- The Perfect Formula for Effective Weight Loss
We all know it’s true: eating healthy food and exercising regularly is the magic formula for weight loss. No one needs to cut out carbohydrates, or follow any other fad diet. It’s simple: eating healthily and exercising regularly works for optimum health.
There are other benefits besides weight loss and health when it comes to eating properly. As you embark on changing habits, it’s important to notice all the good things, because positive thoughts will help with motivation. For example, good food tastes good. Experts agree that we should get at least five servings of fruit and vegetables a day (a medium sized apple is a serving). There are some drawbacks to buying good things. Although fresh produce is generally more expensive than a dozen donuts, there are ways to incorporate fresh veggies in our daily life without shelling out a fortune. In summer, farmers’ markets often have good prices. Some veggies are cheaper than others: a bag of fresh carrots shouldn’t set you back too much (not like those avocados or kiwis), though you will have to set more time aside for peeling and cooking preparation.
If you eat well, the pounds should melt off, right? Not necessarily. It’s the combination of diet and exercise that leads to long-term weight loss: pounds that come off and stay off for good.
Many people enjoy exercise in the form of sports, or a hobby, such as sailing or building tree houses, but simply taking a walk is also good exercise. In fact, we all exercise to some extent during our daily routine.
2. Start Slowly
Scientists agree that it might be important to start exercising slowly if you have been out of shape for a while, but one should work up to at least half an hour of exercise per day. Exercising for forty-five minutes to an hour is a very acceptable amount for a physically able adult. If you have disabilities, consulting a doctor as to how much you should exercise and how you should start is recommended.
3. Changing Old Habits
If eating fresh produce and a balanced diet, and regular exercise are good for us and we feel better when we do them, why are they so difficult for all of us to do?
The reason many people find it difficult to start a journey on a healthier lifestyle is that habits are difficult to change, and yes, effort and change are diffiuclt. We have become used to lounging around in front of the TV, eating potato chips, perhaps. Or maybe we are too busy after a long day at work to do anything but microwave a frozen dinner. Yet when we identify our behaviors as habits that we have fallen into, we can think of ways to slowly change them. Often the first ideas of what we should be doing are not practical, so putting some time into thinking of what can be done, practically, instead of what should be done, ideally, will yield more results than you might expect!
This means that before something is routine, we have to think about even the idea of doing it. This having to think about what we’re doing is often a barrier to changing behavior: people get stuck at the conceptual level. To overcome this pitfall, it’s helpful to brainstorm about new ways healthier habits can be incorporated in your daily routine. Set aside time for coming up with new ways of gently introducing gradual changes into your daily life. For example, if you usually take public transportation or drive somewhere, try walking. Think of healthy snacks, such as sliced apples with yogurt, that can replace a morning cinnamon roll. It’s the small things that gain momentum over time that lead to a lifestyle change, and weight that comes off and stays off.
Once we have decided what we are going to do to change, then we actually have to change our habits. But the hard work is already done.
At the Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Program at McLean Hospital in Boston, which focuses on behavior change for healthier living, it takes doing something twenty-one times before it becomes a habit.
4. Keeping The Motivation
Once you have changed your habits in small ways, at first, then larger and larger ways, for the healthier, it’s not the end of the challenges—it’s just the beginning of a different stage of challenges. The trick now is to stay motivated. What to watch out for in this stage of actively living healthier is that, in the event of a setback, you don’t get so discouraged that you revert to old ways of being. Or at least, not for a prolonged period of time. We all relapse—that’s normal. Just because you regularly walk to the store and back, and buy grapes and carrots and low-fat cheese with low-sodium pretzels (a combination that goes well together as a snack, by the way), doesn’t mean you won’t have those days relaxing in front of the TV. However, those should be the exception, not the norm, and when they do occur a few days in a row, know that this is normal for everyone—and then put effort again into your healthier routine you’ve been working on.
Relapses are hard because there is less motivation than there was at the beginning—it’s not something fun and new anymore—so it’s all the more challenging to walk when we feel like taking the bus, or to eat oranges instead of cookies. Our inner cheerleaders are tired. But consciously thinking positive self-motivating things can help. It’s this doing of things we’d rather not that is key to getting back into good habits. Sometimes action precedes motivation.
Over time, we no longer need to cajole and force ourselves to do things we are resisting—it comes a bit more naturally once we are comfortable with our new habits. But we all have those days, and good health is always a challenge. However, the rewards are wonderful. Remind yourself of those often and happily.