The majority of New Year’s resolutions seem to be about weight loss and getting in shape. There are only five things you need to know about weight loss: expectations, portions, sugar, exercise and rewards. Remember that when setting a resolution or goal, you must give yourself the grace to fail, because you will fail. Failure is not a bad thing – it means you are moving toward that goal. Failure means you step back and reassess, then resolve to move forward. Don’t allow failure to pull the plug on your resolutions. Remember that those who do not try, do not fail. They are not growing and becoming better people.
1. Expectations: You have to set realistic expectations for yourself. You alone know your limits, what you are capable of and how far you can push yourself. (Please consult your doctor if you have major health issues.) Don’t expect to lose 50 pounds a month unless you are starving yourself. Start out small, like losing 2 pounds a month. That may be more within you ability to do. It is a more realistic goal to achieve. When you achieve that goal, you will feel better and more motivated to continue to lose weight.
2. Portions: Next time you go to a restaurant, look at the portion you are given. Most often, the portion you receive could easily feed a family of four in a developing country for several days. Many of us were raised by mothers who told us to, “Eat everything on your plate”. That old adage is strongly ingrained in us. However, it’s better not to eat everything on your plate. Request a to go box and have the leftovers the next day for lunch. When you are eating at home, begin by cutting your portion by one-third. For example, if you have a big spoonful of mashed potatoes, take a smaller spoonful – don’t make it heaping. If you have a sandwich, cut one piece of bread in half and have half a sandwich. Another good rule for portions is what I like to call “the handful rule”. For most people, a handful is about one-half to one-third of a cup. If you must have chips with your sandwich, have a handful – and don’t make it heaping. If you still feel hungry after eating a smaller portion, grab an apple, a handful of baby carrots, an orange, or a handful of nuts. These foods are high in fiber and fiber makes you feel fuller. They are also healthier choices than another handful of chips.
3. Sugar: Studies have shown that refined sugar is one of the worst things in the American diet. Americans have developed an addiction to sugar. Slowly wean yourself from refined sugar. If you must use sugar, use the organic kind (Sugar in the Raw) or a sugar substitute like Stevia. Pay attention to your portion of sugar. Become a label reader when you are grocery shopping. Take notice of the number of grams of sugar and salt (another belly buster) in the food. Go for the low salt, low sugar foods. It’s better to use fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables because they aren’t as processed and have less sugar and salt. If you are drinking soda, stop it NOW! Carbonated beverages, whether regular or diet, are high in sugar and other unhealthy additives. Again, work in bite-sized pieces. Start by cutting out one soda or one glass of sweet tea a day and replacing with an 8-12 ounce glass of water. Then continue to decrease your sugary drinks by two a day, etc. For many people, cutting sugar out of their diets is akin to getting off drugs. You will go through withdrawal and may even have strange dreams.
4. Exercise: If you have not exercised regularly for some time, don’t jump back into the gym thinking you’ll be Hercules in no time! There’s no way you’ll be able to keep that resolution. Start out small and slow until you’re used to exercising again. My boss likes to say, “We’re gonna eat this elephant one bite at a time”. The cheapest, easiest and lowest impact form of exercise is walking. If you live in an area with extreme weather, walk at an indoor mall. A friend of mine would walk in the parking garage close to her work during the hot summer months. All you need to invest in for walking is a good pair of walking shoes and some padded socks. It’s great if you also have an iPhone with a cardio playlist or a friend with whom to walk. I walk with my dogs. Again, don’t start out by trying to walk across the US. Walk for 10 to 15 minutes daily. Then increase that to 30 minutes a day. Studies have shown that 30 minutes of sustained aerobic exercise for at least three times a week is very beneficial for your physical and mental health. Another relatively low impact exercise is stairclimbing. I’m not talking about running up and down several flights of stairs a day, but taking the stairs instead of the elevator if you need to go up only a couple of floors. As always, take it slow and in small steps.
5. Rewards: Behavior modification based on a rewards system has been around forever. In order to keep up your motivation for achieving your goals and keeping your resolutions, you may want to investigate a personal reward system. This personal reward system should not be based on food or money. Both of those would undermine the goals and resolutions you have set. There are several different reward systems I use: When achieving a goal of saving money, I reward myself with a walk in the park on a beautiful day. Of course, I take my pups along and we kill two birds with one stone – reward and exercise. When I lose weight, I reward myself by downloading a book or movie from my local library. I save money and I am patronizing a great organization in my community.
Make weight loss a habit. As you get stronger, increase your walking time, go to the gym, and make healthier food choices. This is a learning process-give yourself grace. Good luck as you move forward into 2017 and your weight loss goals! Stay tuned . . .