Well, it’s that time again. As we wade through heart-shaped boxes of candy, peanut butter eggs, marshmallow chickens, jelly beans (and those Cadbury caramel eggs!), how can one possibly lose weight for the approaching beach season? Isn’t there some sort of middle ground where we can still enjoy holidays without having to agonize over every last bite? Seems a pity to let Grandma Yetta’s almond toffee go to waste.
A restrictive diet, full of rules and regulations, is not the way to lose and maintain weight. In and of itself, “diet” is a contradiction because it implies adherence to a temporary formula to achieve a permanent goal. In other words, you suffer for a period of time in order to lose weight. But then what happens? After you courageously endure the latest fad, you just can’t take it any longer and it’s back to the goodies again. Despite all the scientific hype over fat, no fat, carbs, no carbs, protein, no protein, zones, no zones, Americans are getting fatter in record numbers. Something isn’t working.
The simple problem with dieting is that it’s short-term. Well-intentioned dieters don’t think beyond the initial, temporary sacrifice. But as overeaters have discovered, losing weight isn’t nearly as hard as keeping it off. Maintaining ends up being a lot more difficult than losing, because the positive reinforcement (“Wow, Bitsy Mae, you look great in that sun suit!”) and the fun of buying smaller clothes (“Miss, do you have this bikini in ‘portly?’”) slowly fade as dieters approach their goal.
Well, here it comes: The solution is to eat whatever amount is required to get (and keep) your weight where you want it to be. Experiment by monitoring your waist size as you eat smaller amounts over time. Control the portions and the weight will follow. Get moral support through family and friends, groups like Weight Watchers or Curves, or maybe even a good counselor or therapist. Add a little exercise, and you might even reach your goal faster.
If you’re thinking, “Easier said than done,” you’re right. Of course it’s hard! Eating is necessary for life, and imparts powerful, pleasurable sensations. The sense of craving can often mimic withdrawal from certain drugs. For the “horizontally challenged,” strolling the boardwalk, cruising Route 1 or walking down Garfield Parkway can be a stressful, saliva-generating experience. Why do you think they call it “comfort food!”
With motivation, dieting can often work in the short run. But it can never be a replacement for consistently feeding your body no more than what it needs to operate. You can’t starve yourself in January and then, once you’ve lost a couple of pounds, revert to your old ways in mid-March. You’ll blow up bigger than before. There are people (of whom I stand in awe), who can starve themselves indefinitely, but the credit doesn’t go to the diet; it goes to their singular, often obsessive determination.
A Life’s a Beach reader emailed, “As a fitness training professional, one of the first things I teach my clients is that one cannot ‘starve’ fat off of the body. It must be burned off through increased exercise and decreased food intake. Far too often, people who starve themselves on a diet get absolutely nowhere. Their metabolic rate slows down, and, because they neglect exercise, they end up either not being able to lose any more weight or actually putting it back on.” So, moderate exercise is crucial. You’re living (or vacationing) in an exercise paradise, so give it a try.
Psychologically and nutritionally, it’s best to continue eating a balanced combination of the kinds of food you like. Just reduce the portions. It’s not easy, but you can still enjoy life by eating the foods you crave, but in smaller amounts. And if you can make it a habit, you can live with it long-term to maintain the new you.
Ask yourself, “Do I want to experience life to its fullest, or take the chance of living a shorter life with more health problems?” The old adage, “the dose makes the poison” is true. It’s not the food that kills you. It’s too much food. You and your love of life, not the latest fad diet, can achieve your target weight once and for all.
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