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Losing Weight? Don’t Go to Extremes!

January 11th, 2009 · 3 Comments

Extreme weight loss is the fad on TV right now – but those “Biggest Losers” have a score of doctors and experts watching their every move and checking on them constantly. It makes for on-camera drama, but the hours and days that are edited out, and those not filmed at all tell of the real work and drama behind these extreme struggles.

BASIC FACT: You didn’t gain all your weight in six weeks.

Not just big hair!

You may have put on pounds during the holidays. But if you’re the typical American, you’ve been gaining for years. Nor did you put it on by gorging and feasting at every meal. Some days, you feasted, others, maybe you fasted.

So plan to take it off the same way — over time, and in small bites. And right now, vow to make whole-life changes – not ones you stick to for only for four months or six months, or some fantasy time-limit.

ANOTHER FACT: Reality weight-loss can be boring.

Losing only two pounds a week isn’t drama. But it is sane and smart and at this rate, the weight is most likely going to stay off. The path to success is slow and constant. The odds weigh heavily against those big “losers” — extreme, rapid losses usually lead to rapid gains once the gains start again – and they will; it’s a fact of life. Reams of studies from clinics back this up. Take it off slowly and change your habits along the way.

Reality-based tips.

You’ve probably heard these in some form over and over — but one day when you’re ready, they’ll click and sink in, and they will work for you. You can achieve your goal. Chip away at the negative thoughts and failures that went before — this, too, will take time — and replace them with positive affirmations. The phrase, “Yes, I can!” changed American history – it can certainly change your weight-loss outlook once you start believing in it.

  • Be realistic — and try not to set a final time goal. Saying you’re going to lose 70 pounds is enough. You don’t have to say you’ll do it by “June-whatever date.” That’s too much pressure for most people – and you must make room for setbacks. A goal of 8 pounds a month is attainable for most. (But see a doctor before you begin any diet, or exercise program.) Little successes build to bigger ones; as you progress and gain energy and a new attitude, you can set bigger goals.
  • Set physical activity goals, too: Weight loss is a series of efforts — food plans, physical activity and mental exercises. Make goals for each of them — not just weight. “I’m going to walk 3 miles everyday for a month.” (Then add it up: You’ve walked 90 miles!)
  • Avoid weight-loss gimmicks and stupid diets. You’ve tried them before and they don’t work. A miracle diet? No such thing. The miracle is the lifestyle change you make that lasts forever. Quit stalling, wasting your money, grabbing for a quick fix that will lead to failure, and stop whining that “I can’t.” Get your head ready to work. It is work. Discipline and dedication to your goals make weight loss a reality. Period.
  • Plan your meals – and use a sane meal plan: The American Diabetes Association’s meal plan is the one I’d recommend for anyone. It’s beautifully balanced and simply the closest to a one-size-fits-all. They offer great recipes on their web site, too. So does the American Dietetic Association’s site.
  • Work the inside and out of your body. That means change your mindset as well as your physical activity and food intake. Everybody plays mental games – especially those trying to stop a lifelong habit. Whether it’s denying a problem exists, or procrastinating and making excuses for not exercising or pretending you’re not purging or binge-eating — dieters play all sorts of mind games with themselves, and often, with those around them. Learn what makes you fall into these mind traps. You’re guilty. You’re lazy. You’re bored. You’re ….. (fill in the blank). Now, change it.  See a professional and start talking with someone who can help you change your attitude and self-esteem and get you motivated.
  • Pay attention to what you’re eating. So much of what and how we eat is mindless. Do a few things to focus on what you eat, how much, and when:

a) Keep a food diary. This is the No. 1 method used at top weight-loss clinics. Write down every single bite AND sip of food you take in every day for a week. Put the time of day next to it, and what’s going on around you while you ate or drank (watched the news; met friend for lunch, needed break from computer; drank coffee while driving to work; nibbled a chocolate while talking with mom on the phone; had a spoonful of cereal while feeding the baby, etc.). Write down your mood: Anxious? Sad? Bored? Patterns will emerge and you’ll see the problems that you were using food to solve or to make you feel better.

B) Measure your food. All of it. Learn what you personally need in calories. Get a food scale. Weigh the fast-food burger on it. Pour your drink into a measuring glass. Measure out the cereal you pour into a bowl and the milk you put on it. Measure the honey in your tea, the steak, the baked potato, the “pat” of butter. Find out exactly how many ounces — or pounds — of food you’re consuming every day.

C) Don’t forget about take-out and eat-on-the-spot foods.

  • Don’t eat unless you’re sitting down, and your have a proper place to do it. Never eat in your car, in front of the TV, at the computer, in bed, over the sink or standing in front of the fridge. Respect the food – it’s expensive and can cost you your health – it’s fueling your body. Eat at a table on a real plate — not a paper one. Turn off the TV and put on music instead. You will eat less this way.
  • Eat six small meals a day and make breakfast your biggest one. Fuel your body like it’s in a 16-hour race. Eat great at breakfast and start tapering off amounts after that. Eat a mid-morning small snack. Eat lunch. Eat a mid-afternoon snack — 1/2 a piece of fruit or vegetable. Eat dinner – a balanced meal with small (think child-size) portions. Have a last snack 2 hours before bed. Three spoonfuls of your favorite ice milk. Half a piece of fruit. A fistful of dry cereal. The goal is to put something new in your stomach every three hours that you’re awake, so you never give your stomach a chance to think it’s starved. This keeps your blood sugar on an even plateau; when it spikes or drops, hunger and craving start working on you.
  • Eat as much whole food as possible, simply prepared. Avoid packaged convenience food. Take oatmeal — a good-for-you food. Eat a bowl of steel-cut oats, not a power bar that has little whole oats – and not instant oats stripped of their nutrition. Eat brown rice with its bran — skip the white. (At my Publix GreenWise store, they make sushi with brown rice.) Eat a handful of trail mix that has dried fruit – not M&M’s — in it. Buy plain good yogurt and stir in your own whole blueberries or chunks of melon or kiwi berries. Eat three pieces of whole fruit a day, and make vegetables the biggest portion of foods at all your meals.
  • Learn what a portion really is. That’s where measuring cups and even rulers come into play. A 4-ounce portion of meat looks like a deck of cards. Buy a cheap set of measuring cups and glue magnets onto the backs of them and mount them on the fridge. You can see what 1/2 cup looks like every time you’re at the fridge. Use a measuring cup to pour out cereal. Count the crackers in a portion and don’t eat more than that.
  • Portion foods out of the packages. No need to spend extra money on bags of snacks that are portioned out in 100-calorie packs. Do your own downsizing — of your own foods. Make up five bags of carrots and celery sticks with some yogurt-herb dip to take to work. Bag up some almonds, and sunflower seeds and low-fat crackers to equal 100 calories and make enough for every day for two weeks. Portion out cookies – don’t leave the temptation of a whole box in the cupboard.  You’ll save money and control your own diet.
  • Plan for special food events. Parties happen. Eat before you go and stand on the side of the room away from the food. Choose a  napkin — not a plate — at a cocktail affair. Dinner with friends? Eat before you go and order less, enjoying the little that you do order. Can’t get out of a meal? Ask for a doggie bag and take half home, or order a kid’s portion.
  • Learn smart food tricks: Grilled, not fried or sauteed. Au jus is OK – no other sauce. Ask the server for “lighter” suggestions. Skip the bread. Lemon juice instead of salad dressing. Ask for a “starch” substitute — get another veggie, or a cup of soup. Order and eat your soup or salad before you order an entree.
  • Turn off the TV and take a walk. Numerous studies show that people who are overweight watch more TV than other groups.
  • Enlist a friend, or go online and get a diet e-penpal to help encourage you. Coaching and cheerleading one another is a supreme boost to your plan. Join an exercise group, a yoga class — anything that will get you around others with similar goals.

Answer to yourself above all

  • Slim Lisa Griffis

    Slim Lisa Griffis

    Be accountable to yourself


    . For Lisa Griffis, my friend who lost 200 pounds last year (I’m SO proud of her accomplishment), this was a huge motivator. She has a lot of advice, but first up is weighing yourself every day, writing it on a calendar, and taking body measurements every month. I’d add to that: Circle the days in bright red when you make your goal and make a big deal out it. (Go to Lisa’s web site and email her — she’ll talk straight to you about weight loss. Her story will inspire and encourage you — she’s an everyday working gal who lost the weight after 27 years of struggling– by “putting down the fork and moving my butt.”

  • Don’t beat yourself up over slip-ups. Get back on the track — then reward yourself when you hit goals. Don’t do it with food – learn to give yourself other presents that make you feel special: A new sweater, a good pair of walking shoes, a cosmetic drawer make-over, a bank account that leads to a great trip – make it worthwhile.
  • Write this on your hand, post it on the fridge, in your office cubicle and on your car visor: You are worth the work to make this happen! Working on the weight will come much easier after you get your self-esteem on straight. Until then, you’re battling twice as hard — fighting yourself and the food.
  • Save the money you spent on diet junk, or food, and buy flowers for yourself once a week. Keep them on the kitchen counter. Consider them a secret reminder — petal for petal, they let you know that your soul needs nourishment too – and that you’re worth this.

Now, stop reading and turn off the computer and go for a walk! Add a comment if you’ve got other great tips for staying on track — NO diet supplements or pills or quick-weight-loss gimicks — just real, honest advice.

Yes, you can!

Tags: Ask Jan

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Ben // Jan 13, 2009 at 11:21 pm

    Ok, I am looking for the magical cure… the diet and exercise are no fun!

    Last Monday, I was actually excited about starting my diet and getting healthy. However, by Monday evening, I was sucking down a cookies n’ cream milkshake from Chik-fil-A. Heaven help me.

  • 2 Ben // Jan 21, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    Just checking in to see if anyone posted the ‘magical cure’!

  • 3 Jordan // Mar 30, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    Investing in a good food scale can actually help save you money on your grocery bills, mainly since weighing your food portions and consumption can really help gauge how much food you to need to buy.

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