By Dalia Abott, LMSW RD
When it comes to weight loss, there are a million-and-one approaches. Just do a Google search and you will quickly see the large number of opinions written on the topic. What is important to recognize is that most diet books are not written with the intent to sell healthy living and active lifestyles. Rather, they are created to sell a product or a fad that promises to solve all your issues, despite how unhealthy the fad might be. How quickly word spreads about this new fad is what determines whether or not it is a success. Knowing someone who knows someone who … you get the deal.
First, it is important to understand that dieting and weight loss are not necessarily the same. Most diet programs will result in weight loss, but not all weight loss is accomplished by dieting. A dieting approach is aimed at achieving a substantial and instantaneous weight loss by following a plan that is not designed with long-term objectives and maintenance in mind. A sudden and quick weight loss is often followed by a period of regain, possibly even beyond where you started. Statistics have shown that the weight gain is on average an additional 10 percent. Ultimately, you are left feeling defeated and deflated that, once again, you couldn’t do it.
Conversely, a weight loss approach is one where the behavior changes are sensible and not drastic in nature. Psychological and physiological factors should be considered. One should recognize that this should and will take time, and that you are worth the investment! Contrary to common dieting beliefs, weight loss can be accomplished by including all foods, working toward developing a healthy relationship with food, and not demonizing or restricting certain foods (often the ones we enjoy the most). A study was conducted by Brown University Medical School in which people were given the same “forbidden” cake four days in a row. As the days progressed, brainwaves showed the snack became less irresistible.
Below are some strategies I have used with my clients who want to achieve a healthier relationship with their food, body, and mind:
Watch the Clock: Do not let yourself get overly hungry between meals. No more than 3–4 hours should pass between eating. This will help you avoid overeating and allow you to approach your meal in a sensible mental state.
Plan Your Foods: When we send our children off to school, we pack a lunch and several snacks to get them through the day. However, when we head off on a long errand-filled day, we continuously go empty handed. Fail to plan = plan to fail, no matter how you slice it. Learn how to prepare a few days’ worth of food that can act as your grab-and-go solution.
Avoid Restricting: By forbidding certain foods, you will only be increasing your desire for them. It will lead you to intense feelings of deprivation and frustration. Plus, it will most likely lead you to binge on the forbidden food of choice (and anything else in arm’s distance) because you catch a case of the “oh well, I might as well.” Redefine “good” and “bad” eating. Allowing yourself to enjoy simple pleasures in moderation is an important part of eating well.
Test of Twos: Ask yourself, “Do I see myself doing this in two weeks from now? Two months? Two years?” If your answer to any of these is no, then do not start. For example, is it realistic to expect yourself never to have pizza again? Shabbat dessert? Are you able to commit to having a salad for lunch every day for the rest of your life? Can you realistically see yourself going to the gym seven days a week? Long-term change results from long-term commitment.
Forgive Setbacks: Learn the gentle art of self-forgiveness. Recognize all setbacks as platforms to learn a better way to do something the next time. Become more resilient. Slip-ups are not negative! They are critical teaching tools. Be curious as to what brought on that impulsive food decision. Were you overly hungry? Have you been choosing foods that you want or that you think you “should” have? Allow food to be a guide that notifies you when you are neglecting yourself in other areas. Set goals, and try to do the best you can each day. Remember, it’s not a race, it’s a journey.
Dalia Abott is a registered dietitian and social worker with a private practice in Woodmere. She specializes in adolescent and family therapy with a focus on eating disorders, body image, and self-esteem. She can be reached at 718-490-9232 or DaliaKAbott@gmail.com.