Please note that while I am a Certified Health Coach, you should always consult your own physician before making any lifestyle changes. No single plan is perfect for everyone.
It is no secret that I have had a love/hate relationship with food for a long time. During my younger years (especially while training as a nationally competitive figure skater) I became obsessed with my weight and how I looked in the mirror. Sadly, it rolled over into my adults years. It was only in the last few years that I began to gain confidence in how I looked and who I was. Let me be the first to say that I really hope I can lay a better path for my daughter and show her that self worth doesn’t lie in the number on the scale.
I’ve spent many an evening researching which diet certain runners follow. What do they eat? How do they stay so thin? What is the secret they use so that I can do the same?
The truth is, there is no secret. The honest truth is, most diets don’t work. Sure they might help you in the short term. Cutting all carbs out for a few months will help you lose water weight and may kick start weight loss. But what happens once you lose the weight and go back to your old ways? The weight will slowly creep up. Studies show that most people gain at least half of their weight back within 6 months and the rest within 2 years of following a diet. Diets just plain don’t work.
The real trick to losing weight and maintaining, is through lifestyle change. We need to change the way we look at food. We need to change our relationship with food. We need to stop announcing that we are going on a diet tomorrow or that we are never eating certain “bad” foods again.
Food plays a vital role in our lives on many levels. It fuels our bodies and our workouts. It makes us happy and tastes delicious. It also is a very social aspect of our lives. We meet at the table, we gather at restaurants with friends and family. All of these things are important to us and our relationships. We should never feel guilty about enjoying a meal whether it is alone or with someone else.
There are certain foods that do increase caloric burn or require more calories to digest. There are also certain foods that are more likely to convert to fat. However, eating a certain food group or eliminating all fats is not a longterm or sustainable plan for maintaining a healthy weight. The secret to successful health is in your lifestyle. We need to start thinking longterm. We need to allow ourselves small indulgences. If we cut out all treats, we will eventually go crazy and eat it all. Willpower is not something any of us has in abundance.
Most healthy diets center around balance. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend that we eat more fruits and veggies, consume at least half of our breads in the form of whole grains, cut out trans fats, and limit our intake of sodium. We should also aim to eat more fish and seafood each week along with a low fat dairy product at most meals.
These are all very doable options. Aiming to make your plate at each meal consist of at least half fruits and vegetables will help you consume more vital vitamins and minerals. It will also aid in decreasing your caloric intake.
Most of us tend to eat more complex carbohydrates than necessary. Imagine your plate and aim to only fill 1/4 of your plate or less with whole grains. These are heart healthy and have been proven to help aid in weight loss.
We also tend to eat far more sodium than is needed. Compare labels and choose items that are labeled as low or lower in sodium.
Make the other 1/4 of your plate consist of a protein. Lean proteins such as boneless skinless chicken, cold water fish or shell fish, or a lean cut of grass fed beef will help aid in muscle repair. Protein also helps with satiety after meals, helping you to feel fuller longer.
The best and most efficient way to maintain a healthy lifestyle is to eat less and exercise more. Aim for a healthy balance in your diet and make exercise a daily part of your life. Just 30 minutes, most days of the week, is all you have to make time for. Try to find something you enjoy and that you can stick with longterm. Exercise will help you to maintain a healthy weight, but only if you stick with it. If you do something you don’t enjoy and stop once the weight is off, you will start to see yourself sliding back down that slippery slope. Exercise should not be a punishment. It should be something that you do for yourself, a gift towards better health.
Eating well does not need to be an all or nothing experience. Allow small indulgences. Eat a balanced diet and you see and feel the difference.
How do you aim for a healthy lifestyle?
Remember that no one is perfect. We all slip up. Life is meant to be enjoyed!