Everybody’s an expert. They all have their fool-proof diet and/or exercise plan. The more industrious of them have a cookbook and exercise videos for you to purchase. Some of them are based on science. Others are based simply on some research and pure industriousness.
Worse still, many of them either put forth, or perpetuate myths that we continue to believe about how we should best approach our weight loss journey. Here are a few of the biggest that irritate me. I’d feel better knowing that at least a few of you listened and stopped wasting time on something that doesn’t work.
1. The Tortoise and the Hare. Remember the story? Whether you do or not, I’m sure you remember old Aesop’s moral, “Slow and steady wins the race.” This may be good advice for those on a weight loss regimen, but it sure is a tough way to keep people motivated. I’ve talked with people who have attended weekly weight loss meetings for years and years…some of them for a decade or more. They’re resigned to the adage, “It took you fifteen years to put it on, it will take at least that long to take it off.” When I ask how they’re doing, they admit that they’re still about the same as when they started. These poor women are discouraged beyond belief. But they’re determined to succeed, so they’ll pay their weekly fee and give their self-effacing smile at their weigh-in as the leaders who are happily collecting her money say, “Don’t worry. Slow and steady. That’s the key.”
No it isn’t.
Motivation is the key, and the best way to stay motivated is to lose weight. A recent study demonstrated that people who lost weight more quickly were more likely to keep the weight off and not rebound. It’s possible to do it without the weekly fee and monthly shaming that comes with public meetings.
2. “Eat smaller meals.” So now we’re rabbits and we graze our way through the day. Well folks, unless you’ve counted every calorie of the food you plan to eat for the day, and put it in one place so that once you’ve grazed your way through breakfast, lunch, and dinner by 3 pm you have to know you’re done. It doesn’t matter if you graze or if you wolf your food, consuming a lot more calories than you burn will end up around your hips and thighs.
The other problem with grazing is that your insulin levels stay high and every time you eat your body’s insulin will grab any available calorie passing through your blood stream and save it for later. As fat.
Why? Because most people, if they admit their habits honestly, are not eating spinach and celery sticks when they graze. They reach for the 100 calorie snack packs that are full of chemicals and sugar. Empty carbs that do nothing but make you hungry an hour later, wondering why you’re not losing weight but gaining it. Give yourself a chance to actually feel hunger. Do you even know what it feels like to be hungry?
3. “Everything in Moderation.” Sounds pretty good. But then I heard a spin on the saying that explained why it doesn’t work: “Everything in moderation, except moderation.”
The problem with this mindset is that it sets you up for failure. The instant you give in to a craving, you want the next one and the next. There really is such a thing as sugar addiction and unless you spend a couple of weeks really weaning yourself off sugar, you won’t be able to kick it. So if you’ve done well for three days you may want to give yourself a treat. After all, you deserve it, right? Just one little ice cream cone. Bam! Your sugar addiction has suddenly been reignited and now you can’t even look at a Tic-Tac without wishing it were made out of real sugar.
Try to stay away from that slippery slope of justification. You deserve a reward that is not food related. Get a new blouse. A manicure. Or better, take a kayaking trip or a guided hike through a wilderness preserve. Rewarding yourself with the very thing you’re addicted to is like handing an alcoholic a bottle of gin when he says he’s twelve weeks sober.