It’s January 1st and I just googled weight loss: 394 million hits. Before you promise yourself to lose weight for yet another New Year’s resolution, ask yourself if weight loss is really your primary goal. Plenty of research reveals a dark truth–people who weigh less are not necessarily healthier, nor do they necessarily live longer than people who are overweight. Consider your options–there are plenty of other goals that will truly enhance your health, minimize risk of disease, improve your energy, and help you fit better in your clothes–despite what the scale says.
1. Cultivate an active lifestyle
Physical movement is one of the most powerful ways to increase your body’s metabolic health. Physical movement does much more than burn calories–and the benefits are seen with every step and every minute of activity. Unless you are trying to win a race or increase your personal best time, put away the stop watch and the heart rate monitor. The key is to move. Start where you can, but aim for doing something active most days of the week. You’ll get the bulk of the metabolic benefits in the first 20 minutes, but every minute counts and anytime you can move for more time is bonus.
2. Eat closer to the earth
Food is our medicine, but it can also be our poison. Our food supply is abundant and adulterated. Excessive refined starches, sugars and added fats muck up our metabolic system. Eating closer to the earth means eating more whole foods in their natural state or minimally processed. Start with mostly protein and produce. Add only the amount of whole starches that you need to feel satisfied. During the cold months of winter, hearty soups with beans, lentils and split peas work really well. Starchy vegetables like sweet potato, yams, winter squashes, peas and corn are great options, too.
3. Allow food it’s rightful place
Allow adequate time to purchase, prepare and eat your food. When we don’t take time to plan and prepare good food, it is easy to grab and go–and that often leads to too many refined starches, sugars and added fats. Sure, you want to cultivate a few quick meals and snacks that take little time. Peanut butter, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, nuts and seeds with dried fruit, as well as hearty soups, stews and chili are some items to keep in your larder for an easy grab and go meal at any time.
4. Honor how much is enough
It sounds simple to eat when you are hungry and stop when you are satisfied, except we have been taught to eat until we are full, over full and stuffed. We have been told to clean our plate and save starving children. We have a misguided notion of value in this country.
We like to think more is better. Not really. Even if food is delicious, it usually doesn’t feel great to overeat. It feels even worse the next morning. If we are honest, there are very few times it is truly worth it to indulge. Learning to honor how much is enough may be easy for some and quite a challenge for others, but this is a skill that can be learned. It is easier to stop eating when we feel satisfied if we are able to adequately address our other needs.
5. Practice effective ways to self soothe
Food is cheap, readily available, enjoyed in social and cultural environments and can be consumed alone. Food is not illegal. It can become a reliable ( although not necessarily effective) coping mechanism…at least in the long term. The metabolic side effects of overeating are linked to everything from heart disease, diabetes and cancer to all kinds of other inflammatory diseases. We are literally bearing the weight of an inadequate capacity to self soothe. The problem is that most of us don’t know how.
As a society we are pretty good at soothing babies and young children. We haven’t quite come to realize it is just as critical for each of us to continue to develop effective ways to self soothe throughout our lives. When we don’t get our needs met, it is too easy to default to problematic food choices–or more risky agents and behaviors like substance abuse, unsafe sex, uncontrolled spending. There are a myriad of ways that we tend to compensate for not getting our true needs met.
We all need adequate time, space and energy to take care of our needs. Ironically the body will effectively lose excess fat weight when we take care of ourselves, move regularly, and allow food it’s rightful place. Is there a better New Year’s resolution for you to consider?