The media bombards us with all kinds of fancy diets and weight-loss programmes. No doubt if you are overweight, you may have tried many different diets. Perhaps you have been successful and lost hundreds of pounds over the years. More than likely, you have also gained back those hundreds of pounds. Many of these diet programmes are costly, not at all tasty, and possibly dangerous. A sudden decrease in calorie intake has a profound effect on your body's metabolism. Your metabolism slows down, making it harder to effectively control your weight. When you resume eating after a starvation (dieting) period, your body makes up for lost time by retaining even more fat.
An 'anti-diet' approach can be more effective. The anti-diet approach affects your body, mind and soul. It is a fairly simple theoretical formula: attitude adjustment + increased activity + reduced intake of calories = lasting weight loss. As you probably know attitude adjustment is the most important and the most difficult of all.
Attitude adjustment— The number 'one' enemy of the person who wants to lose weight is a negative attitude. The media suggests that there is an ideal way to look at it. Images of figures that are slim and trim, lean and sexy, flash across television and movie screens daily and can make an overweight person feel very awkward.
Learn to accept yourself as you are and have faith in your strength. What you think is what you are. Thoughts like "I am fat and ugly" "I cannot lose weight" and "I must lose weight to be lovable" will defeat attempts of a weight management programme. But you can turn those negative thoughts around. It may need the support of friends, family, support group or a professional counselor, but you can do it.
Start by making a list of the things that you like about yourself. Think about situations that trigger overeating. When do you tend to eat more than you know you should? Is it late at night when you are alone and bored? Or is it when you are mad at yourself or someone else? Is it when you are afraid that something adverse is going to happen? Also consider the negative thoughts that keep you from controlling your eating. Following are some examples of negative thinking:
- Underrating or disregarding the positive: I lost only two pounds this week so I will never achieve my goal.
- Over-generalization: I have never been able to control my weight so I will not be able to now.
- All or nothing: If I cannot lose 20 pounds in 10 weeks, I will be a failure.
- Soothsaying: I have never been successful at weight management so I know it will not work.
- If I could...would: If I could have controlled my weight better when I was younger, I would be doing better now.
- Blaming yourself for everything: If I was not so fat, someone would have loved me.
Once you are able to identify the situations that trigger the urge to eat, and you have thought through the negative messages that you give yourself, you can replace that thinking with a more realistic and positive attitude. Then you are ready to make a strong commitment to an anti-diet weight management programme.
- Increase activity — In order to burn calories, you need to naturally increase your physical activity. One method of stimulating the metabolism is to take a 15 to 20 minute walk after each meal.
- Reduce intake of calories— The most common advice given by the family doctor for weight management is that you just need to push back from the table sooner. Certainly that makes sense. Some people find that eating four or five small meals a day results in less intake than one or two huge meals. Exercising before eating can also reduce intake because your appetite is suppressed during exercise.
You may find it helpful to keep a diary for a few days before starting your weight management programme. This will help you become more aware of your food habits and where you need to make changes. Your ideal weight as well as your resting " metabolic rate may be determined by consulting a nutritionist.
Tables # 1 and # 2 give a rough guideline for ideal weights, but as everybody is different, you should consult a professional for your base energy requirements according to your height and weight. Many fitness centers and gyms offer fitness assessments that measure body fat and provide realistic goals.
Once you have an idea of your base energy requirements, you can add on for your daily activities accordingly. By doing so, you can calculate the number of calories it takes to stay at your present weight considering your level of activity. Finally, you must calculate the approximate caloric values of the food you eat during the day (see table # 3). You can then determine if you are having a deficit or an excess of calories. If you eat more calories than you burn, you need to study your daily eating habits and conclude where you can make some healthy reductions in your intake. When you reduce your intake below your caloric requirements for your weight and activities, you lose weight. Remember, it should be a slow process, approximately one or two pounds per week. Be patient and learn to enjoy eating and exercising while still losing weight.