In the West, we have adopted a feast (literally) or famine mentality to health. We seem to either eat whatever we want to, whenever we want to or we starve ourselves to lose it all. After experiencing both the life of luxury in his father's palace and then the life of an ascetic starving himself away, Buddha came to what he called the Middle Way. No where is a middle way more needed than in our relationship to diet and health.
As a life coach, I am very familiar with helping people make change in their lives. And I know that the fever or famine approach does not work. Neither does relying on the authority of whatever latest health guru has published a diet suggesting you eat nothing but watermelon or everything but bacon. As Dr. Dean Ornish has found repeatedly in studies funded by the National Institute of Health, Mutual of Omaha Insurance and other scientific bodies, we can decrease our weight and increase our health so that we feel more energetic, more flexible and stronger when we have the right tools and support.
Since so many clients, colleges and friends are constantly struggling with weight loss, I have written this series to provide tools to help readers live in a place of abundant health. Even if you have a hard time believing them at first, try them on. You will probably find that they are helpful in the end.
# 1: Weight loss is too small a goal to sustain you.
If all you want to do is lose weight, you are only focusing on the negative in your life. You look at the extra fat around your weights or on your hips and measure every and every day to see if any of it goes away. And too often, the measure of your worth becomes the number on the scale. Weight loss is a part of a bigger, more joyful goal to experience abundant health. When we focus on the increased energy as well as greater strength and flexibility that comes when we experience abundant health each step of the journey becomes more alive for us.
# 2 – Start Where You Are.
It does not make any difference if you are the perfect weight for you or ten times the perfect weight for you, you are a unique gift to yourself and those around you. Waiting until you reach your ideal weight to fall in love with yourself, to let yourself see your own beauty and worth, does no service to anyone. Not only does it slow your weight loss down by increasing depression rates as well as whole slew of neurochemicals that make it harder to lose weight, it also dampens your energy to make the changes you need to get where you want to go. In your life, which has been more sustaining: love or hate? Hate holds us down, keeps us from expressing the fullness of ourselves and stops us from reaching our goals. It does not matter if we are hating ourselves or someone else we blame for making us overweight. Loving ourselves just makes more sense.
# 3 – You can choose to lose weight and experience abundant health.
We all can. For many of us, somewhere along the road, we have got it in our heads that we are victims. That other people have power over us and that we really do not have control. So we give up our sense of authority to other people who have the answers. But you know your body better than anyone else. When you start to pay attention to what you are eating, how you are feeling and the choices that you are making throughout the day (attention not judgment) you can move towards excess health and weight loss. I suggest that you remind yourself at the beginning of the day and before every mean, "I can choose to lose weight and experience abundant health." Sometimes you are going to choose to have a piece of chocolate cake and that's fine too. Just understand that you have the power to choose any option you would like in this moment.
# 4 – Small changes make a big difference.
Sometimes we fall into a trap that psychologists call "all or nothing thinking." We think that if we are not perfect in our efforts to lose weight and get healthy, than we might as well give up. But even small changes make a big difference. For example, consensus among doctors seems to be that calories really do make a difference in weight loss. To lose weight we either have to eat less calories (which does not have to mean eating less food) or burn more. 3500 calories equals one pound. If we simply decease our calories by 100 per day or increase our exercise just a little bit, we would lose 10 pounds in a year without very little effort at all.
# 5 – Deprivation does not work.
Starving yourself or trying to force yourself to exercise does not work. We think it does because most of us have tried some crash diet where we lost weight for a while and then we gained it back. We have blamed our will power rather than the overall strategy. While we can all force ourselves to do something for a little while, overtime this is an exhausting strategy that fails for almost everyone. Finding ways to enjoy what you eat and creating an exercise plan that fits what you like to do is the only way that any of us can sustain lasting change
# 6 – You are the expert on your own body.
Diets often fail because they do not fit our bodies. They suggest foods we hate or exercise programs we do not want to do. More importantly, they give away our authority to someone else. We become the passive recipients of someone else's understanding of us. Of course, there is some great information that is true for most people but when you start paying attention to yourself you will be able to create an absolutely healthy lifestyle that is tailor just for you. For example, only you know how you feel after eating a particular type of food. When you start paying attention to your energy levels after eating you will know what feeds your body and your spirit and be able to adjust your eating accordingly. This is only a beginning but try these concepts on for a bit. The more you believe them the easier it will be to reach your goal of abundant health and weight loss. As always, I look forward to your ideas, stories and suggestions!