Look around and you will see that you are surrounded by weight loss “secrets”, diet pills that imply they can do it all for you, drinks that will “help” you lose weight, doctors with “secret weight loss formulas”, fad diets that promise all kinds of wonderful weight loss effects…you can’t help but wonder who’s telling you the truth. Then there’s the biggest question of all. Is there such a thing as a weight loss secret?
Something is only a “secret” as long as no one knows about it. The “truth” about weight loss has been known for a long time, so it’s not really a secret.
If you take a look at the label of most diet pills, drinks, meal substitutes, diet books, and other weight loss problem, you will begin to notice that they often have one thing in common. Again and again, they have statements that say something to the effect of “…when used with exercise and proper nutrition.”
The secret is, that most, if not all of these diet products at best only ASSIST in what nature can do almost perfectly well without their help!
The basic biology and physics of weight gain and weight loss has been known for years! Even if your math wasn’t too good in school, this equation is easy. Take in more calories than you burn…you gain weight. Burn more calories than you take in…you lose weight. The problem, and it’s not a secret, is that we are human!
SO WHAT’S WRONG WITH BEING HUMAN, BUD!
There is nothing wrong with BEING human. In fact, sometimes I even talk to one. I have a couple of human friends, one lives next door (I think), and I would even let my daughter marry one. The problem is that each human is, as Sister Mary Fides used to drum into our teenage human skulls, unique. This means that if I show you the perfect weight loss program and it works like a charm for you, your next door neighbor might have a problem making that exact program work for her or him.
WHY WOULD A WEIGHT LOSS PROGRAM WORK FOR ONE PERSON AND NOT ANOTHER?
As Shakespeare has Cassius say in Julius Caesar, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves…!”
Now, I am NOT saying that it is YOUR FAULT, per se, but the difficulty of making one magic thing, even the perfect weight loss program, lies in the very uniqueness that makes us so human.
One person inherits some genes that tend to make them fatter than others. Another person would have been a lot smaller, but they were raised in a home where a type of cooking or lifestyle was common that encouraged them to grow fatter. Someone else experiences some severe emotional ups and downs that contribute to bad eating habits that cause them to gain weight. Nature designed some chemical changes in our bodies to meet certain needs, and we changed OUR natural surroundings so that these changes now work against us rather than serving us. And if any one of those isn’t enough, most people who are overweight actually have more than one of these things going on, and some of them actually increase the affect of other contributing factors!
We have other differences that make it difficult to create a one-size-fits-all weight loss program. Your brother-in-law loves to work out with weights, but that bores you to tears. Your neighbor has a Bowflex and you think it is great, but you travel a lot and can’t figure out how to take a Bowflex with you! Your cousin lost a lot of weight on a certain diet, but your metabolism is different, and you didn’t really lose any weight when you tried it. In fact, you tried diet after diet and actually GAINED weight! By the way, it is fairly common to gain weight when you try a lot of different diets. It’s slightly complicated to go into here, but often when you go on a diet and then come back off of it, your body has learned to get by on fewer calories. Once you go back to eating like you used to, it now has extra calories to store as fat. Remember our equations up above?
There are also many people who want the “lose 30 pounds in 30 days” promise to be true. They have been so upset over their weight for so long that they want to believe that almost any claim is true, no matter how silly it seems, or how dangerous to their health it actually is!
CAN’T I JUST CUT WAY BACK ON CALORIES?
Probably, you (and I) could stand to cut some of the calories out of our daily diet. However, there is a point at which the body resets some internal bells and whistles, and we may actually begin to gain weight. Also, cutting out food means cutting out the nutritional elements our body needs to be healthy.
WELL, I CAN’T JUST SPEND MY DAY EXERCISING FROM DAWN TO DUSK!
That was the other side of the equation, wasn’t it? Well, you’re absolutely correct, and I would begin to worry about you if you did. You don’t have to go to that extreme. There is a solution.
WHAT? YOU’LL SIGN ON AS MY PERSONAL TRAINER?
Nope! I’m too lazy for that, but YOU can sign on as your personal trainer. That is, you can do a little experimentation, find some activities you like and begin doing one or more of them on a regular basis…three or four times a week, let’s say. You could garden, ride a bike, play with the kids or grandkids, take a walk, do some yoga, lift weights…the list goes on. You don’t have to do all of them every day, and if you find one you really like, you can do it several times a week if you want. One thing to remember, of course, is that you should ease into any program and only increase it once you are sure that you are fine at the level you are at…and then, increase it gradually. I’ve seen some champion bodybuilders who started out lifting just the barbell with no weights on it at all, and I know of runners who started out by walking to the mailbox and back. In the army, I used to run six miles or more, but when I started running, I barely got a block down the road before I had to drop back to walking.
Start making some small changes to your diet as well. I am using the word “diet” in this case to mean the things you eat, not some particular diet. Start popping a multivitamin every day. You may find that helps make you feel a tiny bit more energetic. Cut out sugar. As much as I don’t like artificial sweeteners, they are probably going to be better for you than sugar. If, like me, you worry about the effects of artificial sweeteners, try stevia. My wife and I have been using it for some time. It took a little getting used to, but I have noticed a definite decrease in heartburn and carb cravings.
Educate yourself about nutrition and exercise. You don’t have to take a college course. If you are reading this online, you can go to webmd.com or mayoclinic.com/ and get a lot of great health, fitness, and weight loss information.
Read food labels, and start thinking about what you are putting in your mouth. Most of us can look at some foods and realize that they might not be good for us, at least not in large quantities, so cut you portion sizes. Don’t know what a portion size is? Look on the label!
Stay away from prepackaged foods, junk food, fast food, or learn enough about them to make intelligent choices.
SET SOME GOALS
This is where I’m supposed to tell you to decide to lose X number of pounds in Y number of days, right? Wrong. This is where I tell you to start setting some performance goals about how you are going to try to live. I say “try” because you WILL slip from time to time, and there will be times you will just have to make do in a situation and eat that Big Mac, darn it! Go ahead, make the sacrifice and eat it, but then get back on the wagon. Don’t worry about a Big Mac or a single bowl of ice cream or even a binge after you catch him/her cheating on you. The occasional dietary sin will not send you plunging back into fat hell…unless you let it.
ON THAT NOTE….
The point is that losing weight is going to happen today and tomorrow, and it is going to depend on the future choices you make, not on what the past has done to you.