We all know by now, hopefully, that diets are not the answer. There are no magic solutions to be found in a Saturday morning infomercial. There are countless fads and packaged promises which are developed by someone trying to get rich off of your desperation and fantasy of an easy way out. There is nothing quick, easy or guaranteed when it comes to weight loss. And the focus should not be on weight loss anyway.

A bottom up approach

You know, the focus should be on a healthy lifestyle. Trying to manage or lose weight on top of a shaky lifestyle is like trying to build your dream house atop a foundation of legos. Think of your lifestyle as the aggregate of how you spend your time, money and energy. How you spend these three things results largely from the choices you make, for which you must take ownership. How much time do you spend on Facebook or in front of the TV? Do you live within your means financially? How much energy do you spend worrying, complaining, fighting or regretting instead of making the most of the present moment?

Healthy food costs more; exercise takes time; changing the way we think and behave takes mental and emotional energy. If we’re wasting these resources on a daily basis, we’re not going to have any extra to devote to learning how to eat reasonably and exercise regularly.

Food and exercise matter

Of course we need to change how we shop for and consume food. We need to read labels, have an awareness of calories, sugar and fat and pay closer attention to portion size. And we have to exercise at least several times a week. There are many useful tips which may be helpful to some, but not others. Here are two of my favorites:

Eat a small portion and then pause. Wait the fifteen minutes or so it takes your body to realize it just ate a reasonable amount of food. The taste buds and juices in your mouth get all fired up when you’re chomping on things delicious, but don’t let your mouth dictate how much you eat. Use your brain: “This tastes wonderful and I just want more, but if I stop here and wait I’ll probably feel more sated than I do right now.”

Weigh yourself at a frequency that works for you, and be honest about whether it’s really working or not. It’s possible to over-do or under-do anything. We don’t want to be obsessive-compulsive about it, but we don’t want to live in denial either. If a basketball player is constantly looking up at the scoreboard, he or she will be distracted from what’s happening on the floor. On the other hand, if we’re not paying sufficient attention to the score we can let the game get away from us and be in over our heads before we know it. Try not to let fear keep you from stepping on the scale.

Lifestyle matters more

For any weight management project to be sustainable and grow, it needs to have its roots in a healthy lifestyle. Not perfect, just reasonably healthy. Think about what change you need to make in your lifestyle. Turn the devices off and get to bed earlier. Cut up some credit cards. Cut back on alcohol. Forgive more. Complain less. Then enjoy a good meal.

Art Frenz, Ph.D.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Psychological Fitness

“Psychological Fitness” is my monthly column featured in the Binghamton, NY Press & Sun Bulletin since 2004. This page highlights articles, or adaptations thereof, from that column.