Losing Weight and Keeping It Off: the Real Truth
Looking to Lose Weight?
How many of you could stand to drop a few pounds? I know I could! Raise your hands--how many of you start each year with a New Year's Resolution to slim down, tone-up and get back in shape?
I know. A lot of you. Resolutions are great, but sometimes we overestimate how much we can reasonably accomplish in a given time frame, or underestimate the amount of effort (and/or time) our goal wil take to reach.
According to many of the pseudo-medical products shoved into our faces almost daily, either on TV, the Internet or while shopping, it is quick and easy to drop pounds. These products would have you believe you just pop their pill or drink their concoction, and melt away the pounds.
Not so fast! Despite the fact that buried somewhere in the law books is a prohibition against false advertising, it largely goes ignored and uneforced. Even those products following the letter of the law certainly ignore its spirit.
Rate of Loss
According to the prestigious Mayo Clinic, it is simply not healthy to attempt rapid weight loss. The maximum should be no more than 1 or 2 pounds dropped per week, underscoring the need to plan well ahead for your target weight.
It is therefore not reasonable to decide in March that you will lose 40 pounds by June for swimsuit season. Your safe rate of weight loss at 2 pounds per week (equal to a maximum of 8 pounds per month) would only drop 24 pounds between March and the end of May. You'd be only a hair over halfway to your goal.
Crazy rapid-loss schemes can actually sabotage your end result. Sometimes, initial weight will seem to drop rapidly. This is often water weight, and will quickly taper off. This is the very early point where many people get discouraged and give up.
Fad diets can result in a scary assortment of health problems, ranging from loss of muscle mass to more serious complications affecting the vital organs.
Pills, and Drinks, and Shakes, Oh My!
Sure, the ads promise all sorts of miracle results, but the sad truth is, there is no magic bullet. It takes dedication, determination, and just plain persistence to drop pounds. (Oh. Did I just repeat myself with several synonyms? Yes--to make a point!)
If you have some modern device for pausing live TV, do so one day when such an ad is displayed. It will give you time to move in close enough to actually read the fine print buried in poor-contrast typeface at the very bottom of the screen, and too small to see from across the room.
Normally, for pills, drinks and 'shakes,' it will say something along the lines of:
"Results not typical. Actual results depend upon individual variations. Results achieved in combination with a program of diet and exercise."
Hmmmm... results not typical, eh? Every spoken word and image in those ads are cleverly designed to make you think exactly the opposite, and trick you into plunking down your hard earned cash, or adding debt to your credit card.
The Old Gimmick Machine from the 1960s
This is not a new phenomenon! People have been plunking down their dough on "easy" ways to lose weight for many, many years! In the video above, this was a style of machine seen at a chain of "health" clubs known as "Vic Tanny's." I don't know exactly who Vic Tanny was, but he raked in plenty with these gizmos in his studios! I do recall seeing the ads featuring this machine. I guess it was supposed to shake the pounds off your frame.
There are all kinds of these "wonderful devices" still touted daily! They run the gamut from people-powered devices to assist in the "proper position" for doing sit-ups, to complicated mechanical whiz-bangs with weights and counter-weights and pulleys and 'scientific resistance.'
And wow! Look how great those folks demonstrating the machines look! Wow! It must work for sure! And look how easy they are to use! Why, those folks aren't even breaking a sweat! Looks so easy! Now they've got you reaching for the phone and your credit card...
Ohhhhh, yeah, I want a young hard-body like that! Uh-huh...in my dreams! Trouble is, I'm not 20-something or even 30 or 40-something; I'm pushing 70-something!
So one day, just to be a pill, I called the number, and asked, "If the machines are so easy to use, why don't you show them being used by people who actually have serious weight to lose? I'd like to see how easy the gizmo is for them to operate." Guess what? They hung up on me.
Hold the phone! Pause the TV again... what's that? The exact same "results not typical" message as seen for the products you ingest? Well, I'll be doggoned! Imagine that! No wonder they hung up--they could not back up their claims with facts!
Such statements are technically known as "disclaimers," and are the legally-required part of the ad that they must say according to the truth-in-advertising laws.
However, they don't like that this requirement is placed, and they don't want you to know the truth, or see it, so they resort to underhanded tricks such as burying it in an impossible-to-read type size; scrolling it by too fast to read; and using a color that is in such poor contrast to the background color that even someone with perfect eyesight would have trouble seeing the message.
This is what I mean by not following the spirit of the law. They've placed the legally-mandated message, and are therefore technically in compliance with the laws, but by making it impossible for the average potential customer to read, they've violated the intent of the laws.
False Hope; False Promises
The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth is this: the drinks, shakes and pills either do nothing, or may cause harm. Any results achieved are purely the result of proper diet and exercise.
The assorted machines may help you tone and condition your muscles, but in and of themselves, will not help you drop pounds unless you also change your eating habits. The advertisements are worded to sound as if you can continue to sit on the couch, guzzle beer or soda, eat chips, cupcakes and cookies and pig out at mealtimes on heavy, greasy fried foods, and still magically lose weight.
It simply is not so. This information may be the bitterest pill of all to swallow, but I kid you not. There is no cure-all, no magic bullet, no super-potion that will melt off the pounds while you sleep.
I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but those products are designed for one purpose, and one purpose only: to separate you from your hard-earned money and transfer it to the promoters' bank accounts by telling lies to sell false hope.
It sounds counter-intuitive, slowing down, when everyone is telling you to 'get moving' to lose weight. Well, that's not that kind of slowing down that I mean. Exercise is vital, and if your habit or your job have you parked in a chair all day, that is not good. Failure to remain active will certainly contribute to piling on the pounds, or make it harder to shed the ones you already have.
No, the slowdown needs to come in the eating. Here is a short list of things that will help:
- Stop eating "on the run." Sit down and eat proper meals. If you truly don't have time, then something else has to go: you are over-booked with activities.
- You've heard it before, but it remains valid advice: don't eat fast. Stop and chew each mouthful, and "savor the flavor"; put your utensils down between bites.
- Eat meals in courses. No, not fancy gourmet-restaurant style 4 course meals; just don't put all the food on the table at once. If you're having a salad, serve it first, enjoy it, clear the plates before serving the main course. It takes your brain 20 minutes to register food in your stomach. So, when you gobble your food, you think you are still hungry, and go back for seconds you don't need. Then, you wind up uncomfortable in one way or another.
- Plan your meals ahead of time, and stick to the plan. Sure, if something unexpected comes up, you can shuffle things around, but not having a plan, and tossing things together at the last minute causes reliance on high-calorie, sodium-loaded and otherwise unhealthy convenience foods.
- Use leftovers--call them "plan-overs," and put away the food after the meal is served. When my kids were young, I needed the leftovers for budget reasons, so there was a 'no second-helpings' rule in place. It also works for dieters.
- Part of slowing down and actually noticing your food, we've been told time and time again: do not eat while parked in front of the TV! Watching TV while you eat turns eating into a mindless, automatic shoveling in of food, and is a major cause of over-eating.
Food Choices Are Important
Fast-Food Sabotage: "Super-Size Me!"
Think about the fast-food industry and it's current love-affair with "super-size me!" Right. It's not just the portions that you are 'super-sizing,' but yourself, as well. We don't want to be super-sized! It's hard on every single organ in your body.
No one in their right mind truly believes that fast food is in any way a healthy choice. It is not, plain and simple. Even the new trend of some of theses chains in promoting "healthier" choices: that is but a relative term, and does not mean they are actually serving healthy food!
All of them are now legally required to post nutritional values for their selections. Some of them have it in plain sight on a chart; at others, you must ask for a brochure, or visit their website. That, in itself is a good clue: the less convenient they make it for you to find the information, the more they probably have to hide.
You'll also notice a stunning lack of vegetables and fruit at fast-food joints. Sure, some of them offer salads, but watch out: some of the ingredients in those salads have sky-high sodium counts, and the dressings are not slimming.
Beware of Phony "Vegetables"
Don't buy into the government's foolishness in stating that catsup counts as a vegetable in kids' school lunches! It's high in both sugars and salt.
The Skinny on Fat
This data backs up what you see walking down most streets and store aisles. It's not a figure any one person likes about themselves.
- Percent of adults age 20 years and over with obesity: 37.9% (2013-2014)
- Percent of adults age 20 years and over with overweight, including obesity: 70.7% (2013-2014)
Now, that is bad enough, but the data on children is positively horrifying! No wonder people have such trouble changing their eating habits: they were begun in early childhood!
Children and adolescents
- Percent of adolescents age 12-19 years with obesity: 20.6% (2013-2014)
- Percent of children age 6-11 years with obesity: 17.4% (2013-2014)
- Percent of children age 2-5 years with obesity: 9.4% (2013-2014)
Data obtained from the CDC's Fast Stats Site
Never Diet Again!
Banish the word 'diet' from your vocabulary. You will never 'diet' again. The concept of "dieting" plays tricks on your mind. It fools the brain into thinking that once the pounds are lost, you can go back to eating whatever you want, whenever you want (like my son-in-law). This is absolutely false, and is the main cause of so-called "yo-yo" dieting, which is far more unhealthy than just carrying around a few extra pounds--a very few--that's not to say it is at all healthy or wise to be 50 or more pounds overweight.
What you will actually need to do is re-train your concept of eating, and change your eating and exercise habits for the rest of your life. That is what I mean by "never diet again."
It is very unhealthy, as we all know, to be obese. It may surprise you, however, to know that the medical profession defines obesity as being a mere 20% above your ideal weight.
This is not someone you normally find on such shows as "The Biggest Loser." People needing to lose 100 or more pounds are medically defined as "morbidly obese." The definition of morbidity is a state of being diseased; unhealthy. They risk changing from 'morbidity' to 'moribund,' which is death.
Clinical obesity defines a vast number of Americans today: it can be as few as 15 or 20 pounds extra. It's true; look around you on your next outing to anywhere.
Your "ideal weight" of course is a calculation based on measurements such as your height and bone structure--whether you have a heavy, medium or light skeleton plays into this. Many people like to use this as an "excuse," claiming they have a "large frame." In fact, this is not true for many of us.
The average person is just that--average--with their frame falling somewhere in the 'medium' range. A large-framed person is more like a football linebacker. Not too many of us fit that mold.
Not Just Quality, But Quantity Counts, Too
All the healthy food choices in the world won't help the person who overindulges. Piling our plates with more than we reasonably need is a prime factor in weight gain, or difficulty in losing that weight.Remember I said earlier, to serve in "courses." That will help with the quantity issue, as you give your brain a chance to notice you've eaten something.
One of the newest consumer rip-offs is these small packages of "only 100 calorie" chips, cookies, or what-have-you. Really, all that amounts to is portion control. You can do it yourself without paying for extra packaging or cutesy bite-sized teeny cookies. I won't deny, it is a matter of willpower; it is so easy to over-indulge if you bring the whole bag of chips to the couch to watch "the big game" or a movie.
The solution is to create your own portion control. Read the package for 'how many' of the given treat is supposed to make one serving. Count it out, and place it in a small bowl. Close the package, put it away, and take your portion with you. You'll be more likely to eat them slowly instead of wolfing them down mindlessly, one after the other after the other. You'll probably find that it just seems like too much trouble to get up and go back to the cupboard for more.
If at first, you find yourself unable to do this, You'll need to take a different tack. Simply don't keep the chips or cookies always on hand. That doesn't mean you can never have any ever again, it simply means, don't buy them at every shopping trip. Buy them now and then, for a treat. That way, they aren't constantly in the cupboard taunting you, and it will be easier to get past the first hurdles.
Don't Deny Yourself Anything
I'm serious. The key to success is not total abstinence from any one kind of food, for all that does is create feeling of deprivation, making it more likely you will at some point give in and binge on whatever it is. Naturally, this approach must be balanced with common sense, for if you eat whatever you want, as much as you want, whenever you want...well, that's how you got to the point of needing to lose weight to start with.
No, allow yourself dessert, in small portions, but not rich gooey cake every day. Sometimes have none; sometimes have fruit, other days, have frozen yogurt or a little bit of ice cream. But have cake or ice cream, not both at the same time. Try frozen juice bars; they are tasty, and refreshing. If you buy (or make) the 100% real juice variety, they are healthy as well.
Don't try to banish an entire group of foods from your intake, either. These 'no/low carb' diets, or 'high-protein' diets are ineffective and not what your body needs. You need balance, not omission of an entire food group.
Carbs are not the bad guys--it's not the potato that's bad--it's all the stuff we slather on top! Bread is not bad, as long as you're using whole-grain breads instead of that puffed-full-of-air kid stuff bread, and not heaping on fats in the form of mayo or butter/margarine by the tablespoons full.
Simple vs. Complex Carbohydrates
It's easy to tell which carb is which: if the food is highly processed and refined, it's going to be a simple carbohydrate; if it is as close to 'straight from nature' as possible, it's a complex carbohydrate.
Sugar is the notable exception. Whether you're chewing on a piece of sugarcane right from the plant, or spooning the granulated version into your coffee--that's a simple as a carb gets. Sugars are not high on our list of dietary needs.
Carbs are NOT Necessarily the "Bad Guys"
Did you know that up to 65% of our intake should come from carbohydrates? Carbs are our fuel; the source of our personal energy! This means, complex carbohydrates, such as corn, potatoes, wheat, etc, and not simple carbohydrates such as are found in cupcakes or chips.
Fats are not to be eliminated altogether--our nerves need a certain amount of the stuff to function.
Protein, on the other hand, can be overdosed. A high-protein regimen puts a strain on the kidneys.
"All things in moderation."
Exercise—That Word No One Likes
There is no way around it: exercise must be part of the equation, or you will simply stop losing weight after an initial drop-off. See below for links to explanations of how metabolism works, according to the Mayo Clinic.
In the second link, you can see that the bigger (more overweight) you are, the more calories a given activity will burn. This also explains why, as you start to lose, in spite of exercise, you may feel that you have reached a "plateau" and stopped losing. Don't despair. The weight will still come off--it just won't come off as fast: that is the time to redouble your resolve and to stick with the program.
The Mayo Clinic site has an excellent description of just how metabolism works.
Rate of calorie burn is directly related to your actual weight.
Here is a chart that gives various calorie-burn amounts for various everyday activities such as housework, gardening or mowing the lawn.
Maybe a karate or other martial-arts class is more to your liking. That will burn plenty of calories as well!
Maybe You'd Rather Play?
If you're anything like me, and I suspect there are a lot of us, you hate, abhor, detest and resent the need to do exercises. Ah, there's the rub! You must exercise along with the healthy eating, or you're only doing half of what you need.
For myself, I prefer to find fun things to do. I want to play, have fun, and discover, oh, by the way; this is exercise as well. In the listing above, you'll find a link to a chart that gives calorie-burn amounts for one of my favorite playtime activities: in-line skating.
The third link allows you to enter your own weight, and time spent doing a given activity, and it will calculate your calorie burn for the specified time. It may surprise or even shock you to learn that weightlifting, and "just for fun" volleyball, are at the very bottom of the list for calorie burning exercise. (The only activity to burn less is reserved for the bedroom...)
You Don't Need to Become a TV "Star"
"The Biggest Loser" might have been a popular TV show, but most of us don't have as much weight to lose as the folks featured there.
You will notice, it takes pushing--think how hard Jillian pushed and made like a drill sergeant to get those people whipped back into shape. Now, think how much easier it will be for anyone of us who has much less weight to drop. We don't need the drill sergeant...we just need a determined mindset.
Start small; set step-by-step goals by the week, and it will be much less discouraging than trying to keep a long-term end goal in sight. If you slip, backslide, overindulge at a birthday party, don't beat yourself up. Just get back on the horse the next day, and pick up where you left off.
After all, no one is perfect, and anyone seeking absolute perfection is on the wrong planet!
Cheers, and here's to a happy, healthy future.
Questions & Answers
© 2011 Liz Elias