It’s that time again. The stores are already lined with diet fads, Special K products, and exercise gimmicks, and TV commercials for gym memberships and diet programs run on repeat as people enter the new year with resolutions for a better, healthier lifestyle. Guilt from holiday overindulgence spells days of drastic detox measures from sudden conversion to vegetarianism to complete fasting on lemon water and tomato juice. Ick.
I’m not a registered dietician, but from what I’ve learned in my three decades of experience on Earth, I think many people taking these approaches are steered seriously wrong. By well-meaning friends and family, the media that boasts shows like The Biggest Loser and Extreme Weight Loss, magazine covers sporting sculpted supermodels/bodybuilders, and finally, the endless supply of weight loss information on the Internet.
I am by no means bashing any of this, and I applaud anyone who has worked hard and achieved results from any of the aforementioned tactics. Kudos to you all! But for a large portion of the population, these strategies aren’t reality. The truth is, it’s not only overwhelming to make a lot of changes (big or small) all at once, but it’s not always realistic. At least, for most people, and definitely not for long periods of times. This explains why, come February/March, those resolutions disappear as quickly as Snoop can sing “drop it like it’s hot.” And so begins the
“beat oneself up because we couldn’t stick with it.” Then, before we know it, yet another new year rolls around and we are back to our resolutions that “this time will be different.”
Let’s think this through for a moment. When we work out, our body’s metabolism speeds up, burning off calories more rapidly than if we were inactive. This causes more hunger pangs, which in turn, makes you want to eat more to compensate. If you are seriously disciplined, you fight that urge and restrict your calories despite your body screaming at you “FEED ME!” The result is more weight lost because you are burning off more than you consume. Caution: this may lead to thoughts likeor more than likely moments like these.
The problem is, if you are working out more and eating less, you have the constant feeling of starving. Then, if you give in to your hunger and eat more, you are, at a minimum, maintaining your weight and won’t see the same results. And everyone wants to see results. Immediate results. Like yesterday. Here’s the thing.
As harsh as that may sound, it’s 100% true. If you continue to do the same things and expect different results, then you are headed for a world of disappointment.
A healthy lifestyle should be just that. A lifestyle: a way of living. No end in sight, but a change you make in your daily life. Change that you must stick with every day for the rest of your life. Bottom line: there are no shortcuts. No secrets. It’s a fact that quick, drastic weight loss is less likely to be kept off than weight loss that is gradual and resulting from healthy changes in your lifestyle. In a world where convenience and quick results are in high demand, that isn’t what people want to hear. But it’s reality.
I’ve found the best way to stick to a new lifestyle is to introduce it gradually, making small, less drastic changes. Gradual changes over time will get you more results than a quick fix that won’t last.
Start in the kitchen, using a common sense approach to eating. Anything that is processed and has a long shelf life is probably not the best choice. A good rule of thumb is, if your food can go bad, it’s probably good for you. Think fruits, vegetables, dairy products, lean meats. I recently crossed over into cleaner eating, and I can honestly say, I’ve never felt better. More on that here.
Not all “diet” programs are bad, but not all are good either. Anything that has an end point is typically not going to give you lasting results. Remember: lifestyle changes.
After you’ve had a few weeks to adjust to new eating habits, throw in some light to moderate exercise. Don’t go all crazy and jump right into something as extreme as Insanity or Crossfit; instead, try something that you may actually have fun doing, like Zumba or a Hip Hop Dance class. Check Facebook for local specials: I’ve seen many that are cheap or even free when you join a group. If you’re not into public performances, there are countless free TV programs and super cheap DVDs out there. If you’re like me and don’t care to go along with a choreographed segment, turn on your own music and go freestyling, making up your own moves.
Mix it up so you don’t become bored. Don’t fall into the trap of doing the same workout on repeat, as this will get old fast. Unless it’s running…running NEVER gets old. Note: I may be a little biased. 😉
The key to sticking with a workout is to find something you enjoy and will want to come back to. Sure there are those really good workouts that you love to hate, but come on. That only gets most of us so far before we bail out. At least if you are doing something active and fun, you won’t mind as much that you are sweating and panting. In fact, you may just crave or even fall in love with the feeling. Trust me…I’m a running addict with no interest in recovery.
Grab a friend. It’s proven that when you buddy up with someone(s), you and they reap the benefits of positive peer pressure.
A healthy lifestyle is something within everyone’s reach. It won’t be easy, and sometimes it will hurt and downright suck, but if you stick with it, you may just find yourself loving it.
Hopefully this post helps you to put your health goals into more of a realistic perspective. Nothing worth it is ever easy, but what could be a better investment than in yourself? I wish you the best as you embark on your journey towards a healthier you!