Since many people have recently embarked on a journey to reclaim their health by shedding excess fat, it is an auspicious time to share my own wisdom on the subject. Not that I’m an expert, but I have lost weight in the past: baby weight, alcohol weight, college weight, comfort weight. I know what has worked for me (see below), and what has not (daily weigh-ins, counting calories, cutting carbs).
You’ve likely heard many of these before, and some may be new, but I promise that every one will take you a baby step closer to that elusive goal weight. In no particular order:
1. Turn each meal and snack into a ritual, which means: don’t eat standing up, don’t eat in front of the TV, don’t eat at your desk, don’t eat in your car. This might be the hardest one for me. If you have to, invest in pretty dishes, silverware, cloth napkins and placemats. Go to Ikea if you’re on a budget, go to Anthropologie if you’re not.
2. Avoid processed, refined and deep-fried foods as much as possible. Also hard. Even the humble, hearty and nutritious potato is repeatedly bastardized by modern man. Who doesn’t love a french fry or a potato chip?
3. Avoid added sugar. Sugar in fresh and dried fruit is, of course, natural and perfect. In my experience, a bit of raw honey can actually be beneficial. If you buy soy milk, go for unsweetened. If you buy yogurt, choose plain. But also allow yourself the occasional treat, and harness the discipline to indulge in moderation. Here are a few tricks to help: instead of making a batch of cookies at once, bake one or two at a time and freeze the rest; instead of buying a box of muffins or a bar of chocolate, buy one muffin from a bakery or an individually wrapped 1 ounce portion of chocolate (Ghiradelli!); for a chewy sweet treat that offers a bit of nutrition (in addition to dried fruit), eat a few gummy bear vitamins and vitamin D gummies each day. (My whole family is addicted to gummy vitamins.)
4. Limit alcohol consumption. That means one drink per day, party people. Maybe two, if you’re a big strong man with a lot of muscle to metabolize the alcohol. I suppose you could save up all of your drinks and imbibe 7-14 in one evening, but be wary of the choices you make while you’re drunk, and hungover for that matter. If your social life depends on alcohol, take a step back. Do you need to drink to have fun?
5. Don’t eat after 8 pm at night. Unless you’re truly hungry and you’re reaching for raw fruits and veggies.
6. Eat more food from the earth (vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains) and less from the animals (meat, dairy, eggs).
7. Call on your higher power for help. For will power. For confidence. For patience. Also call on your most supportive family and friends. Don’t be shy, we are here to encourage you. Taking charge of your health is admirable and brave.
8. Eat to live, don’t live to eat. Is food the only good thing in your life? Are you always planning your next meal? Do you look forward to going home so you can eat in private? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are probably living to eat. You are probably also not living for your highest self, you’ve probably lost track of your interests and passions. When I’m preoccupied with my “projects,” it’s easier for me to eat less. Not that I ever “forget” to eat, I am not one who enjoys a rumbling stomach, but when I have had enough, I am eager to get back to what I was doing rather than continuing to eat. Likewise, if I am engaged in something that’s fascinating, I’m less likely to crave an afternoon chocolate. Rediscover your interests and passions by asking yourself the following questions: what did I enjoy doing when I was a child? if I could do anything and make money doing it, what would it be? what am I doing when I lose track of time?
9. Drink herbal tea. This is one of my best tricks. Tea is warming and satisfying. Tea can be sweet or savory. Tea provides nutrients and tea can even support weight loss. Drink tea instead of snacking, and you may find that tea is all you were craving, after all.
10. Drink lots of water to stay hydrated and feel full longer, and to stop eating when you’re thirsty rather than hungry. Squeeze a lemon into your water once in a while to help keep your system squeaky clean. The cleaner the system, the better the digestion, the flatter the tummy.
11. EXERCISE. Incorporate cardio, strengthening and stretching exercises into your weekly routine. Shoot for three hours per week at a minimum. We’re not lying when we say exercise makes you feel good. Endorphins are nature’s best antidepressant. Don’t be intimidated by the word “strengthening.” Do a few push ups, lunges, squats, leg lifts, bicep curls, sit ups, and you’ll be stronger in no time. But I do recommend mixing up your routine to keep challenging your body. Lucky for us, the internet has about a billion and one resources for exercise newbies. Google it, my dear.
12. Listen to your body. Listen deeply, listen carefully. If you can do this, portion control will come naturally. How does your stomach feel after you eat that movie theatre popcorn or that custard or that McDonald’s hamburger? How does your body feel when you go for a run or play with a child or practice yoga? Is your body serving your greatest good? Or is your body in despair and in need of some nutritious food and peaceful sleep and good loving? You have all the tools and wisdom and capacity to live the life you want, it’s up to you to listen.
If you follow all of these tips for a week, and you don’t notice yourself looking or feeling different, don’t give up. Please, don’t give up. If you don’t have patience, you don’t have anything. It takes time and determination to form new habits, but once you’ve gotten a grasp on good health, you won’t ever want to let it go.