You may very well be your worst enemy when it comes to losing weight. Women have quite a knack for self-sabotage in the weight loss department! The good news? There are a few minor tweaks you can start making today that will lead you down the path to success. The diets that really work for women all include incorporating the following practices into your daily life. So, let's get started!
The Truth About Diets: Ten Tips That Really Work for Women
Learn what women really need to know about diets. Discover the top reasons you may be failing in your weight loss goals. These ten tips are all you need to know to lose weight...
My Own Personal Story: Me, The Recovered Dieter
I call myself a recovered dieter. In the past, one section of my closet looked like you’d just stumbled into a Big ‘N Tall store. This section moved around frequently, sometimes occupying the readily accessible front, and other times tucked away in the back where it didn’t see the light of day for months on end. I’d just begin to dig out the Goodwill boxes for these over-sized clothes when, like clock work, IT would happen: weight gain, the fast and furious variety to boot. Slowly, but surely, the Big ‘N Tall store would move to the front while my cute little Ann Taylor Loft numbers would be collecting dust.
My weight was up and down like the Grand Old Duke of York. My closet had every size from a 6 to a 16 and at some time I was wearing each and every one of them. One day I was disciplined, the next a binger, one day I was working out like a professional athlete, the next I was lucky to walk from the bedroom to the kitchen a few times. I became extremely unbalanced emotionally and physically, deciding to punish myself for these eating extravaganzas by limiting my caloric intake to 800 Kcal/day here and there. I’d have horrific blood sugar swings, I was tired, depressed, and just flat out defeated. It was then I recognized there was a significant psychological component (Oprah was right) to this whole debacle and I decided to be pro-active. First I joined Jenny Craig, I considered myself a successful graduate at 30 pounds lighter. Then in a matter of months I put it all back on. Two of my best friends were on a “Revenge of the Nerds High School Graduation Diet” and looked fantastic. They told me it was Weight Watchers, well I was enrolled online in a matter of hours. I hated counting points, I overate on the Core Program, and food seemed to take over my life. I lost 10 pounds, quit and gained every pound and then some back. I was distraught.
So I went back to the basics and researched what diets work for women.
I began to examine what had worked for me, what had not, and why I could lose the weight but not keep it off. I did learn some valuable tools from both Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig. My mindset shifted and I stopped thinking of myself as “being on a diet”. I found exercise I actually enjoyed doing, the things that come naturally for me and focused on those. I took a strong stance that nothing, absolutely no foods whatsoever were to be off limits in moderation, After all of my experiences, I began to learn how to maintain my weight in a healthy way, the only way. I’ve successfully kept off the 30 pounds I’d gained for many years now.
Tip One: What on Earth is a Total Lifestyle Change? Five Questions You Need to Ask Yourself
I'm sure you've heard weight loss entails "a lifestyle change" ad nauseum. If you really want to learn how to lose weight without dieting, you must make such a broad change. My trainer at the gym kept telling me “you need to change your lifestyle” without really explaining to me what precisely that entails. That word “lifestyle change” is scary when you think about it. It connotes permanency, something huge and all-encompassing, doesn’t it? Self-doubt came oozing out of me when my trainer said it. I thought: “I can’t do it. It’s just too much, I can’t change anything forever.” I began to realize I needed to pick this huge concept apart.
The Mayo Clinic states: “Lifestyle changes start with taking an honest look at your eating habits and daily routine. After assessing your personal challenges to weight loss, try working out a strategy to gradually change habits and attitudes that have sabotaged your past efforts.” Okay but what are these lifestyle elements and what questions do you need to ask yourself? How to lose weight without dieting? Well, ask yourself these questions for starters:
1) Do I exercise on a regular basis or is my lifestyle active enough in and of itself? Or do I just sit at a desk or computer all day long?
2) How often do you weigh yourself? We all hate to do it, I know. It can be very discouraging, no doubt. But, recent studies have shown that stepping on that scale is your friend. This University of Minnesota, in cooperation with the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation states: “Based on the consistency of the evidence reviewed, frequent self-weighing, at the very least, seems to be a good predictor of moderate weight loss, less weight regain, or the avoidance of initial weight gain in adults.”
3) What really are my eating habits? How and when do I eat? Do I have numerous unhealthy food associations? Do I eat during times of stress and/or engage in emotional eating? Make an honest assessment.
4) Do I get enough sleep? A study on sleep and weight by Stanford University and University of Wisconsin researchers showed there is a correlation between sleep loss and overeating. The study shows how lack of sleep can contribute to a decrease in the production of hormones ghrelin and leptin. These two hormones aid in telling the body it’s full. The researchers state: "Our results demonstrate an important relationship between sleep and metabolic hormones." The researchers noted in the paper: "In Western societies, where chronic sleep restriction is common and food is widely available, changes in appetite regulatory hormones with sleep curtailment may contribute to obesity."
5) What is my attitude about food and eating? A study performed at the University of Minnesota’s Food Industry Center showed some interesting results. A co-author, Dennis Degeneffe stated: “The basic attitude people have about food is related to the likelihood that they’re at risk for obesity and weight gain.” This subjects in this study were all middle-aged women. Basically, the study reveals that “guilt-ridden dieters” and “impulsive eaters” scored the highest in body mass index, waist measurement and percentage of body fat. The next highest scoring group was called “busy cooking avoiders” who were so busy taking care of their families that they were not attending to their own healthy eating needs. Their own health has been triaged to the bottom of the list.
Make Little Exercise Tweaks
you need to find ways to get yourself moving. Did you know it’s recommended for human to take 10,000 steps daily? If you hate purposefully exercising, no worries. You don’t have to go to the gym, go for a run, take an aerobics class, speed walk or lift weights to get enough exercise. Little lifestyle tweaks can make a world of difference over time. I never take escalators or elevators anymore, never ever. I walk my children to locations that are close. I play Frisbee and Chuck It with my dogs. I practice sports with my kids. I play tennis because I love it. Find something you love to do and do it. If you don’t know what you like, experiment. Maybe you will find you’ve never been so happy as you are when playing Frisbee golf, for example.
Tip Number Two: Wear a pedometer, it really helps to know how many steps you’ve taken. I kid you not, housework can really add up in the exercise department. I’ve easily racked up 10,000 steps with an active day around the house.
Tip Number Three: Start small and set realistic goals. Just walk around the block if that’s all you can do, you can’t graduate from couch potato to triathlons overnight. Don’t set yourself up for feeling like a failure by making unattainable promises to yourself.
Tip Number Four: “Trick yourself” into activity. If you’re having one of those days where you just cannot motivate to move the old body, try coaxing yourself into it with little baby steps. Tell yourself you’ll at least get dressed to go for a walk, then you’ll see how you feel. After you’re dressed, tell yourself you’ll just step out into the driveway or sidewalk. You may find your motivation growing now. Then tell yourself you’ll just walk to the mailbox, or around the block. Then do it, and see how you feel. Guess what, more times than not I find myself taking a full blown walk with this tricky method. Often it’s just getting over that inertial hump.
Diets That Work Aren't Really Diets At All!
First of all, just say “NO” to all fad diets, there really aren't any diets that work. Anything that starts with “no” is off your list: no carbs, no fat, no meat… the list goes on and on. Fad diets will not, do not, and can not work. Nothing can melt away the pounds overnight, there is no such magic wand. You must eat a healthy, balanced diet while consuming less calories than you burn… period. The Harvard School of Nutrition is an excellent resource for a food pyramid they’ve created called The Healthy Eating Pyramid. Harvard states: “This new pyramid fixes fundamental flaws in the USDA pyramid and offers sound information to help people make better choices about what to eat.” They go on to explain one of the major flaws in the USDA’s pyramid is: “Intense lobbying efforts from a variety of food industries also helped shape the pyramid.” Harvard’s pyramid should be your friend.
Tip Number Five: The most important tool I keep tucked in my weight maintenance tool belt is eating multiple times per day. This is something I first learned through Jenny Craig, where I ate 3 small healthy meals and 3 healthy snacks everyday. I can’t emphasize to you enough the importance of this. It helps stabilize your blood sugar, for one, so you don’t get those horrible hypoglycemic attacks that send you raiding the cabinets for Ding Dongs. It also helps consistently keep up your metabolism, so you burn more calories.
Tip Number Six: Good grief, eat your breakfast. Many studies have shown that people who eat breakfast are at a healthier weight than those who don't. And while you’re at it, make sure to incorporate some protein in it. It will keep you feeling full longer. The International Journal of Obesity contains a study about the beneficial role an egg breakfast can have in weight loss. If you have high cholesterol, there are many other lean protein options to choose from. A healthy breakfast should contain a wide variety of foods from many food groups. However, adding some lean protein will help you stave off hunger.
Tip Number Seven: Never restrict your food intake to under 1200 calories per day. It’s unhealthy and will put your body in “starvation mode” so it hangs onto fat for self-preservation. Please visit the Mayo Clinic’s calorie calculator to determine your individual calorie needs. Knowing your daily calorie NEEDS is a first step in learning how to lose weight.
Have a Plan, Come Prepared
Tip Number Eight: Make Food Convenient. Most of us are tempted by convenience, we like to grab what’s readily available. McDonald’s and other fast food restaurants proftit from this human propensity. So, make your own convenience foods. I have a busy family life, with 3 kids pulling me in all directions. I knew that I really had to do some food planning to make sure we were all eating healthy. You will inevitably come up with what works for you, your schedule, and the needs of your family. I take some time over the weekend to pre-cook meals, if I don’t the vicissitudes of life will invariably preempt my best cooking intentions. I freeze some and refrigerate others. I put together some snacks in storage bags to have on hand when I’m on the go. Throw the cuffs on me, but I also bring these to the movie theatre (in my big bag) so I’m not tempted by the bucket-o-cholesterol popcorn. Avoiding in-your-face temptation is a powerful weapon!
Your Scale Is Not Your Enemy!
Tip Number Nine: If you want to stay on track, you will need to check in with the scale occasionally. I’m not advocating being obsessive about your weight here, in fact just the opposite. I have a love hate relationship with my scale, after all. Before you step on, remember weight naturally fluctuates throughout the day. Use the scale as a general gauge to see how you’re doing. Don’t be obsessing over every single ounce of fluctuation. It’s a “check in” tool to see if you’re on the right track, that's all.
Sleep to Lose Weight: Say WHAT?
Tip Number Ten: Get enough sleep! Take heed of your sleep hygiene. If you’ve settled into some bad “night owl” habits and aren’t giving yourself enough rest, start systematically sending yourself to bed one hour earlier each night. If you’re overdoing the caffeine intake too close to bedtime, reduce it, eliminate it, or stop consuming it early enough for it to work its way out of your system. Staying up watching Return of the Zombies XIII until 2 a.m? Read a book instead, it helps lull you to sleep. Or, get that television out of your bedroom (it’s better for your sex life, anyway!). Oops, I forgot to mention the value of sex in my exercise recommendations. It really does burn some calories. Exercise can be fun, see?
Tips For Stopping Emotional Eating
Bonus Tips: Black and White Thinking is Your Enemy!
Alright, this is where it gets tricky. If you’re anything like me, your thinking is going to get you in the biggest trouble when it comes to weight loss or weight maintenance. If you’re able to tackle your own issues, you’ve won a major part of the battle. Let me outline for you some stinkin’ thinking’ and see if it hits home for you.
Attempting to be a perfectionist, and setting unrealistic goals will lead to your downfall. Black and white thinking is your biggest enemy here. A fascinating study from the University of Oxford details the psychological factors interfering with weight loss and maintenance. Black and white thinking, also called dichotomous thinking, was identified as one culprit. If you want to learn how to lose weight without dieting, you will need to master this tendency of yours. It looks something like this:
“I have to be perfect when sticking to my exercise and weight loss plan.” or “If I cheat on my diet, that means I’ve failed and I might as well quit.” This thinking is how I failed over and over again, folks. You are human, you are not perfect, you will make mistakes and have moments of weakness. When this happens, try this on for size instead: “Okay, so I had a bad day. It’s OKAY. Tomorrow is another day.” Or “So I sat on the couch all day and didn’t get out for a walk. It’s just one day and that does not negate all the work I’ve done.” In other words, forgive yourself and by all means move on.
Emotional Eating Could Be Part of Why You Can't Lose Weight
We’ve all eaten to “mood regulate” from time to time. It’s an immediate feel good fix, right? Bad day at work? Pass me the nachos. Life is inherently stressful and rough sometimes. Many studies have revealed overweight people often engage in emotional eating. Your goal is to replace your unhealthy behavior with something healthy, or sometimes just to buy yourself enough time to get over the craving. Cravings are temporary, they may only last a matter of minutes, so discovering useful distractions can intercept a binge.
Tips We Often Overlook
- Simple, but often overlooked advice: don't have comfort foods, junk food or other unhealthy temptation foods in your home. If they're not there, you've got a leg up, don't you? That's an easy suggestion, isn't it?
- A quick change in your environment can go a long way. Wherever you are, remove yourself: go outside, sit in your car, take a walk, take a drive.
- Distract yourself with something you enjoy. Do something you absolutely don’t associate with food, or something you cannot do while eating.
- Identify your triggers and have a plan. Learn what environmental and social factors can lead you to want a quick fix from food. Write them down as you experience them. Record your success stories from the times you didn’t turn to food. Write down your failures as well.
- Let Yourself Be Naughty... Occasionally. I try to be good 90% of the time.That’s right, part of success can involve allowing yourself to indulge every once in a while.This will go a long way in avoiding feelings of deprivation. Not allowing myself to have a nice big piece of chocolate cake occasionally made me feel grumpy. Why could everyone else eat cake but me? It felt unfair, and truly it was. It’s all about moderation, my friends.