful trends and myths about weight loss…
If any of the vast array of ‘easy’ fad diets had ever worked, then people wouldn’t still be struggling with their weight. The problem is, they can ‘work’ in the short-term and so people get sucked in, but drinking nothing but juice or protein shakes for the rest of your life isn’t sustainable. These ‘two-week diets’ where three shakes replace three meals each day might make you shed a significant amount in a short period of time, but it will set you up for all kinds of problems in the future.
The first problem is you’ll most likely obsess over food and think about all the things you are going to treat yourself to once you’ve reached a certain goal. That can turn into an unhealthy relationship with food. Not only that, but you’ll be missing out on important nutrients, which can lead to fatigue and mood swings. And, of course, you might then find after you finish your diet of a week or two that you start putting more weight back on by going back to normal food, because your body was used to being starved and your metabolism would therefore have slowed down. That can lead to weight fluctuation for the rest of your life if every couple of years you jump on the next ‘fad diet’ plan.
Before we impose a blanket ban on calorie counting, there are some benefits to it if you are doing it right. The problem, however, is that most people don’t get it right. It is extremely difficult to understand how many calories and what sorts of calories you are consuming, and if you are doing it wrong, it can be detrimental to your weight loss regime.
A medical study of obese people on a ‘low calorie diet’ in the US found that participants did not lose weight because they under-reported their energy intake and overestimated their physical activity. Like fad dieting, calorie counting can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food or a food obsession. And, if people are looking only at the calories they are consuming, instead of choosing food for its nutritional value, it often results in an unhealthy, unbalanced diet.
This is yet another case like calorie counting and fad dieting. If you restrict certain foods, especially ones you love, it can lead to an unhealthy obsession, and in some cases, binge eating. If, on the other hand, you tell yourself you can eat what you want, then it is more likely that you will start to decide that what you want is healthy, nourishing food that makes you feel good, and the unhealthy things you might have wanted to restrict before won’t seem so tempting. And, even if you do still want them, you can empower yourself to be in control, eating them occasionally, and in moderation – making them a treat instead of a guilty addiction.
This 1990s trend of buying a fridge full of ‘low-fat’ or ‘fat-free’ everything, from cheese, butter and milk to candy, sauces and shop-bought cakes, was a big mistake. The first thing you need to be aware of is that fat is good. It is a vital part of any healthy diet and can actually aid weight loss. Removing fat from food can lead to cravings later in the day, and removing them from foods like dairy can prevent the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and calcium. Even more alarmingly, removing fat from a product usually means adding sugar and thickening agents, and that is the worst thing that can be done!
Don’t rely on an exhausting exercise regime that is unsustainable. If you’re looking at adding three hours of intense fitness training into your day to lose weight, ask yourself if you will still be doing it in a couple of weeks, let alone one or two years. It’s a lot of time to commit to something, especially if you find it painful and have to force yourself to do it. Eventually, you will start to slack off and you might find that you’ve started eating more because of the intensity of your fitness training. It is also important to note that exercise is only considered to be 20% of your overall health, whereas food consumption is 80%, so relying on exercise for weight loss is not a good idea on its own.
What To Do
Now that you know you don’t need to go to extremes with crazy diets and unsustainable exercise regimes to lose weight, it’s time to figure out what you should do to achieve an ideal weight and maintain it…
Change Your Lifestyle
We’ve already touched on this by warning against fad diets, calorie counting and food restriction. Permanent weight loss and sustainable health needs to come from a lifestyle change that you can stick to. It shouldn’t be particularly difficult and it shouldn’t involve obsessions or unhealthy relationships with food or exercise. That said, a lifestyle change won’t happen overnight. It needs to be built over time and should be a positive experience. This can be achieved by introducing routines, hobbies and habits into your daily life. For example, there are some little changes you can make to certain routines that will make them healthier without having to give them up, like drinking black coffee instead of choosing something like a cappuccino, or taking cream in it. Not only will that reduce the amount of extra fat and sugar you are consuming within a day, but you will also reap the rewards of coffee’s health benefits. Caffeine in coffee can boost metabolism by up to 11%, and increase fat burning by up to 29%.
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