Monday, July 19, 2010

Happiness Inventory, part 2 (Lose Weight for Good!) of 3

In my last blog, I discussed how to steer your life in the direction of contentment with the Happiness Inventory. As I promised, today's part 2 of the Happiness Inventory will discuss the dreaded but hotly pursued topic: women trying to maintain a healthy weight.  

A few months ago when I was singing as part of a professional chorus in a production of Mozart's Requiem, several women approached me and said, "I wish I was your size."  I was quick to point out that "my size" did not come naturally - I had to work at it.  They were surprised.

A common misconception is that thin people are just thin by nature - no matter what they do.  However, I wanted them to understand that I was listening and understood their frustrations. I had experienced them personally.

Let me start by saying two things.  I am a woman. And yes, I have had weight issues in the past. 

Now I've said it - I am a card carrying member of the "I am a woman who struggles with her weight" club.  In fact, I bet there isn't a woman who doesn't belong to this club.

However, after being pregnant with and giving birth to two (big) healthy boys, I have another confession to make.  I struggle with my weight less than I ever have, and have (finally) made peace with my body and self-image.  Now that is a club of which I am relieved to be a member.

The women at the Requiem performance who approached me aren't the first to do so.  Almost everywhere I go I hear the comment "wow, you are lean, you look great, it must be easy for you."  I want all women to know I empathize with them. I've walked in your shoes. 

I also want them to experience the joy and freedom I have owned since shedding my weight struggle. Below is the regime I use in coaching women on weight management and wellness.

Making Peace with Your Weight (aka Losing Weight For Good)

I used to be 25 pounds heavier than I am now.  After I gave birth to my son I lost a whopping 60 pounds.  Then, I had to do it all over again with my second son.

The road to wellness - finding that happy setpoint on the scale - comes when we seriously begin to follow these important points: 
  1. Focus on quality, not quantity.  Too many Americans consider quantity of food synonymous with quality. 

    In restaurants:  people rave about  a restaurant because the portions sizes are huge.  However, are those massive plates of food of high quality, or even mid-range quality?  I doubt it.

    Organic food has come under fire recently.  Researchers have made the claim that organic food is no better than conventionally grown food. However, the questions asked in the research are skewed. "Quality" was not defined.  It was only concluded that "yes," the "quality" of organic food was the same as conventional food. However, if they asked whether or not conventional food shared the same nutritional quality - the answer is no.  Organic food is typically smaller than conventional. (hence quality over quantity)  However, the nutritional quality of organic food is higher.  And in that restaurant with huge portions - you are not likely to get thoughtfully and carefully prepared organic food with the best nutritional density.

    In the grocery: Ask yourself - would you rather have a huge tomato with no taste, or a smaller, fresh tomato right out of the garden?  Conventional tomatoes are typically sprayed with CO2 to make them ripen, so they can be picked green and weather a beating during the long truck ride to the grocery store.  However, foodies know the difference and will shun the CO2 tomatoes in an instant for those juicy, sun ripened tomatoes off the local farmer's vine. And when you are trying to lose weight, you need food with the most nutrition packed punch per calorie. There can be no calories wasted on foods devoid of nutritional value.
    Focusing on quality of food, rather than quantity, will help you cut back on portion sizes as well. The American Cancer Society and the American Diabetes Association both recommend cutting portion sizes as a guaranteed method for losing or managing a healthy weight.  And, Europeans have long been lauded for their ability to eat rich, heavy, and high fat foods while maintaining a healthy weight and low rates of heart disease, obesity, and other chronic diseases. 

    Futhermore, eating smaller portions of "real" foods versus massive portions of low fat, processed, or no fat foods can help you lose weight.  The satiety center in your brain is not tricked into feeling full when you eat low fat, no fat, or highly processed foods (like high fructose corn syrup).  Therefore, people end up overriding messages of fullness because the satiety center in the brain does not flip the "I'm full" switch. I only buy "real" food - not overly processed no fat or low fat foods.  My family can enjoys a full range of recipes - nothing is off limits as long as it is a whole food - we just enjoy smaller portion sizes of them.  Read more
  2. Eat fresh, seasonal, and organic.  Really, you can do it. Go "cold turkey."  Purge your pantry and stop eating all processed food.  After you read this article - go and start your pantry purge. Today.  Be ruthless. Here's how to start.

    This means no fast food, convenience food, or boxed food.  Fresh, seasonal, and/or organic food typically travels less distance (better for the planet), has been processed less (better for you), and is likely to please your palate far better.  Pesticides have been linked to infertility and birth defects because our bodies cannot process them. Hormones and antibiotics in foods are also linked to early anti-biotic resistance to infections, certain cancers, depressed immune function, and early puberty in adolescence. Conventionally grown (non-organic) foods can be full of them. Make the switch to a seasonal, organic diet.  Read moreHow to Eat A Seasonal Diet
    Get a list of the Dirty Dozen Fruits & Veggies
  3. Avoid wheat like the plague.  Eating wheat can cause a histamine response which is responsible for creating inflammation in the body.  The inflammatory response is to blame for many chronic diseases, and can play a role in everything from gas, bloating, and water retention to heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. I cut out wheat years ago, and though not all people are sensitive to wheat - everyone can benefit from following an Anti-Inflammatory Diet.  Reference for following an Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Get a copy of Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid
  4. Cut back on exercise. This tip may seem counter-intuitive.  However if you are eating too much food or not enough of the right food, all the exercise in the world won't help you reach your target weight. For the over 70% of Americans who don't get enough physical activity, this tip doesn't apply.  However, if you are getting the recommended amount of activity, then you may need to take a harder look at your dietary habits.  As a therapist in the wellness industry for almost 20 years, I constantly coach clients that it takes more than exercise to be fit.  In other words, keep up the exercise, but don't count on it to exclusively help you find or maintain a healthy weight.
  5. Only eat after hunger strikes. Twice.  Your first hunger pains can typically be a sign of dehydration. The next time hunger strikes, try drinking a glass of water first. If your hunger does not subside, then eat.  If your hunger goes away, problem solved. You were probably just dehydrated. Drinking enough water first (follow the 8 x 8 rule) will help you discern when you are truly hungry.
Happy Eating and Breathing In This Life! Next week will be the final installment - the last 5 tips on Losing Weight for Good. 

For More Information, read about:
Slow Food Movement
The Daily Green
The Green Guide

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