Losing weight is not that complicated. Eat fewer calories than you burn and the pounds will drop off, your clothes will loosen up, and you'll see a lower number on the scale. It's that simple. Only it never really is that simple. While the formula for weight loss may be uncomplicated, people are not. To varying degrees, we're all at the mercy of our physical yearnings, years of deeply ingrained habits, roller-coaster emotions, social pressures, and an inborn penchant for pleasure -- in short, we all have our own human nature to contend with, and that has turned the relatively straightforward process of losing weight into a surprisingly complex problem.
When you're faced with complex problems in other areas of your life, you probably think nothing of devoting much of your time to resolving them. After all, common wisdom has it that if you approach a challenge by taking it step by step, success will come. However, weight loss is rarely approached that way. Most people want immediate gratification, and so most weight-loss programs try to deliver. They ask you to jump in and ruthlessly cut your calories so that you drop pounds right away. A few weeks later, they let you ease up and eat more, then a few weeks after that you can ease up again, until it's easier and easier to relax the rules and you find yourself eating and living the same way you did before you went on the diet. As a result, you gain back all the weight you lost.
The quick-fix approach has always seemed backward to me. If there's any doubt that making drastic changes to behavior in the short term is no way to approach a multifaceted problem, you only have to look at the diet failure rates in this country. Despite spending billions of dollars on weightloss plans and paraphernalia, not all that many people are getting to a healthy weight permanently. But some people are, and most of them are doing it not by asking the impossible of themselves -- and, for most people, rapid transformation that lasts is impossible -- but by taking change one small step at a time. These people increase the amount of physical activity they're doing and stop skipping meals. They look at their lives and work on changing the reasons why they turn to food for comfort. They learn how to get in better touch with their hunger, and, finally, they embrace a new, more moderate and nutritious way of eating. Doing all of these things, and doing them in a gradual way, is what enables these people to reach and maintain a healthy body weight. It's the reverse of the quick-fix approach -- and it really works!
I'm an exercise physiologist, so I've had a lot of training in how the human body operates. But my real education has come from being a student of diet successes and failures. Ever since I finished graduate school in 1983, I've been fascinated by how some people are able to lose weight and keep it off and how some people can't seem to make weight loss stick. This fascination has led me to make finding the answer to that question my life's work. How you lose weight is no great mystery -- that's just a matter of eating fewer calories than you burn. The more puzzling question is why, after managing to shed at least some -- or perhaps even a lot of -- weight, so many people change course and return to their old ways. Even more puzzling is that when I ask people who've been on the weight-loss roller coaster how they felt when they were thinner, virtually all of them say, "Great. I never felt better in my life." So what makes them regress?
After working one-on-one with many clients and talking to thousands of people through the years, I think I can say with some authority that the fast-and-furious approach to weight loss is also the fastest route to failure.
Here's why: human beings don't respond well to sudden changes. However, your body -- and your mind -- both have a powerful ability to adapt to change when it comes at you in measured amounts. Think about how athletes train. They don't immediately go from lifting 20 pounds to lifting 100 pounds, and they don't go from running 2 miles to running 26 miles overnight. Instead, they work up to the pinnacle of their capabilities, giving their bodies a chance to become accustomed to the new demands being placed on them. This step-by-step strategy makes sense when it comes to weight loss, too.
Change -- or, I should say, lasting change -- simply takes time. And that's not only true of how our bodies work, it's also true of how our minds work. If you've always relied on food for emotional sustenance, you will have to get used to the idea of turning to other things to help you through tough times. Perhaps most important, you've got to figure out why you need food to make yourself feel better. What in your life is making you unhappy, or leaving a void that you're using ice cream or doughnuts to fill? If you're eating because you're stressed, angry, bored, or lonely, you've got to find out what's at the root of those feelings and change it. That may take some time, but it's one of the most critical components of weight loss. For Oprah, becoming aware of and dealing with her habit of burying her emotions under plates of food was the most critical component. For many people, it will be as well.
A BETTER WAY OF EATING, A BETTER WAY OF LIFE
The Best Life Diet is not a diet in the usual sense of the word. You don't go on it, then off it, as the term diet typically implies. It is, instead, a diet in the traditional sense of the word: a way of eating -- for life. It's based on a well-balanced regimen of interesting, satisfying, nutrient-rich, and easy-tofind-and-prepare foods. It's not extremely restrictive in calories or limited in variety, but rather it is rooted in the idea that eating is and always should be one of life's greatest pleasures. You can love food and live happily on this plan. More than anything, it's a lifestyle -- one that will lead you to your weight-loss goals.
The bounty of wonderful food available to us is a blessing, and a curse. When you think about the sheer number of vegetables, fruits, grains, meats, oils, dairy products, nuts, legumes, and seeds available to us, it's mind-boggling. Run all those selections through the kitchens of food manufacturers and restaurants, and the choices expand thousands of times over. When you're trying to eat as healthfully as possible, that can make your head spin.
I want to make eating well as uncomplicated for you as possible while helping you to enjoy the great variety of foods out there. It's essential that you set certain boundaries for what you do and don't eat. This doesn't mean you have to deprive yourself; it just means that you have to opt for quality and wholesomeness. Choose whole grain cereal that is low in sugar instead of cereal that contains barely a hint of fiber and is sweetened to the hilt. Go for a lean turkey burger instead of a burger made from fatmarbled ground beef, and sparkling water spiked with real fruit juice instead of a fruit drink loaded with sugar.
This may be a new way of thinking for you, and I am keenly aware that when you're used to the intense flavor of one food, substitutes seem to pale in comparison. But I am just as aware of the fact that when you choose high-quality substitutes, your taste will change within a matter of weeks. This is key because what I'm asking you to do here is not to switch over to foods that are flavorless or bland, but foods that are really wonderful -- they just happen to be good for you, too. There's nothing boring about a turkey burger spread with spicy mustard, smothered in onions that have been caramelized in a touch of olive oil, and served on a chewy whole grain bun. There's nothing dull about bubbly water splashed with tangy-sweet grapefruit juice and mango nectar or about many of the crunchy, nutty high fiber O's and squares now being produced by cereal makers. These are the foods that are going to help you change your eating habits forever -- and they're out there. You can buy them, and you can make them. Either way they're going to make a big difference in your life.
I'm going to be honest -- there are things you are going to have to give up. This program is going to help you eliminate foods that have empty calories as well as many that are filled with unhealthy fats, sugar, and artificial ingredients. But one glance at the recipes starting on page 221 should tell you that the enticing foods I'm going to ask you to replace them with will make it considerably easier to let the junky foods go.
Ideally, all of us would have access to beautiful, fresh vegetables and fruits all year round, and the time to prepare cooked-from-scratch meals every day. But most of us don't live where ripe peaches are available (or affordable) in January, and our busy lives mean that sometimes we're eating on the go. That's why being able to easily find foods that are convenient and healthy is crucial.
One way I hope to make it easier for you is by placing the Best Life seal of approval logo that you see on the cover of this book on products that I believe meet the needs of anyone trying to lose weight and eat healthfully. The companies that offer these products have shown a commitment to removing or substantially reducing ingredients that aren't in your best interest, including saturated fats, trans fats, sodium, and sugar. Their products all contain one or more of the following nutritious ingredients: whole grains, healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and other essential nutrients. They're proof that it's not necessary to sacrifice great taste and nutrition for convenience, and they're readily available at supermarkets across the country.
Best Life approved products include Barilla PLUS and Barilla Whole Grain pastas; Benefiber; Crystal Farm AllWhites and Better'n Eggs; Flatout Flatbread wraps; Hellmann's (Best Foods) Light, Canola Cholesterol Free, and Olive Oil mayonnaise; Hershey's Natural Unsweetened Cocoa and Special Dark Cocoa (unsweetened); Lean ...
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.