I tackle weight loss, fitness and wellness from a holistic approach. This means I look at getting and staying healthy from an entire whole body experience. You are MORE than your diet. You are more than the number on a scale. You are more than your workout routine or fitness level. Don’t get me wrong, all of these are super important, but getting and remaining healthy takes on a life of its own, and counting endless calories and logging miles upon boring miles on an elliptical is not going to get you to a goal of being healthy inside and out.
As we are well into the new year I thought I would do a check in and reminder for all of the folks out there, myself included, who had some sort of health related or weight loss goal set out for the new year. To be honest, the majority of new year resolutions, goals or intentions deal with weight, in some form or another. Even if you don’t want or need to lose a certain number of pounds, chances are you want to eat healthy or healthier, feel better and maybe tweak a few things that may have gone awry over the past year.
With that in mind, I’ve got 10 Rules to a Healthy Lifestyle. Today we will look at FIVE rules, read them, digest them, see which of them applies and then move on to the NEXT FIVE in my next post. I want to look at weight loss and maintenance in a realistic way. No drama. No guilt. No shame. So what if you have found yourself on the couch and know it’s now time to get off and move? It’s okay. At least you are making a commitment to move! Maybe you’ve let your jeans get a wee bit snug over the past couple of months, and hey, all this bad weather and snow probably doesn’t help. It’s okay. Sitting on the couch and buying another pair of jeans might be easier than making the changes necessary, but it is like any other skill – practice, work and being smart can win every time.
1. Do Not Say Diet
Getting on and staying on a diet rarely ever makes a person healthy inside and out. A diet is designed to bring results in a finite amount of time. It is a short term solution. A diet has an ending point and we all probably know what happens at that ending point. A person goes off a diet and back to old habits and it doesn’t take rocket science to see what happens then. Those old habits are the reason a person goes on a diet in the first place! So, do not go on a diet. Make permanent changes to the way you eat.
This may not be easy. You may have to change the way you think about food. You may have to completely change the way you prepare food and meals. It may require more planning than you have been doing.
If you really do have some pounds to shed and need to see some immediate results to keep you motivated, I get that. It may take two weeks of nixing the sugar, processed carbs and alcohol. If you do this for two weeks you will see some pretty good results that will motivate you to continue. Since you cannot keep that super strict schedule forever, you will need to figure out how to reintroduce those foods back in a healthy, sustainable way. I often suggest thinking of some of these things as treats, to be enjoyed mindfully and intentionally. Think about your indulgence, plan it and enjoy it. That is healthy and part of living a healthy lifestyle.
2. Exercise Realistically
Just because you were on that elliptical machine during the entire episode of Kelly and Michael AND the machine says you burned 600 calories . . . don’t believe it. It is SO easy to overestimate the amount of calories burned and completely underestimate the amount of calories eaten. Exercise is good. Exercise is a component of weight loss and a healthy lifestyle, just be sure you are doing it in a smart manner and you are realistic about what the exercise is doing for your body.
Cardio is NOT queen when it comes to weight loss. For that hour on the elliptical, you could have gotten way more benefit to your body from a 20-30 minute interval training session or strength training session. Remember that muscle burns more fat, so do not be afraid to build muscle. I am not saying to forego cardio altogether, no way. It definitely has its place and its benefits, but adding in strength training and interval work will bring you results, not only in weight loss, but in more energy, functional fitness and quality of life. As I tell my classes, when you are eighty and fall down, you want to have some strength to help break the fall or the strength to help prevent the fall in the first place!
3. Balance Your Plate
Being on a diet makes you think of being hungry. Being hungry and deprived does not sound like a lifestyle I want to partake in. Your body is a glorious, miraculous machine that needs to be fueled. The fuel should come from healthy, lean proteins, plant based foods like fruits and vegetables and plant based healthy fats. These three things should be on your plate at every single meal.
The protein feeds those muscles you are working on with that strength training. Eating protein fills you up so you will not be hungry and helps you lose fat. Next on your plate should be produce. It is really too hard to eat too much produce. Our nation has not gotten obese by eating too much spinach and broccoli! Also on your plate should be plant based fats like olive oil, coconut oil, avocado or nuts. These foods are so good for our brains AND make us feel full! Remember that horrible low fat craze in the 1990’s? I think there was a whole bunch of folks walking around starving, with dry skin and hair and feeling really grouchy!
Balancing out your plate with roughly one third of each of these three items is a healthy way of eating. Did you notice there were no processed foods on the plate?
4. A Calorie is NOT a Calorie
In my younger days, when I wasn’t very smart about my food choices, I tended to gauge my foods as calories only. I would figure about how many calories each food had and how I could burn off those calories. It didn’t seem to matter to me at the time whether those calories came from eating some cookie cake, a frozen yogurt or a beer. I was not looking at how food actually fuels the body, what it does for the body and how foods affect the body. I couldn’t figure out why I wanted to eat the entire cookie cake, rather than be satisfied with one (or two) pieces. Well, science is a wonderful thing. It tells us that, actually, a calorie does not equal a calorie. Sugary, processed foods cause inflammation that messes with our hormones so that the full signal does not go to the brain. Therefore, you want to eat more. That trigger is why sugar and junk foods are addictive. Haven’t your heard that Oreos are as addictive as cocaine? It takes more and more to be satisfied.
Furthermore, the processed foods and sugary foods have no nutritional value for your body. You will still need more food to fill you up and give you the right kind of energy to get through a workout or just a day.
One of the best tools to use to get back on track and really see what kinds of calories you are consuming is to keep a food journal. I’ve always been a proponent of keeping track, whether by hand or a handy dandy App on your phone. If you are honest with yourself, you probably don’t want to write down that you had more than one piece of that cookie cake . . .
5. It’s Okay to Be Hungry
I have to tell this to my Third Son quite often. If he gets the slightest bit hungry he thinks he has to eat something at that very moment. I have to assure him that it is okay to get hungry. He will not starve and maybe he will appreciate his dinner more. Now, this is completely different from NOT eating at appropriate intervals so that you allow yourself to become starving, light headed and hungry. That is NOT good . . . then you will want to eat every single thing in sight and likely make some pretty bad food choices. I am just saying, that it is okay to allow yourself to actually get hungry.
Oftentimes, it may be that you aren’t actually hungry, as much as maybe bored, stressed, upset, angry or melancholy. Our emotions can play an enormous part in our eating and choices. Maybe you need to take a minute before stuffing yourself with the cheese and crackers and figure out whether you actually are hungry. I think the litmus test is what I call the apple or milk test. If you actually are hungry then the thought of eating an apple or drinking a glass of milk will make you happy. If not, you aren’t actually hungry. My mother used that trick on me growing up and it worked every single time! I now use it on the Third Son . . .
Stay Tuned for Rules 6 through 10!
Have you kept up with your resolutions? Did you even make weight loss or health resolutions? Are you surviving your winter? How do you define a Healthy Lifestyle?
Enjoy Your Day!