I woke up this morning, browsing YouTube. I love the “recommended” videos the site provides…yeah I’m a dork. I clicked on one and was hooked after hearing Alisa Anokhina’s (the speaker) facetious remark: “Losing weight is really easy; you eat less and exercise more!”
Wait, are you telling me it isn’t really that easy??? DUH! Come on people, clearly if it were this simple, we wouldn’t have an obesity epidemic, and hundreds of new fad diets and pills emerging every other day. My belief is that each new diet/pill/idea (whether they work or not) further highlights the difficulty and complexity of weight loss or maintenance. I like Alisa’s talk because she explains how often we ignore the psychology of eating, and how internalizing wrong beliefs cause people to fail in losing weight. Her talk is interesting, and I agree with many of the things she says, but not everything.
Agree: Eliminate the diet/food deprivation strategy. I may have a particular diet or nutrition regimen, but I do NOT diet. In fact, I hate dieting, and honestly don’t know if I could commit to a diet for longer than a day. I suppose I could if I tried, but it’s tough and I’d rather not diet, EVER. I rarely deprive myself, because I do in fact feel like I am punishing myself or “on a diet.”
Agree: Self-control is limited. Often I hear, “well you eat well because you have more willpower than I do and you are extremely disciplined. I can’t do that.” I guess I have special powers then? Ummmm noooo…I will admit that it is easier for me because I’ve eaten this way for several years, and thus I crave and desire more healthful foods. However, I have bad habits and cravings too (i.e., food quantity is not my strong suite). I can effortlessly pound 1K calories in one sitting. I try to avoid doing this of course, but regulating my portions is not easy, in fact it’s really hard for me.
Agree: “Just don’t think about it” – easier said than done. As soon as someone tells me I can’t have something, I want it even more, and think about it even more too! The only way I find not eating a certain food or quantity of food works is by, ironically, eating-out, or by keeping very busy, preferably outside of the home. If I am out at a restaurant, over a long period of time, chatting with friends, then even if I want something I get over it. For me, keeping busy and taking myself out of trigger situations (i.e., the environment that easily allows you to consume what you want) are key!
Don’t Agree: Eat-in and cook what you consume. I don’t love cooking, and some days, weeks, months (especially as someone who is always on the-go) this is neither realistic nor something that works for me. When I eat at home, 9 times out of 10, I overeat. I just can’t cook or order-in and expect to eat a small portion of something…no way! Not happening. Eating outside of the home works better for me. I definitely indulge, and enjoy doing so on some days – Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday after all – and when I do overeat, I don’t kill myself. Instead, I get up and MOVE, and remind myself to be more conscious and careful next time. I go out for a walk and do something (dance?), so that the food doesn’t just sit and fester. Here’s me caught in the act by one of my besties, circa 2008.
Semi-Agree: Write down the number of calories you consume. This one works, but I don’t see it as practical and sustainable long-term, which is why I only semi-agree. I have a sense of my caloric intake, but I never count exact calories. I figure it all balances it out by the end of the week. I care more about nutrient intake than caloric intake. Also, researching and writing down the exact # of calories takes a lot of time, and sometimes, honestly I just don’t want to know. That said, I must admit it does work when I do it, and for some people it is not a painful activity, so food journaling can be a good tactic.
What do successful dieters do? Everyone wants the magical solution and answer to this question, and here it is folks…ready, set…and the answer is: “we don’t know.” Alisa goes on to say that there are strategies you can follow, and I happen to agree with the two primary ones she highlights. Now that I think about it, I suppose this is why I have been able to maintain my weight and healthy living lifestyle for so long. Oh shoot, now I’ve probably jinxed myself.
What does she emphasize? First is, do not diet or deprive yourself of foods you want. That is, don’t conceptualize your eating choices by thinking it’s a “diet” (this is the psychological aspect of things). I don’t diet and don’t feel as if I am depriving myself either. To onlookers it may seem as if I am, because they do not crave or desire the foods that I do, bringing us to the second strategy, take a personalized approach, meaning “HEAT” the way you like (HEAT is my term for healthy eating), exercise at times that work for you, for your schedule, your preferences, your commitments, etc. When I hear people say: “well ‘they’ do this, and it worked for ‘them’” – my first question is…who is this infamous “they,” because what “they” do may not be what works for you and your life. Just as personalities are different, food preferences are too. What tastes good to one may or may not taste good to another. Do not follow what others are doing, or the latest diet craze simply because. That’s just lazy. Hear what others are doing, experiment a little, and then tailor things to what works well for you.
What’s my strategy? Eat less of course…only kidding! It’s as Alisa says, I don’t diet and I found an approach that works for me.
Final thoughts. Even with seemingly simple strategies, weight loss/maintenance is DIFFICULT. If you’re looking for a fast, easy fix, good-luck and let me know how that works out. Mindset, patience, commitment, and perseverance are fundamental. It’s like the old adage goes, if something seems too good to be true, well then it is in fact too good to be true. Be skeptical, and remember to find what fits YOU, not “they.”