Let’s get Serious!
Making healthy lifestyle changes that last
Judging from all the weight loss ads I see on TV, weight loss is something people are serious about this year. As my old Zumba instructor used to say, “Six pack by summer.” Most people join different weight loss programs and lose the weight rapidly but unfortunately gain back all and sometimes more than what they lost to begin with. How do we make it different this year? As I heard Dr. Jennifer Ashton say on Good Morning America, for a diet to work in the long term, it has to be safe, simple and sustainable. Most diets work in the short term. It is the long term maintenance that becomes the problem for most of us.
1. Why is it important to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle anyway?
That is the question most of us need to answer for ourselves. Why can’t we just eat whatever we want, enjoy the food in the short term and just accept our heavier selves? It is really important for everyone who is serious about their health to figure out why it is important to them personally. I can tell you the medical reasons but until you decide and help your teens decide why this is important, it really is just information. Your why is what will give you the strength to persist when everyone else is overeating around you. Your why is what will give you the strength every day to wake up and exercise even when you don’t feel like it. Decide exactly why you want to be healthy, own it, internalize it and believe it, and then live it.
According to the CDC, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in teens in the past 30 years. Obese children are more likely to have high cholesterol, hypertension, and prediabetes and to develop diseases like Osteoarthritis and more strokes as adults. Obesity increases the risk of many different cancers including cancer of the breast, colon and ovaries, to name a few. This sounds frightening, but though most people already know this it is not enough for us to make a change. We have to make it personal. Look at the faces of your obese teens, and see how uncomfortable they feel when they are around other teens. Are other children making fun of them? You’ll be shocked to find the degree of disappointment and sometimes pain some obese teens feel and how this propels them to eat even more. Help them to find the “why”, the reason they want to maintain a healthy lifestyle for life.
2. It’s not about how fast you lose weight.
We really need to move away from the idea of diets and instead use the term, maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The word diet, implies that we are doing this for a short time until we get to that magic weight and then we can go back to normal. That is why people go on diet after diet. They of course lose the weight but they never decided to make it a permanent way of life. Remember, the lifestyle change must be safe, simple and sustainable, where the keyword here is sustainable. Decide what works best for you and your family and take it one day at a time. Getting to and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is a marathon and not a sprint. Easy does it. Make one change at a time, make it a habit by repetition and then make another change. Making slow and steady progress makes it easier for you to maintain the new you that you eventually become.
3. Be Realistic
Most diet plans do work but is it for you and your family? The family as a whole with the help of your friendly pediatrician, midlevel provider or nutritionist can come up with a realistic plan that works. One of the first things you must accept if you have an obese teen is that you can’t put that child on a diet eating salad and the rest of you eat pizza around her. It is unrealistic to expect that teen to keep at any program if you approach it that way. I once had a morbidly obese teen, whose mom, a diabetic looked on with tears as I tried to explain why it was important for her to make some changes in her life. Mom agreed to everything until I said, “Mom, please stop bringing soda into the house.” Mom shook her head and said, “I’m sorry. That’s one thing I can’t give up. Even my doctor has tried to get me to stop but I just can’t.” Unfortunately, this teen may not be successful at making any long term changes if there is no realistic support at home. It’s like a smoker stating I’m going to stop smoking but brings cigarettes into her home anyway. Obviously no great or lasting change will be achieved. Be realistic in helping your teens make the necessary changes they need so they can be successful.
4. Track your progress.
Once you and your teens have decided to make this lasting change, you have to hold each other accountable and track your progress. This is very helpful. It’s like keeping score in a game. You know where you’re going to and you want to celebrate your small wins along the way. Obviously, the easiest way to track your progress is with a scale. A lot of teens are very wary about the scale initially. They almost feel like they’re being shamed when they see their weight. That’s okay. You can take measurements of the waist, hip, stomach area, arms etc. Sometimes with exercise, you lose inches even when you have not lost much weight. Some teens track their progress with their clothes sizes or their belt loops. Be creative and do what works for your teens. The important thing is that as they see progress, they’ll be motivated to keep going.
As the New Year gets underway and you and your family decide to make healthier lifestyle choices, decide why you want to make the change in the first place. Let everyone write down why this is important to them. Another thing that Tony Robbins emphasizes which I think is really great is what is the alternative? What kind of lifestyle will you have if you don’t make these changes? Is the risk of Diabetes, high blood pressure, even cancer acceptable to you because of that soda? Think hard and decide on why you want to make a change. Be realistic and reasonable about the changes you make. Changes that are simple, safe and sustainable and track your progress. Celebrate your wins, not with food of course but maybe a nice movie, a simple new blouse or a nice massage. Let’s get serious and make lasting change towards a healthier lifestyle this year. Remember maintaining a healthy lifestyle takes time. Don’t be in a rush. Make simple and safe changes that last.