With New Year’s here, it’s a good time to talk about some tried and true weight loss methods. It seems that most people pledge to lose weigh every New Year’s, but they’re often no thinner in July than they were in January. I think this is because many people are so addicted to unhealthy foods that they feel that they can’t do without them. In Breaking the Food Seduction: The Hidden Reasons Behind Food Cravings—and 7 Steps to End Them Naturally, Dr. Neal Barnard, the president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, explains why certain foods (particularly meat, cheese, and sugar) contain addictive chemicals that keep people coming back for more…and more…and more.
According to Dr. Barnard, it takes just three weeks for people to stop craving unhealthy foods. (So, it’s easier and healthier to just stop eating cheese altogether than to try the mythical “in moderation” way of eating cheese.)
I really recommend this book—and any other book by Dr. Barnard for that matter—for anyone who wants (and needs) to take control of their eating. If you don’t have time to read anything right now, but are eager to get in shape this year, I have three suggestions. (You’ve heard them a million times by now, I’m sure—especially if you’re a health magazine junkie like I am—but perhaps this will be the year they’ll really stick with you.)
Veg Out: No, don’t be a couch potato (in fact, the next tip is about being more active), but please consider going vegan, or at least eating primarily vegetarian foods. As renowned nutritionist T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D., says, “Quite simply, the more you substitute plant foods for animal foods, the healthier you are likely to be. I now consider veganism to be the ideal diet. A vegan diet—particularly one that is low in fat—will substantially reduce disease risks. Plus, we’ve seen no disadvantages from veganism. In every respect, vegans appear to enjoy equal or better health in comparison to both vegetarians and non-vegetarians.”
I haven’t eaten meat, eggs, or dairy products for nearly 17 years and I feel much healthier now than when I ate animal products. I never count calories and I rarely worry about portion control. I eat tasty, satisfying foods too. These days, there are vegan alternatives to just about everything so you don’t really even have to “give up” anything.
Move It, Move It: Two years ago, I put some Christmas money towards a Lifegear treadmill. It was one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. I’ve walked on it for 30 minutes just about every night since I got it. It’s pretty basic—no bells or whistles—but it tracks your time and counts the calories you burn, and it has long handles, so you can hang on if balance is an issue for you.
Aim to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day. Cardio activities, such as cross country skiing, cycling, swimming, rock climbing, rowing, running, and walking, burn lots of calories and work multiple muscle groups, so you can slim down and tone up quickly. Pick an exercise you enjoy. If you get bored easily, do interval exercises (i.e. 10 minutes on a rowing machine, 10 minutes on a stationary bike, and 10 minutes on a treadmill) or do different activities on different days. Try tennis, racquetball or handball, rollerblading, step aerobics, using an elliptical trainer, or anything else that gets your heart rate up and your waistline down.
Switch W’s: Opt for whole grains instead of white flour. A few years ago I stopped buying white bread, all-purpose flour, refined pasta, and white rice, and started buying whole wheat bread and flour, whole-grain pasta, and brown rice. I’ve had noticeably more energy and I’m able to maintain my weight easier. Whole grain foods are high in fiber and complex carbohydrates, so they fill you up and raise your metabolism, so you burn more calories. It took me a couple weeks to get used to the taste of some things, but most whole wheat foods don’t taste all that much different than refined products. Try mixing the two while you get used to the “new” taste.
If you stick with these resolutions, you’ll likely be leaner and toner and feel healthier by the time bathing suit season rolls around again!