To a certain degree, this is to be expected. It’s certainly a concern of mine. (Those photos will last for-freaking-ever.) But there are a disturbing number of fad diets floating around those boards: cheap pills, single-food fasts, and bizarre old wives’ tales. Needless to day, they’re expensive and frequently harmful, and the results are usually only temporary.
Of course, when it comes to successfully losing weight (and more importantly, keeping it off), nothing is written in stone. What works for one person may not work for her twin sister. I certainly don’t know all the answers.
But I kinda know some of them. These ten rules have been echoed time and again by medical professionals, nutrition experts, and the media in general. They’re fairly essential to any weight control. Many have worked for me over the years. Hopefully, they’ll help you along, too.
If you have more rules to add, I'd love to read 'em. Please fire away in the comment section.
1) Seek information.
Read. Research. Watch. Absorb. Flip on your interweb button and learn about food. Get facts from experts, health professionals and reliable sources who know what they’re talking about. Gather good data and apply those numbers and strategies to your own situation. Do not let advertising make your decisions for you.
2) Ignore dumb fads.
A good rule of thumb: if it sounds like something your crazy co-worker would try, keep on walking. This includes master cleanses, herbal laxatives, TrimSpa wannabes, apple cider vinegar diets, grapefruit diets, chicken soup diets, cabbage soup diets, that godforsaken cookie diet, and their ilk. As mentioned above, these are often dangerous, pricey, and based on bum science (when they’re based on any science whatsoever).
3) “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
Of all the theories I’ve heard on healthy eating, Michael Pollan’s credo seems to be the most reasonable and potentially effective, not to mention the most conscious of the financial, environmental, and social consequences. Let’s break it down.
EAT FOOD: consume whole foods and/or products with very short ingredient lists. “Don't eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.”
NOT TOO MUCH: check your portions.
MOSTLY PLANTS: eat less meat. Increase your produce intake. Serve more whole grains.
By cooking at home, you regulate portions, control ingredients, spend less money, and reduce wasteful packaging. It keeps you out of restaurants and fast food joints, where serving sizes are much larger than they were 30, 20, or even 10 years ago. So, experiment with dinner. Learn how to use a knife. Pick up How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. A few minutes in the kitchen could save you a few years of heartache down the line.
5) Get up and move.
To lose weight and keep it off, you must consistently burn more or as many calories as you ingest. This is an unassailable fact, and means some degree of daily exercise, probably for the entirety of one’s life. Use it or lose it, folks.
6) Drink water.
It’s been estimated that soda makes up 10% of all calories in the American diet. That’s practically enough for its own food group. Plus, USA Today and Yale University say: “[Soda drinkers] do not appear to compensate by reducing calories somewhere else in their diets, so they tend to pack on extra pounds.” By replacing pop with water, you’re cutting calories and hydrating your body in a healthy way.
7) Kill your TV.
According to the National Institute of Media and Family, “children who watch more than three hours of television a day are 50 per cent more likely to be obese than kids who watch fewer than two hours.” If TV is that detrimental to kids, you know it can’t have a spectacular effect on adults. Same goes for your computer and/or Playstation. That’s time you could be cooking, moving, socializing, learning, reading … you get the picture.
8) Have breakfast.
The National Weight Control Registry is a reputable organization that monitors people who have kept 30 pounds off for at least one year. (On average, it’s 66 pounds for five-plus years.) Of those successful individuals, 78% eat breakfast every single day. It prevents overeating through the rest of the day, and “may leave the subject with a better ability to perform physical activity.”
9) Remember: everything in moderation.
Are you a cold turkey kind of person? More power to you. But lots of us are baby-steppers, and when we attempt to overhaul everything at once, it results in massive burnout. So, unless it’s a medical crisis, take baby steps. Change your behaviors a little at a time. Don’t starve yourself. Work your way up to more intense exercise. You may not even notice the difference after awhile, because it’s become such a part of you.
10) Don’t diet.
Change your lifestyle. The vast majority of successful dieters gain the weight back, maybe because he very word “diet” implies a temporary modification of habit, as opposed to a lifelong adoption of behaviors. For weight loss to work, it’s gotta be for the long term.
And that’s it. Readers, what would you add to these basic tenets? What essential rules have worked for you? The comment section is open.
If you like this article, you might also dig:
- The Problem with Diet Foods
- Understanding the Childhood Obesity Epidemic Part III: Small-Scale Solutions
- Why Weight Maintenance is Harder Than Weight Loss, and How to Help it Along