(the following article was written by nutritionist Sarah Rowe and posted here with her permission)
How to Be Lean for Life
Your body wants to be lean. Excess weight burdens your body and causes hormonal problems. Your body would much rather be healthy, energetic, and vibrant. Unfortunately, if you try to get there too fast, it will shock your system and your body will fight you in your efforts.
Dieting tells your body food is scarce and that it needs to squeeze every calorie out of the food you eat. Because it does not know when the next meal is coming, it enters into a defensive mode and begins slowing your metabolism. This is turn catalyzes all sorts of changes in your body for the purpose of conserving energy.
People often ask me some variety of the following questions regarding weight loss:
Any approach to weight loss that has a time frame involved is most likely going to end in failure, especially in the long term. For a variety of reasons:
Understand that your weight (fat reserves) are predetermined by your body!
There is a simple formula that your body goes by that you must understand. Your body yields a predetermined/preprogrammed weight for any given combination of age, exercise, and diet. There is nothing you can do about your age, so we will focus on what you can change. When you embark on a new eating habit or exercise program, your body starts shedding weight. It is transitioning to the weight it has already preprogrammed to be for that combination of activity and diet (i.e. lifestyle). Eventually it will stabilize at the new weight. That is why you should only embark on an exercise and eating plan that you can continue. Because in order to keep your new size, you must continue to whatever plan you were on. This gets frustrating to most individuals because they incorrectly believe that they should always lose weight as long as they are on weight loss programs. (That only works on diets which are so low calorie, that they do not provide enough energy for you to live on, thus the deplete your fat reserves)
Age (X) + Activity Level (Y) + Eating Habits (Z) = Your weight.
Change one of the above variables and your weight changes also (up or down)
The only really successful way to lose weight is to pursue a healthier lifestyle and consider weight loss as a perk. When you go into something with a lifetime or long term mentality, you are much more likely to not bite off more than you can chew. You are also much more likely to succeed in the long run. Don’t compare yourself to the quick results your friends get following fad diets or hard core exercise programs. It is like comparing a get rich quick scheme vs. slowliy investing over 20 years. You are slowly becoming richer while your friends will ultimately be working at Walmart.
So What Should Your Eating Plan Be?
There are many good resources online regarding healthy eating. One of the best sources I have found are books by Dr. Ann Kulze. Regardless what book you choose, remember to start slow. Make changes that you are able to continue for the long term. I always suggest as a first step is to eliminate soft drinks from your life (including diet). These things can wreck havoc on your body. Then when that seems no longer a chore, move onto another small change. This way you are slowly changing your bad habits and eventually you will no longer desire them. It is easy to continue a plan where you no longer want the stuff you are giving up!
What Should Your Exercise Program Be?
Something that you enjoy. If you don’t enjoy it, you won’t continue it. There is no perfect exercise program. Swimming, running, yoga, tennis, weights, pilates, dancing, cycling, hiking, walking. They all work. Just like the eating plan, start slow. If you are currently doing nothing, make a habit of walking around the block briskly each day. (Doing something daily is important) Doing it daily makes it become a habit that just gets into your head like brushing your teeth. It doesn’t have to be much, but does need to be consistant. Good beginner workout plans can be found on fitnessblender.com.
So if you just gave up sodas, and walked a little each day, you will notice in a month that you are healthier than you were before with little effort on your part. Keep progressing in this manner and you will feel much better in a year and you will have lost weight. Who cares how much! Keep pursuing health and you will keep seeing results!
Beware the Evil Lies of Age!!
Remember I said that your age affects your weight. If you continue your same lifestyle without change, your weight will not stay the same, it will increase. REMEMBER THIS!! Because I have seen many people say, “I’m doing better now than when I was younger, but I am not as thin as I was then” That may be very true! When you make improvements to your lifestyle, you are doing just that! Even when it doesn’t show. That is because had you not made those changes, you would be even heavier! Don’t let your age lie to you and tell you your efforts aren’t effective. Sometimes they are merely stopping your age from making you gain weight.
In conclusion, just remember, if you are pursuing being a healthier person, your weight over time will reflect it. If you pursue being a more active person you will also gain the same results. Think long term and amaze your friends at your next high school reunion!