How many times have we heard that diets don’t work and healthy eating and weight control must be a lifestyle? But what does that mean exactly? After lots of trial and error, somewhere between crates of grapefruit and total food anarchy I have found these “Ten Commandments” keep me on track.
1.Thou Shalt Exercise.
Any time I have attempted to manage my weight without a consistent exercise program I have succeeded only in deluding myself. Not only was I unsuccessful, but also I was missing out on the health benefits of exercise. When I am exercising regularly I am less depressed, more energetic, and feel and look better all around.
The problem I had with exercise is that an entire half-hour was a bit of an ordeal when I first started out, and hard to work into my busy schedule. My doctor pointed out that any exercise I can do consistently is better than making goals I will not meet.
So I decided to start small. I found that breaking it down into three 15 minute mini- workouts made things much easier
First thing in the morning I do 5 minutes stretching followed by 10 minutes of some light weightlifting and old fashioned calisthenics. When I do this I am so much more alert and charged up for my day. Not only does it get my brain and body working it increases my metabolism so I burn more calories throughout the morning.
After I eat my mid-day meal I have found that a brisk 15 min stroll helps me avoid the drowsiness that sometimes comes after lunch. It provides another little boost to my metabolism and helps rejuvenate me to face the rest of my day instead of dragging through the afternoon.
Just before bed I do 15 min of yoga. I have really come to look forward to this part of my routine. The breathing and stretching help me relax physically and mentally as I unwind from my day. I have found I get much more restful sleep. Not to mention it has helped me develop my body awareness and control. I am more conscious of my physical self, and I have found that has been a crucial aspect of “taking ownership” of my health.
Eventually I began to expand my morning workout to a longer time, but I still keep these goals as my bare minimum on days that are hectic.
2.Thou Shalt Eat Breakfast.
I had to learn this one the hard way. Time after time I would miss breakfast, and then find myself snacking like a maniac mid morning. So I started to eat a little breakfast. First I started with the usual cereal and toast routine. This did not work. I was even hungrier by mid-morning. Then one morning I decided to have a couple of eggs and a piece of fruit. BINGO. Without even thinking about it, I worked all the way to noon without a thought of food. I have had good luck with low fat cottage cheese, or low fat yogurt and fruit as well.
Every one has their “magic breakfast” that works for them. My advice is to find a healthy breakfast low in refined carbohydrates and with some low fat protein that works for your palate and your lifestyle.
If you don’t have time to cook and are just not crazy about eating in the morning there are some high protein breakfast bars available which are an excellent way to start eating breakfast. You will need to shop around because quite frankly some of them taste like vitamin flavored tire tread. I have found the all time best of the lot is Atkins “Morning Start” Bars, the Cinnamon Bunn flavor. They are absolutely delicious. I feel like I am cheating, but they stick to my ribs and have lots of good morning protein to get me going.
3.Thou Shalt Eat Fresh Fruit
I have had a long and stressful battle with finding a balance in my carbohydrate intake. I have gone totally Atkins and shunned them like the Devil, I have tried to follow the food pyramid, and I have gone completely AWOL and consumed vast quantities of Krispi Kreme tasty treats.
What I have found is that after about a month of Atkins I cannot bear the thought of another piece of meat, and I descend on the local pizzeria like a human plague. On the other hand when I try to follow the food pyramid, it requires way more starches than I can really handle, and I wind up fat as a cow.
The middle road for me was simply to start adding a piece of fruit to each meal. This accomplishes a couple of things. First of all it provides vitamins and oxidants and helps prevent cancer and heart disease. It also has fiber, so I don’t get hungry ten minutes after I eat. But perhaps the best benefit I have found is that when I add a piece of fruit I am not craving sweets, and I manage my other carbohydrate intake more effectively.
4.Thou Shalt Manage Thy Carbohydrates
This is the absolute bane of my existence. These are the foods that make me fat. Don’t argue with me on that. I have been eating for 39 years, and obsessing about my weight for a good part of those years, and I know what makes me fat.
Sugar, white bread, pasta, refined rice, processed foods, and white potatoes are my own personal Darth Vader. In fact I would rather face a light saber -wielding master of evil than a bag of potato chips any day.
In an ideal world these foods would never touch my lips. But that’s not the world I live in. I have found that if I try to cut these foods out completely, my brain rebels, and I wind up in a binge situation. They say that to fail to plan is to plan to fail, so I take control of this issue by allowing myself 2-3 servings per week.
But even the good complex carbohydrates can be tricky. (The bean, lentil, corn, peas, and 100% whole wheat bread group.) If I eat too many servings of this group I find that I simply do not loose weight, and I start craving sugary refined carbohydrates as well.
I had to do some careful experimentation to find the amount of servings per day that gave me the fiber and vitamins I needed from this group without causing me to crave other carbs or stop loosing weight. Unfortunately this is not a “one size fits all” situation, if you are in the process of devoloping a healthy lifestyle you will need to learn to listen to your body. Everyone is going to have a different number of servings that works for him or her. No food plan, government pyramid, or article on the web is a substitute for learning to listen to your own body and make changes accordingly.
5.Thou Shalt Eat Thy Vegetables; for they are healthy.
This is pretty self-explanatory. I think we all know that the answer to 90% of all our health concerns is to eat more vegetables. I try to eat at least one serving of vegetables with both my mid day and evening meals. Fresh vegetables are ideal for both vitamins and the fiber (which makes me feel full), however pragmatically and taste wise that is just not always possible.
Since I have made a conscious effort to eat vegetables with my meals, I have felt so much better. And I have found that eating with awareness invariably leads to eating less.
6.Thou Shalt Eat Thy Protein
Scientific studies* have shown that not only will eating more protein cause a greater weight loss, but will cause you to loose more fat and less muscle when dieting. From my own experience protein is a cornerstone in controlling my appetite. My ideal meal has at least a 4oz serving of protein, a piece of fruit, a serving of fresh vegetables, and 1-2 servings of complex carbohydrates.
Of course I cut wads of fat off of any meat before cooking, and try not to have high fat cuts of meat such as ground beef more than once or twice a week.
7.Thou Shalt Weigh Thyself
This is a psychological land mine. Weighing myself can be a deadly trap: Not weighing myself can be a form of denial. Everyone has his or her own needs in this area.
Here is my rule of thumb: I must weigh at some point to keep myself accountable and aware of my eating and weight. I must not weigh myself so often I am getting wacky. Like weighing before and after each meal, or multiple times a day. I have found that weighing myself once a week keeps me accountable. But for some people once a month might be enough while others might need to weigh every three days to keep themselves on track.
8.Thou Shalt Plan Thy Holiday Eating.
I used to use special occasions to throw all my reserve out the window and eat like a wild banshee. This was not working; frequently it would take me a week or two to pull myself out of the eating mayhem that ensued afterwards. Consequently I began to dread such events.
Now I eat with awareness. That does not mean I do not eat birthday cake or have a piece of pie at thanksgiving. It means I make a conscious choice to only eat ONE piece of birthday cake, or only have ONE piece of pie.
I take a mental time out before the meal, review what quantity of food I am going to have, and make a choice to eat only that amount. Since it is a special occasion I am not going short myself, but making the choice to determine a portion size means that I will eat a big stake instead of eating the entire fatted calf.
Living with awareness also means that on those days when I know I will be eating more calories, I am going to plan a way to fit in more exercise as well.
Now I can look forward to birthdays, holidays, and the occasional picnic without dreading the ensuing weight gain and a week of out of control eating.
9. Thou Shalt Drink Thy Water
I had heard people say this until it had almost lost all meaning. Then I found out that drinking ice water actually will use calories.* In fact if you drink the recommended 8 eight ounce glasses of water per day as ice water, you will burn an extra 70 calories a day. Which doesn’t sound to impressive until you realize that adds up to around 7 pounds a year.
In addition water is necessary for maintaining health, and giving the body a way to flush out the unwanted fat and toxins. I was pleasantly surprised at the improvement in my weight loss when I started making sure I was drinking enough water.
10.Thou Shalt Get Your Sleep.
Another thing I found that made a difference for me is becoming aware of how many times I was eating in an attempt to “perk up” because I was tired and dragging due to not enough sleep. Now if I am really tired I take a nap. And since I can’s sleep at work or in public, I make it a priority to get eight hours of sleep. Also when I do not get my sleep I have much more difficulty keeping my exercise goals.
These guidelines have helped me get my weight loss under control, but even better than that my health has improved, I have more zip, and my stress level is less toxic now that I am not living with that “out of control” feeling that comes with poor lifestyle choices. If you are trying to establish a healthy lifestyle for better weight control I recommend sitting down and compiling your own “10 commandments”. The more ownership you take for your journey, the better your chances are of a long term success.