I'm not a doctor nor am I an expert on weight loss, by any means. However, I do know what it is to be skinny and I do know what it is to be overweight. I definitely prefer the former to the latter.
I'll never forget one day when I was carrying in a bag of oranges from the car after a grocery shop with my wife, Nicole. She noted that that one bag of oranges weighed 3 kilograms. Being overweight just 3 kgs is like carrying that bag of oranges around … all the time. It saps your energy and makes you feel more tired. Of course, if you are overweight by 6 kgs or 9 kgs, well that's just a lot more oranges you're taking for a ride … everywhere you go.
I know the challenges of trying to lose weight. Sometimes I feel like I almost need to starve myself in order to lose weight and even when I do, one bad day puts me right back to where I was again. It can be so frustrating and so discouraging. I feel terrible being overweight and I don't like the flab around my stomach, which looks bad and is a health hazard for me. I really want to change but I often struggle to find the discipline to do so.
Losing weight takes much more than jumping into some new fad diet. After all, diets only work while you are on the actual diet. We need more holistic lifestyle changes. Shedding those extra kilos takes more than regularly repeating a few motivational mantras such as, "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels!". It also takes a lot more than mere willpower, something we all have in limited supply. That's why our discipline often slackens by day's end due to something called 'self-control depletion' (our use of will power to resist temptation).
For me, it is all about habits – developing small healthy habits every day. This creates progress over time and assists me in reducing my weight level and then keeping it off. Some form of structure or a set of daily routines helps to eliminate the need for recurring decisions.
Here are my TOP 10 habits of behavior and/or thinking for successful weight loss:
- Think ahead about your meals for any given day. Where are you eating and with who and what? As you get older you don't need as much food. So plan your meals and food quantities ahead of time. Three bigs meals a day aren't going to help you lose weight. Choose to eat smaller portions of food. Select an appetizer or entree rather than a main. Yes, smaller plates do help you to eat less food.
- Eat more slowly. Be the last person to start eating and the last to finish. That way your body gets a chance to know it's full. You probably won't go back for seconds! Eat only until you are 80% full. This slows down the body's metabolism.
- Have more home-cooked meals from fresh ingredients. Re-discover the joy of cooking. Learn to eat different types of food too. Prepare big batches and freeze the leftovers.
- Eat as much natural food as possible - fruit and vegetables (prevents over-eating), seeds and nuts, beans and legumes, etc. It's the easiest way to lose weight. It is often neither laziness nor over-eating that makes us fat: it is what we eat. That's why exercising more and eating less will not necessarily prevent us from being overweight.
- Avoid processed foods as much as possible (which are full of sugar, salt, and fat). The fast-food industry has a dark side. Learn to not trust your taste buds. Beware of artificial flavoring.
- Reduce your intake of carbohydrates. This includes pasta, potatoes, noodles, rice, bread, desserts, and sweets or chocolates. Too many carbs make us fat … and sick.
- Beware of sugar, which is a real killer, working like a drug that leads to addiction.
- Drink lots of water – at least 4 glasses a day.
- Be physically active - walk, swim, hike. Get plenty of fresh air and sunshine.
- Fast occasionally. It's good for your metabolism. See this excellent article on the benefits of intermittent fasting.
Make modest, incremental changes rather than big, sweeping ones. Make tradeoffs. Remember, the tortoise and the hare. Slow and steady always wins the race. The heavier you are, the more difficult it is to lose weight because you always feel much hungrier. Become aware of the triggers that influence your behavioral goals. Consider the people and situations that influence whether you achieve your goals or not. Feedback teaches us to see our environment as a triggering mechanism. Review every day and implement your learnings the following day. When you drift, simply get back on track. Get some help if you need too. See a doctor, join a gym or find a coach. Accountability and support from others are extremely helpful.
If you are keen to do a little extra homework, I have also found these resources very helpful:
- Read Eat, Move, Sleep: How Small Choices Lead to Big Changes.
- Watch That Sugar Film and discuss it with your family and friends (see the Sugar Film website too).
Here's to long life and a healthier you!
P.S. See also yesterday's BLOG post Weight Loss Musings.