It's no secret that most Americans have a weight problem. The question is, why? We've never had so much health research, so many health clubs and home fitness machines, and so many books and magazines to help us become fit and healthy. Do we know what to do and we simply don't do it? Or do we do the wrong things?
I sure don't know. If it were simple, we'd have a solution. We might not follow it, but we'd know. The problem is complex and multi-faceted. Therefore we need some simple approaches.
Here are three contributing issues we can observe almost anywhere:
• Constant eating; it's become common to eat all the time. Many workplaces have a "grazing bar" where you can pick up a treat each time you walk by. Convenience stores make it nearly impossible to walk out without a treat; if you don't buy something the clerk will even push it on you. "Any cookies or donuts today?" they ask cheerily.
• Lack of activity; we are locked into a routine of several hours at a job, time commuting, daily chores, and television; there's little time or energy left for exercise. Even our chore load is diminished. We take our cars through the automated car wash, bring home meals instead of cooking, and hire others to handle our lawn mowing, snow removal, and house cleaning.
• Sugar; there is no RDA (recommended daily allowance) for sugar, but it's now in most processed foods. It's really tough to minimize sugar intake, particularly high fructose corn syrup.
This article isn't meant to be a comprehensive overview. In fact, it's meant to be the opposite of a comprehensive overview-just a few simple tips that you can grasp right now, and begin practicing immediately.
I'm not a doctor or a dietician; I'm just a person who eats and exercises and wants to look good and feel healthy, and I want to enjoy meals. Therefore, I want a page or two of sound advice that is easy to follow, that is healthy, and that works!
In my opinion, doctors and dieticians are making our lives too complicated! Just browse the diet section at your local bookstore, and you'll see the scores of diet books peddled by dieticians, doctors, and gurus. You'll notice than many contradict each other. Are carbs good or bad? Are fats good or bad? There are convincing books for each viewpoint!
I don't want to be constantly confused by contradictory advice, and I don't want to read each new 200-page book about the latest diet, so I've given up on diet books in favor of some basic ideas like those below.
If you can stick with these for three months and you want more information, then join Weight Watchers or the like, or choose a diet book to follow. I am certain you can succeed; I hope you feel the same.
Here are 13 simple tips:
• Start with your mind. Everything you want to achieve starts with your thoughts. This is the single most important step you can take; create the result in your mind then make it real. If you're overweight and have health problems, this is a challenge you were meant to face. Remember all your good qualities; talk to yourself in a supportive way as you would talk to a friend.
• Watch your diet 6 days per week. On the seventh, loosen up. Keep the portion sizes moderate, but indulge in what you've missed. This is not the time to eat an entire pie, but have one piece if you want.
• Know your weakness. For me it's sweets. If there's a cookie in the house, I can hardly walk by it, and one always leads to five. It's so frustrating! Therefore, the only plan that works for me is to eliminate cookies from the house.
• Watch the alcohol. Alcohol is high in calories and seems to promote greater storage of fat, so what you eat is more likely to end up as body fat. Plus, as a depressant it makes you tired and more sedentary. Food and alcohol go together like tattoos and body piercings, so minimize the alcohol and associated munchies.
• Eat more natural, unprocessed foods. I'm proof that you can develop a taste for vegetables, though I loathed every vegetable but carrots and corn until I was 17. Try a stir-fry, toss raw or cooked vegetables in a tasty salad dressing, whatever. Just eat 'em! For snacks, try fruit or low-sugar yogurt. I also like whole wheat crackers and peanut butter, and Triscuits with a tuna-pesto mix. Start reading labels and choose foods with a short ingredients list, and without high fructose corn syrup.
• Don't starve yourself. When you're hungry your body needs food. Choose healthy food in a small portion. You're more likely to lose control if you become too hungry.
• Cut portion sizes-of some foods. Eat half a sandwich, but eat twice as much lettuce; in fact, eat all the lettuce you want, but skip the iceberg lettuce and go for leaf, romaine, and so on. And make a practice of sharing restaurant meals, with their absurd portion sizes, or ask to have half boxed immediately.
• Write down your goal, the time frame, and how you'll get there. Remember: Rome wasn't built in a day, and it will take at least several weeks to burn off the weight. But remember: that time will pass anyway, so follow your plan and make it happen. Again, be realistic. You can't safely lose weight quickly, so be patient, eat moderate portions, and burn off a pound or two per week.
• Think small and short-term; what can you do now? Now is the most important moment of your day...this moment, when you want to scarf down the rest of the chicken wings. Make the right choice now. Don't think about losing 50 pounds in a year. Think about making better choices and burning up 1 pound per week. Your choices today are the important thing. You'll have some ups and downs, but don't let the whole day's effort be wasted. If you indulge too much at lunch, get right back on track at dinner. Now is what counts.
• Exercise moderately at least 3 times per week. If you're considerably out of shape, try to walk for 30 minutes every other day. When you go shopping or to work, park farther from the building. Work up to 30 minutes of walking every day. When that becomes too easy, increase your pace. Take the stairs whenever you have the option. This is the kind of activity that can add up to predictably losing a pound or two per week, versus struggling to lose weight at all. If your body can't take exercise every other day, you need a doctor's help now. And try to work in some basic strength-training exercises. Your muscles will become firmer and stronger, and will burn more calories each day.
• Wean yourself from constant eating. Eat just at mealtime and snack time. For me, that's three meals and three snacks per day. Meals are pretty small, just two or three small portions. Snacks are small, such as an apple, a banana, or two Triscuits with peanut butter. A handful of walnuts or almonds is great, as well. If I'm not hungry at snack time I eat anyway so I don't eat too much at the next meal.
• Deflate your "food fantasies." Food is a very pleasurable part of life, but it must be kept in balance. If you think about food all day, dream about your next meal or snack, you're making too big a deal of food. Dial it back or find a substitute pleasure, so you don't count on food for so much satisfaction.
• Drink more water. Fill the void when you're hungry with water first, and have a 6-8 ounce glass of water with each meal. Just like we suggest here.