Tuesday, 24 May 2005
Ya Gotta Change
Topic: Making Changes
I think a lot of us start Weight Watchers trying to figure out how we can lose weight without making changes to our lifestyle or menu. We've all seen hundreds of ads that tell us we should be able to do this. "Lose weight while eating all the foods you like." "Eat fettuccini and chocolate and lose weight." "Lose weight effortlessly by taking one little pill a day."
So we start out Weight Watchers, usually on the Flex plan, trying to make our points stretch to accommodate our existing lifestyle. Yes, that same lifestyle that got us fat in the first place.
"I eat fast-food for lunch every day."
"I like to have a couple of beers to unwind when I get home from work."
"I always order a pizza with 3 kinds of meat on Fridays."
"I work full-time and have 3 kids; I don't have time to exercise."
"In my family, we have to have donuts for breakfast on Sundays; it's a family tradition."
So we walk around hungry half the time, in order to save our points for a QuarterPounder or a Krispy Kreme. Or we start eating weird artificial food, like angel-food pumpkin cake with frosting made of fat-free cream cheese and Splenda, or no-crust pizza made with tomato paste and fat-free mozzarella. Or, saints preserve us, macaroni-and-cheese made with skim milk, Pam, and fat-free artificial cheddar-flavored processed cheese food. All so that we can convince ourselves that we can lose weight without making any changes.
After a while we just can't stand being hungry all the time, or we start craving food that isn't made of petrochemical products. So we go on an eating binge. And afterwards we say "What's WRONG with me? I always blow it. I try so hard, and I do so well for a while, and then I louse it up. Why am I such a failure?"
There's nothing wrong with you! Hunger is a very powerful force. We are not meant to be hungry; not for long, anyway. Everything in nature says hunger is bad, and drives us to correct the situation. And as for that pseudo food, we aren't stupid, we know that stuff tastes like wax (at best). We want real food and we don't want to be hungry and after a while, we're going to do what it takes to make that happen. Most people either give up trying to lose weight, or get stuck in an endless cycle of starvation-binge-starvation-binge. Some people, who have very strong will-power, tough it out all the way to their goal weight, and then go back to eating "normally."
But we don't have to fail. We don't have to starve ourselves to lose weight. We don't have to eat mad-scientist food. All we have to do is be willing to make changes. I'm not saying give up pizza for life, I'm saying have the veggie version instead of the meat, and have it once a month instead of once a week. If you don't have time to exercise, change your priorities; heck, drag the kids with you for some whole-family exercise. Take a walk after dinner, maybe. Drop the youth sports in favor of intergenerational, family sports.
Lose the fast food habit. Note, I didn't say "don't ever eat fast food." Just don't have it for lunch every day. I don't believe it's a coincidence that the obesity epidemic in this country parallels the rise of the fast food lunch. If you love fast food, have a once-a-week junk food fix, and pack a lunch the rest of the time. You'll save money, too.
Cook dinner. Yes, I know you come home from work tired and hungry. But with all the pre-washed, pre-chopped foods in the markets today, you can cook dinner in about a half-an-hour. Even if you haven't cooked before, it's not that hard; buy a Weight Watchers cookbook, or try some of the recipes on the message boards. Or throw a boneless, skinless chicken breast on the grill and serve it with steamed vegetables. Cook on the weekends, and reheat it in the microwave on weeknights. Learn to use a crockpot. Your whole family will benefit from the healthier meals, and you may even find that the time preparing and eating dinner becomes a quality social time. A couple in my neighborhood went on Weight Watchers together, and the husband told me what fun they were having cooking together every night.
Probably the best change you can make is to start eating more filling food. Choose foods that fill you up a lot, without costing a lot of calories. I absolutely believe that hunger is the enemy of successful permanent weight loss. If you don't know which foods to choose, you can look up the Glycemic Load of foods as one guide. In general, foods with a high water content are good; so are most vegetables. Foods that are high in fiber tend to fill you up. The Weight Watchers Core food list is a good guide. Foods like this are usually high in nutrients, too, so it's a healthy way to eat. Also, studies show that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and proteins lowers cortisol levels; cortisol is a stress hormone that sets off cravings for sweets (besides increasing your risk of heart disease and diabetes).
I'm not saying you need to become a health-food nut. I'm saying that the more of these foods you substitute for the high-fat, high-sugar ones, the less hungry you'll be and the more likely you'll be to sustain your weight loss.
I have a saying that I repeat to myself often: "Permanent weight loss requires permanent change." If a change is going to be permanent, it has to be something you can live with comfortably, so that becomes part of your lifestyle. That means eating foods that taste good, not walking around half-starved all the time, and occasionally enjoying the treats you love, whether it's pizza or creme brule. But the first, most important, change is to abandon the idea that we can eat and exercise the way we always have, and still lose weight.
Posted by whaledancer at 12:01 AM PDT
Updated: Thursday, 3 November 2005 11:13 PM PST
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