It seems like there’s a new “perfect weight loss system” cropping up every day. One supposed expert might tell us that the answer to our prayers is to religiously count how many “points” we consume each day, while another says we should all be worshiping at the Church of Low-Carb. So, what’s an eater to do?
The first step is to realize that there is no single diet that’s right for everyone. We all have unique bodies, so the diet that helped your co-worker lose 20 pounds might not do much of anything for you. So does that mean all those nutrition experts trying to sell their weight loss systems are just peddling false promises? Not necessarily (unless they’re promoting “diet foods” that are chock-full of scary, artificial ingredients—in which case, actual snake oil might be the healthier option!). There is usually a kernel of truth in any diet, the key is to learn to take what works and ditch the rest, in order to create a natural weight loss strategy that suits YOU. Here’s how to get started.
Let go of low-calorie dieting.
There are so many reasons why this is a good idea. Most low-calorie foods can only exist is because they’re loaded with unnatural additives. In nature, food has calories. So, by eating a low-calorie diet, not only are you likely missing out on some important nutrients, you’re probably also consuming artificial ingredients that can have detrimental health effects.
What’s more, low-calorie food often doesn’t fill us up, either physically or emotionally. If you’re craving yogurt and you settle for the fat-free, artificially sweetened variety, you’ll be left hungry and missing the satisfaction you’d get from a really delicious cup of natural, whole milk yogurt. This can easily sabotage weight loss efforts–feeling hungry all day makes it much too easy to overeat at dinner.
Eat real, natural foods.
The title of this blog is Natural Weight Loss, after all. Yes, real food will have some fat. It will even have some carbs. But that’s okay. In fact, it’s a good thing. Fat and carbohydrates are two of the macronutrients your body needs to function and stay healthy. Our bodies evolved in such a way as to be able to put natural foods to good use—but they don’t know what to do with artificial foods. Which is why the processed stuff is more likely to cause weight gain—it’s just empty calories. Natural foods give your body the nutrients it needs and, because they’re more filling, you won’t need to overeat to feel full, like you might when you’re consuming processed foods.
Do exercise you truly love.
Next time you go to the gym, look around and see how many people seem to be enjoying themselves. Some of them might be having a good time. But a lot of them are probably about as happy as a polar bear in the Sahara. Exercise doesn’t have to feel like an obligation—if it does, you probably won’t stick with it. So if you hate pumping iron, skip the bench press. If spinning bores you to tears, don’t spend another second doing it! Find a form of physical activity that you truly enjoy—something that energizes you. When you look forward to working out, you’ll be more likely to make it a lasting part of your everyday life.
Eat slowly and be relaxed.
What did you have for dinner last night? Can’t remember? It might be because you rushed through your meal and didn’t give yourself the time to enjoy it. This can have a few undesirable consequences. First, when you’re under stress, your metabolism slows down. So eating on the run (when you’re in stress mode) can make weight loss more challenging. Next, it can lead to mindless eating. If you’ve ever downed a tube of Pringles while binge watching Netflix, you know what we’re talking about. The faster you eat, the less aware you are of what’s going into your mouth, and the more likely you are to overeat.
Finally, there is an important emotional component to eating—it’s nourishing on a soul level. That’s why so many of our holiday rituals feature food. If you deprive yourself of that soul-level nourishment by rushing through your meals, you’re not going to feel satisfied, and you might overeat later to make up for it.
Love your body as it is right now.
This is a vital component of natural weight loss, for a couple of reasons. First, it’s possible you don’t actually need to lose weight for health reasons—maybe you just think you do because the media is relentlessly bombarding you with that message. Once you start loving your body, you’ll be able to see the truth. Often, we think we need to lose weight to be happy, but if our sense of self-worth is reliant upon the number on the scale, we will always feel inadequate. To truly be happy, you need to understand that your inherent value as a person that has nothing to do with your weight.
Second, you can’t hate yourself skinny. Well, you can, but only temporarily. To maintain a healthy weight, you need a healthy, sustainable lifestyle. The kinds of crash diets and killer workouts we saddle ourselves with when we feel desperate to lose weight (because we believe that’s the only way we’ll become worthy human beings) are certainly not sustainable. Since we can’t stick with them forever, we eventually gain the weight back. On the other hand, treating our bodies well out of self-love promotes lifelong health.
The Institute for the Psychology of Eating
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