It’s time to end the myth that if we don’t achieve or maintain our weight loss that we’re to blame. We are not weaklings nor is our willpower lacking. In truth, it’s the weight loss formula – eat less, exercise more – (promoted by the diet and fitness industries) that has failed, not us. Moreover, the gigantic food industry plays a huge role in our weight challenges by creating foods intentionally designed to hijack our taste buds and influence our brains. (“Lay’s Potato Chips – Bet You Can’t Eat Just One!”) Let’s look at the real deal of what has been going on and why it’s so easy to gain weight and so difficult to lose. The following tips and suggestions are intended to simplify, rather than complicate, healthy eating and living. I’m going to emphasize slowing down, getting back down to earth and out of the rat race and maze of the diet, fitness, and food processing industries. I’m cheerleading for eating and living a bit more as our great-grandparents once did not all that long ago.
1) We are not food addicts. We need food to live, to survive, and to thrive. Without food, individually and collectively, we would cease to be. Eating is good, positive, and a vital action. Please don’t attack yourself for eating. Real food is not the enemy. There are, however, thanks to the food industry, many, many, many processed foods out there that are intentionally designed to addict us. Scientists in the food industry, (many of whom have also worked in the addicting tobacco industry), have devised and perfected formulas consisting of precise amounts of sugar, salt, and fat that light up our brains to want and to crave more of what they’re selling.1 This of course is done on their part to make as much money as possible. Profit is their concern, not our health. But, our health absolutely MUST be our concern.
I’m not suggesting by any means that we must stop all consumption all the time of our favorite fast foods, cookies, cakes, fries, ice cream, chips, etc. I am suggesting that the poison is in the dose. If you want a piece of pie here and there, by all means have it, and, please, make sure you enjoy! Throw away the guilt, seriously. I am interested though that we begin to balance the processed foods we eat that are harmful and make us gain weight, with real foods - protein, fat, veggies - that are local, pasture-raised, and organic. Consider adding “single ingredient foods”, (SIF), to your daily menu whenever possible. SIF examples include oranges, broccoli, chicken, fish, meat, eggs, etc. Ingredient lists aren’t necessary for SIF items because the food speaks for itself. If you were to buy more SIF and prepare them at home, you already would be making an enormous difference in getting grounded and heading down the path to simplicity, clarity, health, and authentic body size.
2) Drink more water and less soda, (diet included), juice, sports drinks, etc. Soda is a processed food and contains ingredients that are harmful. Period. Diet soda is no better and is probably worse than regular soda. People who drink diet soda in the long run gain rather than lose weight.2 A glass of juice has just about as much sugar as a can of soda. Again, I’m not suggesting that you should never drink regular or diet soda or juice again. I am proposing that you consider varying up what you drink. Filtered water can’t be any cleaner or healthier for our bodies. It is a life giver and what our great-grandparents primarily drank. (Most great-grandparents were not downing 16 oz. bottles of soda at dinner or at the movies.)
Be creative though so you ENJOY what you’re drinking. I love “cucumber water”, (fill a pitcher with filtered water & drop in 4 cut quarters of a cucumber – viola’), blended organic green tea scented with jasmine and peach, ginger root tea, lemon/lime water, and more. Whatever works for you, discover, have fun, and do it. By the way, after a heavy workout, consider filtered water or non-flavored, unsweetened, not from concentrate, coconut water as your source of hydration. Sports drinks are not the best answer.
3) Relax and slow down more in general and while eating. When we’re in the stress response our bodies release insulin and cortisol both of which will contribute to non-caloric fat gain and muscle depletion.3 An amazing fact is that even if we eat very few calories and we lose weight, we are extremely likely at some point to put all the weight back on and more due to the results of stress. And, nowadays, who isn’t at least somewhat stressed day-in and day-out. One way to calm and slow yourself down is with deep breaths. Before eating, take in 10 long breaths, hold and release slowly. During your meal, take in the breaths again. At the conclusion of eating, again, 10 breaths. If you can’t do 10, try 5. Slow down, enjoy your meal, take it in, get into the relaxation mode and heal. This relax and slow down tip is all important.
When you get into the relaxation response you will also have a chance to re-discover your natural appetite. Imagine! Instead of being told how many calories we’re allowed to have or what portion sizes are okay, we re-learn the messages of how much is right for us to eat from the inside. Think back to the days as a child when you were told to finish what was on your plate. You may have complied but you knew you were full. That’s being in touch with natural appetite! Fast forward to today: Eating real food, slowing down, and relaxing will all help us to re-claim a genuine awareness of satiation. Eureka!
4) Working out. The biggest problem with working out is that it contains the word “work”. If you love to go to the gym and work out, then go for it. If instead you go to the gym because you feel you should, you have to, etc. then I’d suggest you stop going now. Forcing ourselves to go to the gym will only put us in the stress mode which means we’re bound to put on fat and lose musculature despite our best efforts. Instead, go for pleasurable movement! Move in ways that you like naturally. Walking, dancing, casual bike riding, swimming, bowling, yoga, tai-chi, hiking, and whatever else you can think of is superb. You may want to consider getting involved in a walking group or team sport to add in a healthy, social component as well.
This is a time for self-discovery and getting back to play and fun. One thought for those of us who go to the gym for chronic, hard work-outs: overdosing on anything good is no longer good. Work out for too long, too hard, without a break from day-to-day and you will most likely place your body in the stress response. Insulin and cortisol will rise and muscle will be depleted and fat stored. Yikes!
5) I’ve saved the best tip for last – Love yourself as you are right now! No matter what your body size – big, small, tall, short, round, thin, flat-chested, scrawny, etc., be kind and loving to yourself and to your special soul within. However we feel most comfortable conceptualizing it, our bodies are vessels for our spirits, souls, core real-self essence, etc. Don’t hesitate to look at beautiful you naked in the mirror as you are today. If you’re unhappy with your body size because of what you see in magazines, then stop looking at those magazines. Seriously. Realize that “perfectly-sized actors” are fantasy. They don’t represent the true, average person living in the real world. Find out for yourself. Go to your local spa and look around. You will, or should, see all differently-sized people. That is reality.
Learning to love ourselves right now is healthy and a worthwhile endeavor. Holding off on making peace with ourselves until after we get thin is conditional and sets the stage for the stress response. After all, there is no guarantee that even after losing weight we will find true happiness, serenity, and self-love. Better to grapple with and grasp love awareness and self-connection first, then move towards reshaping our body to its authentic, real size. Fighting to lose weight by eating less and exercising more and then expecting self-love to follow is a route well-traveled. Unfortunately, time has shown it is a path littered with ups and downs, and ultimate frustration, low self-esteem, and disappointment.
In time, eating and drinking more natural, real foods, slowing down and becoming more relaxed, moving with joy, and embracing self-love will all direct us to our real, authentic selves both inside-and-out. We may not end up looking like the thinnest or most buff person out there. In the end, is that really the most important thing about us and who we are? Being the thinnest or the most buff? I declare not. Achievement of precise and perfect body size didn’t seem to guide our great-grandparents way back when and it doesn’t necessarily need to be our primary focus now.
Once we step outside of the crazed influences of the food, diet, and fitness industries; once we get more grounded in the reality of what is, versus striving to be a model or Hollywood look-a-like, we can get back to the real deal. And that is, what matters supremely is that our authentic, real selves become unveiled in their unique and stunning beauty. Yes, it’s high time we toss, “The Weight Loss Myth - Once Upon a Time”.
1. D. Kessler, MD, The end of overeating. Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite (New York, NY: Rodale Inc., 2009): 60.
2. M. Moss, Salt Sugar Fat – How the Food Giants Hooked Us (New York, NY: Random House, Inc., 2013): 338
3. N. Appleton, PhD & G. N. Jacobs, Killer Colas – How a Single Industry’s Products are Destroying our Nation’s Health (Garden City Park, NY: SquareOne Publishers,2011) 58-60
4. M. David, The Slow Down Diet – Eating for Pleasure, Energy, & Weight Loss (Rochester, Vermont: Healing Arts Press, 2005): 16-42
5. M. David, Nourishing Wisdom – A Mind-Body Approach to Nutrition and Well-Being (New York, NY: Bell Tower, 1991): 181