Have you ever started the year making the resolution to eat healthy, do exercise and lose some extra pounds? How many times do we buy weight loss products, books, supplements, pills, herbs, meal plans or anything that promises the results we want, but by the second week we are discouraged because we don’t see the results we were expecting. All of this leaves us more frustrated than before.
Isn’t it interesting how each year there seems to be a new miracle food, the latest diet book or a panel of experts giving us a long list of foods that we should be eating to gain energy, have radiant skin and have the fit figure that most people want. Americans alone spend billions a year on weight-loss programs and products. We see the ads with the appealing before and after photos and we let others decide what we should be eating, doing or buying.
It seems that everyone wants to tell us what to do, when to eat and what to eat; all for a price of course and we want what they sell, easy solutions and results that seem too good to be true. But most of the time that is the case; the results are too good so they are not true. Usually if we take in more calories than we burn, they will be stored in our body. We tend to eat what we shouldn’t because it tastes so good; we take things to extremes to the point that we change our body’s metabolism. Then we feel guilty and start looking for a fast solution. In the end, the advice and products full of so many promises offer no long-term solution. According to a 2006 study reported in The New England Journal of Medicine, most people who participate in weight-loss programs regain about one-third of the weight during the next year and are typically back to baseline in three to five years.
Wanting to be “skinny” can be a goal, but living a healthy lifestyle and achieving our right weight is a more complete option. The issue is not about size, it is about health. So, instead of believing blindly everything everyone is saying, let’s use the resources we have and inform ourselves and learn about the foods we should be eating. Let’s listen to our bodies, make decisions and follow them through.
I can’t tell you what to do to eat healthy or lose weight. I don’t have the magic words that will make you reach the weight you want, but I can motivate you to find your own path, the one that works for you. I can tell you that you can do it. It won’t be easy, but if you persist in your goal, if you listen to your body and make wise choices you will achieve a healthier lifestyle. Here are some tips to get started:
- Be informed: Read labels; know your food. Read about the benefits of certain fruits and vegetables so you know what you should be eating or avoiding. If the problem is that you eat a salad and then you are hungry for the next four hours, find what could fill you up, such as starchy foods, pasta, grains, and potatoes; if you choose the unrefined version it is a healthier option. But don’t take my word for it… read, learn, investigate.
- The truth and nothing but the truth: Tell yourself the truth. You know how often you eat out, or how many cookies you ate, or when was the last time you exercised. Don’t make excuses, this is for you, so who are you lying to? Once you make the decision to hold yourself accountable, that should be enough.
- Small changes make a big difference: Every transformation in our life starts with a small change, and then another, and then another. Start with simple resolutions, for example: Don’t put butter on your bread, give up soft drinks, drink less alcohol, have a smaller dessert, don’t put whipped cream or sugar on your coffee. Sometimes we do these things out of habit. If we stop doing them it's going to feel awkward and we are going to miss them. But after a while, we will get used to it. Look at the eating habits you have and decide on what small changes can you start today.
- Make it a lifestyle: Move more. Do exercise whatever you enjoy, and if you don’t enjoy anything, do what you dislike the least. If it is raining, do exercise at home, get a video on YouTube and follow it for 30 minutes. There's always a way.
Don’t deprive yourself; don’t mess with your metabolism by fasting for long periods of time or cutting out certain foods from your diet. Don’t starve yourself, eat healthy, natural snacks every two hours or so. Eat fresh, cook at home and drink lots of water.
Don’t give in to immediate gratification: Skip fast food places. Just say no; the more you say it, the easier it becomes. Want something sweet after a meal? Eat a fruit, a small sweet, a piece of dark chocolate or share a dessert with someone.
The first step to achieving a healthy lifestyle is making the decision. There are no shortcuts, like everything that is worth achieving it will take hard work, smart decisions and changing habits, but it will also include lots of celebration and the satisfaction that you are doing something good for you, on your own terms.