Whatever you do, please don’t resolve to lose weight this year!
The New Year rolls around with the promise of a fresh palate to start with. As the holidays come to a close, now it’s time to “get serious” about losing weight in the coming year. This year, I challenge you to make your resolution different.
The traditional behaviors that go along with vowing to lose weight are ones of self deprivation and punishment. You promise yourself you will eat less and exercise more. You will work out 5 days a week- hitting that treadmill, elliptical, bike or whatever dreaded piece of cardio equipment you have resigned yourself to until the sun comes back out again.
You will restrict your portion sizes and stay away from fat, sugar, salt and fast food and you will eat more fruits and vegetables.
I’m not saying these methods won’t work. I’m just saying they typically DON’T work. Because there is so much more to it. If it was that easy, this wouldn’t be a yearly ritual for so many people.
So this year, I’d like to toss out 7 different resolution ideas. Ones that ultimately will result in weight loss, but might not be the strategies you planned.
1- Resolve to gain muscle. Gaining muscle isn’t the opposite of losing fat- it’s the pathway to losing fat. Changing body composition to increased muscle and decreased fat is the only way to maintain lasting weight loss. Instead of thinking about restricting your calories- or going to extreme, lengthy measures to burn calories- CHANGE the WAY your body burns calories. Muscle needs energy. Fat is energy. Participate in strength training activities at least 2-3 days a week, working all the major muscle groups. You want needy, hungry muscle cells. (Find something you love to do- like Pilates!)
2- Take 10-20 minutes a day to sit quietly and breathe deeply. Allow yourself some space and some peace from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Deep breathing allows your Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) to take the lead. This is our “rest and digest” system. As opposed to the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) which is the “fight or flight” and is usually in control. This is the difference between the brake and the gas. We need to use the brake pedal more often. In fact, new research is suggesting that the best measure of physical and emotional health may be which branch of the nervous system retains more control.
3- Sleep 7-8 hours a night. Sleep helps your body recover and decreases the stress hormone cortisol which is notorious for abdominal weight gain. Some experts say that every hour of sleep you have before midnight counts as double! Some people are resistant to weight loss because they don’t get enough sleep. (As a coach in the hospital, I saw this over and over again with the night time staff.)
4- Get in touch with your feelings. Take time at different intervals throughout the day to check in with yourself. Ask yourself what you are feeling and how that is showing up in you physically, emotionally and behaviorally. We have gotten so good at suppressing our feelings that we don’t recognize them very well and realize how they manifest themselves. Becoming more emotionally intelligent can help you make better decisions when you are under stress. (Including eating less)
5- Eat mindfully. Don’t eat anything unless you can look at in on a plate in front of you. Look at it, smell it, feel it, taste it. When you take time to notice your food, it sends signals to your brain that you have eaten and leaves you more satisfied. When you eat on the run, out of a box or a bag, your mind doesn’t get these signals and so you eat more.
6- Make your cardio count. Long bouts of cardio can be good for meditation but they don’t change the way your body burns calories or looks. Intervals of high intensity produce far better results. Instead of doing over 30 minutes on any one piece of cardio equipment at a moderate intensity- cut that time in half by doing some high intensity intervals in between. This changes how your body uses energy resulting in increased fat burning and changes in body composition (more hungry muscle cells).
7- Increase your self-compassion. Listen to the language you use when you talk to yourself. Is it critical? Self-criticism is consistently associated with less motivation and worse self-control. It’s forgiveness, not guilt that increases accountability. Write out affirmations of your worth and read them every day. Talk to yourself as you would talk to an infant. Acknowledge that life is hard and forgive yourself for your imperfections.
So if you want to lose weight in the coming year, go about it a little differently. No one likes self-deprivation or punishment, but we do like to improve our knowledge and skills. Choose something that will change you. What do you have to lose? You may find even more benefits than weight loss and learn that you can solve a problem with an extraordinary solution.
“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein