I have always struggled with my weight, and have probably bounced between the “overweight” and “mild obese” weight-range my entire life. I’ve tried numerous different diets (from slim shakes for lunch/snacks) to following an plan that told me exactly how much and what to eat daily (this one I remember that on day seven all you were allowed was ½ a grapefruit and a cup of yogurt for your meals—it was the most restricted calorie day). Now I’m just trying to be sensible—more fruits and veggies, less processed foods (sausages, fries, things like that), and more water. I’ve been getting better over the past couple of years (though my weight has gone from the “overweight” category back to the “mild obese” category), so I decided that I would also start reading a few books on different aspects of weight loss, to try to find some additional “tools” that I could add/use when it comes to trying to lose weight sensibly.
“Mini Habits for Weight Loss: Stop Dieting. Form New Habits. Change Your Lifestyle without suffering” by Stephen Guise is a wonderful tool to add to your “tool belt” when it comes to sensible weight loss. This book gives both a history of the weight loss industry (including a good background on the low fat vs. low sugar diets), and then goes into sensible ways of slowly changing both nutrition and fitness habits to make them long lasting. There are now quick and easy fixes, but ideas and suggestions for how to make changes to your nutrition and fitness routines that one can actually stick with.
There were numerous different parts of the book that stood out to me, but one in particular: “Calorie restriction has been shown to drop your metabiolism and make your body prone to store fat” (pg. 50_kindle edition). This is opposite of everything that you see and hear in the news (where you’re told to lower the calories to force your body to start burning fat), but at the same time it makes sense due to how the human species has evolved over tens of thousands of years. I use to try to restrict my calories, but then I started to pay attention to how it made me feel—I was usually in a fairly bad mood (and it was all due to the fact that while I thought I was losing “fat” I was in fact starving myself and now we know that there is a direct correlation between our gut flora and our mental health—so my gut flora was sending signals to my brain that they were stressing, and in turn my mood was usually bouncing between grumpy, tired, and irritable.
When it comes to any type of change that we want to introduce in our lives—it usually takes time for it to become a habit and to actually stick with it. That is because we actually have to convince our brain first that the change that we want to make is actually beneficial (remember if we cut the calories to much, our brain thinks we’re going into starvation and it will actually slow down the metabolism and make it harder to burn fat (we’ll actually start to store more fat, and end up gaining weight instead of losing it). So in order to convince our brain that we aren’t going to be going into starvation mode, we need to do little things (that’s were the nutritional mini habits suggested by the author come into play). For example, one habit could be to have a piece of fruit twice a day—they’re full of natural sugar, and fiber and have numerous other beneficial aspects as well (also a piece of fruit can be anything from an apple, to an orange, to a banana, or a handful of blueberries or raspberries).
One way I like to get in a serving of both fruits & veggies is to put fruit (this can be anything from an banana, to half a chopped apple, to a cup of chopped grapes) and an handful or two of spinach into my morning smoothie. You get fiber, natural sugar, and all the other beneficial compounds of natural foods in one sitting. I will also add in some peanut butter, and plain Greek yogurt as well (to get some healthy fat and more protein).
Getting in my total number of veggie servings has always been something that I need to work on for several reasons (no one in the house is a big veggie eater, I refuse to cook/prepare veggies a head of time to re-heat later [unless they’re in a soup or casserole], and I’m also a slightly picky veggie eater). So this is something that I try to work on—spinach in the morning shake is one serving of veggies, then I may try to make a salad for lunch (or pack veggies to put on the sandwich [when I remember] for lunch), and then veggies at dinner are always a gamble.
Another thing that I’m trying to work on incorporating into my day to day routine is taking the word “can’t” out of sentences when I’m either talking with other people (or mentally with myself) and replace it with the word “don’t”. To where I’m saying I don’t want to have “X”; instead of saying I can’t have “X”. This way I’m taking back the power of decision-making in terms of what I’m eating—instead of giving the control to the food (or potentially someone else). Also by saying “don’t” instead of “can’t” it will help to cut back on the overeating of certain things (I’d try to be good in not eating candy, but then would go on an bing where I’d eat a lot of candy in a short period and then mentally beat myself up for it). Now if I want chocolate, I’ll figure out a way to eat the chocolate and then not feel bad about it; or I’ll tell myself that I can have some chocolate but after maybe eating an apple, or drinking so much water—and then usually the urge has disappeared.
Working out consistently is also something that I’m trying to get better at—mainly because once you start working out consistently you see the results consistently. Through the years, I’ve realized that I’m not one for going to the gym (I don’t like working out in a large crowd, and I also feel slightly uncomfortable if I don’t know anyone else in the room as well); I’ve tried the group classes before, I managed to go to one or two for awhile (actually the only ones that I could stick with consistently were the water aerobic classes or going to one women’s only gym for awhile when it had been under decent ownership), but then find reasons to not go. I’m better at doing workouts at home on my own time in the evenings, where I don’t feel like I’m being judge. The book offers numerous different types of mini-fitness challenges as well (setting a certain number of reps for a specific exercise (such as doing a single push-up or pull-up), or just walking to the end of your driveway and back—with bonuses of doing as many extra [or longer distance] as you want, but having a bare minimum that you need to do.
Small and consistent changes are the actual backbone of successful healthy weight loss, and then weight management. It doesn’t matter how long it takes to get to your destination, what matters is getting there using methods that will also help you maintain your new weight, and not ending gaining it all back with interest. Years of bad habits can’t be broken in two or even three months of following some fad diet and workout plan. The trick is to determine the best nutrition and fitness steps that fit in with your specific lifestyle (work, family, and so forth) and work them in so that it becomes a seamless blend that you don’t have to think about. This book doesn’t offer quick and easy tips on how to drop numerous dress sizes or pounds, but it does offer some ideas on how to build little habits (a few at a time) that over time can lead to dropping numerous dress sizes or pounds. The main thing is that healthy weight loss is something that takes both time and dedication to—so find an mini habit or two that you want to start with, and once they’re basically routine habits, add in another one or two; within a year or so you’ll be surprise at how far you’ve come and not having to deprive yourself of things getting there.
I highly recommend “Mini Habits for Weight Loss: Stop Dieting. Form New Habits. Change Your Lifestyle without suffering” by Stephen Guise to anyone who is looking for an common sense approach to weight loss. The book provides you with ideas and tools, but you have to be willing to put in the work to get where you want to be, and also realize that number on the scale is just that a number, and one you shouldn’t use to define who you are as a person.