Courtesy of C. Doussett MPH, RDN of Clark’s Nutrition
For many people, dieting is like being on a Ferris wheel, there are high and lows and at the start, it’s nothing but promises and anticipation. Yet too often the process is predictably circular and ends up back where it started. For others, dieting is like a carousel ride, dizzy circles mixed with a steady stream of anecdotes and gimmicks, which ultimately creates a plethora of predatory marketing mixed with well-intentioned “advices”. And yet for others, dieting is akin to riding an escalator between two floors, floor one is eat less and floor two is exercise more. Over time, these individuals become stuck in the middle and have to continually eat even less and exercise even more. This is a recipe for long-term failure, but not a failure of a person’s will but one of design.
So what is to be done? There has to be a better way (there is), it has to be easy to understand (not at first but eventually), and easy to implement (this is where it gets tricky). The trick to lasting and meaningful long-term weight loss in the pursuit of health and longevity is highly individual, subject to change, requires study (to both increase health literacy and to guard against sensationalism), and demands constant vigilance. I wish articles like these could offer the “perfect” advice for weight loss, but that would negate the fact that we are dynamic beings who age, deal with stress, experience profound change, and are subject to a genetic code that is at the mercy of our choices, which are at the mercy of our environment.
Yet it is imperative that some reasoned attempt to distill nutritional and lifestyle approaches into a consumable article be made. In that spirit, the following suggestions are given as a starting template for your consideration.
- Hydrate: water and herbal teas are best. Drink when thirsty and drink extra when urine starts to darken. Both caffeinated sodas and alcohol can negatively influence hydrations status so consume as little as possible.
- Sleep 7 to 9 hours nightly. Our body’s internal clock can be thrown out of balance in as little as four days of halved sleep (3.5 to 4.5 hours nightly). This may result in mood changes, difficulty learning or remembering, blood sugar imbalance which increases cravings, and difficulty in performing normal activities of daily living (ADLs).
- Exercise: One hour daily apart from physical activity. Planned vigorous exercise is the hero to the villain we call disease.
- Plan meals in this order: vegetables, protein, fatty fruits, fruits, legumes, nuts/seeds, and spices. Create an environment where these food choices are everywhere and your body will respond.
- Seek purpose and avoid risky behaviors
Supplements may be a beneficial way to assist efforts at achieving or maintaining a healthy weight but they are not the strategy per se. Always seek the advice of health professionals and weigh your decisions carefully. For example, caffeine is by far the most popular choice to help an individual with cravings and to give much needed stimulation during calorie deficits and training sessions but for many people, caffeine has side effects that may derail weight loss efforts. If caffeine (at or around 200 mgs per dose) causes anxiety, hypoglycemia, severe jitteriness, insomnia, or loss of appetite it should be minimized or discontinued.
Keep in mind that our best life may be lived at twenty pounds above our prettiest weight, it happens, yet remain vigilant that a cheat day does not become a cheat decade. Lastly, those healthy actions we do once become easier to do twice, do those a thousand times and you have a habit, five thousand times is a skill, ten thousand is a profession, and any more than that is a life well lived. Ha