When people are very hungry, they think longingly of their favorite dishes. Mom's famous pasta. Fried chicken like only that little place down the road can make. German chocolate cake. We yearn for foods that are burned into our emotional memory -- meals shared with loved ones, in places we were happy. There's a reason the phrase "comfort food" came into existence.
So it's not easy to simply put down the doughnut and get on the treadmill. Losing weight is hard -- much harder than most people realize. To lose weight and keep it off, you essentially have to break up with food and start a new relationship.
And the fastest ways to lose weight usually aren't the best ways. You can eat next to nothing, take diet pills and laxatives and definitely see a smaller numbers on the scale. But people aren't designed to live like that for long. When you're not feeding your body, you start losing fat, but you also start losing muscle -- your body is wired to not let you starve. After too much long-term laxative use, your digestive system can actually forget how to process things on its own, and you'll no longer be able to do without them [source: Mayo Clinic]. In addition, many diet pills are dangerous. "Fen phen," or fenfluramine phentermine, was a very effective diet pill but it damaged people's heart valves.
That's the fastest way.
The most popular way to lose weight is probably through different fad diets. Yes, you'll get skinnier if you're only eating cabbage soup. You'll experience memorable flatulence, but you'll be thinner. At least, until you give it up, because humans aren't meant to live exclusively on cabbage soup or maple syrup with cayenne pepper or grapefruit. These methods work in the short term, but they are destined to fail. They don't take into account the very human need for variety, and they depend on a system of dividing foods into good and bad. Once a food is labeled bad, it's only more tempting.
The best way to lose weight is to move more and eat less. But it is also true that in order to do so and be successful, you have to change the way you think.
Changing Your Relationship with Food
The first step is changing the way you think about food. As your great-grandmother might say, "You eat to live, you don't live to eat." Food is what feeds our bodies. Eating can, and should, also be a pleasurable experience, but it's primarily fuel.
You wouldn't put the wrong kind of gas in your car because you wouldn't want to hurt the engine. Treat your body at least as well as you'd treat your car -- after all, you can buy another sedan, but extra human bodies in working condition aren't so easy to find. (We know, we checked Craigslist.)
Our bodies work best on several small meals a day, not the big three we were raised on. You should never feel so full you could burst, or so hungry that you wouldn't bother to take the plastic off whatever you're about to devour. Instead, you want to keep a steady stream of healthy snacks coming.
And the actual foods you're eating? They should be things that treat your body well. Lean protein, fruits, veggies, whole grains -- you can find out more at ChooseMyPlate.gov, the "new food pyramid" that's a lot less confusing than the old one.
You don't have to cut out all of your favorite treats -- you might find that a single slice of pizza with veggies can satisfy your cheesy cravings and still fit into your daily calorie count.
The best news? People who are motivated to switch to healthy eating just by losing weight often find that they love the way it makes them feel -- and that's why they stick to it. No more sluggishness, no afternoon slump temporarily resolved by a candy bar. This is a love affair that's made to last.
Soon, sticking to a healthy diet won't be a chore. It will be a pleasure -- just like a small portion of mom's famous pasta.
- Kovacs, Jenny Stamos. "The Dos and Don'ts of Counting Calories. WebMD. Feb. 4, 2009. (July 2, 2011). http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/dos-donts-counting-calories
- Mayo Clinic. "Over the counter laxatives for constipation: Use with caution." April 23, 2011. (July 2, 2011). http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/laxatives/HQ00088
- Rufus, Anneli. "How comfort foods work like Prozac." Salon.com June 23, 2011. (July 2, 2011). http://www.salon.com/food/feature/2011/06/23/comfort_food_psychology
- Zelman, Kathleen. "Lose Weight Fast: How to Do It Safely." WebMD. Nov. 17, 2010. (July 2, 2011). http://www.webmd.com/diet/guide/lose-weight-fast-how-to-do-it-safely