With so much information available on the internet about how to lose weight, my members are frequently torn as to what they should be doing. The media make us think that if only we could have more self-control and adopt strict nutrition guidelines for a brief period, then we could have perfect bodies. Unfortunately, the adoption of strict, rigid nutrition guidelines backfires more often than not, leading to rebound weight gain and, even worse a sense of helplessness and disappointment that wears away at our self-confidence over time. Most strategies that you read about online are far more restrictive than they need be in order to be effective, especially when combined with a solid strength training program. Taking more drastic action than necessary may seem like a good idea at first glance, but the reality is that it often impedes or even obliterates long-term progress.
Let’s imagine your Dad has a doctor’s visit where he learns that he is pre-diabetic and has elevated blood pressure. His doctor warns him that he is on the road to requiring medication and that his weight is affecting his health. After talking with a friend who had great success with a very low-carbohydrate diet, your Dad decides to adopt that diet. He is thrilled to be down 18 pounds at the end of three weeks, but then it’s Thanksgiving week and he gets off track. By the time Christmas is over, he has quickly put back on all the weight he took off and then some. Your family watches in despair because naturally you are concerned for his health. By New Year’s you have summoned the courage to tell him of your concerns and your hopes that he will resume his diet. Unfortunately, he remembers back to the weeks when he was on the diet and how miserable he was and how he had to give up all his favorite foods. In his mind now there is only one way to lose the weight, and it is one that he has no interest in repeating.
Now, let’s imagine the scenario minus the extreme carbohydrate elimination and with some coaching support. Your Dad decides at the urging of his physician to lose some weight. He comes to Ocean Blue for help, and I ask him what his typical food day looks like. We agree together that he will switch from toast to eggs at breakfast. We also discuss including some physical activity in his day, and your Dad mentions that he likes walking the dog. It is agreed that the dog will get a somewhat longer walk each day and that we will get back together in a few weeks to check in.
Three weeks go by and I meet with your Dad. He’s lost 4 pounds, and he feels excited about having more energy now that he’s taking the dog on longer walks. Thanksgiving is coming so we talk about the foods that he really loves and will want to eat over the holiday and also some of the others that are less important. Your Dad leaves confident that he can say no to eating appetizers before dinner because he doesn’t really care about them. He plans to thoroughly and guiltlessly enjoy pie for dessert before sending leftovers home with guests. He is excited that family will be home, and he plans to get others involved in his walking ritual. We agree that he will add an additional short dog walk and that he will begin slowly decreasing the amount of half and half in his coffee over the next few weeks.
I hope that you can relate to these scenarios and see how a diet that may seem rather harmless at first glance and may have provided what appeared to be a faster, more immediate result could actually lead to long-term harm. Your Dad probably doesn’t need to get super lean in six months. Your Dad needs to reduce his risk of developing complications related to obesity, and that is actually pretty easily done. He doesn’t need to overhaul his life or be made to feel that his situation requires extreme, unsustainable measures. Supporting your Dad in navigating small lifestyle changes is much more likely to increase his long-term health and assure that he will be there for his family for as long as possible.
My choice of your Dad as the character in my stories is not unintentional. You probably would have felt entirely different emotions reading this had you been the lead character. I imagine that unfortunately, you are far more sympathetic to your Dad in this situation than you would be to yourself. If we are to move forward we must sometimes ask…how is this attitude serving me? Has it helped me thus far to achieve my goals? The same is true of fad diets and solutions…how well have they served you in the past? Stay tuned for my next blog post when I’ll be talking about the best place to start if you are looking to change your body.