A show of hands, please. Who has started off 2013 with the pledge to lose weight?
Yes. Probably everyone reading this post. I've been reading on Facebook about people's plans to shed pounds and the struggles they're already having, and it's only day 5.
I've read other people's advice, heard excuses, and already have read from a few people that they want to give up.
Good ol' Day 5.
Okay, I have my own advice, and if you've been reading my blog you know what changes I advocate already. But here I'm going to list 10 ways to make dieting less tedious. How do I know? Because I'm living proof. People think that because I'm a size 2 that I've always been a light weight. The truth is, I gained a lot of weight with each of my pregnancies. However, I refused to be complacent, mainly because my health was at risk, and I worked hard to get down to a smaller size. Each time.
I put on over 50 pounds with each pregnancy. After giving birth, I still had 35-40 pounds to lose. Nursing helped, I will admit, but it still took hard work and determination, especially since I didn't go hopping on the treadmill the second I gave birth. I was sore. Uncomfortable. Exhausted. And not ready to do anything but be a round-the-clock baby feeder.
There are other times in my life where I gained weight, too. One such time was when I was taking my son to a special Apple video camp and ended up consuming my lunches while there. I kid you not, in one week I gained eight pounds. From eating what I thought was healthy food but turned out to be an overabundance of calories...about a thousand more a day than I was accustomed to eating! Some of the weight may have been bloat from the salt, too. But when I stepped on that scale, I knew I had to take the dang weight off.
I hate diets.
I know you do, too. I don't believe the advertisements where people are grinning like fools as they chug a green shake or jog (without panting) across a bridge at sunset. Those are fantasies. Dieting sucks. Not eating what you want when you want sucks. But here is how you can make it easier on yourself:
1) DON'T try to modify your diet AND exercise right off the bat. Choose one to focus on. If you choose exercise (which is what I would choose), make sure you talk to your doctor so that he or she can make sure you can start up an exercise routine without a problem. See #2. If you try to do both at once, it can be very overwhelming as your body tries to adjust. You will feel the hunger. Intensely. So exercise the first month, until you get into a pattern, then slowly introduce dietary changes.
2) When exercising (if you haven't been active in a while), start slow and build up. Hop on the elliptical and aim for five minutes. Then grab a 2-pound weight and do arm lifts. Go back on the elliptical for another five minutes. After three rounds in all, call it a day. Make sure you stretch afterward! Over the next few weeks, take longer intervals.
3) Start slow with food as well. People want to make an instant change and throw out all their chips and chocolate (that's what they tell you to do on these TV shows that are all about the health). Do this and you will be miserable. You will find yourself in the middle of the evening mixing a bowl of cookie dough and eating the whole thing in one sitting. I know, because I was there. Instead, add a salad to accompany your hamburger and fries. Make sure the portion size of the burger and fries are smaller. (At a restaurant, cut off part of the burger and halve the fries. Ask the waitress to take these portions away as you start your meal. Or ask her to have the cook give you less fries and a smaller burger. They probably won't adjust the cost, but isn't the cost of your health more important?)
4) When you start an exercise plan, make sure you keep a regular schedule. For example, if you decide you will work out Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6 am, even if you don't feel like getting up, do it anyway. In about six weeks you will adjust so that when you don't exercise, you'll feel like you're missing something important. You will also have more energy. So as you're trying to find your Reebok's in the dark, remind yourself that eventually this will become a habit.
5) Treat exercise like a moment of meditation for the mind. Download your favorite music and work out to it. Think about the good things you are doing for yourself. Look into the future and picture other ways to improve your life. How will you complete these projects? Dare to daydream. It's probably the only time of the day when you won't feel rushed. Consider it "Me Time."
6) When you feel the time is right to begin dietary changes, start by adding soup to your meals. Soup and crackers make a good, hearty lunch. And the liquid will help fool your stomach into feeling full.
7) Stop drinking soda and juice. Drinking your calories is the easiest way to gain weight. Even diet sodas are NO GOOD. They make you want to eat more. Stick to water, coffee, unsweetened hot or iced tea (or tea with a little sugar. I hate sugar substitutes. Sugar itself does not contain a whole lot of calories.)
8) DON'T try to lose a lot of weight all at once. Slow and steady is healthier, and it will stay off longer because you are making lifestyle changes, not rushing into some fad diet that works only in the short term. You are revising your eating and exercising habits. This is not going to be something you will only do until the weight comes off. You will be eating and exercising like this for the rest of your life. So take your time getting to where you feel comfortable. Don't obsess about it. Just do it.
9) Find activities you enjoy. If you like to dance, put on some music and dance after you get home from work. If you like tennis, get out on the courts weekly with a friend. Which brings me to my last bit of advice.
10) Do this with a friend. Or several friends. You can help motivate each other. Help one another steer clear of the foods you should be avoiding. Pat one another on the back with each success. I will admit, I did it alone without a friend. But I went to the YMCA and found myself competing with the person beside me, trying to work harder and faster to keep up with him or her. It worked. And they never even knew I was in competition with them.
In the end, I lost my extra weight. I continue to eat well and exercise regularly, but I also have a bagel for lunch and I pretty much consume a piece of cheese daily. And I always eat something sweet. Just not a slice of cheesecake or a super-sized candy bar. I might eat half the cheesecake. Savoring it instead of gulping it down. Or four Hershey's kisses with a handful of pretzels. Everything in moderation.
Which takes me to my last piece of advice: Enjoy your food. Eat small snacks in-between meals so you aren't starved by dinnertime and end up overeating. Enjoy the blackened salmon. Take time with your vegetable pizza. Sip your wine.
Eventually, losing weight won't be so hard.