Over the past twenty years or so, obesity has slowly become an epidemic, not just in America, but even around the globe. While many factors contribute to the increase in weight problems that individuals face, it cannot be denied that the “super-sizing” and fast-food culture that have slowly invaded the nation has contributed greatly to the rise in the statistics. According to a recent study published in 2010 in the Journal of American Medical Association, 32.2 percent of men and 35.5 percent of women are classified as obese. When an individual’s body weight is twenty percent higher than the prescribed normal body weight or has a body mass index (BMI) of 30 and above, he or she can be considered obese.
The question is, why has this become such a common problem? What are we doing differently nowadays than the previous generations?
The fast food revolution has contributed greatly to the problem, but even if they are trying to incorporate steps to make fast food healthier (such as recommendations by food safety and monitoring groups to include more vegetables in the menu), obesity and weight problems keep rising. Another thing, perhaps, that we are doing that is contributing to the problem is being too dependent on our technology-run lives, so much so that we do not have time for the basics — walking, moving and exerting effort. In the same manner, we often find ourselves stuck in front of our computers or hooked up to our iPads, iPhones and Blackberry’s. We live quite a sedentary lifestyle.
Although doing the math in weight loss, meaning one must take into account the amount of calories taken in versus the amount of calories worked off via exercise and the like , is still a crucial factor in the weight loss process, it is not the only factor that contributes to successfully dropping the pounds. I have come to realize that it is more than just calories in, calories out: it is keeping in mind the kind of calories we take in and what it does to our bodies that has to be considered. For example, while an avocado may have more calories over let’s say, a plain donut, it may be actually wiser to eat the avocado rather than the donut because you consume the “good fats” instead. It is being more mindful and aware of what we are eating that makes a HUGE difference.
In the same manner, being mindful means we should not be complacent about lessening our food intake alone in order to lose weight. Just because we skipped a meal, for example, does not mean we do not need to exercise anymore. This is often a trap many people fall for: they work very hard at limiting food intake and because they do this, or perhaps do the whole meal replacement kind of diet, they feel that the “magic” of this diet will work. While they drop the pounds (sometimes quite quickly!) in the beginning, they slowly find themselves back to square one.
Why? Because we have been programmed time and again with the wrong mathematical equation or algorithm. Therefore we have to change that. I am not saying this is the BEST way to lose weight. However, I am sharing with you some insights gained from reading diet, health and fitness stories. Look at the common denominator in these success stories, especially those who manage to keep the weight off: it is not just counting calories, they say. It is all about making better choices that go beyond just counting the calories they take in.
More so, as a blogger who calls herself a Fat Girl No More says, it is being happy about yourself that allows you to make better and wiser choices that eventually influence the way you view and relate to food. In fact, this is also something that we have heard many times on talk shows like Oprah, for example. Even she has shared time and again that the emotional connection we have to food is what often leads us to yoyo in our weight loss.
So, what are the things we can do to reprogram our way of thinking about weight loss? Here are five tips that may help you become more mindful about watching and not just counting the calories:
1. Slow down the fast food. Granted that we cannot escape fast food especially because of this very hectic and fast-paced life we often lead, it is important to try to pick the ‘lesser evil’, so to speak. Rather than getting a burger, for example, why not get a chicken breast sandwich? Or if you do decide to get the burger, try settling for the char-broiled burger with lettuce and tomatoes, sans the bacon strips, extra cheese and double patty. Trim the trimmings and this may allow you to trim your waistline too. Oh…and drop the super sized meal.
2. Check the label. We have probably heard this a million times over, but it deserves to be repeated. We need to learn to check the label. More than that, we need to learn to know what these things we read are! I, for one, am often guilty about just looking at the calories per serving, but not really being thorough about the rest of the label. What about its sodium content? Sugar? And what about the saturated and trans fats?
3. Moderation is key. Sometimes we have this intense urge, at times even need, for chocolates, ice cream and other fatty food. Remember: everything is good in little bits. Avoid totally eliminating a food product/group in your diet for long periods of time. For example, many who try to lose weight cut out rice or carbs from their diet. While it does help, we need to keep in mind that our bodies still need a moderate amount of this to maintain a healthy physique.
4. Keep your emotions in check and break cycles. In being mindful about the way we eat, we must keep careful watch about what we eat and why we are actually eating these things. To be honest, for many, eating has become such an automatic behavior that it merely becomes a habit. In the same manner, when we are upset or emotional, it is so easy to reach for a snack rather than to sit with these unpleasant emotions. When this happens, try to take deep breaths and allow yourself to sit with the discomfort for a bit, then try to channel it into something more productive, or perhaps take a walk, rather than grab that tub of ice cream.
5. Be kind to yourself. At the end of the day, being mindful means being aware of what you need and what you feel. Remember that slipping and giving in to some cravings is not always a bad thing! Allow yourself to enjoy your food and not get too consumed with the amount of calories it has. Don’t use this, however, as a scapegoat!
Being mindful about the way we eat and think of food is not as easy as it seems. It takes conscious effort and practice to make better choices. However, when we are able to be aware and make these lifestyle changes, weight loss is surely just around the corner.