Monday, May 14, 2012

Swimsuit Season Prep: You may be barking up the wrong tree...

I get so tired of seeing all of the weight-loss ads and gimmicks that proliferate the market this time of year. Newsflash: If diets worked, we'd be a nation full of skinny people! Don't fall for all of the hype that follows in the ads soon after the ego-bashing and self-confidence-weakening messages that the diet industry relies on to sell your their pack of lies. Isn't it irritating the way that marketers try to make us feel inadequate if we don't all look like super-models when we head to the beach or pool... as if somehow we don't deserve to be there? (Here's one example that I find particularly annoying).

If you are an American, odds are pretty good that you ARE overweight (in fact, 2/3 of all Americans are), but the answer to the overweight/obesity epidemic sweeping the country is NOT to go on another diet (at any given time in the US, 1/3 of all women and 1/4 of all men are on one). The dieting industry is a $40+ billion per year industry, HOWEVER, if they worked, by my calculations based on the fractions above, within a year and a half, tops, there would no longer be a need for this industry.

The idea isn't to STOP eating foods, the idea is to START eating healthier ones! Sure, there are foods that are better avoided, but when your method of eating is based on lists of foods that you CAN'T have, you tend to become consumed with all of those "bad" things you are depriving yourself of, and soon they are all you can think about. Instead, try incorporating MORE of the healthier stuff and see if you are able to crowd out some of those foods that really don't serve much of any purpose, except for taking up valuable real estate space in your stomach without paying you any rent except for bigger thighs, a bloated stomach and rising blood pressure and cholesterol levels. The focus should not be on getting skinny, the focus should be on getting healthy!

Things to concentrate on are:

WATER! To calculate the amount you should be drinking under normal circumstances, divide your body weight in half. That number (in pounds) is the number of OUNCES you should be drinking each day (so, if you weigh 200 pounds, you should be drinking 100 ounces of water).

FIBER! Plant food is full of naturally occurring plant fiber (animal foods contain none, most baked goods contain a only smattering, if any). Great sources are carrots, apples, green leafy vegetables, beans & legumes. Fiber keeps you feeling fuller longer AND it aids in the important digestion step of elimination (especially if you are getting adequate water, too!), helping to rid the body of waste, including toxins and unnecessary hormones.

MOVEMENT! It is true that movement - vigorous physical activity - helps to suppress appetite. Aim to move for at least 30 minutes per day, most days of the week. If you find it difficult to commit to that much time on most days, consider how convenient it is to find yourself laid up in bed due to illness. Sometimes, our body MAKES us consider it, if we don't operate in a proactive manner in considering its care and maintenance. Invest in a pedometer and aim for walking 10,000 steps per day if you are unable to find any other activity that keeps your interest. Variety is the spice of an active life, so try to find things that keep your interest while engaging your body.

FUN! Often, we eat crappy food because we are bored, depressed or feeling neglected. No matter how busy your schedule, or how demanding your life is, if we don't practice good self-care by treating ourselves to non-food indulgences, we'll be much more likely to resort to junk food as something we "deserve" when we're looking for a quick pick-me-up. Non-food indulgences include: a manicure, a massage, a walk in the park, a cup of tea at your favorite outdoor cafe, a stroll with a friend, cleaning out a closet (well, maybe not for everyone, but I just LOVE the feeling of an orderly closet...).

You may find that you gravitate less and less toward those foods that don't benefit and build up your body by placing your focus more toward the things that do, helping you to feel cared for and nurtured in ways that a hot-fudge sundae never could. Seriously. The thing that you may begin to focus on is being HEALTHY more than being SKINNY. More important than numbers on a scale is the quality of the health and functioning of your internal organs and bodily systems. When in doubt, remember: nothing tastes as good as healthy feels.

For ideas about how I try to get my 9 servings of fruits and vegetables every day, check out my smoothie recipes here!

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