It's that time once again when we are reminded the beginning of a new year is the perfect time to make changes in our lives.
Of course, one of the most oft repeated New Year's resolutions is "I vow to lose weight in ..."
For many people, this means, on Day 1, the elimination of certain comestibles such as pastries, candies, meat, dairy products, sweetened drinks, etc. The list is virtually endless when it comes to diets.
"The problem with giving things up, though, is that inevitably it creates a void in one's diet that only Reese's pieces and a family-sized wheel of Brie can fill," writes Sophie Gilbert for The Atlantic. And, notes Gilbert, so many of these diets that are clamoring for our attention also urge us to buy products, whether it's a cookbook, a membership or branded foods at the supermarket. "For a process that supposedly involves cutting things out, there seems to be an awful lot to take in."
Many of us hoping to lose a few unsightly pounds (or more than a few) often find we are occupying the last car in a roller coaster — whipped back and forth by all the claims and rapidly going up and down through cycles of motivated menu-planning alternated by periods of self-shaming for failing to meet our own expectations.
Most of us know that moderating is the key to losing weight. While that is all well and good, a number of us find it hard to moderate when a slice, or two, of cheesecake is thrust down in front of us. So what is a person who struggles with their weight to do with all that conflicting information out there. Nutritionists will tell you it's more important to eat healthy and to stay active than it is to eliminate certain foodstuffs in your diet. So, being on a diet and eating healthy can be two very different things.
Michael Pollan, the author of "In Defense of Food," urges people to "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." For Pollan, this doesn't mean giving up that cheesecake or a steak from the grill, it means we all need to be aware of our daily consumption and make efforts not to eat too much of the stuff we know in abundance is not good for our bodies or the Earth.
It's easy to get confused when we are assailed with diets that range from Paleo, to Atkins, to Mediterranean to vegetarian to vegan, but it's good to remember one thing, insists Pollan, that industries and religions have been predicated on the premise that eating certain things is bad and will kill you.
Pollan recently previewed a documentary on PBS based on "In Defense of Food," in which he insists eating healthy and losing weight starts at home, taking pleasure from preparing our own meals and knowing what ingredients are going into our bellies.
"(U)nlike large-scale food purveyors, humans are entirely less likely to put things like sodium stearoyl lactylate and soy lecithin in the meals they prepare at home," writes Gilbert. "If you're cooking dinner, chances are you're baking potatoes rather than tossing them in a deep fryer, and steaming vegetables instead of dousing them in butter and salt."
Yes, in this go-go-go world we live in with the demands kicking in the door, it's not easy to prepare meals on a regular basis. And with fast food franchises and restaurants beckoning with their neon lights, it's very easy to just give in to the temptation. No one is telling you to give up the food you love or going out to eat, but if we seriously want to lose weight in the new year ... moderation.
One thing doctors and nutritionists recommend is that you start out slowly, changing your diet in small bites, rather than plunging headlong into a life-changing diet that you are bound to fail at. They also recommend when you are ready to reach out for that bottle of soda or juice, drink water — and lots of it — instead.
According to WebMD, you should also "Go for the Gold ... and the Red ... and the Purple."
"Colorful produce is packed with disease-fighting plant compounds, so when you shop, reach for a rainbow. Designate a color-a-day. Maybe Mondays are yellow, with grapefruit, golden apples, or corn starring in meals, while Tuesdays are purple with plum and eggplant."
Very important is to stop the mindless munching — while sitting at your desk, chatting with friends, driving or watching television, and to always have healthy snacks at hand when the urge strikes to munch. And, as WebMD notes, get moving 30 minutes a day most days. "Go for a walk, give the car a good scrub, take a hike. Whatever gets the blood pumping qualifies. Get all the snooze-time you need. Sleep helps body and soul recharge, stay healthy, and cope with stress."
Don't be afraid to ask for help or find a buddy or family member who is ready and willing to embark on a weight-loss venture together. But most importantly, take it easy on yourself. If you fall off the wagon, it's right there for you to get back on.