With obesity rates at an all-time high, while at the same time images of perfect bodies are inescapably thrust in our faces through the media, it’s a wonder many of us even leave the house.
Statistics vary, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, more than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7 percent) are obese. If those people are parents, what kind of health are they modeling for their children? It becomes a vicious cycle of health abuse.
Food is a coping mechanism for masking or avoiding undesirable feelings. It never rejects you. It is always there. You are guaranteed to feel better, temporarily, immediately.
Why is it that so many of us are overweight? Why does weight control feel like a losing battle? While there are as many answers to that as there are excess pounds, I have found that there are several major unconscious negative/limiting beliefs or factors that keep us overweight.
1. “I don’t deserve to be at my ideal weight. Others do, but not me!” Some people actually believe that there are born winners and born losers and you are what you are and there is simply nothing you can do about it. This is completely neurotic, because we are all born to win. Yes, some of us may have natural advantages (Albert Einstein, Halle Berry) and others may have natural obstacles (Stevie Wonder, Helen Keller), but we all have the power of choice.
2. “I’ve always been fat. In fact, everyone in our family is fat.” Sometimes our identity gets defined by our size or appearance. It bonds us to those closest to us. Some would feel guilty being slender, because it might make their mother feel bad for being overweight. Break this cycle and get healthy for you. Who knows, maybe your family will follow suit.
3. “Attention/Power.” Sometimes people feel weak or unnoticed. Weight gets them noticed. And to some people, negative attention is better than none at all.
4. “Chastity fat.” Many young females, particularly victims of molestation, gain weight to deflect unwanted sexual advances. This also explains why some people sabotage their mate’s weight loss programs. They don’t want them to look too appealing to others.
5. “See, I told you!” We get to be right. If you believe deep down that if you lose weight, you will gain it all back, then you will. That self-righteousness is a huge pay-off in the unconscious, because it is familiar.
If any of these issues touch a chord in you, then rejoice. It means that you are now conscious, and that is the first (and hardest) step toward positive change. Know that these are not facts! They are beliefs, and we can always change our beliefs.
By committing to health and making health a priority, you make the healthy choice to eat the right food, work out and invest in your health. You would never miss paying an insurance premium, would you? Now you make exercise and proper nutrition just as important. When you got married, you said “I do.” You didn’t say “Well, I’ll try.” Use this same commitment to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
1. Stop using that 4-letter word: diet.. That not only connotes deprivation but also a short-term goal.
2. Start keeping a food diary. Write down everything and every time you eat. Most of us are unaware of how we spend our calories (and our money). By keeping track of what you eat (or spend!), you will quickly see your negative patterns.
3. Fool-proof your kitchen and/or office. Get rid of anything unhealthy. If you are thinking “But Dr. Nancy, I have kids!” Why would you want to allow them to learn unhealthy eating habits? This is about changing your lifestyle for maximum health and minimum temptation. Set yourself up for success by only having healthy food and healthy eaters around you.
4. Accept that exercise is just as important as healthy food choices. Check with your doctor to see what is the best exercise program for you. If you are just starting one, make sure you start off with
“baby steps.” Start off walking briskly for 15 minutes a day. After a week, bump it up to 20, then 30, etc. Then when you are ready, start running. Or enroll in a beginner’s yoga class. If you don’t like exercise, pick something that doesn’t seem “exercisey.” There truly is a sport for everyone. You may not be in love with exercise, but you can learn to enjoy for the benefits, if nothing else.
5. Write in your calendar or datebook each week in advance the times/dates you will work out. Honor those appointments as if they were more important than a doctor or dentist appointment. They are. Nothing is more important than your health. If you don’t have that, you can’t work, take care of kids, etc. There are 168 hours in the week. You can quickly calculate how many you spend sleeping, eating, working, commuting, child caring, etc., and see that you can carve out 10 hours a week (including driving to gym, changing, showering, etc.) for your health. That is less than 10 percent of your time, yet your body works 100 percent of the time for you!
6. Prepare for plateaus. Most people “fall off the wagon” when they hit a plateau. This is a perfectly natural phase of any change process. While it appears that nothing is happening, know that lots of things are going on behind the scenes. Much like intermission at a play, it looks like nothing is happening onstage, yet there’s a flurry of activity backstage that will be revealed to you if you wait it out. What is happening in the human body when the scale doesn’t budge is that every system, organ, cell is absorbing the new adjustments. It’s as if gauges and levers and toggles and switches are all being readjusted to the new program. And it takes some parts longer than others. Just like in a classroom, the teacher must wait for every child to understand the lesson at hand before moving on to the next one. This trains every cell in the body for long-lasting results. This is precisely why rapid weight loss programs (“crash diets”) only promote the yo-yo effect. If you’ve trained your body one way for 35 years, you cannot expect it to be re-trained in 30 days! The body cannot possibly adapt to a new program that quickly. Slow and steady ensures permanence.
7. Focus on your progress. Remember, we get whatever we focus on, and whatever we focus on expands. If you celebrate losing 5 pounds, 10 pounds, 20 pounds, etc., you will enhance the process. If you focus on how slow it’s going or what a “fat pig” you still are, guess what will happen? Stay patient and positive, and plan activities to redirect your energy.
Get started on your new commitment to health today. Why wait?