Shed the Weight and Shape up Your Life: Unexpected Tips to Weight Loss and More
Author: Linda S. Hopkins
Are you one of the 150 million Americans who resolved to lose weight this year? Congratulations, and good luck, because it is predicted that 95 percent of you will actually be heavier going into 2015. That’s because the $20 billion weight-loss industry is giving us the wrong information. If their shakes, pills, bars, cleanses, packaged meals and easy-to-follow recipes were working, over half the American population would not still be overweight. Oh, and those smiling celebrities who are hawking the miracles? According to an ABC news report, they get paid approximately $33,000 per pound lost. Something is wrong with this picture.
Why diets are not the solution
Many sensible diet plans exist, and people do lose weight when they follow the rules… but that’s the hard part. When you’re on a diet, all you can think about is what you are supposed to eat, what you shouldn’t eat, and when you will get to eat again. And when you’ve had enough of the resisting, depriving, punishing and forcing, you will naturally return to the old habits that caused the problem in the first place.
Being “on a diet” always implies that someday you will be “off of the diet.” The other problem is that diets usually ask you to give something up—and that’s where all sorts of misery begins.
What if there was another way? What if losing weight could be less about self-denial and self-punishment and more about self-love, self-care, and self-trust? Self-love may or may not mean giving up sugar. Self-care may or may not mean getting up for a 6 a.m. boot camp class. And self-trust may be about more than just food and exercise. Here are five tips to help you shed the weight and shape up your life in 2014:
1. Connect to your why. So you want to lose weight. Why? Because your doctor said so is not enough to sustain your enthusiasm when the donuts in the break room start calling you by your first name. If you’re not connected to the real reason you’re trying to make a change, you’ll have a harder time staying on track. So here’s a game to play: Fill in the blanks. I want to lose weight so that _____________, so that _____________, so that…. Keep repeating and filling in the blanks until you get to the core reason. You may think it’s about improving your health or appearance. That’s a starting point. But what will that do for you? How will it change your life? Will it impact your finances, your hobbies, your wardrobe, your love life? What will you be, do or have in your life as a result of achieving your weight-loss goal?
2. Throw out the rules. This might sound scary, but it’s time to ditch the diet and strike a balance between healthy and happy. If you have a medical condition such as diabetes or celiac disease that necessitates eliminating certain foods or food groups, please follow your doctor’s orders. If you want to try eliminating a specific type of food because you know it is a trigger for you or you suspect that it is affecting you negatively (usual suspects are wheat, dairy and sugar), give it a shot and see how you feel. If you experience a sudden energy surge and pounds are dropping off, shout “Eureka!” It may be worth the sacrifice. Otherwise, start by moderating your intake of the food or foods you believe to be your biggest source of trouble (I bet you really do have a clue); set some boundaries, shave a little off the top, and practice making a few healthy tradeoffs. Add more fresh food, and cut back on the processed crap. If your great grandmother wouldn’t have recognized it as food or if you can’t pronounce the ingredients, there might be a better choice. Healthy eating really can be this simple.
3. Seek the truth. Nutrition matters. What you eat is important, and knowing a little something about protein, carbs and calories can help. But just as important is figuring out when and why you are overeating. Start noticing. Dig deep for the real reason and the right solution. If you’re bored, tired, lonely, stressed or in need of a reward, food is a poor substitute for what you really crave. How can you get more of what you need outside of the realm of food? This is where self-care really begins. The truth will set you free from dieting, and you will be well on your way to a leaner body and a lighter life.
4. Out-SMART yourself. If you start out with the best intentions but find yourself failing to follow through, maybe it’s because you have been creating broad, vague, unspecific statements disguised as goals, e.g. “I’m going to exercise more or I’m going to eat healthy.” Or maybe you’re just too hard on yourself. Have you become a master excuse maker or distinguished member of the woulda, shoulda, coulda club?
The solution is a clear, concise plan that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely (SMART). Because you are smart, you probably already know this, but you don’t do it. So today, think of one tiny step forward that you could take, and give yourself a taste of success. Grant yourself permission to start small. (This one is really hard for high achievers and perfectionists, but do it anyway.) For example, if you have a six-soda-a-day habit and you want to stop drinking it, just set the goal to skip the soda at lunch today. Your first step can be embarrassingly easy and painless so that you experience a win and can take the next step.
5. Reboot your brain. If you’ve promised yourself to do what you know to do to lose weight, yet you continually let yourself off the hook, your brain may need a software update. Rebooting your brain and restoring self-trust is not about being perfect. It’s about living in integrity and doing what you say. The beautiful thing about this is that it takes motivation and willpower out of the picture. For example, if you promised to do something for someone you love, say pick your child up at school or take your best friend to the doctor, you would show up come hell or high water, right? The key is to show up for yourself in the same way. When your word is unshakeable, you do what is necessary because you said you would, not necessarily because you “feel like it.” With practice, your brain gets the message that you mean what you say. When you falter—and you will—forgive yourself and move on. By treating yourself with the same love and respect you show to others, making good decisions about food and exercise becomes automatic. And that’s when you can trust yourself in the buffet line, at a party or home alone with a carton of ice cream.
If your New Year’s resolution is to lose weight, please don’t make all that effort only to show up wearing the same pounds and more next year. Let’s have a real conversation about food, your weight, your life and your goals so that you never have to have the conversation again.
Linda Hopkins is the founder of The Light Life and the creator of Tools not Rules: a non-diet approach to shedding the weight and shaping up your life. For more information or a complimentary consultation, visit thelightlife.com or e-mail email@example.com.