Sunday, January 1, 2012

What's your New Year's Resolution?

As the effects of what may have transpired on the closing night of the year wear off you may be confronted with the expectation of reciting your pledge of a desired change that you will attempt to embark upon this coming year -- your new year's resolution. Before proceeding take a moment to read "Why New Year's Resolutions Fail" which I wrote earlier in the year.

Now that you have digested that take a moment to contemplate a realistic resolution -- one you can successfully start today -- and make that your introductory step to the bigger picture. Don't be disengaged from this posting if you don't immediately relate to the specific subject. Please read on.

One of the common resolutions which pop up after the frenzied holiday period where we may be lavished with feast and treats and constrained in our ability to workout or relax is the weight loss resolution. Americans overwhelmingly need to strive towards this goal as over 3/4's of the adult population is overweight. I need to shed about 15 pounds and will do so by Spring.

So, should today be the day that you trade in the eggs, bacon and pancakes for a banana and soy milk? If you aren't already following a weight loss/management plan then your answer is no. Today is the day to start on your plan. Once this plan is in place you will find that you don't need to trade in the eggs, bacon and pancakes and can still be on your way to your weight loss or well-being goal.

I like to draw analogies -- a visual framework for the subject at hand. I have worked in construction and home building most of my life -- replete with plans and a foundation -- which provides great analogous subject matter. Although you may not have been a home builder you have likely done a renovation or at a minimum at least relocated. So you can relate.

You know it would be illogical to wake up today and say I am going to get out of my parent's house or my apartment [or wherever you may reside] and start building my own home now. Opening up the classified ads and finding a plot of land to tender an offer on by the end of the day would be a big mistake. You would likely start with something more like determining what floor plan you like or what your budget is.

There are many processes in the planning stages of building a house; location, floor plan, costs, researching zoning laws, determining your financial resources, getting a realtor for the land purchase, finding contractors and so forth.

So if you haven't already started your diet plan then that is what I want your New Year's Day resolution to be -- I resolve to develop a plan to manage my weight and improve my well-being. The first thing to do is going to be easy. Get a journal. Here you will record your progress. Start today with taking body measurements and weight. That completes your first day and your first success.

You may be tempted to just create a data base on your computer, which you should do, but I also want you to carry a pocket size notepad. You will need this to record your food consumption, thoughts and other notes throughout the day. Then, at the end of each day, you can transpose this information to your computer based journal.

The entire month of January should be as easy to achieve as day one -- you will record each day, in detail, what you eat. At the end of each day read your list to make sure you got everything. If you miss a day go back and fill it in to the best of your recollection later. Use one page for each day. You need plenty of room to make notes later. As February rolls in you are ready to start on the plan. You have achieved another step successfully.

At this point you will examine your eating habits, your favourite foods, when you eat, where you eat and where you achieve your highest caloric intake. The first day of February is the second time that you will take body measurements and your weight.

Your goal for February is going to be management. Not of weight but of food. You may find that a Big Mac is your favourite food which works as an ideal example of how an effective food management plan functions. Your favourite foods are what you will continue to eat to loss weight and you may eat more of them. This may sound counter intuitive but your weight loss plan is going to be successful because it is not going to be painful and involve prohibitions. The month of February will be spent on management. There is no hurry to do it on the first day.

Your management plan for the Big Mac is going to go something like this; 1) Make a list of the ingredients that you need; 2) determine the quantities that you need and can adequately store; 3) find a store that sells the ingredients, and; 4) purchase any storage containers, bags, wraps etc that you may need. You are going to reformulate McDonald's Big Mac to make it your Big Mac.

McDonald's has employed food scientist for years to develop additives for their foods that increase your appetite, trigger dopamine production acting as an addiction mechanism and, ultimately, boost your caloric intake to make you larger -- thereby needing more food to maintain stasis. Food processors are quite crafty in their methods to get you to consume more of their merchandise.

They know that hunger is the result of two things; the need for nutrients and the need for energy [calories]. That is why they use processing methods that strip foods of vital nutrients. Appetite will not be satiated until nutrient demand is met. So, even after consuming bulk calories you will still be hungry if the calories you consume are empty. This is why restaurants promote well-done meats. It removes nutrients and leaves you hungry for dessert. I regularly consume raw fish and long ago, when I did eat meat, preferred that steaks be grilled only 6 seconds on each side.

So here is your Big Mac recipe. You will want to purchase all-natural whole wheat buns that do not have added appetite stimulants or high fructose corn syrup [HFCS] as an ingredient. Same with the ketchup, remove the HFCS from that also. Get a soy-based or goat-based cheese. For your greenery choose something that is nutrient dense. Try spinach, mustard greens or collard greens. Iceberg lettuce is empty. You will also want the meat to be at least 90% lean. You won't want to add any other sauces at this point. You are first going to learn to enjoy food.

Now you have a Big Mac that McDonald's has not polluted with garbage nor stripped of nutrients. It has significantly fewer calories but more importantly you will not be consuming additional calories later because the appetite stimulants have been removed and you have consumed nutrient dense instead of empty calories.

Part of your food management plan is going to be setting a realistic schedule for eating which will include portion size and frequency. In any diet plan I construct this is one of the easiest and most effective methods. Eating all the ice cream that you want can be a viable part of the food management plan. Some things that sound too good to be true aren't.

Once you have developed a plan of how you will acquire your food, what your hunger strategies are and what your meal schedule will consist of then it is time to start on modifying your eating habits. This is how you will start the month of March. Again you will take your body measurements and weight. You may notice that you have already started losing weight without any conscious effort to do so. Thanks in part to your journal.

The journal entries serve a dual purpose. First, it is to record vital information. Equally important is it's second function, to get you into a habit -- a routine. Your diet plan is going to require eliminating, changing or gaining new habits or routines. After two months you should be recording your journal entries without a concentrated effort to do so. The reason that you may have noticed some weight loss by the onset of March is that for two months you have been reading a detailed list of what you have consumed each day. When you directly confront yourself with the evidence of your overindulgence it becomes more difficult to keep doing so.

Now is also the time to start putting up the mirrors. In the shower stall or bathroom somewhere. Wherever you change your attire. When you are naked you should see yourself in a mirror. If you are like me what you see is unacceptable and is calling out for change.

Your weight management plan will be incrementally introduced throughout the month of March. You will learn the effective techniques that will help you adjust to and maintain your new dietary plan. You will then be ready to set your weight loss or other well-being goals when the month of April begins. You may not like the idea of taking three months to get started on losing weight but it is actually a short amount of time considering that weight management and well-being is a lifelong commitment.

The investment in an effective plan has allowed me to lose a significant amount of fat and maintain a healthy weight. I am down substantialy from my high of 196 pounds and a 36" waist but as you can see from the photo I still have more to go to get to an appropriate waist to hip ratio of 0.85:1. For women it should be a 0.80:1 ratio. I haven't subscribed to any fad diets, purchased special meals or seen a roller coaster effect on my weight. I have followed my weight management plan that is based upon simple truths.

(Left: January 01, 2012 photo of my fat belly. The area on my body where all the fat resides and the most unhealthy place for an accumulation of fat.)

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©2008, 2012 Stuart Showalter, LLC. Permission is granted to all non-commercial entities to reproduce this article in it's entirety with credit given.

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