Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Reality and it's unfortunate association with weight loss

I hate setting “realistic” goals when it comes to my weight. When I am trying on outfits that highlight all the wrong places, I want a solution right now. Sometimes I wish I could just have a hot shower and the weight would simply “melt away”. Well that quick fix would have to be the cabbage soup diet. And that would be why the weight loss industry is worth the huge some of money it is. But unfortunately no matter which diet you look at, because their success lies in weight loss, none of them teach you to be healthy, much less deal with the reasons why you’re in the body you are in. Some weight loss advocates provide solutions that are drastic, some are punishing and some are really quite sensible. But even those that focus on healthy eating, delivering appropriate food don’t teach people to make the right choices for themselves when not provided with specifically sized, calorie controlled portions neatly packed in huge amounts of plastic. At least one such company advises clients that food choices are a greater contributor to weight loss than exercise. That is true, but the reason it’s called weight loss is that fat and muscle are lost, particularly with rapid weight loss. If the only goal is to lose weight, then that’s ok. But reduced muscle mass makes it more difficult to maintain a steady weight. Even some gyms advise hammering the cardio and doing less strength training. A friend once told me the reason women don’t like strength training is that when they start, their weight goes up. Perhaps that’s why diet companies don’t want people to do strength training – it’s hard to lose a kilo a week when gaining muscle. Imagine, what could they put in their ads then!?! “Jenny only lost 5 kilos in 12 weeks on our program, but she has toned her body and her clothes are looser.” Twelve kilos in 12 weeks sounds a lot better doesn’t it. But at the end of the day, there seems to be so much conflicting advice on what needs to be done to lose weight, that I often throw my hands up in the air for months at a time figuring that it is just to complicated.

That’s why I am taking responsibility for my own health through a the strategy developed by me based on my own experience. My focus is on permanently changing my habits as opposed to dieting…for the rest of my life. Depending on what your sources are, lasting changes to habits may take either 21 days, 6 months or a year. I am inclined to think that since I need to lose weight and keep it off for the next 75 years or so, it might take closer to 6 months than 3 weeks to change eating habits of a lifetime. My commitment is to really work on creating a healthy lifestyle for all of 2009. That’s right a staggering 12 months. Well compared to 15 years, it’s actually not that long!

I must confess that it does hurt to accept that I may not have “rock hard abs” in three months. Unfortunately sensible weight loss is defined as about 10% of body weight over 6 months. It’s painful to go that slow, but the idea is to keep it off forever. Deprivation will only lead to the ‘finally now that I have lost weight I shall celebrate with that chocolate cake I haven’t eaten in 3 months’ result. So my goal this year is to be exactly 13% smaller at the end of the year. Specifically I have a favourite pair of pants – my Europe pants - I want to fit into by the end of the year. It’s been 4 years since I last wore them.

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