Posts Tagged ‘losing weight’

Compassion – A Key Secret to Weight Loss Success

Maria Menounos is one of many celebrities with a weight loss success story, and I happen to see yet another story about how she has learned the secret to staying slim and taking care of herself. So I am re-posting an article I wrote a number of years ago when she first put out her book about it.

Her story is intriguing – not by all that she did to lose weight, which was creating a healthy lifestyle, but by the way she changed how she saw and treated herself.

I first came across her story on the Huffington Post, called Maria Menounos’ Secret Weight Loss Trick. A great title but not representational of what she did for herself. She is like a lot of young people who have been athletic growing up and then stopped being so active when they started working as teenagers, while preparing for college and trying to excel and please everyone around them. In her case, working nearly 20 hours a day 7 days a week, fueled by junk food and pastries.

As she indulged in her new diet, she knew she was having foods she shouldn’t have and felt guilty. As she began to get heavier and criticized for her weight gain, she turned to more food. When others were indulging, she would indulge with them. And the worse she felt about herself and her choices, the more she ate the forbidden foods she knew she shouldn’t have. Sound familiar?

She refers to her struggle with food as emotional eating, after she finally realized that she turned to food to avoid her feelings, how she felt about her body and her need to please others at her own expense. As she began to find ways to care about herself, she began to love herself. And the more she loved herself, the more she took care of herself. And that is just how it works.

The less you like yourself or the more ashamed you feel about your body or your choices, the less you feel deserving of taking care of yourself. On the flip side, the more you care about yourself, the more self-esteem you gain, and the more you want to do things to take even better care of your body. This is only possible when you stop the judgment of your choices and have empathy and compassion for yourself.

Judgment leads to self-criticism, self-loathing and self-destruction. And that becomes a spiral that spins out of control, pulling you deeper into a place of denial and excessive eating. When you judge yourself, you can only see your failure, your inability to be perfect and your shame. You can’t see anything else, and you remain stuck in the belief that you are unlovable, unworthy and undeserving – even if you don’t know you belief this. In that place, food is comforting and a means to minimizing the pain and loathing. It also proves that you are as bad as you believe you are, and it feeds on itself.

Maria talks about how being a people pleaser and working insane hours led to malnutrition, a forty-pound weight gain, and poor health. She struggled to care enough about herself to do anything about it. Fortunately a loving, compassionate friend helped her to start making positive food and life choices. And the more she began to be good to herself and feel better, the more she appreciated herself and her struggle. And the more compassion and love she had for herself, the more she began to take better care of her body, make healthier choices and remove herself from negative relationships. The better you feel emotionally, the less you turn to food for emotional comfort. And that is what helped Maria break free of her struggle with food.

Maria learned through her journey that the key to being in control with food is to be in touch with your own physical and emotional needs without judgment. And that is indeed the key to success. It is the first step to having compassion for yourself without apology, listening to what your body needs and wants, and honoring yourself. In the process, you begin to shift into a healthy lifestyle and from that a healthy and sustainable weight loss follows. You also shift your emotions about your weight and your body, which reduces your stress and the hormonal production of fat that occurs when stress is present. It isn’t really a trick, yet it is the secret.

My Significant Other is Obese, What should I Do?

You wish your sweetheart took better care of themselves and weren’t so overweight, but whenever you try to help, it backfires. You’ve tried friendly suggestions, cooked up healthy meals, kept cookies and ice cream out of the house, and resisted saying too much. Yet it bothers you that your significant other is only getting heavier and doesn’t seem to be doing anything about it, and it is affecting how you feel about them. Now what?

Martin had the same problem with his girlfriend Ellen, and more than once she told him to back off when he tried to give advice or encourage her to make changes. He loves her, but he wasn’t sure he could stay with her if she didn’t start taking care of her health and losing some weight.

The truth is, you can’t force anyone to change, no matter how nice you try to be about it. But you can make it easier for them to make those changes for themselves. As we all know, when it is just as easy to get a delicious hearty salad as it is to grab a bag of cookies, it is more likely we will have the salad and maybe a cookie or two to go with it.

If our environment makes it simpler and easier to make healthier choices, than we are more inclined to do them. This is why more businesses and communities are working to provide easier access to walking areas, healthy foods and fitness support. You can do the same for your partner.

Have healthy foods in the house
To make it easier for both of you to eat well, you need to stock your refrigerator and freezer with healthy foods that are fast to make, easy to dress up and taste really good. These days it is easy to find good frozen foods, pre-cut vegetables and very simple fast recipes.

But do not remove unhealthy food from the house in an attempt to force healthier choices. Your mate will only go out and get more of that food out of anger and a genuine fear of deprivation.

Buy healthy meals or a meal service
If you don’t want to prepare meals yourself, get healthy to-go options at your favorite restaurant or grocery store, and look for a service that delivers meals. You may be surprised how affordable these options are.
Everyone prefers healthy foods if they taste good, including vegetables. You may be surprised how much your significant other looks forward to these balanced healthy meals.

Suggest healthier restaurants
Some restaurants are healthier than others, and more places are providing locally sourced foods, which often includes more vegetables and cleaner foods. Go exploring to see what new healthy restaurants have popped up in the area, and make it a date night. The goal isn’t to stay on a diet but to find delicious well balanced fare, so it’s easier to make a healthier choice.

Keep healthy snacks and water around
One of the main reasons people overeat and binge on junk food and sweets is because they get so hungry they go for the easiest food and then can’t stop eating out of a compulsion to make up for not getting enough food earlier. The way to avoid that is to have healthy snacks on hand in the house, in the car, in your bags or in the office – for yourself and your partner. Water is also important. When you don’t get enough water, you deplete your energy and your metabolism slows down.

Take a cooking class together
Cooking can be fun, and a cooking class is a great way to do something together, taste new interesting foods and get recipe ideas. The class doesn’t have to be just about healthy food. The idea is to learn some cooking techniques, discover new flavors and be open to cooking at home. It is easier to prepare healthy foods for sweetie, if you both know how to cook or have some recipes you like.

Suggest some easy activities
Try suggesting activities you can do together that sound fun and don’t take lots of time or exceeds your partner’s physical capabilities. You want to make being active inviting instead of intimidating, such as birding, walking a nature trail with great views, seeing a great view that takes some stairs, dancing, taking a ballroom dance class, or anything enjoyable that requires limited exertion. Baby steps are the key to getting them interested in doing even more active outings.

Offer to be a walking buddy
Your partner probably assumes you would not be interested in walking with them on a regular basis. Yet you might actually enjoy that. Martin did, and Ellen was totally amazed. She knew she couldn’t walk as fast or as far, and she thought Martin would hate walking with her. But that wasn’t true. He enjoyed getting time with her after work, and he loved that it was outdoors and doing something active. So if you think it is appropriate, offer to be a walking buddy, even if the pace is slower than you prefer at first.

Be loving and non-judgmental
It is so easy to judge others for being overweight, yet you don’t know what they are dealing with or why it is so hard for them to change. Honestly neither does your significant other, who also struggles to understand why they don’t do as they know they should. And the more they try, often the worse it gets, because the real problem is not lack of willpower or intelligence. The problem is buried deep in their subconscious beliefs and emotions, which drives choices and behavior unconsciously on autopilot.

Don’t sabotage their efforts
You may think you know best and can help your sweetheart by either denying specific foods or rewarding with treats. That doesn’t help at all. Nor does pushing someone to be better or make better choices. They aren’t you, and if you push, they will rebel and get angry. Let them discover that the more they do that feels good to their body, the more healthy things they will want to do, particularly if they aren’t trying to measure up to someone else’s expectations.

The worst thing you can do is make the one you love feel guilty, ashamed or bad about themselves. That will backfire. It is human nature to resist doing anything for yourself when you have low self-esteem, just as it is normal to turn to food to avoid painful feelings or shame.

As Martin learned, the best thing you can do is help your partner feel good about their choices and about themselves by supporting them in a non-threatening way. By doing little things that made healthier decisions easier, Ellen started to make small changes and feel good about her little successes. Martin didn’t try to take the credit or push her to do more; he was simply there to listen and be supportive. A year later, Ellen had slimmed down and became the one who wanted to take an active vacation and encouraging Martin to run with her in a 5k. The same could happen in your relationship.

This column was originally posted at YourTango.com.

What to Do With Your Fat Clothes

If you’ve ever lost weight and rewarded yourself with a whole new wardrobe, you’ve wrestled with what to do with your fat clothes. Do you keep them just in case? Do you toss them, with hopes this will keep you from regaining the weight? Or is there a better way to deal with them?

I get asked this periodically from clients experiencing weight loss, and my answer often surprises them. I encourage them to keep at least one size (or even two sizes) larger than where they are now. So each time they lose a size, they can clear their closets of clothes two or three sizes too big or at least keep a few of the garments they really love at those sizes.

They wonder why I would suggest they keep any of them, since with me they lose weight slowly as an extension of their new healthy choices and don’t expect to be regaining it. I can understand why this might seem contradictory, but I have learned through personal experience that it helps to have a range of sizes in your closet even if you stay active and fit. This is particularly true for women. We retain water, have hormonal fluctuations, go through menopause, and don’t easily stay at one size month after month.

I’m a good example. After my second year of achieving regular exercising and eating well, I was wearing size 4s. Two years earlier I was in 16s and prior to that I had been wearing size 6s and 8s from my many years of dieting. Over the past thirteen years I’ve found myself mostly wearing size 6s and sometimes 8s. Had I gotten rid of all those 6s and 8s in my wardrobe, it would have been a big mistake. I seldom fit in those 4s, but I hold on to them for when I do.

This isn’t because I fail to keep active, go on binges or lose control. It is because it takes a lot of exercising for my body to be a size 4, and in maintenance mode (really just my healthy lifestyle mode), I don’t want to work that hard at it. I am also susceptible to gaining weight, as so many of us are, and when I get sick or injured and can’t be as active for weeks at a time I will go up to a size 8. Yet I always know that I’ll be more active soon enough, which gives me the freedom to wear the larger clothes in my closet without getting bent out of shape about what might be happening with my weight.

Similarly, when I decide to embark on really intense exercise challenges, like when I start working with a new trainer or doing a new fitness program, I know that I have those 4s ready for me if I need them. I’m not a natural size 4 and can’t sustain that size without a lot of exercising to shift my metabolic set point, yet periodically I will get motivated to become super fit and then I find myself back into those clothes.

It is not uncommon for those who lose weight, whether by dieting or a healthier lifestyle approach, to reach a weight or size they can’t fully sustain. The difference is, those who lost it by taking it slowing and creating a fit and active lifestyle will find they fluctuate a bit around that size (up or down) depending on their current levels of activity. Those who dieted for rapid weight loss will likely regain all they lost and add on even more.

When you stop getting attached to being a certain weight or a certain size as you embark on an active healthy lifestyle, you can relax and let yourself have periods when you are less active and not pushing yourself so much. This is incredibly freeing and gives you permission to feel just fine wearing your larger clothes. If you find those clothes getting a bit tight, as I did not too long ago, it gives you the motivation to amp up your activities and your metabolism. By then you will probably feel ready for the challenge. Most people who have been active for a number of years get restless to do more after periods of taking it easy.

The nice thing is, you can go with that flow in your closet if you have a range of sizes. My range is 4-8; others I know have a range of 12-16. We all have our own optimal healthy weight, and one is not better than another. It depends on our family genetics, our history with weight and diets, our hormones, our level of regular activity and how well we fuel our metabolism. My father was tall and slim, and I inherited his build and metabolism. Had I inherited my mom’s frame, I would likely be wearing 8-12s. That wouldn’t change how I felt about myself or my clothes; I’d still be glad I had a range of sizes in my closet.

Judgment of Those with Obesity Doesn’t Solve the Problem

Recently I was eating breakfast at a restaurant with some friends, and across from us were a group of people who were quite overweight and eating huge piles of pancakes and waffles dripping in butter, syrup and whipped cream. One of my friends commented about these people’s choices and wondered how they could be so stupid to eat so much and make such poor choices when they clearly needed to lose weight.

It is so easy to judge people who are obese for not taking responsibility for their weight problem, but until you’ve walked in their shoes you have no idea what the real problem is. It might appear obvious if you see them eating huge portions of food or eating things that aren’t healthy, but these behaviors are a symptom of a greater problem that is not well understood or obvious – even to them.

The problem usually starts with dieting. Everyone who is obese has dieted at least once if not repeatedly throughout their lives. Restrictive diets all have two things in common: they are short term and they restrict what you can eat – usually most everything you love. Once the diet ends, whether as planned or because it was too hard to stick with, there is an insatiable desire to eat what wasn’t allowed and to overeat it out of a reaction to the deprivation. When you’ve been deprived, you have an emotional need to make up for that deprivation and a deep-seated fear of not getting this food again, because you know you shouldn’t have it.

In addition, the feeling of failure in not being good and in control after a diet ends errodes self-esteem and self-confidence. When someone feels guilty, incapable of success or a failure, they are even more likely to give up on being good and turn to emotional eating, especially sugary comfort foods, and tune out their awareness of what they are actually doing.

These aren’t conscious choices. They are subconscious triggers of behavior that lead to food obsessions, cravings and bingeing. You can know what to do and not understand why you can’t seem to do it, and this is particularly true when it comes to unhealthy eating behaviors and overeating.

In addition, most people are stressed out, working long hours, juggling many responsibilities and putting themselves last. This isn’t an excuse, but a reality. Instead of judging people for their poor eating choices and lack of activity or unhealthy lifestyle, the answer starts with empathy for their situation.

The next step is to help them take a look at these choices and come to understand what is driving them from an objective perspective. It is nearly impossible to take a closer look when they are self-critical and self-loathing. In fact, that is what leads to denial, because it is often too painful to deal with those feelings.

Instead, by being curious of eating behaviors without judgment, then it is easier to see what is sabotaging their choices and becomes a way to identify and address the subconscious thoughts and emotions triggering those behaviors. In doing so, they can regain control, be in touch with how they feel, and discover an easier way to create and maintain healthier decisions for the long term.

5 Reasons Celebrities Are Giving Up the Scale. Is It Right For You?

Christina Aguilera has been attacked for being too skinny and too fat, and she no longer cares what people think. In fact, she’s tossed out her scale and learned how to love her body no matter what size she is. She no longer obsesses about her weight or compares her self-worth with the numbers on the scale. And she’s not alone. Many celebrities have stopped using the scale, including Portia De Rossi, Valerie Bertinelli, Queen Latifah, Martine McCutcheon, Kyra Sedgwick, Jessica Alba, Maria Menounos and Jennifer Love Hewitt. They feel liberated and are looking better than ever.

Read the rest of this post at YourTango.com.

Weight Debate – Finding Middle Ground for Healthy Weight Loss

This week the groups were on there own, as I dealt with a case of vertigo and found myself unable to easily move about or focus my eyesight, which is now starting to improve.

The following post was written a couple of weeks ago, when I knew that people in the groups would be starting to focus on weight loss. As they understood when applying to the contest, this was not a quick weight loss program and weighing themselves regularly was not recommended. Yet I knew that after a month or so of making healthy lifestyle changes, many of them would be weighing themselves in hopes of seeing positive changes. I also knew that many wouldn’t see a change, and I wanted to explain why that might be and what they could expect. I also happen to see a weight debate on Nightline that fit right into the discussion.

Nightline’s Debate: Is it Okay to be Fat?
In late February on Nightline, they aired a debate between those that believe you can be obese and healthy and others who strongly believe you have to become thin to be healthy. It was a spirited discussion that failed to change opinions, and I wondered as I watched why there wasn’t a middle ground being offered. What about focusing on health and fitness (or creating an active and healthy lifestyle) as a way to naturally achieve a healthy weight? It seems as if people are being encouraged to pick sides: either extreme weight loss or a refusal to focus on weight at all, and I’m also seeing this in the health and fitness industry, not just Nightline. This is polarizing the debate and the programs being made available to people.

There is a middle ground, in which the focus isn’t on weight loss as a marker of health but as a natural result of living a healthy and active lifestyle. And while this approach, which I advocate, doesn’t focus on or promise specific weight loss, it does recognize that people will inevitably lose some weight if they adopt a healthy and active lifestyle and achieve a healthy weight they can sustain. It may not be the amount they hoped for, but by the time they achieve it they are usually very happy with the results and how they feel about themselves.

The debate was well timed to have a discussion about weight loss with the New You 2010 groups. At this point, after 6 weeks of being more active, eating healthier and getting portions under control, I knew that a number of people in the groups would be starting to wonder if they had or should have lost weight by now. I had made it clear to them at the start of the contest that they should not expect to have any weight loss at first and that they should avoid getting on the scale. Yet I knew some were weighing themselves, and it was time to talk about healthy weight loss.

What Happens When You Get on the Scale?
First I wanted to talk about what happens when you get on the scale. You can weigh yourself several times during the day, and each time you will likely see a different number. That is because our bodies are 60-70% water (even our muscles and bone are made up of water), and throughout the day as we eat, drink, urinate, exercise or get stressed our water weight changes. You cannot gain or lose a pound of fat in a day, so when the scale goes up or down a few pounds during the day, it is water weight and that isn’t what makes you fat. Furthermore, you have a 50/50 chance when you get on the scale of it going up or down, and you don’t control that.

Yet most people are affected by what the scale says, and whether it goes up or down it drives their emotions and their behavior. If it goes down, the common reaction is to feel good about oneself and feel deserving of a reward, doing less exercise or eating a bit more. And if it goes up, most people feel badly about themselves and will either ratchet up their exercise and dietary restrictions or have the opposite reaction of despair and turn to food while giving up on exercising, as if what’s the point. Sadly, all of these reactions only feed the cycle of being victim to the scale, and they don’t lead to making consistent healthy choices in food or fitness. Worse, the scale isn’t even an accurate indicator of what really matters, which is fat weight.

The Truth About Real Weight Loss
Another reason for ditching the scale is weight loss is not linear. You won’t see consistent and daily reductions in weight just because you are starting to eat better and exercising more regularly. That isn’t how the body works. Weight loss, when it is fat weight loss, is a complicated bio-chemical process driven by fat-storing and fat-releasing hormones and enzymes that support changes in metabolic rates. The more likely scenario is a pattern of ups and downs in your weight that over time trend downward, yet in some cases it is months of seemingly no change and then a drop in weight that is followed by another plateau. And that was my own experience. When I started my healthy lifestyle journey and finally exercised regularly while eating well, it took five months before I saw any change on the scale or in my clothes. And then I dropped a size almost over night. It was another four months before that happened again, and after that I waited yet another four months before I saw the next change. It took me two years to go from a size 16 to a 4, and fortunately I gave it time. What helped is I could see other changes in my energy, fitness levels and some greater tone in my arms and legs. And that is what is more important to focus on.

What I reminded everyone is that by making consistent improvements in exercising and eating, the weight will eventually take care of itself naturally as the metabolic set point changes. And the result is they will get a healthy weight they can sustain, instead of yo-yo weight loss they can’t. Not only that, they are starting off making very small changes and at this point they haven’t made significant enough changes or changes long enough for their bio-chemistries to start releasing fat. And when that does happen, men are predisposed to see it first. They have more fat-releasing enzymes than women, who have more fat-storing enzymes to protect a child in the case of famine. Those who have done a lot of dieting, or extreme dieting, and been sedentary for long periods – as I had, are also going to have a double whammy of even fewer fat-releasing and more fat-storing enzymes, which take time to turn around. But it is time well spent.

Read What the Participants Have to Say
Find out what the participants have to say about allowing themselves the time to reach a healthy and sustainable weight, which they usually add the Monday after this post goes live. Please feel free to add your own comments as you follow along.

To participate on your own or in a group, check out the contest website for details and tools at www.aHealthyLifestyleWorks.com/contest.

Have a fit and healthy week,
Alice

Making the Hard Choice for Bariatric Surgery

A friend of mine is planning to get bariatric surgery, and I support her in making this decision. That may surprise you, but I do believe for some people this is the right decision.

Her goal isn’t primarily to lose weight, but to regain her health and be able to have an easier time being active. This is not an easy decision for anyone to make, and it’s taken her several years of thought. While some would argue that she should have gotten healthy through eating better and exercise, I know from working with her that she tried this to the best of her ability.

For some people, regaining energy, feeling better and losing weight (even if initially done with an extreme solution) is what it takes to embrace a healthy lifestyle of regular activity and healthier meals. It still isn’t easy to change old habits and beliefs, but when you feel better about yourself you want to do more for yourself, and you are inspired to feel good for the long-term. I am confident that she will succeed at maintaining a healthier relationship with food and increasing her level of fitness, because of the work we’ve done together.

Others aren’t so fortunate. Many who get this surgery see it as the solution and don’t realize that they still have to make changes in the way they feel and think about food and fitness. It is not uncommon to regain the weight and require another surgery. More programs are needed to support people before and after surgery on HOW to change lifestyle behaviors and address the subconscious drives of behavior, so they can more easily adopt new habits and strategies when they are most motivated – just after surgery.


Alice Greene
Healthy Lifestyle Success Coach

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