Stop weighting. Stop weighting down your body with extra pounds or kilograms and stop weighting down your mind with impossible strategies for losing weight and keeping it off. This Provision describes a better way with no gimmicks and no guilt. It really is possible make sustaining a healthy weight both enjoyable and successful.
I will never forget how good it felt to lose 65 pounds in six and a half months during 1998. At the start of the year, I was among the 120 million Americans who are either overweight or obese. By the end of the year, I was in the best shape of my life and had run my first sub-four hour marathon. It was a heady and exhilarating time.
Probably the most memorable moment was when I went back to my doctor’s office, 65 pounds lighter than when he last saw me. “What did you do?” he exclaimed with genuine surprise. “I just did what you told me to do,” I replied in all sincerity. For years, he had talked to me about the importance of eating better, exercising more, and stressing less. In 1998, I did just that. And it worked. “No one does what I tell them to do!” he remarked with a wry smile as he sent me on my way to face the next challenge: keeping it off.
That has proven to be a more difficult challenge than I first anticipated. After I left the doctor’s office, I remember driving to a teashop with tears in my eyes and a sense of exultation. “I will never be fat again,” I told myself, “I don’t have the desire to eat like I used to eat and if I just keep running I’m sure weight control will never be a problem again.” Au contraire!
The human body is a weight-gaining machine. From the days when feast and famine were common occurrences, the human body learned how to find, consume, and store every available calorie. When food was plentiful, the body gained weight with rapidity and ease. It learned how to turn a scant 3,500 excess calories into a pound of fat. When food was scarce, the body lost weight both slowly and reluctantly. It learned how to ratchet down its metabolism in order to make losing weight an increasingly difficult thing to do. So we humans evolved.
Unfortunately, what worked well in our hunter-gatherer days does not work as well in the information age. When food is always plentiful, the body always gains weight. That’s what it’s designed to do. Hence, the old joke of being on a “see food” diet: “When we see food, we eat it!” That’s not something about which to feel guilty. That’s something to recognize and deal with, now that we live in an age of uncommon abundance.
By the end of the year 2000, two years after my initial weight loss, I had gained back about 20 pounds. Since that time, I have stayed more or less constant at about 45 pounds below my former self. Losing the weight and keeping it off, as many of my clients remind me, is a much more difficult challenge than losing the weight in the first place. A weight-loss program becomes self-reinforcing once the weight starts coming off. It’s fun to see your waist shrinking and your muscles growing.
But what happens once you reach your goal? Then, more than ever, it becomes important to stay attentive to that which brought you to the dance in the first place. Mindlessness will always result in weight gain. Remember, that’s how we’re wired. But mindfulness can produce different outcomes. It can short-circuit our natural wiring through a variety of tricks, interests, and activities. Here are three strategies that have worked for me over the past several years. They enable me to eat better, exercise more, and stress less year in and year out.
(1) Stay Hydrated. I don’t know of a more important single strategy to avoid overeating than to stay hydrated. Water is the one-and-only hydration superstar. All other beverages either add calories or promote dehydration through the addition of caffeine or other diuretics. There may be times when adding calories and other nutrients is appropriate, such as during a race, but most of the time we can tame our hunger pangs without adding calories by drinking plenty of pure, filtered water. How much? Aim to drink one gallon per day, all before dinner. If you feel hungry, drink two to four cups of water and wait ten minutes. If you still feel hungry, it will be easier to eat moderately.
An easy trick, if you don’t mind getting cold, is to drink ice water instead of room temperature water. Drinking one gallon of ice water per day for a year is the equivalent of burning 35,000 calories or ten pounds. How so? Because it takes that much energy to warm 365 gallons of ice water up to body temperature. Regardless of the temperature, drinking a gallon of filtered water a day is a great way to short-circuit our natural wiring to see food and eat.
(2) Appreciate Food. How’s that for a counterintuitive suggestion? “Of course I appreciate my food,” I can hear you saying, “Why do you think I eat so much!” In my experience, we eat less when we appreciate food more. When we reduce the distractions and focus on our food, when we slow down and enjoy every bite, when we eat and drink what we truly love, we naturally tend to eat better. How often do you eat while driving a car, working at your desk, or cooking a meal? How often do you eat while rushing to an appointment, watching television, or reading a book? How often do you eat when you’re not hungry or to the point feeling stuffed? Such habits contribute not only to our widening waistlines but also to our deepening distress.
What I like about this approach is that it doesn’t get you into a diet mentality in order to maintain optimal weight. It also allows plenty of room for error. From meal to meal and day to day, without any sense of deprivation, the invitation to appreciate food remains as a positive alternative to our collective bad habits. Rush through this meal and we can slow down at the next. Eat at our desk this afternoon and we can go for a walk tomorrow. Finish our plate, as well as what’s left in the serving dishes, tonight and we can leave food on our plate tomorrow night. Instead of beating ourselves up about what we should do, appreciating food awakens our desire to eat better. And desire is the precondition to change and growth.
This may sound silly, but as an example, I can remember getting ready to eat two soft-boiled eggs on toast. Just before I put the first bite in my mouth I set the fork down and looked, really looked, at those eggs. I thought about the chicken and the people who made it possible for me to eat these treats. I felt deep gratitude. From there on out every bit was slower and more enjoyable. Or again, right now one of my clients and I are eating our meals with chopsticks as a way to slow down and look at our food more carefully. It’s simple, but it makes a difference.
(3) Enjoy Exercise. Let’s be clear about two incontrovertible facts. First, there’s no way to be healthy without regular exercise, including aerobic exercise, strength training, stretching, and relaxation practices. Second, there’s no way that regular exercise alone can maintain health. All the exercise in the world cannot overcome bad eating habits or cigarette smoking, to mention only two examples. If we want to be healthy and well, then we need to engage in a long-term program that takes into account every system of the body, mind, and spirit.
That said, a complete program takes time to develop and it only emerges for those people who come to enjoy the process of putting such a program together. A complete program does not exist in a book, even if the title says, “complete program.” A complete program is what emerges in your life from reading such books, having conversations, and trying on different strategies. You’ve heard it said, “Only the tough survive?” Well, don’t believe it. Only the fun survives! Eventually, even the toughest lose their mettle. But those who find something to enjoy about exercise, and every other health strategy, are the ones who best survive the difficulties of life.
Different people will discover different things to enjoy about exercise. Some enjoy the camaraderie while others enjoy the competition, the sensation, the fitness, or the progress. The secret is to find your joy on the road to perfect health. When that happens you will stop weighting yourself down with excuses, obstacles, and excess baggage. You will instead live free with the knowledge of the best things life has to offer.
To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.
LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)
Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob.
Can you please feature the pros and cons of drinking tea (as well as interesting facts) in your future issues? If you already did, can you please send me the issue to this email? (Wellness Pathway #104, http://www.lifetrekcoaching.com/health/ht011216.htm, talked about the health benefits of Rooibos Tea. Next week, I’ll include more information on Green and Black tea as well.)
I continue to enjoy LifeTrek and liked the last one. It reminded me of the story that Harry Truman had a sign on his desk that said, “Make a decision. If it is correct, fine. If it is incorrect, change it.” Sort of sums it up.
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services