I am going to admit an important detail about the start of my journey to getting fit - I have never ever been on a “diet” in my life. I did not get myself into shape by “dieting” and deprivation (two things that seem to go hand in hand), I did it by truly taking care of myself – body, mind and soul.
When the light bulb went off in my head that things needed to change for me, I started to seek out approachable healthy adjustments to make in my life. The first thing I did was to banish weeknight takeout and relegate eating out to a social event shared with friends a couple of times a week, rather than a twice-daily solitary occurrence. Next, after deeply assessing what I was eating and why, I increased the amount of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains I ate at every meal and decreased the more indulgent foods to occasional treats (needless to say, this involved getting reacquainted with the kitchen storage unit otherwise known as the oven). Lastly, I got off the couch, cancelled my underutilized gym membership and got more serious about ways to keep active that I actually enjoyed. Everyday, I must admit even twice a day sometimes, I went to the Yoga or Pilates studio for a class. Getting my body, way of eating and life into amazing shape was a very personal journey for me with many bumps and lessons learned along the way. Now it has been several years and I still feel as though I am in the best shape of my life and I am much happier and healthier than I have ever been. The bad news is that I don’t have a specific roadmap to share that will cause the same shift for everyone. The good news is that this is because there is no one right answer that will work for everyone, what works for each individual is very personal.
Right now there is an obesity epidemic going on in the United States and the scariest part of all is that it is impacting children in ever-increasing numbers at younger ages every day. In our great diligence as a country to find the quickest, easiest and most convenient thing we have lost sight of the importance of good, simple and real food. Processed and junk foods are so readily available that it is easier to be tempted into bad behaviors than good ones. Things in our country are so accessible and convenient that we often become lazy and complacent in our lives. When we identify that we have a weight problem we look to the quick-fix solution in the fad diet of the moment. In most cases diets just don’t work – they are too difficult, plain and simple. Many diets do not consider a key element in cultivating your most fit self, which is bio-individuality. We are all unique human organisms with different ancestral, environmental, lifestyle and physical attributes to consider. What works for one person does not necessarily work for then next.
Take a few moments now to assess and jot down some thoughts about your current relationship with your weight. When did weight your first become a problem for you? What are the things you have done in the past to loose weight? Why were they successful or unsuccessful? What is the real root cause of your struggle to be happy with your body? (This is often the toughest one and can even go as far back as childhood) Are you doing the best you possibly can to take care of yourself? If not, what could you change today to improve your health?
We often fall into behavior patterns that are not the healthiest but we struggle to break free from them and find a better way, even when we know we are not making the optimal choices. The first step is indentifying your triggers and the second is finding ways to deal preventively with them instead of reacting to them suddenly in the moment.
The following are my top five tips for finding a lighter and happier you:
1. Banish that four-letter word – no one relishes the thought of being on a diet because they are just no fun. Diets are often very limiting, depressing, alienating and unsustainable. Find healthier ways to eat that you enjoy and can easily incorporate into your lifestyle for the long haul. Get out of the deprivation mindset and into the mindset of taking care of your mind and body as best you can, it will give you a whole new outlook on life.
2. Add foods in – rather than bringing the focus to all of the things you think you should be eliminating, bring it to all of the healthy things you should be incorporating into your diet. Introduce new fruits, vegetables and whole grains as well as new ways to prepare them on a daily basis. You will be adding in so many new delicious and healthful foods that the bad stuff just may get crowded out.
3. Get support – find a friend or family member that has an interest in getting or staying fit and help each other towards achieving that goal. It is always easier to accomplish difficult things with support. Find your support system to help you through the rough spots and to celebrate with you at all of the wonderful accomplishments. If you cannot find someone you know to support you or if you would like the guidance of an experienced professional seek out a Health Counselor to work with you on your health and lifestyle goals.
4. Get moving – when given the option walk, use the stairs, get out a subway stop early or take the long way home. Find little ways to add walking and exercise into your everyday life. Additionally, seek out a regular form of exercise that you actually enjoy. It does not have to be going to the gym or playing sports, it may be dancing, Yoga, Pilates, swimming, biking, hiking, running around with your kids or gardening. Don’t be afraid to experiment with several options until you find what best suits you.
5. Get real – eat real, nutrient and vitamin-rich, whole foods in their natural state. Avoid foods labeled as “diet” as they are often highly processed and unsatisfying copies of the real thing. Instead occasionally have small amounts of the real thing and truly savor and enjoy the experience. Try to do most of your food shopping at the famer’s market or in the produce section and fresh foods section of your local supermarket, thus limiting the amount of processed foods you consume. When you do purchase packaged foods, be a food detective. Read the ingredients and make sure the list is short and that you can identify each of components listed.