It's that time of year when millions take the plunge to lose weight and gain health. Most people start out with good intentions. Unfortunately, while we dive in head first, it's into a pool of myths, hype, and hope.
As the author of Feed Your Head, I have done thousands of hours of research into diet, health, and lifestyle issues. Candidly, it's a complex web. Fortunately, from all this research, I have developed a simple approach to assist.
Before you take the plunge, ask yourself this question: What's my motivation for eating better, losing weight, and gaining health? You must identify a strong motivating factor that will move you toward a lifestyle change. Take a moment to read this valuable Mayo Clinic article about making a change. Once you've identified it, write it down and refer to it frequently. Be assured, there are many forces ready, willing, and able to derail you. So, your motivation must be stronger than all those influences.
Interestingly, while we all want good health, it's not a great motivator for changing our lifestyle. However, you should know this: If as a nation, we moved toward a healthier lifestyle, we would eliminate 90% of type II diabetes, 80% of heart disease, and 60% of the cancers. Take a moment to think about the positive impact that would have on our massive and troubled health-care system.
As it relates to lifestyle change, I do have a few WMDs - Willpower, Moderation, and Deprivation. When you start your change, if you are using willpower or feel deprived, stop and re-evalute because you will not be able to sustain the change. And, if you believe this statement: Everything in moderation - you are on the road to failure. The notion that it’s O.K. to eat everything in moderation is just an excuse to eat whatever you want.
As a starting point, here are five tips (there will be more in subsequent articles).
1. Know your BMI (Body Mass Index). Many people believe they are overweight, when in fact, they are obese. Here's a simple BMI calculator. This might be the wake-up call that you need. As an aside, I am sad to report that Georgia is number 2 in childhood obesity.
2. Good habits are as addictive as bad habits, and a lot more rewarding. Unfortunately, many people believe that making a change involves eating bland and boring food. Not true. As I stated in a previous article, you must identify foods with health benefits that taste great.
When you change your lifestyle, it will take 30 - 90 days to make the transition. Some interesting and amazing things will happen. Your taste buds will change. Foods that taste delicious today might not taste as good in ninety days. You'll be able to taste excess sugar and salt in strange places: pizza, hamburger bun, soup, hamburger, and more. There's nothing wrong with salt and sugar, however, in excess there is.
3. Circle of Disease. The spectrum of eating styles range from vegan (no animals) to paleo (big meat eaters). I have great news for you; You can lose weight and live a healthy lifestyle on almost any eating plan. It's equally important what you don't eat. To stay out of the Circle of Disease, eliminate these items.
4. Cheap meds and the "magic pill". Everyone is looking for the magic pill. Here it is. Take these observations from two doctors who study lifestyle issues to heart.
Dr. James O. Hill states: "Exercise is better than any drug or anything else we have for aging. There's no downside. If this were a drug, it would be the safest, most effective drug in the universe."
Dr. Stuart Seale says: "Exercise is medicine. It reduces blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, weight, stress and depression. It increases energy and well-being."
I recommend subscribing to that prescription.
5. Enjoy food. Enjoy eating. Enjoy cooking. Enjoy food, eating, and cooking with friends and family. Here's some sage advice from Julia Childs: "You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients."
Always be on the lookout for healthy foods and recipes. Where do you find them? Ask a friend who lives a healthy lifestyle. Ask what they eat. Ask for a recipe. There are many sites on the Internet that provide some suggestions. Start with these: Full Plate Diet, New York Times Healthy Recipes, and The World's Healthiest Foods.
If you approach this properly, you will lose weight, be healthier, and will enjoy eating and food much more.
As one of my friends who is a health advocate recently stated: If I’m hungry, I eat, and I don’t think twice about calories.
Here's to a happy and healthy new year. And stay tuned for additional diet, health, and lifestyle tips.