There is no magic bullet—weight loss takes work—and here is why you should do it.
This post in a nutshell:
- To lose weight the calories you take in have to be fewer than what your body expends, so either less calories, more exercise, or both
- To keep weight off and to live in a healthy way, you need to get your body into a state of equilibrium, which will change over time as you age, but also due to environmental factors, stresses, etc
- What you eat and how you eat are critical tools in the armoury for weight loss as well as general health and well-being
One of my favourite online writers lamented recently about her struggles with her weight. Rather than referring to her by name, as our feelings about our weight can be highly personal, I thought instead of sharing my thoughts on how to lose weight permanently.
It is possible to take weight off, a lot of it, and keep it off. It is also possible to make weight and body tone the single most salient markers of our health—and it should be. There is nothing that speaks of our wellbeing than a glow fuelled by a happy body and a happy mind.
Important disclaimer. I do not wish to shame anyone, nor wish to glorify the cult of the perfect body.
No quick fixes. Wellness is a Lifetime Commitment
This is a very important point. Perhaps the most important. To lose weight and to keep it off takes work. It requires the tuning of your body and your mind to a different frequency than it has been up until now. It requires putting yourself into a state of equilibrium…and this takes time, and effort. There are no quick fixes, no magic pills, no special products to take, but there is work, and there has to be an ongoing commitment to focus on your body.
Getting to Know your Body
In our workaday world, eating lunch at our desks, skipping meals, grabbing ready meals or eating fast food, snack foods have become “unavoidable”. After all everybody eats this way, everybody lives this way. But the cost is to dishonour our own bodies. It is to treat what should be a temple like a dumping ground. Just as one might recoil from someone littering in the Garden of Eden, so too should one feel about putting things into our bodies and onto our skin that are not fully natural, fully resplendent with health.
The Lure of the Fad Diet
We all want to be beautiful. We all want it yesterday. Social pressure in this regard is enormous and unhelpful. But the very concept of dieting as a fad or dieting for quick results puts you out of equilibrium from the outset. What you are doing on this path is to force your body out of equilibrium for a quick result. You may make progress in the short term, but the cost is real and long term.
There are so many different diets out there, and there is always some new one to tickle people. But the truth is that the human body was designed to eat like a forager. Plant based, leaves, nuts, berries, fruits with additions on an infrequent basis—meat, fish, etc. If your diet is not conceived in this way, if it is not “everything, but in moderation” in philosophy, then you are putting your body out of equilibrium.
Putting your body into a state of equilibrium is the goal of wellness. That goes for spiritual and emotional areas as well, though we are discussing diet and exercise.
Over out lives, our bodies change, and so to do our needs. The environment we live in affects our equilibrium too, climate, but also living and working situation. Spending the time to eat right for your body, and to exercise at the correct level, will pay off in your energy and general outlook on life.
The success formula in this process is to understand how much fuel your body needs, and to take in that much or less. This is in part sheer caloric intake, but it is also nutrients, as well as the way that we eat.
The more you chew your food, the more accessible the food you eat becomes for your body to digest it fully. This is good, because your body is not wasting energy trying too hard to process its nutrients. Digestion begins in the mouth.
Achieving this balance between what your body actually needs and what you feed it is the essence of equilibrium. What I have noticed in my own life is that I can feel my body much more when I am in this state. My body tells me what to eat because I listen to it, and I can feel it meeting some important internal need. If you cannot feel the food going into your body and nourishing you, then you are either eating the wrong things or simply eating too much. And boy, in our society, both of those are very easy to do.
When and how you eat also matters
Your body needs to recover after eating. Digestion is a complete process. It should be allowed to complete before you eat again. If you are not hungry before a meal, then you simply should not eat.
The best ways to get into the rhythm here is to never snack. Second, it is to be regular about mealtimes. Third, it is to not eat or drink too much when you do, to stop before you are full (as the sensation of fullness lags actual satiety by about 15 minutes), and to get up and go for a walk after. This is why the holidays are such great times to gain weight, because we do it all wrong. That’s okay, after all, they come but once a year.
Aging and Diet and Exercise
As we age, our metabolism slows. Indeed, from our 20th birthday, every decade we naturally lose approximately 10% of our muscle mass. In other words, in order to be able to continue to enjoy the benefits of the youthful metabolism we relied on to keep ourselves slim, requires 10% more working out (or more), every decade. Yes, the older we get, the harder we have to work. That’s the bad news. The good news is that as we get older, our ability to exercise self-discipline goes up.
We all have our weaknesses, our comfort foods, the things we turn to when we are stressed. Mine is cake. I love cake. I love cake so much that I have called the part of me that seeks cake as the “cake-eater”. I know that most of us feel guilt when these cravings surface, and a binge is often followed by remorse. But imagine it differently. Imagine that these comfort needs are actually a part of you helping another part of you cope with stress. Its okay.
Rather than feel remorse, seek to understand, and give yourself forgiveness. It will make it easier to maintain balance in the future. Self-punishment is a bad drug.
The Types of Food We eat
What we eat matters more than how much we eat. I referred to a plant-based diet above. But eating a balanced diet, trying to eat 30 or more plants each week, and eating fresh, locally grown produce is best. Our soils have been depleted over the past 3 generations when the agricultural methods that have sustained civilisation were abandoned for industrial agriculture. This has resulted in severely depleted soils. The fruit and vegetables we consume today contain less than half of the vitamins and minerals they did at the turn of the last century. But does anyone want to eat twice as much? No, but you would have to keep up…
What’s the cost? Deteriorating health, diet related illnesses—obesity, diabetes, etc. Eating organic is a start, but even better is to eat local from a farm whose practices you know, and best of all is to grow your own. It isn’t too hard to grow some of what you eat, even if you live in a city.
I am an exercise bunny. Some of the routines I like to follow were posted here. You need to find what works for you, but a mix of targeted strength training, cardio and flexibility are crucial. Try to exercise for at least 30 minutes 6 days each week. If that is yoga when you get up in the morning or before you go to bed, you will get both strength and stretching, as well as the mindfulness benefits that come with that practice.
Focus on your core…belly and butt. These are essential for our well-being, but they are also the best way to ramp up your metabolism…the glutes are the biggest fat burners in your bodies, so the nice thing about having a firm booty is that it is helping you out even while you sleep.
Cooking from Scratch
Processed food is a no-no. Who knows what the provenance of those ingredients are? If there is an ingredient on that list and you don’t know what it is, then you shouldn’t eat it.
This is very simple. You should not put on your skin anything that you would not be willing to eat. The skin just absorbs it. So, if it has bad things in it, then these will get into your system.
Whoever knew life was this complicated? Well, it isn’t. If you set out to live in a healthy and conscientious way, then you will, and will inform yourself, make smart purchasing decisions, eat and drink with moderation and rhythm, and enjoy a much richer life.
And best of all, your body will thank you. You will be the weight you wish to be, and you will glow.