“I’m not on a diet. It’s a lifestyle change.”
“Um, yeah right. What’s the difference?”
I’m so glad you asked, because that is what this blog is about. So many folks are selling quick fit diets that don’t work or are unsustainable. The term “yo-yo diet” is now popular because people lose weight only to find it again somewhere along the way. In this blog I want to provide thoughts on what a lifestyle change is and why I believe it is more successful than a diet.
Be kind to yourself
I put this one first because I feel it is by far the most important. Weight loss research is clear about one thing, as a society we are very negative and critical of weight. We treat it like a sin or a bad person. If you are overweight, you likely join in the criticism, bashing yourself and calling yourself nasty names. This is very unproductive for weight management. Instead, look for the many positives in you, be curious and kind, and listen to your body’s needs. Develop a healthy, long-term relationship with yourself.
Lifestyle involves the whole life
Food and activities, relationship with self and others, work, home, and personal time. A lifestyle change involves stepping away from a prescribed way of living (usually involving someone else’s idea) to living a way that is meaningful and satisfying to you.
Active versus passive pleasures
Passive pleasures are interests and activities that do the hard work for you. Passive forms of entertainment include watching a show, playing a video game, drinking alcohol, or other forms of entertainment where the stimulation is provided for you. Active pleasures require more effort. This includes creative efforts like painting or building. It also includes sports or intellectual pursuits like taking a class. Active interests and activities generate more engagement and help to stimulate a more active approach to life.
Live in the Now (Mindfulness)
It is typical for us to spend much of our lives thinking about the past and worrying about the future. This way of living separates us from awareness of our habits and needs. Often we eat without paying attention to what we are doing, instead thinking about other things. This leads to stress eating, mindless snacking, and eating when not hungry. Mindful eating enhances self-regulation and improves awareness of emotional and sensory cues. This is important for altering our relationship with food. Mindfulness practices in general reduce stress and allow us to develop a more symbiotic relationship with ourselves.
Easy come easy go (or vice versa)
Lose quick diets are deeply flawed. The body is not made to be shocked by starvation into extremely quick weight loss. Not only is it very unhealthy, but the body reacts to starvation by storing more weight as soon as food is reintroduced. Sustainable weight loss requires changes in multiple areas of our lives that lead to gradual shifts in our weight. Exercise is an important part of this because muscle mass has an important role in regulating weight. Quick lose diets often burn muscle along with fat, leaving the body without strength and less ability to burn calories.
Work less spend less
I believe that work and finance plays a big role in many areas of our lives including relationships, psychological, and physical health. If you can find a situation where you work fewer or less intense hours, even if you make less, you will (literally) buy time to manage stress and your health. Further, spending less reduces stress and the need to work more.
When I see folks make a meaningful lifestyle change, it is exhilarating! The weight does not go flying off. Instead, I watch week by week as they gain a greater sense of control in their lives. They create more meaningful relationships with themselves and their loved ones. I watch them begin to get excited about what they are doing on a day-to-day basis. This is because they do what they value not what a commercial or TV show tells them to value. Yes, their bodies change, but not just up or down in weight. They fundamentally change as they engage the world in more meaningful ways.
If you are searching for sustainable ways to lose weight, I hope this article helps to inspire you to look beyond counting calories and steps and instead focus on creating a reason to count them.
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