We hear all of the time about different diets and weight loss tips. Some, of course, are better than others. Over the years, there have been numerous contradicting pieces of advice. The best things I’ve heard from different diet plans have been things like eating more nutritious, ‘whole’ foods, and avoiding processed foods. They’re part of just about all diets, but they’re also kind of vague.
I think that one of the most important things I’ve heard, and agree with, is that making “lifestyle changes” works much better than “dieting”. That makes sense. I mean, diets can work short term – many people lose weight for a specific reason (often an event), but it almost always comes back. And usually not long after it was lost (and sometimes those pounds bring along their friends). But for permanent weight loss, it’s important to make changes in the way we do things.
The problem is making – and maintaining – those changes that lead to the permanent weight loss. Making them is easy, but most people can’t seem to keep those changes in their lives. So, how can someone succeed at safe, permanent weight loss? Many articles tell us we need to do things gradually. I agree. When there are too many changes, and/or drastic ones, it’s nearly impossible to continue the new lifestyle unless there’s some overwhelmingly motivating factor involved.
One line I remember reading is that we don’t gain all that weight overnight, so why do we expect to lose it quickly? Again, this has to be a lifestyle change. It’s often best to focus on making healthier changes, and letting weight loss be a fringe benefit. According to many things I’ve read, one or two changes at a time is the ideal. I have a little saying that I think it helps to think about – you have to make the changes in such a way that you basically trick your body into thinking that nothing has changed. It’s like those articles telling you to go to sleep 15 minutes earlier every few days to get onto an earlier schedule. We all know how difficult it is to make sudden, drastic changes. Even adjusting an hour twice a year for the clock changes causes problems. But that’s something we need to adapt to, and since everyone around us is doing it, that makes it somewhat easier. The same is true of other lifestyle changes. It’s much easier when done incrementally and also when others are involved. So, try little things, one at a time. One downfall for many people is night time snacking. Some suggestions are to stop eating in the evenings. But don’t just suddenly try to cut out ALL snacking after dinner. Maybe pick a time you stop – say, 9 pm – and then move it up a few minutes once a week until you’re happy with the new schedule you’re making for yourself. You can even try just limiting what foods you eat at first, if you have difficulty cutting out snacks. For example, instead of a huge bowl of popcorn, or candy, you can only snack on fresh fruit and vegetables. Then, once that is easily part of your new routine, you can work on not eating anything late at night. The nice things about the gradual changes are that it’s easier on a person than sudden, abrupt ones, and more importantly, you’re less likely to fail. It will make the transformation slow, but almost effortless.
There’s another tip you’ve likely heard before – nothing works for everyone. You might have to try different things until you find what works for you. For example, some people can eat a small bowl of pasta, and feel full. I’m (unfortunately) one who just gets hungrier the more pasta I eat. Someone like me needs to really minimize or even avoid certain carb-loaded foods, such as rice or noodles. I slowly changed my diet from one filled with carbs to one that allows things like non-skim milk, real butter, and oils. For me, that’s what worked – the opposite of what I had been told was “a healthy diet” for many years. Low fat absolutely DOES NOT work for me. Others do best avoiding meat and dairy. The bad news is that we need to figure out our ideal eating style, which often means quite a bit of trial and error until we find our best match. You can always adjust any ‘diet’ to better suit your needs. But in the end, it can all be worth it.
Remember, you have the rest of your life to work out all of the details!