By Dr. Scott Rosenthal
Pools are open. Temperatures are high. It’s officially bathing suit and shorts season. After reading and implementing the advice from the last two articles, you are likely seeing a slow and steady loss of unwanted pounds. This last article will share the greatest secret to weight loss and maintenance. It’s not a new fad diet, special exercise contraption, exotic plant extract or miracle pill—it’s a lifestyle!
I know you have heard this before. Keep reading. This time can be different. It’s time to take the fork in the road. The rest of your life starts right NOW!
Your lifestyle is how you choose to live each day of your life, and the choices you make at every moment either can cause you to gain weight, lose it, or maintain it. Shift your thinking from the I-have-to-lose-weight mentality to imagining what your life would look, feel and sound like if you were already at the perfect weight. Once you have a clear picture in your mind, work backwards and create the same lifestyle for the present you.
This understanding can bring better results than doing what most do: repeating a never-ending cycle of unsustainable dieting and/or exercising and then stopping the program and gaining the weight back (or more). This vicious cycle includes feelings of false hope mixed with periods of despair. Forget the cycles and create a winning and sustainable lifestyle. I’ll borrow from the movie Field of Dreams and say, “If you build it, a healthier and thinner you will come!”
To get organized, break lifestyle down into four core categories: fuel, sleep, movement, and thinking.
What you eat is as important as how much you eat. Ask, “Am I fueling correctly to maintain my optimum weight?” Chances are you already know the basics on making healthful eating choices. If you do, gift yourself by making them! If not, decide today to make raising your nutritional intelligence a priority. Many articles on the subject can be found by visiting my archived article page at rosenthalchiropractic.com.
If you are over-fueling, you will store it. If you under-fuel by too much, you will lose weight, but may be grouchy or have headaches and other symptoms that cause you to count the hours until you are off the XYZ diet of the day. This can cause you to rebound into old choices and the unwanted consequences they bring. Why not put the right amount of fuel in that you need each day? By no longer over-filling the tank, but putting in just the correct amount, weight loss will occur at a slow and sustainable rate.
Inadequate sleep can make losing and maintaining your weight VERY difficult. Being too tired to exercise, grabbing junk food for quick energy or comfort and/or sabotaging your normal hormone balance all can pile on extra pounds. Leptin is the hormone that tells you when to stop eating and ghrelin is the hormone that signals when to eat. Sounding like a scary tale from Norse mythology, sleep deprivation brings a weight-gaining mix of increased ghrelin and decreased leptin. Inadequate sleep also lowers your metabolism which contributes to weight gain.
If you are thinking that all you need to do is sleep for hours on end in order to lose weight, wake up! Sleep is a double-edged sword. Not only is too little a challenge to your health, but so is too much. If you have a condition that causes you to oversleep, please consult your health care provider. The perfect amount of sleep for you likely falls somewhere in the range of 7-8 hours each night. Quality is important as well (sorry new moms and dads or puppy owners).
Your sleep can be improved by avoiding caffeine past the mid-afternoon. Eating too much or heavy foods that tax your digestive system in the evening can disrupt quality of sleep. Eating lighter in the evening and regular exercise improves sleep. If deprived, consider going to sleep earlier rather than sleeping in longer. Experiment and note how you feel in the morning. Keep tweaking until you achieve the best ZZZs and wake up refreshed.
The right exercise in the correct amount plays a vital role for optimum health and weight maintenance. Again, remember those high intensity intervals from part one? Besides doing what you enjoy on a regular basis such as taking walks, gardening or other leisure activity, commit to properly adding intense exercise to your lifestyle. Again, please give exercise the attention it (and you) deserve and visit my website. Look for the two archived articles titled: “Is Your Exercise Making You FATTER?” and “Unhappy with Your Weight – Muscle Up!”
Creating the right mindset is perhaps the most important starting point! Do a little soul-searching and really decide if you are ready to change. You may say you want to, but to really find out if you want to, examine what motivates you to lose weight. Build on your motivation by listing all of the positives that you will gain by losing weight. Always see the BIG picture! If you need to, write it out with words or pictures (a photo of the mountain you would like to climb or loved one you would like to be with) and place it on a wall where you will see it every day. Ask yourself questions such as, “How will I feel? What would I look like? What will I be able to do again and how will I better be able to interact with those I love? What medications will I no longer need?” Own the realization that your weight loss is not a daunting task, but a beautiful opportunity to expand your horizons while decreasing your waist size.
For many, being overweight may stem mainly from non-physical causes. People eat for more reasons than sustenance. If you believe that you may be overweight due to emotional reasons, please seek professional help. Trying to lose weight by only addressing the other lifestyle components, discussed above, will prove frustrating and may exacerbate your underlying issue. If dealing with such underlying emotional causes is time consuming, difficult or seemingly impossible, please be patient and love yourself at any size.
For most, lifestyle changes are safe. If you have any health challenges or are unsure about anything discussed in this series of articles, please enlist the help of a professional. Whether it’s a doctor of chiropractic, other type of physician, nutritionist, psychologist, personal trainer, therapist or other professional, a little help may be all you need to get things moving! Such assistance can prevent the inaction that results from uncertainty or health concerns. Also, accept that there will be a learning curve and keep moving forward!
By consciously deciding to align your choices with the goals held in your heart and pictured in your mind’s eye, you can create a lifestyle that supports your optimum weight. All you have to do is accept the role you play, act and enjoy life to its fullest!