So you overindulged during the holidays and gained a few pounds or, even more distressing, you’ve added even more weight to the weight you were trying to shed all year.
Regain the upper hand by following a simple P.L.A.N. for weight-loss success:
P: Preparation. Whether you are the CEO of your home or CEO of a Fortune 500 company, you know that the odds of success increase with preparation. One of the biggest missteps is to depend on “will power.” If you are stressed after a long day at work, you didn’t sleep well the night before and you missed your afternoon snack, what will you choose when you get home: the chocolate chip cookies or preparing a sensible dinner? If, on the other hand, there are no cookies available and you have already prepared dinner, then what do you chose? That’s the difference between will power and preparation.
Step 1: Go through the pantry and fridge and dispose of tempting leftovers. You will not help starvation in Africa or any other country by overindulging. Restock with your favorite fruits, vegetables and raw nuts, all of which make easy snacks. Divide the nuts into appropriate single-serving sizes. Remember: preparation, not will power.
Step 2: Take one a day a week to prepare for the week ahead. If you already know what you are going to have for breakfast, you’re less apt to skip this meal, which sets you up to overindulge the rest of the day. If you know that you’ll be eating out this week, take time to look at the menu items and nutrition facts for the restaurant online. You can also use the time to plan appropriate substitutions. With this strategy you accomplish two things: making better choices and appearing spontaneous and decisive to your dining partners.
L: Identify your limits. This is the key to success for many weight management programs. It may be presented as daily points, calorie count or prepackaged foods, but the take-home message is the same: Know your limits.
A simple rule of thumb is to eat your vegetables first, perhaps with 1 to 2 teaspoons of olive oil or crushed nuts to ensure absorption of all the nutrients vegetables offer, then consume your protein source (a portion the size of your palm), and finally, the carbohydrate. Keep carbs whole grain, high fiber and limit to a half-cup. Eating this way has several advantages. It slows down the absorption of sugar and thereby prevents insulin spikes and reactive hunger; it helps you to feel fuller more quickly; and it maximizes absorption of nutrients.
Other things to consider are limiting sodium to less than 2,000 mg a day; limit alcohol to one to two drinks a week; and put all sauces and dressing on the side so you control the amount used – no more than 1 tablespoon. Avoid fried foods, trans fats and foods whose primary ingredient is sugar.
A: Increase activity level. You want to increase activity not because it will help you to lose weight but because it will improve your energy, moods and muscle tone. All are important ingredients in any weight-loss program. The first rule of thumb is to pick an activity that you like – or one you don’t hate. Next, shoot for consistency before quantity. Starting out with an hour a day may feel overwhelming and exhausting, and can also cause an injury, which would derail all your good intentions. If 10 minutes four times a week allows you to be consistent, then start there and build up. Rome was not built in a day.
N: Finally, cut the negative talk. Remember when your grandmother said you could attract more flies with honey? I think this is what she meant. Beating up on yourself gives you the excuse you need to continue the habits that have kept you in the same place. We have just left a season where, hopefully, we have been reminded of the importance of being kind to others. Why not extend that kindness to yourself? Instead of constantly looking for proof of why you are going to fail, look for evidence of success: “I exercised 10 minutes a day for four days last week and already I am feeling a bit better. Wow, imagine when I can do it for 15 minutes.”
I often hear patients say, “It’s been a month and I have only lost three or four pounds.” This is not defeat; this is success! In 12 months that will be 36 pounds. Another thing I hear frequently is, “It has been two weeks. I feel better but I haven’t lost any weight so why bother.” Try – “It’s only been two weeks and already I am starting to feel better. Imagine what I can accomplish in three, six, or 12 months. Remember Einstein’s rule: You can’t solve a problem from the same mind frame in which it was created.
Dr. Eudene Harry completed her medical degree and residency training at Thomas Jefferson University. She has been practicing medicine nearly 20 years, including 10 as an emergency physical for Level II trauma centers. She is the medical director for the integrative and holistic Oasis Wellness and Rejuvenation Center, and is founder of Oasis for Optimal Health, a private practice focused on integrative, holistic wellness and empowering and educating the patient.