How do we lose weight? This magic question seems to elude and allure us to weight loss programs and gimmicks. Water cooler conversations focus on the person who lost weight – how they did it, what are they eating, how long did it take?
I’ve thought about and wrestled with both the question and answer to weight loss since I was a little girl, which is the reason I became a dietitian. I was a little round as young as second grade and always wanting the second ding-dong or ho-ho after school (who knew what a trans fat was in the 70’s?). Why was I was always hungrier and bigger than my skinny friends – was it just that I needed to eat less calories or exercise a bit more?
Both the Los Angeles and New York Times have written about restaurant calorie counts, begging the question whether counting calories is the answer. Health writer Jeannie Stein from the LA Times wrote several informative articles last week, one which asked “Does menu labeling really alter Habits?”
New York Times article “In the Obesity Epidemic, What’s One Cookie?” discussed Michelle Obama’s strategy of “small changes add up,” in which one eats either 100 calories less or burns 100 calories more.
Is that enough? The challenge of weight loss is unique in that we are genetically diverse as human beings with different metabolisms and lifestyles. And our food supply and large restaurant portions does not play to our advantage.
It might be time to stop looking for a simple answer and come up with a solution tailor made to your needs. Ask yourself:
1. Where do I store my weight? If you have a lot of belly fat you may be eating too many carbohydrates (processed and starchy) and need more lean protein and good fats to keep your appetite under control.
2. Instead of focusing on calories, think about how much food your body requires to be NO LONGER HUNGRY versus full. Studies show when we shift into mindful eating it actually starts re-wiring our brains to be satisfied with less food.
3. Exercise and activity are not really an “option” if health and weight loss are your goals. Make exercise like brushing your teeth every day– something you do to keep all the systems in your body – including your metabolism- working at full capacity.
Think about what will work for you and focus on the REWARDS of what you want rather than the limitations. That is how I found my answer. Although I needed to look like my job, my driving force was to feel comfortable and healthy in my body. Finding the path and answer to your water cooler question becomes the recipe for weight loss. Your recipe is the key to prevention and not prescription.