Hey I know what you’re thinking “Aren’t you a nutrition guy? And you’re suggesting to stop dieting? What gives? Have you been inhaling too much hemp protein lately?” Well easy now gang, it’s not what it seems. I am not suggesting we all run out to Ben & Jerry’s for a quart of Cherry Garcia or go inhale a few McRib sandwiches at Mickey D’s. We just need to alter the mindset a little when it comes to the diet concept. Let me explain.
You see I ran into a friend the other day and he started to relate his exasperation in trying to lose weight, again, for what seems like the hundredth time. He’d been on a number of diets off and on for years and nothing seemed to work. Maybe you’ve been there, the feeling that no matter what you tried or what you did, or how much you starved yourself, you were still going to resemble Jabba the Hutt at a pie eating contest. Frankly I had my reservations given his track record, but he seemed staunchly determined this time and I had to admire his renewed sense of conviction. That is until he proclaimed “Monday I start the diet and this time I am going to stick to it.”
I started to think about what he said. I mean literally. Like why we always start something on “Monday”. I understand it’s the proverbial start of the week, and psychologically it signifies a starting gate, but wasn’t he talking about improving his health and well-being? And up against a challenge that has beleaguered him for years? Why wait? Why not do it now, today, immediately. Go ahead and get started. If you were being chased by a Grizzly Bear, would you wait until Monday to start running? It seemed he had already had positioned procrastination square in front of his journey. And “stick to it”? Why have the previous diets been so hard to stick to? Is it so hard that he cannot hope to carry it out? Did he have an achievable plan? And what happens if he does stick to it, does he ever go off this diet? What happens if he does?
Obviously, I am being a bit facetious, but the implications of this one sentence made me think about how we approach the concepts of losing weight and dieting. Buckle down, watch what you eat for a few months, hit the gym a couple times a week, drop a few pounds (hopefully), declare success (or failure) and go back to your old habits. This of course after a few months puts you right back where you started (or worse). It’s an ineffective, predictable pattern that dominates our society.
The point here is that we generally take on “dieting” as a singular, temporary action when it should be about changing lifestyle permanently to maintain a healthy and desirable level of fitness. Not many humans are genetically capable of eating the typical western diet without slipping into obesity. And going thru the dieting cycle over and over, losing 10lbs here and gaining 15lbs there, is just not effective long term. Like a Ponzi scheme, it may look great short term, but ultimately the strategy will fail. But there is an answer, a time-tested solution that is practically guaranteed to work every time. Suspense killing you? It’s easy stuff really: a permanent change in eating habits focused on nutrient-dense foods, adoption of regular exercise, and making these an integral part of your lifestyle. That’s it. Nothing to it.
So now you are saying “Yea right, no kidding. But that’s easier said than done. I can’t make those kinds of changes forever. Too hard, too limiting, too much work.” Well maybe for some. But isn’t all the off and on dieting hard too? All the mental anguish of short term success with long term failure. The agonizing feeling you have every time you look in the mirror? The legendary basketball coach John Wooden once said “If you do not have time to do it right, when will you find the time to do it over?” Isn’t that what all this cyclical dieting and sporadic exercise is? We don’t want to limit our eating, we don’t have time for the gym every day, but every few months we force this into our lives, probably give up, and then end up just doing it over again.
Now I am not saying that this is something you can do overnight, and it’s certainly no piece of cake (pun intended). It’s a journey, an evolution. But it’s achievable. And you don’t have to do it all at once, but you should absolutely start today. Don’t wait, make the commitment now. After all, that Grizzly Bear is right on your heels.
To begin your journey, I have laid out seven simple steps you can take to begin your transformation. I’ll introduce them weekly so you’ll have plenty of time to adapt to these changes without doing too much at once. None of these are particularly challenging and I am sure you have heard of, if not tried, most of these before. But follow the plan, stick to the changes, and make them part of your lifestyle. These simple steps will get you headed in the direction of a change that will transform your life. So why wait until Monday, let’s get going!
START TODAY: Drink More Water
Simplest first, and, unless you happen to be reading this in the Sahara, you can start right now. Drink water, lots of water. It’s easy and essential. How much should you drink? The rule of thumb is 1/2 ounce for every pound of body weight. So, a 150 lb person should target at least 75 ounces (or about 10 glasses) daily. More if you exercise a lot or work outside in the heat.
So how do you know is you are getting enough? A good gauge to determine your level of hydration is the color of your urine. Generally speaking, the clearer the urine the better your hydration. Proper hydration should reveal a gradually lightening shade as you go thru the day (it’s always darker in the morning) resulting in a very pale shade of gold by midday. You’ll want to keep this shade throughout the rest of the day. If it’s too dark, just adjust your intake. Eventually you’ll get a feel for the amount of water you need. Practically speaking you can’t drink too much, so get yourself a water bottle to carry around with you and drink up.
Drinking that much water can get a little tedious so add some lemon or lime to juice to give your water some flavor. Mint is also great, and it doubles as a natural appetite suppressant. And add some ice to keep it cold. Cold water always tastes better.
An advanced trick is to add apple cider vinegar to one cup a day, preferably around a starchy, high carbohydrate meal. Research shows this can help level out blood sugar spikes because it interferes with starch and carbohydrate absorption, reducing glycemic response and decreasing post-meal glucose levels, which can also reduce inflammation. It’s a little sharp tasting, but a couple teaspoons in a glass of water around a meal can be really healthy.
Staying properly hydrated is critical. Studies show that most people in our culture suffer from some level of dehydration and yet are unaware. Dysfunction as a result can start when you are as little as 2% dehydrated, effecting brain function, digestion, muscle and connective joint regeneration, nutrient absorption, and practically every other critical function in your body. Water is critical to your well-being.
Another plus of regularly sipping water is you’ll feel more satiated and will be less likely to snack and/or binge when given the opportunity. Often times when you feel hungry you’re really just thirsty, so unless it’s time to eat drink up.
Next week we’ll introduce some kitchen habits to help you avoid temptation. Until then, like the most interesting man in the world, stay thirsty my friend.