I have a kind of love/hate relationship with diet and exercise. I’m often stuck in a cycle that involves me losing and gaining the same 10 pounds over and over again. However, over the last few months I’ve started focusing more on my health, rather than concentrating on my weight.
While I haven’t seen the kind of weight loss I see when I just go for it with the idea of reaching a target weight, I have made steady progress. Plus, I feel better and I think the changes I’m making are more likely to “stick.”
Focus on Quick, Temporary Solutions
In the past, when I’ve focused on my weight, it’s more about quick, temporary solutions. I want to lose 10 pounds in two weeks so that I fit into a dress for an event, or so that I look good for a family reunion. I restrict my calorie intake and exercise like crazy for two to four weeks, and I hit the target weight.
However, these quick, temporary solutions don’t last. I’ve been starving myself, so I’m hungry, and once I reach my goal, I start eating again. Additionally, the exercise done is not sustainable because I don’t really have that much time long-term to devote to exercise each day. So I slack off, and I’m eating more, and in no time the 10 pounds is back. I coast along for a few months, keeping things steady, until something comes up and I suddenly want to lose 10 pounds again.
These temporary solutions don’t last, and I’ve found that the more this cycle repeats itself, and the older I get, the less effective the measures are. It takes longer — and it takes more work — to see the same results.
So, a few months ago, I decided to change my approach. I made it more about my health and less about my weight.
Gradual, Long-Term Lifestyle Changes
Instead of focusing on my weight and short-term attempts to reach a particular weight, I started looking at my overall health. What could I do to make long-term changes that would result in a healthier lifestyle, as well as in more energy? It’s also important to stay in good health in the United States since it’s so expensive to take care of yourself if you get sick.
I started looking at how I could make time for exercise every day. At first, it meant just getting some exercise in each day — even if it was only 10 minutes of yoga. I made it a point to start eating healthier as well. My husband and I discussed our food choices and started replacing the unhealthy things in our home with healthier foods.
One thing I noticed was this: Healthier foods have much fewer calories, and so I could eat more of them. This isn’t an amazing revelation; it’s mostly common sense. However, it seemed surprising to me when I realized that I could get full eating a nice, big salad, and not have nearly the calories in some processed meal bought in the frozen-foods section.
We even changed the junk food we bought. We switched to healthier options, like lentil chips. It’s not a huge upgrade, but it is still better than greasy potato chips. I’ve always liked dark chocolate, so I don’t have to stop eating that. But I do need to exercise portion control.
Making small, gradual changes really helped my family live healthier. Plus, it’s been sustainable. I’ve increased the amount of time I spend exercising to at least 30 minutes a day, and we rarely eat red meat more than once a month.
The Weight Follows
As a result of these small, gradual changes, my weight is following suit. I’m not losing as fast as I would like, but when I get discouraged, I look at the inches I’ve lost off my waist and hips, as well as the fact that I’m developing a little better muscle tone. The weight isn’t as important if I’m developing a little lean muscle mass.
In a few more weeks, I’ll be back down to my target weight. But this time, I’m unlikely to gain it all back, since I’ll be living a healthier lifestyle. And this lifestyle comes with other perks: I’m more productive and energetic as well.