Thursday, April 7, 2011

Lose Weight the Easy Way?

The word diet absolutely makes me cringe.  My stomach turns and my eyes roll (involuntarily, of course) when someone says "I can't eat that... I'm on a DI-ET".  Doesn't it always sound like that, too?  DI-ET... as if the word itself just screams to be filled with a nasal sound, too long on the I and drawn out on the E.  Anyway, I hate hearing the word diet and I especially hate eating meals with people who are on one (this is mostly because my cheeseburger and diet soda become much less enjoyable when I'm watching someone sadly eat three pieces of lettuce, sans dressing of course).
Don't get me wrong, I am all in support of making healthy choices.  But are you certain that your choices are actually healthy?  Take low-carb diets, for example.  The point of a low, or no, carb diet is to (as with any diet) drop weight.  Do they work?  Sure, maybe for a while.  Are they safe?  Not one bit.  Is this lifestyle sustainable and healthy?  No way.  These balanced-diet-haters are marketing this drastic and quick weight loss without providing all of the facts (fun fact: it's proven that the slower you lose weight, the longer you can keep it off).
Let's look at the facts, shall we?  The energy we use comes from three sources: carbohydrates, fat, and protein.  Carbohydrates are the absolute most important of these three, especially for exercisers.  Carbohydrates provide the energy we need for our muscles to work properly (not to mention your liver and brain).  We don't even begin to use protein during a workout until after we've been exercising for 60-90 minutes.  Surprised?  And guess what?  Yes excess carbohydrates are stored as fat, but so are excess proteins.  Surprised again?
I am not suggesting we go crazy and eat everything in front of us, and I am certainly not suggesting giving up protein (or anything for that matter).  What I am suggesting is that we make healthy, well informed decisions.  There are so many bogus diets out there that get advertised like crazy and have paid spokespersons that probably don't even use the product.  There's a 'Cookie Diet'...  I can't even bring myself to type the words that come to my mind when I hear 'Cookie Diet'.  Then there are the always-ridiculous grapefruit diet, cabbage soup diet, Subway sandwich diet, lemon water detox diet, blood type diet, cereal diet, slim fast diet, Zone diet, apple cider vinegar diet, South Beach diet, and (my two least least favorite of all) the Atkins diet and the hCG diet.
These are so ridiculous.  Seriously.  You can't live your life without carbs.  You can't live off of only grapefruits or cabbage or liquid.  Slim fast is full of sugar.  Eating as if you were in a concentration camp is not a healthy choice or a sustainable lifestyle.  I don't know anyone who wants to drink vinegar each day.  Lunch meat is loaded with sodium.  Do you see where I am going?  These don't make sense.  Think about our ancestors.  They didn't go on crazy diets like these.  They ate smaller portions on smaller plates and were much more active.  And they didn't fill themselves full of harmful 'miracle pills'.

So why do these fad diets and diet pills stick around?  One reason is marketing.  Advertisement can make ANYTHING look good.  Paid actors give false testimonials to crap products with fancy names.  Period.  The second reason that these fads seem to last is because we are a society that thrives on instant gratification.  Why cook when you can drive-through?  Why hand write a letter when you can just use Facebook?  Why eat sensibly and exercise when the lady on TV says you can lose 'X amount' of pounds by tomorrow (another fun fact: healthy weight loss is 0.5-2.0 pounds per week)?  Don't be sucked into the feces that the 'diet' industry is throwing at you.
So how, then, do I lose weight?  Good question.  I'm glad you asked.
1. Exercise.  Building muscle won't make you bulky (can we all just agree to stop believing this myth?); in fact, one pound of muscle burns fifty calories per day while one pound of fat burns only five.  AND... the more calories we burn the leaner we are.  Stop and think about what that means for you long term if you get on a good and sustainable workout routine.  I'm not suggesting that you do Yoga if you hate it, or that you run  if pounding the pavement makes your skin crawl, or that you attend an aerobics class if sweat-bands make you nauseous.  No.  What I'm suggesting is that you find a workout routine you enjoy.  If it's walking, then by all means walk!  If it's swimming, go get your suit!  If you aren't having fun, then you won't continue with it.  Find something you are good at, chances are you will enjoy that more.
2. Eat right.  I'm not a doctor or a dietitian, but my advice is to use your common sense and go back to the basics.  Eat smaller portions, use smaller plates and use the food pyramid for reference.  Drink lots of water and eat the right amounts of grains, meat, beans, poultry, eggs, fish, fruits and vegetables.  Limit your saturated fats, oils, and sugars.
There is so much good information out there, but it is clouded by all the bad information and product-pushers.  The bottom line is this: There is no miracle or one-size-fits-all way.  Don't be fooled by the one-in-a-million success story.  This is your life.  Live it.  Enjoy it.  Exercise should be often, but fun.  Food should be nutritious, but delicious.  You deserve to indulge in a dessert on occasion.  We shouldn't be shackled to trying to remember what phase of what crazy diet we are in each day.  We should enjoy our meals and learn to love our bodies.  We don't have to be carbon copies of Hollywood.  I promise you, we do not.  What we do need to do is to each find, individually, what healthy means to us.  Find what weight your body feels good at.  And try to stay there.
BE HEALTHY.  Love yourself.  And remember... you're In Good Company.

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