Repeat after me: losing weight isn’t hard. Losing. Weight. Isn’t. Hard.
Motivation is hard, persistence is hard, and giving up is easy. I know because I used to subject myself to the violent cycles of crash dieting and yo-yoing back and forth between dress sizes. In early 2015 I was the heaviest weight I’d been since college. I felt terrible. My clothes felt tight and I was tired all the time. My wakeup call came when I noticed my heart racing after climbing just one flight of stairs.
In May 2015 I took up jogging and finally began a healthy relationship with food. I reached my goal weight about four months later, and as we enter 2016 I’m happy to report that I’ve managed to maintain it. As the girl who formerly couldn’t keep a diet for more than a week, this is a huge milestone for me.
If losing weight is your New Year’s Resolution for 2016, I want you to know that it is possible. Keep these tips in mind whether you’re trying to lose 5 lbs or 50. Take it from me – a girl who’s done it.
1. Be Mindful and Check Your Emotions
Food is wonderful, food is great, but every emotional high and low doesn’t have to include food. Be mindful of why you’re eating when you’re stressed, or bored, or sad. Chances are, there is a real problem that you’re dealing with that you’re trying to fix with food. It doesn’t work. Get to the root of the problem and solve it. Recognize that there is something bigger happening in your life that food can’t fix.
There is a social bonding factor behind food that drives this behavior. When you get that promotion at work, your boyfriend takes you out to your favorite pizza place to celebrate. When you have a bad day at work, you break out the ice cream and wine and have a good cry. Channel your emotions into a healthier activity that you enjoy, and end mindless eating for good. Every emotional high and low shouldn’t be tied to food.
And don’t eat just to eat. Bored eating was one of my biggest problems that I’ve only just started to overcome. Only eat when you’re hungry, and stop eating when you’re full.
2. Leave Food On Your Plate
And you’ll be surprised at how little food you actually need to eat to get full. This ties back to mindless eating – after a certain point you’re no longer eating to satisfy your stomach, but your brain.
Savor the food you’re chewing before you start hunting down the next spoonful on your plate. Put the fork down in between bites and take a second to breathe. You’ll get a better sense of whether you’re full and ready to stop eating when you take a break and listen to your stomach. Just because there is food on your plate doesn’t mean you need to finish it (sorry mom and grandma)! Yes there are starving kids all over the world but you’re not going to pack up what’s on your plate and ship your leftovers to them.
In America, the portions we are served in restaurants in huge. What would regularly feed two, three people is made to look like a party for one. Leave some food on your plate, and take the rest home to eat later. Eventually you’ll become satisfied with smaller portions after your brain rewires itself to remember you don’t need to eat an entire slice of cheesecake to satisfy your sweet craving.
3. Avoid Processed Food
This may be one of the hardest rules to follow, since everything we eat these days seems to come in some sort of package or box. We forget that the potato chip we’re eating started out as a vegetable once upon a time before it was malformed and sprayed with cheese-flavored seasoning. The end result looks nothing like the happy vegetable it aspired to be. Those foods aren’t good for you. The sooner you avoid eating foods that come out of a plastic wrapper, the happier you’ll be.
My general rule is that I won’t eat anything that looks too far removed from what it started out as. For example, I used to love cereal as a kid but the fact that that most of those cereals started out as corn or wheat and ends up looking like a science experiment does not sit well with me.
Because I live in L.A., I understand I have a much easier time finding healthy food than people in smaller cities who don’t have a Whole Foods on every block. Sometimes unprocessed foods is inaccessible, and it sucks. We should all have access to natural, healthy food. You can remedy this problem by cooking more food at home. Start with ingredients like real fruits and real vegetables and the weight will start to fall off naturally as you feed yourself with good, nourishing foods.
4. Eat Whatever You Want… In Moderation
When I talk to any of my friends or family members who want to lose weight, the first thing most of them say is that they are going to swear off this food, or that, for good. That approach doesn’t work for anyone. Eventually you’ll slip back into eating that food and you’ll beat yourself up for indulging in the “bad” food. I have news for you: no food is bad for you in moderation. One slice of cake isn’t going to make you fat. One slice of cake everyday, or every other day, won’t do you any favors.
I found that when I switched my diet over to include mostly healthy foods my craving for sweets and cheese-covered things diminished. Your body wants healthy food, but its needs are smothered by our addictions to salt and sugar. Give in to the craving when you need to, but no more. Be honest with yourself – was the sixth bite of cheesecake really more enjoyable than the first? Portion control is a huge key here.
Ah, the elephant in the room. I’ll be honest with you – you can reach your goal weight through dieting alone. Your diet is the first thing you need to change if you want to lose weight. Exercise, though, helps expedite the process and will help you keep the weight off. Muscle burns fat, even at rest. Your body will be more forgiving when you do indulge in that weekly cheese-smothered treat.
But most importantly – exercise will make you feel good. You’ll be happier, less lethargic, and more mentally sharp when your body is fit and healthy. We were not designed to sit in chairs all day or lay on couches for hours. Our bodies are beautiful machines that want to work hard and explore their limits. Get up and move it.
Since I started exercising consistently for the past seven months, I’ve truly never felt happier. I like pushing my body to see what it can do. I personally exercise for an hour at least four times a week, not taking more than a two day break between trips to the gym. I’m a fan of cardio, but I look forward to exploring weight training in the new year and seeing what else my body is capable of.
I hope you all reach the goals you set for yourself this year. Happy New Year, and here’s to an adventure-filled 2016!