Losing weight boils down to simple math, so why is it so difficult for the vast majority of us? Societal pressures to look a certain way and have a body which conforms to a trending shape are bearing down on us more than ever via the long, spindly fingers of social media—and this is not the first time this has happened; a similar phenomenon arose with the advent and popularity of television.
At one point in time, Hollywood stars and starlets were seen as quite removed from “normal” society, with features few dared to try to emulate. No one was expected to compete with their physiques, although makeup styles and clothing trends were still popularized by these spotlight entertainers. In time, however, celebrities and persons of influence became more and more connected with and accessible to the general public, creating an impression that they are “just like us.”
TRICKS AND TREATS
Truthfully, these performers are not just like us. People who make their living on the silver screen, as well as those who use their bodies as a vessel to sell products through social media and YouTube, have managers, trainers, Botox, plastic surgeries, filler injections, top-notch lighting equipment, and photoshop tools at their disposal, just to name a few. Their images are planned, tailored, and modified to look extraordinary.
Just as we saw with TV commercials, companies have adapted to the ways that we receive information and have created new ways to capitalize on our mounting bodily insecurities. Ten to twenty years ago, we saw a flood of products like SlimFast, juicers, diet pills, the Shake Weight, home workout DVDs, the Total Gym, and group accountability programs for sale. Today, all of these concepts still exist in rebooted forms because people are still willing to buy anything that they believe might make the process of losing weight easier.
Meanwhile, the food industry is churning out products with more and more addictive chemicals and flavors. Despite our excellent societal efforts for cleaner, healthier eating options, for many of us, food is still far from merely a resource for nutrients and energy; instead, it has become a rallying point for enthusiasts, with enticing pictures, new flavor and texture combinations, and must-try creations popping up everywhere.
Of course it’s difficult to lose weight when our brains are craving the effects of a juicy, bacon double-cheeseburger and thick-cut fries or a mountain of chocolate fudge chunk ice cream resting on top of a hot, gooey sea salt caramel brownie.
ABS ARE MADE IN THE KITCHEN
As difficult as it is to make the healthy decision, changing our diet is the number one fastest way to shed pounds and keep them off, without damaging our body with harmful pills, products, or ideologies. Getting started is easily the most difficult step, simply because our brains and bodies are literally craving the chemicals from our favorite indulgent foods. Our taste buds and our mental reward system change as we ingest more and more junk food, and the truth is that healthy whole foods simply can’t compete.
Our brains actually release dopamine when we eat these yummy concoctions, making us feel pleasure. If you think that your favorite cake tastes better than carrots, you’re right. But this doesn’t make it the right decision for our bodies. Just as with any drug substance abuse, the body becomes used to the dopamine high, and soon enough, we’ll require more junk food to get the same pleasurable feeling.
On the other hand, as we scale back from these foods, our brains and bodies will adjust back to a more natural relationship with food, and fruits and vegetables will begin to taste better and more flavorful. This is, admittedly, not an easy process, but if you can challenge yourself to push through it, you’ll be on the perfect path toward losing weight quickly, yet safely.
Focus on your proteins, vegetables, and healthy fats. If you’re not a meat-eater, you can still play along with these rules by substituting in veggie patties, imitation chicken strips and tenders, and so on. Aim to fill your plate halfway with vegetables, and split the other side between your meat and your whole grain or fat.
Increasing the amount of protein in your diet will both boost your metabolism—causing you to burn more calories throughout the day—and help you feel fuller for longer. The chemical cravings can get REAL, so be sure to have a host of healthy snacks available at all times. Try apple slices and peanut butter for something sweet and a little salty, mashed avocado on whole grain bread for something hearty, or cooked oats with honey and Greek yogurt for something highly modifiable.
Eat slowly and learn to taste the flavors of your healthier choices. It really only takes a couple of weeks for our taste buds to recalibrate and begin to find our old junk food much too intense, while natural whole foods become refreshing and downright delicious. Notice how your body feels after eating, too!
Just because you’re making healthier choices doesn’t mean you’ll magically lose weight. Eating three-times the serving size of something otherwise healthy can still thwart your goals. If you’re starting your journey in a state of obesity or at a rather overweight size for your frame, you’ll likely lose a few pounds just by making these better choices, but if you want to ensure results, you have to get your mind involved in the process.
As mentioned, losing weight is actually simple math, but you have to be aware of it. Thankfully, nowadays we have apps like MyFitnessPal which will do all this math for us, reducing the perceived difficulty tremendously. In these systems, users enter their height, weight, and gender, and set specific goals. Whether you want to lose half a pound per week or two pounds per week, the app will clearly tell you what your daily calorie intake needs to be to make that happen. Exercising speeds the process along, but even if you’re not committing to a physical fitness plan yet, staying inside your calorie goal limit will be effective.
These apps also often make us aware of the quality of foods we’re consuming throughout the day, pointing our attention to important factors like sugar and fat content. There are healthy carbs, healthy sugars, and healthy fats, so it is not at all necessary to cut these elements out of our diets entirely. In fact, our brains and bodies need all of various the nutrient types to function at peak performance. But, of course, consuming sugar through gummy snacks is going to be different than consuming sugar through natural fruits. If you have an aversion to certain healthy fruits or vegetables, try making a great smoothie with them! The taste will be masked by other yummy ingredients, and you’ll still be getting all the benefits.
YOU ARE THE MOVES YOU MAKE
If the thought of exercise makes you groan and grumble, you’re certainly not alone. Consider how much more difficult it is to find the motivation to get up and active when we’ve been bogging our bodies down with junk food. These indulgences are not meant to fuel us properly for anything more than a food coma, so it makes sense. As our diet changes towards healthier foods, however, we find ourselves with more energy to expend, making exercise less of a mountain and more of a molehill.
Even if we eat poorly, most of us can still walk around, so start off with this as your exercise goal. Baby steps are highly underrated, as are the steps we take on a peaceful nature walk. Even if we can’t get outside, there are other ways to find some stress-relief in walking, such as listening to a great audiobook on the treadmill or walking mindfully around a track with some of our favorite music pumping.
When you’re ready to increase the intensity, running provides some of the most natural and effective cardio—and it’s highly accessible to us all. If the opportunity presents itself, lifting weights is another key form of exercise that will help burn calories and sculpt the body you’ve been working so hard for in the kitchen.
You’ve got this!