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One of the most popular goals is to lose weight. That's a very tough goal to achieve. It's so difficult because most go about it in the entirely wrong way.
We view weight loss as a negative thing—we believe we're so fat (our thunder thighs could crush mountains!), and we now have to deprive ourselves of everything delicious in life, while torturing our bodies with exercise, to shed the weight. With that attitude, we've lost the battle before our first pound!
Psychologist Sofia Rydin-Gray, the assistant director of behavioral health and lifestyle coaching at Duke Diet and Fitness Center, says she hears the words “fat” and “disgusting” a lot from her clients. “They say they want to call themselves fat because it is negative and it is going to be an inspiration to lose weight,” she said. “But if you think about it, if negative self talk worked, I think everybody would be thinner!”
Women "fat talk" for a number of reasons. Some bad-gab about their bodies as (flawed) motivation to lose weight, but others (many who are not overweight) use it as a catch-all for negative feelings. So first, find out if you need to lose weight. Take our Body Health Quiz to assess your BMI and waist to hip ratio, two of the most important markers of your weight's affect on your health. You'll also get your optimal weight range, so you can set a realistic weight loss goal based on science, and not the body of the 16 year old models staring at us from billboards and magazine spreads (yes, most really are teenagers!).
According to experts like Rydin-Gray and YouBeauty's Nutrition Expert, Kristin Kirkpatrick, R.D., our psychological approach to weight loss is just as important as what we put in our mouth food-wise. As we begin our 2012's, intent to keep that resolution to lose weight, here are some important tips to help us from falling into diet-damaging traps.
1. Diet Is A Four-Letter Word
First and foremost, never say you’re on a diet. “There are a huge amount of negative connotations about this very word. A diet is something that is temporary, it is something that implies sacrifice and discomfort,” says Kirkpatrick. Instead spin it into a positive by saying, “I’m going to eat healthy.”
Kirkpatrick has helped many people lose weight from her post at the Cleveland Clinic’s Lifestyle 180 program. “But I never go with the weight first,” she said. Instead, she promises her clients that by eating food that’s good for you, “You’re going to live longer, feel better, have more energy and be happier. And by the way, you also could drop 20 to 30 pounds.”
So forget about dieting. It's a plan with a beginning and end, and where does it leave you? Skinny doesn’t always mean healthy, especially if you crash diet to get there. Being healthy is a lifestyle that radiates from the inside out, all over your body, in way that makes people take notice, no matter what the size label says inside your jeans.
2. Accept Yourself The Way You Are
Rydin-Gray warns from the start, “If you’re very critical of your body it’s difficult to have a healthy relationship with food.” And she adds, “If you put all your effort into disliking yourself, you’ll never have energy for actually doing what is healthy for yourself.” Your whole plan to lose weight is going to get lost in a sea of negativity.
So, while you’re resolving to be healthier in the New Year, also make a resolution to accept every inch of yourself, as you currently are. Rydin-Gray recommends making a list of 10 things you like about you. And don’t be shy! You know you've got it goin’ on.
3. It’s A Family Affair
Kirkpatrick points out that when it comes to our body image, “There are a lot [of factors] that are cultural. And who your maternal role model was really determines whether or not you’re going to turn out to be one of those women who is a size two and pinching at her waist saying, ‘I’m so fat today.'" Eye roll.
You have to lead by example because you are the example. It is important to be cognizant of the way you talk about your body and every body around you—not just for yourself, but also for your spouse, children and friends. And you know, they think you’re a total babe! No matter what you say, you’re not going to convince them otherwise.
4. The More You Know
Did you know a pound is equal to 3500 calories? Clearly, one piece of cheesecake isn’t a Trojan horse that will destroy you and your entire healthy lifestyle once inside.
You don’t have to beat yourself up with irrational complaints like, “Well, now I’m not going to be able to wear my skinny jeans tomorrow.” Kirkpatrick reassures us, “From a physiological standpoint that’s really not a possibility…. It’s not one thing that you’re eating. It’s your overall diet in a 24 hour period that makes the difference.”
Don’t get caught in a downward spiral of feeling like one not-so-nutritious choice ruins all the good changes you’ve made. Remember, you’re not on a diet, you’re working on a healthy lifestyle. Keep your eye on that long-term prize, and occasionally you can let that eye wander over to a cheeseburger.
5. Food Talk No Fly Zone
When we’re sitting around the table, food seems like a natural topic of conversation, from what to how much we’re eating. But you have to hold your tongue.
“Nothing good can come of that [conversation topic]. It will only make you feel worse about yourself. It could make you start questioning what you put in your mouth. And what you put in your mouth is an extremely personal decision. It’s based on a lot of different factors and it’s really no one’s business,” Kirkpatrick advises.
Just focus on enjoying your meal. And if you find yourself with a fat-talking fellow diner, feel free to declare a rule like: No body or food conversations at the table.
If they don’t stop, perhaps it is best you stop inviting them and their opinions along. Kirkpatrick advocates surrounding yourself with people who are like-minded. She argues, “If you want to quit smoking and you’re hanging out with a bunch of smokers, do you think your keep the resolution? Probably not. And the same thing is true if you want to get healthy and lose weight.”
6. All The More Reason
Speaking of the people around you…. When a friend complains that they’ve gotten fat, how many times have you found yourself responding with “Oh no, you’re beautiful!” or, “Puh-lease, I wish I was as thin as you!”
Kirkpatrick is quick to point out that often, the person kvetching is simply fishing for a compliment. Instead of feeding that negative cycle, she suggests you ask your friend, “Why do feel that way? What do you think you can do to improve?” Then, suggest rational steps s/he could take towards boosting their attitude about themselves and food. For example, you can suggest they keep a food diary or pick up a copy of “Nutrition For Dummies.”
“If you start giving rational advice to an irrational statement, the conversation will end,” Kirkpatrick has found. Then you can feel free to fire off genuine compliments at will!
7. Stop With The Not’s, Start With The Do’s
How many times have you started on a diet, er, healthier lifestyle (see #1), and said things like: I’m not going to eat sweets. I’m not going to eat after 9 pm. I’m not going to eat the bun on the burger. I’m not, I’m not, I’m not…. Trying to achieve a weight loss goal can seem like you’ve fallen into a black hole of no-no’s.
Rydin-Gray has found these kinds of off-limits lists become a step in the wrong direction, “You focus on what you’re not going to do, but that can actually prevent you from setting up goals and action plans of what you are going to do.”
Instead of thinking of your restrictions, start thinking about the things you can and will make happen for yourself. For instance, instead of saying, “I’m not going to fat talk,” try, “I’m going to focus on the things I like about myself.” Turn those negatives into positives and those do not’s into definitely do’s. Then, you’ll be a woman with a plan!
8. Put It To The Test
Many times, the fat talk we do is private. When we look in the mirror, some truly hurtful things we say to ourselves happen without uttering a word. Those destructive feelings can be even worse than the ones we voice.
So, Rydin-Gray suggests putting your thoughts to the test by asking, “If you’re saying something to yourself, is that something you’d really be willing to say to your friend?” If the answer is “oh, hell no,” well, then, your friend isn’t the problem. You need to be a better friend to yourself.
9. Weigh In Your Life
Watching those dreaded three little digital numbers swirl on a scale can make even the most confident diva break a sweat. So, Rydin-Gray advises taking a moment to appreciate, no matter your weight, that you are livin’ large!
She recommends, “Before you get on the scale, consider: What are you grateful for, not only in life, but also what about your body are you grateful for?” Feel free to bask in all your glory.
Then, once you’ve weighed in on your personal achievements and fabulous physical attributes, you can step on the scale proudly knowing that the number you see isn’t going to change the fact that this is the body that has taken you all those wonderful places and given you this incredible life.
10. Nothing Compares To You
“Every body is going to be different,” Kirkpatrick reminds us. Still, and with great regularity, “Women tend to compare each other to other women, unfortunately.”
And the analysis tends to be unfair. “People often put themselves down after they see images of very thin people or models,” Rydin-Gray noted. “It becomes this upward comparison, that you don’t quite feel like you measure up.” But even celebrities and supermodels are airbrushed, retouched, photoshopped, not to mention, primped, styled and lit by professionals! All in all, they can’t even stack up to their own glossy image.
However, no matter if the other women you’re checking out are regular mortals or models, this behavior flies directly in the face of rule #2. You have to love, accept and appreciate what you’ve got. And then, maybe you’ll start to see just how unfair it would be if another woman tried to compare herself to the unique and majestic beauty that is you!
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