Weight loss: Where to start

part one

Studies released recently by the National Institutes of Health show Americans are heavier than ever. In fact, the number of people now weighing in at 15, 20, or 30 pounds over their optimal weight is now above 35 percent.

Many of us have tried different weight loss programs with a certain amount of success only to find that at the end of the program, we regain the pounds lost plus a few more. We begin to tell ourselves it's just not worth it.

Part of that statement is true. No it's not worth spending your money on programs that provide only temporary solutions. It's not worth the imbalance you create in your body with strange diets that don't feel right for you or the cravings created by that imbalance -- to saying nothing of the emotional price paid while you beat yourself up for failing.

But, you are very much worthy of the original goals you set for yourself of obtaining optimal weight and maintaining it. How does one get there? Well, if you've tried various systems in the past that helped, but gained your weight back, then you know you are capable of losing, just don't make the mistake of thinking it will be different this time using the same tools.

Treat your failures for just what they are, an experiment that didn't work. You don't have to give them more emotional power over you than they deserve.

Let's take a little different look at things. Why does food have such power over us, some more than others? Where did we go wrong to the tune of ten, 20 or 30 pounds over healthy body weight?

There are several answers to these questions. Certainly genetics plays a big role. Other factors such as our socio-economics, where you live, and your ''food environment'' all play a role, but too many times we're using food for comfort. Eating not because we're hungry but for other reasons. Then next time you're eating, pose the question to yourself, ''why am I eating this particular food at this particular time.'' You may be surprised at the answers that surface.

If you answered honestly, you may have found there were many reasons why you were eating, and probably more times than not it wasn't because of hunger. For some of us, food too many times is the comfort when the boss yells, when the in-laws are driving us nuts, when we're sad or need emotional comfort. Food is there; it's safe; we get a temporary ''fix'' for what's bothering us -- and it never talks back! That's the power many of us give food. The down side of this equation is added weight that keeps us from looking and feeling our best.

As the added weight begins to accumulate, self esteem drops even further and we're needing more temporary fixes. The body systems that are beginning to struggle with the added weight and poor nutrition begin to send out chemical messages that we recognize as cravings. The cycle seems endless until we actively choose to take responsibility for ourselves and our actions.

When we act alone, breaking that cycle can be difficult. Some of us will need more help than others. Some will enlist the help of friends and that's enough; others will need more professional help.

Next week I'll look at some of the more natural foods and products on the market for weight loss, some misconceptions about certain diet foods and how they maybe adding to the problem.

Till next time, Rebecca

part two

Last week in part one, I looked at some of the underlying reasons why an individual may be unsuccessfully battling weight loss, the power we give good and why we sometimes fail or yo-yo when we use weight loss programs. This week I'll look more in depth at various programs and why they may not be working for you.

The bottom line in this equation is always the same; the body requires balance! We need protein, carbohydrates and, yes, fats. We can starve the body for a while using high-protein, low carbohydrate diets, or low-fat or no-fat diets successfully. If we deny the cells of our body needed nutrients by continually eating too much of one food group, and not enough of another, we set in motion a chain of events that end up as the doom of our weight loss program.

Example: When we finish our high protein diet and our weight is down, we may look good -- but watch out, the body is feeling starved for carbohydrates and fats. Once it gets even a small taste of what it has been denied, the chemical messages sent out will be difficult to ignore. How do these chemical messages manifest? In one word, cravings!

So, what does constitute a good weight loss program? Very simply, whole foods in balanced proportions. You may be using other tools, such as fat binders or fat burners such as chromium, increased exercise or sauna, but unless you use good foods correctly you're doomed to fail.

Not sure what to eat or how to balance foods? I like Anne Marie Colbin's books, especially Food and Healing. Kristina Turner's work, The Self Healing Cookbook, is good too. Weight Watchers is a good program, at least the older program which closely follows a balanced diabetic diet. Speaking of which, the diabetic exchange diet is another really good diet which will help you stay balanced. You can get a copy of a diabetic diet from any hospital dietary department.

Another very important tool for dieting is good water, and lots of it. Recent studies show that hidden thirst will actually masquerade as hunger. Drink at least eight, eight ounce glasses daily.

Here are some other tips of importance:--

If you use weight loss beverages, they should be coupled with whole foods.--

Reeducation about foods is a must.--

Recent studies show those who go on crash diets not only end up in yo-yo patterns, they develop gallstones.--

The American Cancer Society found that those who used artificial sweeteners gained more weight than those who didn't use them because they naturally increase appetite.--

If you choose to use herbals, please use them as instructed! Herbals or not, they are still plant-based medicines.--

If you have 30 or more pounds to lose, you should begin with a check up from your doctor.

Reasonable weight loss is two to three pounds weekly. Don't try and overshoot the mark. Remember, these are lifetime and lifestyle changes.

Till next time, Rebecca

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online March 27, 2001

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