This article was originially published as an op-ed in The Jerusalem Post on Monday, 9th Oct. 2023: https://jpost.pressreader.com/article/281805698578233
We’ve been through this before—you and I! It’s after the holidays. We’re all thinking about weight loss and dieting—and we WILL fail in the long term. It’s not because we don’t want to succeed, or because we can’t be successful. It’s because diets, by their very nature, are set up for failure. “Just eat less, just move more, create a calorie deficit,” we tell ourselves, as we try for the 10th, 20th or 50th time. Yes, we will all lose weight for a while—a few weeks, or a few months, and maybe even a year if we’re lucky. Yet, the statistics, based on thousands of studies, all reach the same conclusion: more than 95% of us will gain it all back.
What is it that has to change?
It’s not your fault
If you are overweight or obese, your risk of illness, disease, and premature mortality are far greater than the population as a whole. A Harvard study in 2016 showed that every 5 units higher BMI above 25 was associated with about 31% higher risk of premature death. We all would love to live a long, healthy, and highly functional life—who wouldn’t want that? But if you eat a Western diet, Western disease is waiting around the corner for you at some point.
Why do we keep doing this to ourselves? Our food is full of salt, sugar, or fat. These foods are addictive, and our brain tells us to eat more of these highly inflammatory and unhealthy foods. It the same as alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, gambling, or anything else. So, you buy more, eat more, want more, and that cycle goes on and on.
When you diet, you are not just fighting your taste buds, you are fighting this high-powered signal from your brain. While dieting, you are still eating many unhealthy foods, just less of them. Or worse—you are eliminating an entire class of foods that your body needs to function normally. The result of a drastic move is that eventually you can no longer sustain a restrictive diet, so you break down and eat everything in sight!
It’s the WHAT and not the HOW MUCH
The single biggest change I implemented at THE WELLNESSS CLINIC 5 years ago was encouraging eating not based on calories and portion sizes. NO weighing and measuring food! The emphasis is on the quality of the food. Our success rates increased with this easier to follow approach. Yes, there is a transition and learning period, but the results are well worth the difficult start. The results are steady and more permanent weight loss. Even before weight loss manifests itself, we see client after client gaining energy, lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar. We have seen in even more pronounced cases, actual disease reversal!
What’s the first step?
- Move far away from any highly processed foods.
- Cut animal proteins and dairy to minimal amounts.
- Include a lot of fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, beans, and lentils in your food selection.
- Add some nuts, seeds, nut butters, hummus, and tahina along with soy products like tofu, edamame and miso are also great.
When you eat these foods, you get amazing nutrition. You also feel full from eating foods higher in fiber. And while they are nutritionally dense, they are calorie poor, so you can eat plenty of them and lose weight at the same time.
How do I get myself to make the move?
You need to be on the right PATH—Plant-strong foods, Accountability, Think positively, and Habit change.
P – Plant-strong foods
What’s the first decision to make when trying to lose weight and improve your health? It’s adjusting on the food front. We need something sustainable; a way of eating for life. The foods that have proven to be beneficial to overall health and lead to weight loss are plant-based and whole-foods. Whole-Food, Plant-Based eating (WFPB), is the only way of eating shown to reverse heart disease. It also is being used to lower blood pressure, reverse type 2 diabetes, and reverse many symptoms of autoimmune diseases. WFPB eating is a sustainable and satisfying way to eat. It will crowd out most of the highly detrimental processed foods in your diet, too.
A – Accountability
There is nothing wrong with getting help. Find someone to help you stay accountable to new behaviors. Work with a health coach or friend to increase your chance of success.
Include a comprehensive way of life to gain your health back. Remember that you should include all essential elements of lifestyle medicine in your program: good eating, good exercise, adequate sleep, good social integration, and stress management. At THE WELLNESS CLINIC, we take every individual’s uniqueness into account to help integrate behavior and habit change into daily life.
T – Think positively
Stay optimistic and have positive affirmations about your new way of life. This will bring greater and better success, especially when you make mistakes. We are all human. We all have to make choices and sometimes we make mistakes—ALL OF US! Handle mistakes without negativity. Take the positives, put the rest behind you, and stay on track. When you make a mistake, take a minute and write yourself a short note about something positive that will come from it.
H – Habits
At this stage you will also want to break some old habits and form some new ones. Understanding how habits are made will help you. Contrary to popular belief, habits do not take 21 days to form. Habit formation varies greatly from person to person and can take as long as 66 days (Gardner, Lally & Wardle 2012). It’s a long process that requires consistent implementation. If you have an ambitious goal like losing 25 kilos, it’s important to “chunk” it into smaller, less daunting, and more realistic outcomes. For example, instead of focusing on losing 25 kilos, a good first milestone is to lose 2.5 kilos in the first month. Decide to meet your goal by increasing daily walking and eating more fruits and vegetables and a little less junk.
The other things
There is no shortage of studies showing the importance of sleep. People who don’t get enough sleep simply cannot be successful in losing weight. In addition, their risk of every single disease increases. 7-9 hours is what we need.
Activity and exercise are huge. Exercise is not specifically a matter of burning a lot of calories. Exercise and activity change metabolism and are as anti-inflammatory as eating a plant-rich diet. The two together, along with managing your stresses well, can lower your disease risk in many cases by as much as 80%–AND THERE IS NO PILL ON THE PLANET THAT CAN COME ANYWHERE CLOSE TO THAT.
So, here we are at that time of the year when we all resolve to get our health under control and to keep it that way. We can do it if we do it the right way. So don’t diet this time. If you need assistance, we will help you “add hours to your days, days to your years, and years to your life.”