This week’s podcast is all about Diets: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly! It’s a perfect time of year to discuss dieting since lots of us are trying to lose the few pounds we put on over the holidays. Did the extra cocktails, wine and desserts cause you to creep up in size? It certainly did for me.
As I made my plan for getting back to a healthier place, I realized that there are so many things we call this period of time when we want to change our weight. We call it a diet or a detox. We get on a program. We say we are making a lifestyle change. Maybe we pick an actual diet, like Weight Watchers, Paleo or Keto. Maybe we just decide to cut a few things out of our diets, like processed foods, sugar, or carbs. This is a time of year we try to reset our priorities and get control of our lives through our weight. So, why do most of us fail?
To be honest, gaining weight is new to me. I never struggled with weight until I hit menopause. I am super active and I eat healthy food about 80% of the time. I don’t skip wine, cheese, or carbs, but I limit them. I have a balanced life with lots of hobbies, work I love, good friends and exercise I enjoy. My happiness recipe, PACE, really has kept me from gaining weight and also from the constant dieting cycle so many of my clients struggle with. This year, I spent a lot of time analyzing what to do as life changes and my body wants to redistribute weight to my waist. My doctor told me that most women put on 10 pounds after menopause, regardless of their prior weight, even if they are healthy and exercise. Needless to say, in my head I was thinking, “F*ck that!”
Therefore, I found myself in a weird place on January 1st when I got on the scale after several months and saw I’d put on several pounds. I don’t believe in diets, because the data shows they don’t work. They cause weight gain in the long run, even if they help in the short term. So, what should I do? What I did was analyze the last several months. Have I really been living a life of PACE (Pleasure, Accomplishment, Connection, and Exercise)? What have I been eating and drinking and what do I want to do? We are all faced with so many options and opportunities when our health changes. What we decide to focus on, says a great deal about us.
In this podcast, I talk all about the choices we are presented with when we put on weight. Will I take the quick route, with fast results and extreme measures? Will I do what I’ve always done, even if it hasn’t worked in the past? Will I take time to analyze things and set real goals with intention? There are good things about health goals and habit change and there are bad things, that pull on our desire for immediate gratification.
I decided not to diet, other than to cut out sugar and alcohol. However, as I cleaned out my refrigerator, I felt the lure of dieting. It felt like I could take control. I wanted to throw away all the crap and start from scratch. I wondered if dieting was like cleaning out my closet. There is a sense of satisfaction in organizing your life in detail. The lure took over my thoughts for a day, until I did put a stop to it. I feel like I finally understand the allure to be consumed with thoughts of dieting and obsess about calories and food. I will also say that it felt very unhealthy. Even though I thought I was being productive, it was obsession.
There are very productive things that can be done when you want to lose weight. We have so much research on habit change, organization, exercise, sleep and stress management. There are an equally number of negative choices we can take to lose weight like severe calorie restriction, eating disorders, and excessive exercise. The very ugly side can include laxatives and diet pills, obsessive thinking, purging and drug use.
I am hoping to inspire some thinking about what is appropriate when we want a health change that includes weight loss. How do you make a plan that will work, if diets don’t work? How can you continue on a health journey if you simply “accept yourself?” I will discuss some practical, research based methods for changing your size, that don’t involve drugs, obsession or severe restriction.
I know I am a broken record when it comes to happiness creating real weight loss, but it’s true. I am dead serious when I say that oftentimes the problem is not what you are eating, but why you are eating. If you don’t have a full life that you are loving, you will use food for things it isn’t intended for. As Oprah said regarding her own journey with weight, “What I’ve learned this year is that my weight issue isn’t about eating less or working out harder, or even about a malfunctioning thyroid. It’s about my life being out of balance with too much work and not enough play, not enough time to calm down. I let the well run dry.” This is real wisdom from someone who will always struggle with balance. She runs a huge company and likely lives in accomplishment, without enough pleasure.
I hope you will listen in. I have been passionate about health and happiness research for decades. This new hormone challenge will be something I figure out too. We live in a world filled with information, resources and help, if only we are willing to dig in.
You can listen to me talk through this in the podcast by clicking ‘play’ below or in the following places:
Happy New Year!
Shannon Connery, Ph.D.