Do You Need To Lose Weight?

Everyone these days seems to be talking about the trials and tribulations of trying to loose weight. Headlines scream about the rise of obesity and what all that extra weight does to your heart, joints and back. If we're not trying to loose weight, we seem weird to everyone else.

But do you really need to loose weight? Don't believe it when anyone says "You can't be too rich or too thin." You can be too thin. Being too thin is just as harmful to your body and your lifespan as being overweight. This article is for normally healthy people who want to loose weight. How can you tell if you really need to loose weight?

  • If your doctor tells you to. Not your boyfriend, not your favorite fashion magazine, but your doctor - someone who is trained to know who honestly needs to loose weight.
  • If you can't fit through doorways you normally could, or fit in seats you normally could.
  • Measure your waist at its narrowest point (don't inhale). Then measure your hips at the widest possible part. Divide your waist measurement over your hip measurement. If the ratio is over 0 .94 for a man or over 0.82 for a woman, you're too fat. This works when done in inches or centimeters.

OK - I Need To Loose Weight

There's no secret formula to make you suddenly loose weight in a safe, healthy way. You need to burn off more calories than you eat. For many dieters, this means eating less and exercising more. This most effective weight loss formula is also one of the hardest to stick to.

Our ancestors did not have the convenience of a market, or the processed sugars and fat in their food as we do today. So, although your brain knows you should eat less, your body still thinks it's in the Stone Age and wants to stuff its face to put on enough layers of fat to survive winter. You can retrain your mind to ignore your body.

Don't waste time blaming yourself if you discover you need to loose weight. This doesn't help anyone. Just get on with changing your diet and activities. And know that with anything else, it will take time. You can't write a novel overnight (believe me - I've tried. I don't recommend it). And you can't loose noticeable weight overnight. But making new eating and exercise habits today will help you safely and inevitably loose weight and maintain your healthy new weight for the rest of your life. And many dieters find renewed energy, self-esteem and tranquility when the weight goes off and stays off. They also find they get sick less often and can even sometimes get lower life insurance premiums.

But What About This New Diet I Read About?

There are a lot of fad diets touted by celebrities that promise very fast weight loss in a short time without a lot of exercise. Avoid them. For most people of good health, a one to three pound loss of weight per week is enough not to shock the body. Loosing weight very rapidly can lead to diarrhea, dehydration, fatigue, confusion, and hair loss, lack of sex drive or sudden fainting. Neither of those things is very attractive.

There are prescription medicines for weight loss, but they are usually for the morbidly obese, not for those who only need to loose 10 or twenty pounds. There are also over the counter pills and shakes, but they ONLY work over a few months if you follow the directions carefully and add more exercise into your daily routine.

The big danger in using pills, shakes or "miracle" diets is that you will only loose the weight for a short time. Your fat will come back, and will most likely bring friends. They are only a band aid. That is why a lot of fad diets are called "yo-yo" diets, because your weight will go up and down like a yo-yo. They won't change the root of the problem of why you got the extra weight in the first place. You need to change your lifelong habits for the rest of your life to keep any harmful weight off, not a pill.

The big danger in using pills, shakes or "miracle" diets is that you will only loose the weight for a short time. Your fat will come back, and will most likely bring friends. They are only a band aid. That is why a lot of fad diets are called "yo-yo" diets, because your weight will go up and down like a yo-yo. They won't change the root of the problem of why you got the extra weight in the first place. You need to change your lifelong habits for the rest of your life to keep any harmful weight off, not a pill.

How Much Will This Cost Me?

Sensible weight loss does not mean you have to go spend thousands of dollars for a special coach to whip you into shape. You can do it without spending a lot in the way of money or time.

First off, keep a food journal for a day or for a week, if you can. Write down everything that goes into your mouth and when. Keeping a food journal is very hard for some people, usually because they don't like to see the facts of their eating habits in black and white. Yes, what you eat is your fault - but what you eat is also your choice. You gained the weight, yes - but you have the power and capability to loose it.

How many calories are you eating? The average person living an average lifestyle needs only about 2,000 calories per day. You might need more or less depending on your health and activity levels. How many fatty foods, fried foods, sugary snacks and treats? Some of them are over 2,000 calories all by themselves! Are you eating all the time, or just at mealtimes? How many fruits and vegetables are you eating? And how large are your portions? Do you eat more when sad? Do you eat when bored? How much alcohol do you drink? How many glasses of water or juice? How many caffeinated beverages? How often do you eat out? Yes, this is a lot to work out by yourself, and no one will make you be honest except yourself. If it all seems intimidating, then just look at one thing at a time. Here are a few simple suggestions of what you can do now to help you loose weight:

  • Eliminate one snack.
  • Don't eat while watching the telly.
  • Cut down on your portions of meat.
  • Drink more water and less soda or beer.
  • Order pizza once a month instead of once a week.
  • Cut down or eliminate alcohol. It's full of calories and not much nutrition.
  • Don't eat a lot right before going to bed. The body burns calories slower in sleep.

The important thing is to do something and keep at it. One change will help you see what other changes you can do. Your goal is to cut 250 calories a day off, then 500 calories a day off if you want to loose one pound a week and keep it off, until you gain your desired weight. Then keep the new eating habits with you for the rest of your life.

There are many weight loss websites, books, and magazines available. Since sensible weight loss is a popular topic in the news, since more people than ever before need to loose weight, lots of dieting tips can be found in the newspapers or on TV. Try new, lower calorie ways to cook. And cook more of your own food rather than go out to eat. Not only will this be cheaper, but will give you more control of what goes into your mouth. More control can lead to self-confidence, which can lead to weight loss.

Should I Join a Weight Loss Club?

Some people find it very difficult to change their eating and activity habits of a lifetime without some outside encouragement. They often find that encouragement by joining a weight loss support group or a health club. The main advantage is the encouragement, and being around people who are in the same boat as you are. And it is always nice to meet new people. Clubs vary widely in price. Do your homework and shop around. You have time. That's no excuse to snack on chips while doing the weight loss homework, though.

It is not necessary to join a club or support group for sensible weight loss, but if it helps you, go for it.

It is helpful that your family, partner or friends don't eat "bad foods" in front of you. My mother and I diet together, since we live with each other. Mom decided no more ice cream or cakes. If she didn't see it, it was easier not to crave it. So I gave up ice cream and cakes, too. We've both lost weight and have kept it off for months. We still eat cake or ice cream, but only a few times a year now instead of every night, like we had been doing. It's nice to remind and support each other in our dietary decisions. It just makes the process easier.

But Food Makes Me Happier

Some people find great comfort in stuffing their faces after a hard, depressing day. I've been known to do it. Some foods remind us of better times. For me, that's macaroni cheese, or doughnuts. They seem like dependable friends.

But these foods don't care about you at all. In fact, they laugh at you behind your back. Well, not LITERALLY laugh, but they can propagate a vicious cycle. You feel bad because you're tired and overweight - You eat food - You feel better, but you're still tired overweight - So you eat even more to feel better and on and on this goes.

You can find other forms of comfort. Maybe you can start a craft, practice meditation, or adopt a pet. You can even try substituting healthier foods, or eat fewer portions of your favorites. Each step is a positive one.

Some dieters complain that all food that's good for you doesn't taste good. At first, your taste buds will be in shock at eating different things. But your taste buds will soon adjust. Here are some tips to help you through this adjustment period:

  • Drink more water. This will not only help keep you feeling full, but give you more energy.
  • Stop adding extra salt on your food. Although salt is not loaded with calories, a lot of foods you may be used to may be saturated in it. Getting used to less salt in some of your food makes it easier to cut out even more salty foods later on. Try some other spices instead. This helps wake up the taste buds and get them looking for something else to taste rather than salt.
  • Try new foods. Your taste buds change, sometimes year by year, as you get older. Fruits and vegetables you detested as a kid may taste great now.
  • Try more steamed or broiled food rather than fried or battered.
  • If you eat a salad, eat it before your meal and use only olive oil or vinaigrette dressings instead of creamy, calorie-laden dressings.
  • Switch to brown rice from white rice. There are many quick cooking brands of brown rice available.
  • Use smaller bowls and dishes. This is a bit of a mind over matter trick that many people have found useful. It tricks the mind into thinking you are eating your usual amounts and helps you feel fuller faster.

Fiber: A Dieter's Best Friend

If you can only remember one sensible dieting tip from this article, remember this one - eat more fiber. Not only will it fill you up faster, but it can help prevent a common complaint among those beginning to cut down on their food intake - painful constipation. The average person needs about 25-30 grams of fiber per day. If you get diarrhea, you know you need to cut back.

Fiber is in a lot more than just extra and costly fiber supplement powders, pills and biscuits. Here are more sources of healthy fiber:

  • Whole grains, including bread, cereals, bran and brown rice
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Beans, legumes, lentils
  • Fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Cooked vegetables (not as much as fresh, but some is better than none!)

Don't eat ONLY fiber. That's counter productive - you'll get sick. You want a moderation of fiber just as you want a moderation in sugar or fat. Finding new sources of fiber you like is part of trying new foods and discovering new tastes. Finding one new, healthier food you like makes it that much easier to search out another. Make it fun treasure hunt when you can, not a chore.

Shake Your Groove Thing

Cutting your calorie intake is only half of a sensible weight loss program. The other half is an increase in activity. That's right - the dreaded "e" word - exercise!

Now, now, don't panic - while some people greatly enjoy strenuous workouts a few times a week, you don't have to join a gym or do a series of repetitive exercises that you may get bored of in a couple of weeks. You also don't want to suddenly go from not jogging ever to jogging two miles a day. That will hurt! You want to gradually introduce more and more activities into your everyday life. Your body might only be able to handle a few minutes of exercise a couple of times a day. This is normal. As time goes by AND you continue to exercise (you have to do both) you will be gradually be able to work out for longer and longer periods of time.

Some people find a gym or health club helps them best because it forces them into an exercise discipline, as well as getting encouragement from other people. If that's what you need, great. Go for it.

Some people enjoy working out along with exercise tapes or DVDs. Check out that it's for beginners and if you can, check to see if the tape is approved by your doctor. Some people try to do too much too fast, and that leads to pain and discouragement. Don't compare yourself with other people who exercise. Everyone is different. Just because your neighbor lifts weights doesn't mean you have to. Perhaps you would enjoy gentler exercise programs like yoga or water aerobics.

But there are many things you can do to add more calorie burning activities to your everyday life that don not require a major change in lifestyle. Play with your kids more. Play with the dog or cat more. Walk to the shop and back in good weather rather than drive. Use the stairs instead of the escalator. Take up a musical instrument if you've always wanted to - the calorie burning will be a great excuse to practice. Wash your car instead of going to a professional service. Ride a bike for short trips instead of using the car. Take up gardening. Get up and dance to your favorite television show's theme song. Snack less when you watch your favorite sports team and help them along by showing them what they should do.

There are lots of things you have to do anyway - housework, visiting friends, going to and from work. As time goes on, you'll find many little ways you can move your muscles rather than let somebody or something else do the task for you. Not only will you be burning calories, you'll be getting something else done, too. That gives a feeling of accomplishment which can encourage you to keep on moving.

Here's some calorie burning ideas you might not have thought of:

  • Kissing: a real passionate kiss burns an average of 300 calories per smooch.
  • Sex: a half hour of lovemaking with a partner burns an average of 400 calories.
  • Digesting any food does burn calories - very few - but still, it burns calories.
  • Reading or doing a word puzzle for a half hour, if you don't snack between page turning, can burn almost as much calories as sex. So, you've burned some calories just by reading this.

To Sum Up

Sensible weight loss doesn't have to mean spending a lot of money or time to get healthy. Examine what you do now and what you eat now and bit by bit (or bite by bite) change accordingly. Don't expect an overnight miracle and don't compare yourself to other dieters. You know if you're honestly doing the best that you can. Talk to your doctor or other health professional for tips, advice and to see if you are fit for any exercise program that you may be considering.

Setbacks are inevitable. Don't beat yourself up about it, and don't let anyone tell you that are a bad person for not sticking to a diet. If you are really committed to have a healthier body, you will be able to get back to healthy habits again. Don't expect yourself to be perfect. Just expect yourself to do the best you can.

Keep reminding yourself that changing your eating and exercise habits is worth it. Not only will you be healthier, but your energy levels will rise, and often your self-confidence will rise, too. Some people on a sensible weight loss plan also get an increase in their sex drives!

This is not a one time thing. It's not a class where, when you get a diploma, you're done. These are habits that you need to keep doing all of your life, if possible. Don't feel threatened by having to change what you eat and how often you move around. These are challenges that, if tackled in a playful spirit, can become fun new ways to get to know different people and different tastes in the world.

At first, I was put off by having to walk my dog. But it came to be a great way not only to get to know my dog, but also the neighborhood. I can turn most of my mind off and just walk the dog. It's a great tonic and stress reliever. And I've been able to maintain a healthy weight.

It might at first look impossible to loose weight. It's not. As a wise Chinese man, Lao-Tzu once said, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step."

Get stepping.

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