Weight loss is a popular topic and a multi-billion dollar industry for a reason. I have found that it is the rare person who is perfectly happy with their weight. Most people are either trying to drop a few pounds, lose a lot of weight, or trying hard simply to maintain their current weight.
Why are so many people struggling with the numbers on their bathroom scale? There are so many answers—we live in a land of abundance, we eat the wrong foods, we eat too much food, we exercise too little, and the way our food is produced is a nightmare.
So how then, can you successfully jettison that excess weight and keep it off? Many health experts would have you believe that just eating less and exercising more will do the trick. Unfortunately, weight loss is not that simple. What and how you eat is a combination of physical, emotional, and spiritual issues, and each person is unique in the factors they bring to the table. (No pun intended).
I have learned not only from studying and practicing Traditional Chinese Medicine, but also from observing and working with my patients, that many people do lose weight and are able to keep it off. The key to their success goes far beyond less food and more activity. The following is a list of things that I have found to be true regarding successful weight loss:
- Weight loss takes commitment. This is a baby steps kind of thing. Even though you may want to be twenty pounds lighter today, it’s not going to happen…today. But it can happen over the course of a few months. Losing weight means signing on for the long term and taking one day, one meal, one snack at a time.
- Weight loss takes planning. You know that you need to eat lunch each day. You have a choice—you can head out to Big Butt Burger Shack with your co-workers or you can eat the healthy lunch you packed for yourself. You know that you’re going to come home tired at the end of the day and not want to cook. What will you do? Call for the All Cheese All the Time Pizza Special, or take your pre-prepared entrée out of the freezer? You get the picture—you know you’ve got to eat and you know yourself; so plan ahead.
- Control over what goes into your meals is crucial. When you eat out, you have no control of how much butter or oil went into that pasta dish you just ordered. The bleu cheese dressing at the salad bar is too thick to pour for a reason—it’s loaded with stuff that is not your friend. Fattening stuff tastes really good, and restaurants use lots of fattening stuff that they would never tell you about.
- Exercise helps you lose weight and keep it off. Actually, in Chinese medicine, we’d call it movement. All that excess weight you’re carrying around is considered an accumulation of damp tissue. Movement is crucial to resolving the accumulation—it’s kind of like self-medicating in that movement restores the flow in your body. It also speeds up your metabolism and improves your digestion. You don’t have to take up an Olympic sport. Just go take a walk, ride your bike, or play outside.
- The people around you can make or break your resolve. If you are going to lose weight, you need to be surrounded by supportive people, not someone who is trying to tempt you with chocolate and cheesecake. If your family isn’t on board with how you eat, find a friend or co-worker who can act as your support team.
- You need a plan. It can be as simple as deciding not to have seconds or counting calories or it can be as complete as Weight Watchers. I have seen patients lose weight and keep it off using all kinds of methods. The thing they had in common was that they had a plan.
- You can eat the foods you like and still lose weight. You just need to eat less of them and less frequently. You will not lose weight eating all brownies all the time—but a brownie once in a while will help you not feel deprived.
- Your digestion is a huge player in the weight loss game. In Chinese medicine, if your digestion is poor, you are more likely to convert your food into damp tissue that accumulates on your belly and thighs. How do you know if your digestion is funky? Heartburn, stomachaches, lots of gas and rumbling, feeling tired after a meal, food cravings, loose stools or constipation, nausea and no appetite are all signs that your digestion could use some help. Acupuncture, Chinese food therapy, and even an herbal formula are good options to set it right.
- Some foods can be over nutritious. Say what? It’s true; foods that are very rich or highly concentrated can be too hard to digest. Some obvious offenders include meals in a can, diet shakes, concentrated juices, and even some rich meats and sauces.
- Extreme diets don’t work—at least not in the long term. Here’s why: You go on a diet, say the Just Eat Cabbage Diet. You lose a bunch of weight over the course of say, two weeks. Great! But what happens when you go of the diet? Oops! Right back to the way you were eating, but now your metabolism has gotten a little slower, because you were eating only cabbage. So now just eating the way you were before the diet causes you to regain more weight. Bummer! The net result of your diet—weight gain.
- One slip doesn’t spell catastrophe. Keep your head in the game. This means not only staying committed, but realizing that your can slip up and still lose weight. Many people beat themselves up for failing to keep to their plan, and just quit altogether. The successful ones fall off the wagon, but get right back on, and keep losing weight.
- You need to eat good food. This means lots of vegetables, whole grains and a little protein at each meal. Forget about the over processed, chemical laden, genetically modified, sugar-loaded, hormone treated stuff you find at eye level in the average grocery store. Look for food that has been grown or meat that has been raised without the help of pesticides, chemicals, antibiotics, hormones, and all manner of stuff on the label that you can’t pronounce. You really are what you eat.
- Long-term changes are the key to success. Losing and maintaining your weight is not a project you undertake just to get ready for swimsuit season or an upcoming class reunion. It’s a way of eating and moving your body that is health promoting, done in moderation, and sustainable for the rest of your life.