This is the continuation in the series looking at the emotional side of the logistics of losing weight.
For some people anticipation is worse than realization. The anticipation of starting a diet might as well be like climbing Mt Everest. And in here lies the problem. First of all, don’t think of it as a diet. The word “diet” implies a beginning and an end. You’re not heading for a destination; you are on a lifelong journey. Secondly, if it feels like you are climbing a mountain, then you need to start back at the mole hills.
Get The Right Focus
Any change starts with a decision. If the change is just for a destination, like looking nice in a bathing suit or for a wedding or for a reunion, then chances are one of two things will happen. You will either not meet your goal or you will be like the 80% who regain their weight. But what if your decision is not to reach a definitive destination but rather to feel better in your clothing, have more energy throughout the day and to take of yourself. Imagine that, doing it just because you are worth it. Shifting the focus from losing weight to eating healthier changes the perspective. Making lifestyle changes to lose weight implies giving up and taking away, while eating healthier implies adding more and taking care.
Start And Stay With The Mole Hills
The second mistake that people make is taking on too much at once. In my training as a health coach the emphasis was always on making changes based on the areas where a client feels most ready and confident to begin, and to start with small, action-oriented changes. These are the mole hills that will take you down the path to taking care of yourself, while incidentally losing weight.
Examples of Mole Hills
What are some mole hills you could easily summit along your journey of taking care of yourself?
Find a buddy who will support you. Spouse, friend, daughter or son, anyone who will take the journey with you and keep you energized and focused.
Start grocery shopping with a list and don’t shop when you are hungry.
Bring color to every plate through fruits and veggies. Try to get at least 3 different colors on your plate.
Use a smaller plate, even a salad plate if you are not someone who likes fruits and veggies.
Drink at least 2 liters of non-caloric, non-diet fluids a day.
Shift to whole grain crackers, pasta, brown rice, and cereals. If that’s too much to do all at once then go half and half.
Cut back on eating out. This means being aware of how many meals you purchase over the week and reducing that number. Instead, make a date night with a fun menu at home where you can control the salt and fat.
Wear a pedometer. They do make people move more.
Keep your treats to the end of the day.
Watch TV less, read more. Choose your shows and then turn the TV off.
Reflect back at the end of the day and recall what went well with each day.
Go to bed at a set time each night and get 7-8 hours of sleep.
Any of these steps will help you to take care of yourself. You will notice a difference in how you feel. You will notice a difference in your energy level. You will gain more confidence as you realize that you are worth it and that it doesn’t have to be this huge production or insurmountable mountain. Even these changes will help boost your immune system with its daily fight against cancer cells, reduce the workload on your heart, and help your mind think more clearly, more positively. Now that’s a mindset that will take you on lifelong journey, not just a destination.
Aside from Bo Derek’s movie, Ten, with her gorgeous body running on the beach knowing how good she must feel, the number 10 is important in health coaching. The number 10 is where we want our clients to reach in terms of their energy level. When someone rates themselves a 10, they are able to accomplish more, overcome obstacles, achieve hopes, improve health, and feel life is full of possibilities. The number 10 is also important in some areas of health. When these guidelines below are achieved, any individual can feel like a Bo Derek and reach a 10 in energy level.
Fiber – Ten Grams Per Meal
You laugh, but face it, without having a daily poop our comfort is compromised and we feel bloated. The average American eats only 15 grams of fiber a day – mainly from processed foods. The U.S. government guidelines recommend 25 – 35 grams of fiber a day.
But fiber does more than just make us happy in the morning. Soluble fiber helps lower the artery clogging LDL cholesterol. Insoluble fiber feeds gut flora that helps to boost our immune system and gives bulk to our morning constitution. Fiber has been linked to body weight regulation and helps to keep people fuller longer. Aim for about ten grams a meal by eating fruits and veggies, nuts, beans and whole grain breads, cereal, and crackers. And watch out for isolated fibers like maltodextrin, inulin and polydextrose that are processed fibers and do not give the same health benefits and can cause gas and bloating.
Exercise – Ten Minutes At A Time
The American College of Cardiology looked at the association between jogging at a leisurely pace and it’s impact on mortality and presence of heart disease in over 55,000 patients between the ages of 18 and 100. They concluded that even jogging at a leisurely pace for 5-10 minutes each day was associated with a significantly reduced risk of death from all causes and heart disease. Imagine that as few as five to ten minutes will give you a healthier, extended life. If you have bad knees or joints then try an elliptical or the Arc, these are just as effective, and you can watch TV or be in your skivvies and no one will know.
Saturated Fat – Less Than Ten Percent Of Your Daily Calories
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 which are updated every 5 years, recommend no more than 10% of total daily calories come from saturated fat. For a 2000 calorie diet that would mean about 22 grams a day. For an 1800 calorie diet it tops out at 20 grams. For a 1500 calorie diet that would mean no more than 17 grams. Saturated fat comes mainly from animal fats, but also palm and coconut oils. Saturated fat is only part of the total fat on the nutritional label, but along with transfats, can lead to heart disease.
Saturated fats can add up. A Big Mac has 10 grams, a double quarter-pounder with cheese has 19 grams – adding an ounce of cheese to any sandwich will add about 6 more grams of saturated fat. A half cup of ice cream has 4 grams of heart-clogging fat. A venti Vanilla Latte from Starbucks has 4.5 grams of saturated fat. An apple crumb donut from Dunkin Donuts has 9 grams of saturated fat. You can quickly see how all these numbers add up. Awareness is empowerment so you can make an informed decision.
It’s All About Getting to Ten
Feeling like a 10 is possible. Eating using these guidelines along with getting even 5-10 minutes of moderate intensity exercise daily is going to improve your circulation, digestion, immune system and satiety. You will have more energy to do what makes you happy.
It doesn’t have to happen overnight. It starts with getting familiar with food labels and eating more fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes and nuts. Increase you activity by parking further away during errands, taking the stairs more and gradually work towards that 5-10 minutes of exercise. You don’t have to look like Bo to feel like a 10!
I was talking to a friend this week about the process of dieting or ending any self-destructive habit is really a matter of dealing with a sense of deprivation. Viewing dieting as just giving up foods that are loved and not looking at the whole process naturally makes one feel like the pumpkin has arrived for good and the glass slipper is gone forever. Viewed in this manner, it is no wonder that people hate dieting.
How Are You Framing Your Dieting?
Dieters tend to lump the act of dieting into one process and surround it with negativity. In reality, the process of losing weight should be viewed as a series of small steps that happen over time based on self-knowledge and planning. From my experience the five biggest mistakes that people make in their attempt to lose weight are: not having a clear and strong reason for losing weight, having an all or nothing mentality, not understanding what drives their unhealthy behaviors, not having a satisfying “what to do instead” plan and not defining and being aware of “the payback” for all the hard work. Without addressing these five areas it’s no wonder that most dieters feel deprived and do not have success at keeping the weight off.
Address These Five Areas First Before Dieting
1. Have a clear and strong reason for losing weight. Are you losing weight just to look good? Ask yourself why is it important for you to look good. Get to the emotion behind it. Are you tired of people making comments about your weight or food choices? Are you tired of having to squeeze into small plane or theater seats? Are you not having the passionate sex you were having before? Are you not able to twist your body into those wonderful yoga twists without the belly fat getting in the way?
Get to the meat of why changing your physical appearance is important to you, not just “to look better”. If your reasons include health, then know specifically why. Is it because your father had a heart attack in his 50’s? Is it because you’ve seen how hard it is for you mother who has diabetes to give herself insulin? Is it because you had a close family member have a stroke?
If health is an important motivator, then have your cholesterol and fasting blood sugar done before you begin and repeat them 6 months later. Perhaps track your blood pressure and know how any medications you are on work. Losing weight often means some blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, gastric reflux and even asthma medications can be reduced or stopped.
If your reason is to lose weight for your spouse or significant other, then be cautious. External motivation, especially if you are feeling pressure from your partner to lose weight, is not always a strong motivator. Making lifestyle changes for someone else can lead to resentment and the belief that success can only be determined by the other person, not yourself.
2. It’s not all or nothing. Learning to eat differently is not easy. We have to eat to live but we don’t have to live to eat. There are many ways to reduce calories while still enjoying your favorite foods. Dieting doesn’t have to mean giving up all those foods you love but it does mean planning for them and being strategic so that you get the outcome you want in the long run. There are going to be some days where your willpower will be stronger. Give yourself permission to eat more than you wanted of something or to give in to urges but look at those occasions as opportunities to learn.
So you ate a pint of ice cream. Examine why you did it. Were you bored? Did you not eat enough at dinner? Are you worried about something? Did you stay up later than usual and you were hungry? Did you not have a night snack back up plan? Did you keep a really tempting ice cream in the freezer? Could you have waited ten minutes for the craving to pass? Could you have had some hot tea or a frozen Light and Fit Yogurt container instead?
It might take a few weeks or even a month to give up the old habit of snacking on ice cream at night. It’s natural for it to feel uncomfortable and for you to waiver but begin to notice how you feel about yourself the next day when you have success at getting through an evening without ice cream. Even if you can get to the point of having a serving of ice cream, in a bowl and not out of the container twice a week on the days you plan for is a huge improvement! Life is about the journey, not the destination.
3. Understand what drives your behaviors. A client I worked with recently stated that she notices she eats binges on unhealthy foods when she is bored. She realizes that she may need support for her food addictions. This was a powerful statement that took some courage to state and wisdom to acknowledge. She has strong personal motivation to lose weight and realizes that part of her strategy to lose weight is to address the emotional side of eating and plans on joining Overeater’s Anonymous. I believe the more structure and outside support she puts into her daily routine the more success she will have.
The more you understand your patterns and triggers to your unhealthy food choices, the more success you will have with having lasting weight loss.
4. Have a “what to do instead” plan. Ok, so you have been night snacking on those crunchy, munchie, salty, crispy ,colorful chips and crackers for years. Do you really think that beginning tomorrow you are going to suddenly give them all up? Talk about all or nothing deprivation. Making these kind of changes calls for some serious thinking and planning. Can you pre-portion some snacks that are less tempting but still satisfying? Can you experiment with different healthier foods like fruit or air popped popcorn? Can you turn the TV off and make some nights a reading or game night? Can you go to bed earlier? Can you get some really nice special teas and sip on them instead? Can you suck on one lollipop? Can you eat a bigger, more satisfying dinner? Can you keep the night snacking to just Wednesday and Saturday nights? Can you get the other people in your household to get on board with you by keeping certain trigger foods out of your house? The more you plan, the more is in your hands!
5. Define and be aware of the payback. What are you going to define as success in your weight loss endeavors? Is it to not fall asleep in the afternoon? Is it to get your fasting blood sugar or LDL below 100? Is it to slip into that little black dress comfortably? Is it to participate in a road race? As you begin your weight loss journey, notice subtle shifts in food attitudes, emotions, energy level, responses from friends and family and physical changes. Be aware of the feelings of accomplishment when you successfully navigate night snacking, exercising regularly, cooking healthier meals, mastering self talk and see changes in your body. Notice your energy levels two hours after meals and the difference you feel when you eat balanced meals versus ones that are not. Become aware of how your body responds with less heartburn, less belly pain, more regular bowel movements, better breathing, better energy. Notice if you have a more positive outlook on life, you’re smiling more. Notice if you have more success in other areas of your life – like improved relationships, more daily productivity, and better sleep.
Deprivation or Desperation
If your dieting leads you to constant feelings of deprivation then no wonder it is a drag. But sometimes there needs to be a feeling of desperation to make lasting changes. Sometimes it takes a feeling that “I can’t keep going on like this because I know I deserve better.” As they say in health coaching, in order to make lasting lifestyle changes one must be sick and tired of being sick and tired. When someone gets to that point, any action is a positive action and any feelings of deprivation are way overshadowed by the payback in making gradual lifestyle changes.
Remember how awkward and uncomfortable it is getting back into a healthier diet or exercise routine? Have you asked yourself where is the payback for all the work and just quit because you couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel? It is very normal to feel that way and this is where coaching can make the difference and get you over the hurdles.
My father recently dropped considerable cash for some hearing aids. After finally deciding on a pair, getting fitted, adjusting frequencies and then disconnecting from the machine, hearing aids locked and loaded, the audiologist asked how they felt. My father paused in contemplation, and commented, “Unpleasant – I can hear my voice too much. I sound loud!”. The audiologist explained that the brain has to relearn how to hear sounds differently after getting new stimuli for the first time, but that this would improve and he would completely adjust in a couple of weeks and begin to enjoy all those sounds he had not heard for years.
This same kind of process applies to making lifestyle changes. Often times as old comfortable habits are stopped and new ones are put in place it can be awkward and unpleasant those first few days, but then there is wonderful payback as thinking patterns adjust and our body begins to notice the positive changes. Like hearing the sounds of birds chirping or being able to hear in the movie theater for the first time in many years, having energy restored, a sense of confidence and control, moving towards healthier habits does awaken other positive changes that reward all the initial unpleasantness. Become aware of the subtleties of these gifts and know that it does get easier and so much better!