What is the best, healthiest way to lose weight? If you have read my previous blogs, the correct answer is not through any specific diet. My advice? You should never purchase another diet book in your life. What is your incentive to lose few pounds? For a middle aged, senior couple, they can expect to spend $295,000 – $300,000 on their remaining lifetime medical bills. How do you reduce that enormous figure? By maintaining your physical health /physical fitness, and by improving the efficiency of your immune system. Since fat cells are toxic to the immune system, dropping a few pounds (to hit a reasonable weight target for your height and body structure) is just one of the steps – but it is a valuable step.
Okay, so how do you lose weight? The solution does not lie in restricting; the solution lies in switching from restricting to substituting. You need to add, not take away. What do you add to your daily plate? Real food. Why? Because if you eat real food, you are not going to have those cravings for a chocolate chip cookie or a hot fudge sunday. So, what constitutes a real food? Anything that’s not man-made and pre-packaged. Anything that existed in that state 10,000 years ago. Try vegetables, salads, fruits, nuts, seeds, and lots of plant-based protein. Animal-based protein? Remember: animal based protein is good if it is less than 10% of your caloric intake. Meat is fine, as long as it is the smallest part of your real food.
What is the value in the above approach? It provides you with nutrients, not just calories. Let’s just look at the omega 3 fatty acids, which you will be consuming with the above meal. Those omega 3 fatty acids will improve your immune system, lower your cortisol (stress hormone), decrease your inflammation, and help you burn more calories, leading to a gradual (but permanent) weight loss. With any program, no one approach fits everyone. However, the approach of shifting your eating style from nutrient poor, calorie rich foods to nutrient rich, calorie poor “real” foods is an approach that should work for everyone.
There’s another factor in weight loss that is often overlooked. Poor sleep. For some people, it is sleep apnea. For other people, it is heavy snoring and a lack of proper oxygenation during sleep. The result? Poor sleep increases your cortisol (stress) level, causes insulin resistance, triggers urges to eat, and leads to weight gain. For these people, the solution is more than just a switch to real foods; the solution also rests with obtaining a regular, good night sleep. So, if you might have sleep apnea, or if your spouse hears heavy snoring, you should have those two sleep conditions evaluated and treated. For you, the result might be more than improved sleep; it might be a significant drop in weight – without any dietary change.
How about thinking outside the box? Remember back when you had an open mind? When thinking about weight loss, instead of searching for that next diet book, how about considering meditation and visualization? Now, before you discount its value, let me explain. Meditation, when combined with visualization (imagining yourself thinner with greater vitality), creates certain brain waves, which inhibit that part of your brain that produces stress hormones. More importantly, the impact of those brain waves lasts much longer than the brief 5-10 minutes of medication. Just think about it. If you can reset (and lower) your stress hormones, fewer calories will be directed into fat. With more meditation, you will progress to a lower weight. If there is one indisputable fact about our human body, it is that everything is connected. No part of your body operates in a vacuum. You change your sleep, you change your weight. You change your brain waves, you change your weight. It is that simple.
So, what’s my message? Caloric restriction does not work. Never has, never will. 98% of weight loss through caloric restriction will be regained. Want a lower weight? Want better health? Switch to real foods (more vegetables, fruit, nuts, and seeds). Improve your sleep (and see your doctor if you need help with your sleep). Reset your brain waves and decrease your level of stress hormones. Don’t neglect visualization (the image of losing weight) and how that impacts the wiring of your brain (and body). Don’t have the time? Then do it, even without meditation, every night before you fall asleep. Your eyes may close, but your brain will still process the losing weight image. On its own, your brain will still set the chemistry to reach that image. Sound ridiculous? Then watch how athletes utilize visualization to achieve their results. Or ask people like Oprah Winfrey. Simply stated, it works.
My closing thought? Weight – and life – comes down to creating the right basic habits. I’ve said it before: the small advantages (the small habits) can lead to the greatest triumphs. A short-term diet is not a habit. It comes, then goes. You want habits that will last the rest of your life. Try the four habits above, and they will work wonders. Real food. Good sleep. Meditation. Visualization. Now, why don’t you find those four components on a diet bookshelf? Because they do not require any dramatic change or any drastic program. They just require some new beliefs and some new habits. And the best part? With those new habits, your whole life will improve, not just your weight.
Did I miss something? Yes. I did not discuss exercise with your weight loss. Why? Because the above habits constitute about 80% of the weight remedy. Exercise only contributes to 20% of the solution. Nevertheless, I still recommend adding exercise to the above habits. Walking daily is fine. Exercise, after all, does much more than burn calories. Daily exercise, like daily visualization, sends an important message to the brain, rewiring it toward a lower weight target. Once again, move away from restriction. Think more of addition. Adding the habits in this blog will allow you to do what all those diet books could not. These habits will allow you to reach a lower weight and stay at that lower weight. Isn’t that what you want? Then why not give the above approach a try?