Pesach is now behind us and most of us have been over-eating and we were most likely very inactive both before and during the Yom Tov. Although the incentive might be there to start taking better care of our health and to lose weight (your clothes may be tight), it is very difficult to get back to good healthy habits once we have gone off of our eating and exercise programs. But now is the time to get back to healthy habits. The weather is going to start to warm up, getting outdoors will be easier and the extra bit of appetite from the cold winter won’t be a factor. So, let’s take a look at how we can accomplish this.
The first thing is to look at what NOT to do. Don’t go on a fad diet. The statistics speak for themselves. DIETS ARE FAILURES! About 95% of people that diet gain it all back or more within a few years. When you go on one of this type of diet or eating plans, are you omitting certain foods that you need as major nutrients such as dietary fiber and unrefined carbohydrates as well as selected vitamins, minerals, and protective phytochemicals? Is your diet balanced, prescribing a daily dietary intake that has just enough lean protein and healthy fats but is high enough in unrefined carbs? Is the weight that you are losing fat weight or water and muscle weight (unhealthy weight)? The entire connotation of a diet is a temporary fix. Diets are something you go on, and then go off. It isn’t a way of eating for life. So if not a diet, what should I do? The two best eating plans that have proven to be beneficial to your health, balanced, and tasty are what is known as the DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet.
The DASH (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy foods; includes meat, fish, poultry, nuts, and beans; and is limited in sugar-sweetened foods and beverages, red meat, and added fats. The Mediterranean Diet is a modern nutritional recommendation patterned after the traditional dietary patterns of Greece, Southern Italy, and Spain. The principal aspects of this diet include proportionally high consumption of olive oil, legumes, unrefined cereals, fruits, and vegetables, moderate to high consumption of fish, moderate consumption of dairy products (mostly as cheese and yogurt), moderate wine consumption, and low consumption of meat and meat products. Even if you choose one of these programs, you still have to have portion control. And even with these two alternatives in ways of eating, we still have to commit to them. And that can be the most difficult part.
How can I be successful “this time” and not fall off my plan yet again? We are all human. We all have to make choices daily and sometimes we all make mistakes—ALL OF US! So how do we handle mistakes? Don’t be like my client Sheina used to be. Every time she would lose some weight, she would make one tiny mistake and say “Oh, forget this!” Perfectionists, like Sheina bring unattainable demands on themselves and end up as unhappy people because they can rarely reach the levels they have laid out for themselves. Are mistakes something which will cause us to lose perspective and go off the deep end or is a mistake something to learn from, put behind us, and get back on track?
Unsuccessful dieters don’t get back on track, they do exactly the opposite. They lose perspective and then they make poor decisions. According to Cognitive Behavioral Psychologist Dr. Judith Beck, they often tell themselves, This is terrible! I’m so weak! I lost control1 I can’t believe I did that! I might as well give up and eat whatever I want for the rest of the day, because starting tomorrow, I’ll have to cut my calories way back and deprive myself! What is interesting is that people trying to lose weight can be very rational and reasonable in other areas of their lives, but when they go off of their food program, they may end up compounding the first mistake with another and another.
Dr. Beck writes that in order to lose weight successfully, one must learn how to stop yourself at the first mistake, put it in perspective, and recommit yourself right away (Sheina learned how to do that and for the first time, was able to lose more than 15 pounds without turning back). It is, after all, a mistake, and that is all it is, so keep it in proportion. So when the inevitable happens and you’ve eaten an entire box of cookies and you have missed consecutive days of even minimal exercise, just write yourself a note that says “Get Back on Track”—read it a few times and hang it up in a place where you will see it when you wake up the next morning and you just simply get back on your program.
There is always a temptation to do something radical after you’ve gone off. Not eating the next half day, going on a juice fast, taking off of work or Kollel and running for 5 hours, or going on a “detox” diet—DON’T! If you eat healthfully and normally, that is the best thing for your body. Just get back on the program—the scale may take a day, or two or three to reverse, but it will and you will be back to good eating and exercise and that is always what works the best for slow, sustained and permanent weight loss. Remember that we have mentioned many times that only 5% of the population really keep off their weight and they have 5 things in common and pay close attention to number 5:
- Successful dieters solicit help. They look for “diet” and exercise buddies and they are verbal about what they are doing. They share their progress with their family and friends.
- They pay attention to what they are doing. The one thing all weight loss experts agree on is that planning and tracking your food and exercise is an invaluable tool. It creates mindfulness and awareness. These 5% don’t rely on chance. They understand what a portion is, either though measuring or eyeballing, but they know. And those portions are kept under control and done so without feeling deprived.
- They make weight loss a positive experience. They are optimistic and have positive affirmations about their new way of life which will only bring greater and better success. They enjoy what they are doing and reap the fantastic benefits of living a healthier and longer life.
- They make gradual changes. These 5% know that this is no instant fix. They know that permanent change is gradual and it is a process. Too much, too soon is doomed to failure. So they take one step at a time.
- They are realistic and know that we are all human beings and we all make mistakes. They do their best and when things go wrong, they go back to their program. Each mistake should be another step to success. All or nothing won’t work. They get back on track every time.
As we mentioned earlier, there is no better time of the year to start a good exercise program. Walking is always a great way to start and at least twice a week, do some muscle building exercises. You don’t have to join a gym. Learn how to do a proper muscle building routine and walk briskly to get the best results. Exercise will help you feel renewed after the long Purim-Pesach haul. We are in the middle of the counting up to Shavuot and Kabolas HaTorah—as we count up to that, we can start counting down the pounds, which will bring all of us better health. So no matter how many programs you’ve been on and how many times you’ve made mistakes in the past GET BACK ON TRACK! Getting back on track will “add hours to your day, days to your year and years to your life.”