Being a health coach, people ask me all the time about losing weight. Everyone seems to want that elusive “magic bullet” pill or potion that will take the weight off with the least amount of effort. The truth is, you CAN lose weight without trying, but it’s not as simple as popping a pill or drinking a shake.
When I share with patients that I used to be overweight, they always stare at me in disbelief. Yes, I have a “before” and I’m living the “after”, but the secret to my personal success wasn’t a pill or diet. It started with a change in thought process and ended with something called “therapeutic lifestyle change”… a little TLC, if you will. Therapeutic Lifestyle Change is exactly what it sounds like; lifestyle or habit change that has a therapeutic or healing effect on your health. Trust, me, I tried the potions and pills – Slim Fast, Diet Coke and fat burners were my staples – but, this was a game changer for me. Since TLC can seem ambiguously overwhelming to a newbie, I thought I might share a few ways to easily incorporate the TLC’s that changed my life and my weight forever.
- Stop weighing yourself. Observing your own weight loss is like watching water boil, except worse. At least with water, the change from still to bubbling is blatantly obvious. Seeing your own reflection and adapting daily to small changes in your appearance makes it nearly impossible to notice weight loss. Standing on your scale has a similar effect – it seems like a tortured lifetime before it actually reflects the hard work you’ve put in at the gym or on your plate. I’ve got some news for you, though. Are you ready? Read this carefully and really let it sink in: If all your healthy living efforts are chained to the expectation that your scale or mirror will reward you, you will always fight a losing battle. So, THROW AWAY YOUR SCALE and stop letting your appearance be the only motivation you have for creating healthy habits! When you focus on TLC in itself, weight loss happens as an afterthought. It’s freakin’ awesome! Your scale on the other hand will suck the motivation right out of you, because it’s not showing you the big picture – body composition. And your mirror is a little liar, quite frankly, since its reflection is altered by your perception.
- Focus on quality of food instead of quantity. Food is the FUEL our body uses for every organ system to function the way it was designed to. It is a mixture of macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats and proteins) and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other nutritive substances). When you sit down to eat a greasy bag of McD’s OR a “healthy cuisine” microwave meal, YOU may see food, but your body doesn’t see that. Your body is busy separating out actual nutrients from the other substances often added to these meals to enhance flavor, texture, color and shelf-life. In both fatty fast foods AND low calorie diet foods, there are A LOT of these mystery ingredients – maybe even more so than actual food. THIS is the stuff that breaks down the complex machine we live in called a human body and makes it fat and sick. So, START SEEING FOOD FOR WHAT IT REALLY IS. Make choices based on how they affect your health, not your taste buds. The sad truth is that your taste buds have been hijacked by food chemists and turned into little drug dealers, pushing you to take another hit of the food equivalent of crack. Just Say NO! Choose lean protein/veggie menu items at restaurants and don’t get sucked into deceptive marketing verbiage at the grocery store – “low carb”, “zero sugar“, and “fat free” foods are some of the most toxic. Always remember, the numbers in the Nutrition Facts don’t mean anything if the ingredients aren’t actual food. So, shop the perimeter of the grocery store for fresh foods, avoid the boxed crap, use caution at restaurants and read the ingredient label when there is one.
- Engage in exercise-like activity. Well, I hate to tell you what you don’t want to hear, but exercise is kind of a necessity. We weren’t designed to sit at a computer typing away at a blog (yeah, that’s me). Our human body machines were designed to use physical activity in the same way it uses food. Exercise improves nearly every physiological function we have – digestive, hormonal, cardiovascular, neurological, and musculoskeletal to name a few. But we dread exercise, right? Who wants to hit the gym before a long day of work, or AFTER a long day of work? No one! So how do we get past our excuses and start including exercise in our daily routine? First, I want you to think back to your childhood. What physical activities did you enjoy as a kid – swimming, riding your bike, running with friends, baseball, volleyball, or soccer? Now think of what the adult version of that might look like. Maybe in a group setting, like an adult sports league, a running club, cycling club, swim team, cross fit group, boot camp or anything else you can think of. Now, you have group accountability combined with an activity that could actually be enjoyable. Not bad, right? Commit to training for an event like a meet, a triathlon or marathon and dangle that carrot as long as necessary to get you past the 6 weeks it takes for a new behavior to become a habit. If none of this sounds do-able, try using a TABATA work out daily. TABATA is a HIIT (high intensity interval training) method that uses 20 seconds of intense exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest for 4-8 minutes. It can be modified for whatever YOUR intensity level is and you can use any movement that gets your heart rate up in the comfort of your own home. No excuses! We all have 8 minutes to spare for the sake of our good health, right? Right!
So, this is it folks. This is my personal secret to dropping pounds without giving any thought to dropping pounds. Fad diets, potions and pills may create short term weight loss, but Therapeutic Lifestyle Change creates long term, sustainable weight loss. If you still feel like you need a helping hand getting started, find a certified health coach or lifestyle educator in your area, or come see me at the clinic – I’d love to help!
To glorious health and a beautiful body,
Ashley Howell, CHC