The tough love truth about how to lose weight

Written by: on Sunday, October 16th, 2011

It’s New Year’s—and with the holiday and festivities (and holiday hang-overs) come the inevitable resolutions to lose weight. Before you get started on your diet, here are a few basic “tough love” facts about weight that are good to be aware of:

woman weighing herself on a scale

Don't avoid the scale: it can keep you on track.

1) Obesity starts with just a 5-pound weight gain. Think it can’t happen to you? Think again. People aren’t born obese, but they can certainly be heavy when they’re young (as we can see from the staggering numbers of children and adolescents now struggling with obesity). It can also happen to anyone at any age—and as you get older and your metabolism starts to slow down, it gets even easier to put on weight. It starts with gaining just a few pounds…and then a few more…and then even more. And that’s why it’s so important to be vigilant about your weight throughout your life; if you put on 5 pounds, work to take it off right away…as the more you gain, the harder it will get, guaranteed. If this means you have to weigh yourself every day or every week, so be it.

2) No one is to blame but you. Yes, we can point to the high fructose corn syrup in so many foods as the culprit; we can blame all those unhealthy fast food companies that make junk food cheaper to eat than healthier fare; we can point fingers at our genetic makeup, our emotions, our lack of willpower, our love of food… And sure, these may contribute to your weight gain, but the truth is: no one is forcing you to overeat. The only person you have to blame for putting on weight is yourself.


Weight Watchers location next to Porkys in Lindhurst, New Jersey

A real-life picture about how hard the choices in life are! (Actual picture from Lindhurst, New Jersey)

3) Nothing in life comes easy—and weight loss is no exception. For some reason, people today believe that losing weight should come fast—and most disturbing—easily. All it takes is one look at the preponderance of diet pills on the market, detox diets, miracle cures…and even—to some degree—gastric bypass surgery. The idea is that someone else can provide the cures to our problems, when in fact it all starts from the ability within oneself to change. But so many people today don’t look at their weight issues that way: they want solutions and they want someone else to provide them, fast … and essentially do the work for them. Bottom line is there is simply no substitute for changing, and cutting down on, what you eat and exercising regularly.


woman and man exercising outdoors

Make exercise a daily habit and you

4) You don’t like to exercise? Tough. There is no question that exercise—moving your body—is absolutely essential to keeping your body healthy. Yes, it’s hard sometimes—really, really hard—to get motivated, but it’s not optional. Period. And this starts in childhood: the more kids sit around and watch TV or use the computer, the less time they’re outside being active. I notice this firsthand with my son: in the winter, it’s hard to motivate him to get outdoors and he puts on weight as a result. But in the summer when he’s more active, he drops it naturally. I’ve found the same is true for me: if I don’t make it a priority to get to the gym—no matter what the season—I pack on pounds. (And just so you know: I’ve never been a skinny model type who doesn’t have to work out—and most people aren’t.) What it takes is at least 30 minutes of activity (walking, an exercise video, cardio, etc) most days. If you’re able to get in 3 to 4 days a week, that works. The key: this is not a program that you’re doing for 3 or 4 or 5 months to slim down for some event or trip. This is for life.

5) If you’re an obese woman, you will have a tougher time in life than a man. This fact disturbs me too but it’s true. Last year, the journal Obesity published a study suggesting that obesity was a political asset — in men, not in women, despite what people were saying recently about Chris Christie. The truth is: no matter how much you try to deny it, you will be looked at differently than your thinner peers. Rather than getting steamed up about it, use that energy to do something about it. Make a commitment to be healthier for you. And I can guarantee you that you’ll not only feel better about yourself, you’ll be healthier and you’ll exude more confidence. And that goes a long way in your job and in your life.

And for any of you who might get angry by my words here, saying things like: “You don’t know how difficult it is, you haven’t been there,” I can say this: With each of my pregnancies, I gained 50 to 70 pounds. No I wasn’t obese, but I was definitely much heavier after giving birth. And I can tell you that I had to work hard to get my weight back down: it took time (almost a year after each pregnancy), consistent exercise (even on days when I did not want to do anything!), and willpower, but slowly and steadily the weight came off. And the same holds true for everyone who follows these simple tough-love rules.

The beauty of weight loss is that everyone can do it—and keep it off for good.


Why those New Year’s diet resolutions are wavering right about now

Written by: on Tuesday, January 18th, 2011
New year's resolutions

Stop focusing on the scale and start focusing on how you feel.

I’m a positive person and I’m a big believer that once you set your mind to something, you can succeed…in most cases, so-called “dieting” is not one of them. There’s a reason the diet industry is huge—and people gain back most of the weight they lost during a so-called “diet”. Let me explain…

Like many women, I’ve been on many diets in my lifetime—you name it, I’ve tried it. The low-carb diet, the low-fat diet, the low-cal diet, the low-food diet…the list goes on. And not ONE of them has worked long term. The reason: you set yourself up to not be able to have something (um…like the food you want or that your body is craving)—and the mind rebels and sets you up for a binge. “If you’re not going to feed me, I’m going to make you unable to resist that plate of cookies, loaf of fresh bread, chocolate cake, bag of chips, pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream…” Plenty of research proves that theory. But not being on a formal diet is what has helped me drop 4 dress sizes (I used to be a size 14—and now am a 6—after my toddler daughter was born) and get down to my lowest weight in years.

So it’s now mid January, right about that time when the most stringent diets followed resolutely since New Year’s Day are wavering. Deprivation has set in (no sweets, no to that snack you’re desperately wanting, no to that second helping of pasta your body is calling out for…) and you’re about ready for a binge—and the downfall of your best weight-loss intentions. I’ve been there—many times. And the keys to losing weight long term are simple. Here’s what has worked for me—put these into practice, whether you’re looking to lose weight or not—and you’ll be guaranteed long-term success (meaning that fabulous pair of pants you love WILL fit you from year to year…a great thing!):

1.) Don’t set a deadline for yourself. I used to mark 2 pounds every week on my calendar with an end “dream” weight day marked with a big star. If you do that—or have set up an ultimate deadline to drop the weight (your wedding, that high-school reunion, etc)—change that immediately. You set yourself up for panic and stress if your body doesn’t drop the amount of weight you think you SHOULD be losing—and this panic and stress can lead to feelings of failure and the “Oh, well, I’ll never get there…so I might as well have that piece of chocolate cake” attitude. Post event, you are also more likely to go back to your old ways of eating—and with that, your old weight.

2) Stop thinking about food every single second of every single day. I can remember logging everything into my food journal (sip of tea with milk and sugar, check; half a cup of milk, check; three carrot sticks, check; half turkey sandwich with one piece of lettuce and one slice (or darn, was it two??) of tomato…and the list goes on). All I thought about was food! “How many calories does this have?” “What time is it” “Is it time to eat that sandwich I packed for lunch?” “What am I going to have for dinner?” I think about all the energy I wasted thinking about what I was going to put in my mouth—and no wonder I found dieting draining. While all the experts say that keeping a food journal is the key to long-term weight-loss success—and it can be, in the short term, for those who need to just understand how much they’re putting in their mouths—I personally have found it to be a waste of time, energy and focus!

3) Eat what you want; just eat it in moderation. Craving a bagel for breakfast, have half, and move on. Want a burger for lunch; have it without a bun and a side salad. Want that plate of pasta for dinner, go ahead and eat it instead of ordering the tasteless and totally unappetizing salad with the dressing on the side. Craving a cupcake, go ahead and have it! And please who invented “skim” or “fat-free” milk??? That is the most godawful tasting drink on the planet. I remember drinking it for years because it was lower in calories and fat—and I hated it. But never again. When I’m drinking milk, it’s 2% or bust for me.

4) Eat lots of fruits and veggies. Learn to love them—and experiment with different kinds. You need to cover at least half your plate at lunch and dinner with veggies (no, you don’t need to measure them out!); just make sure they’re not drenched in butter or heavy sauce! Have fruit or veggies for snacks (with a protein like peanut butter or hummus).

5) Drink plenty of water. Just keep a water bottle with you at all times and do not drink soda. That cuts out a tremendous amount of calories and sugar right there. Once in awhile, I’ll have a ginger ale; I treat it like a treat, rather than a daily necessity. And I drink the full-sugar kind…so it really feels like an indulgence.

6) Eat a good breakfast. I read somewhere to eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a queen, and dinner like a pauper. Well, I’m not an advocate of eating any meal like a pauper exactly…but the idea is that breakfast should be your heartiest and healthiest meal of the day. It fills you up, keeps you full until lunchtime, and sets you up on the right path the rest of the day. (I LOVE steel-cut oats with almonds, dried cranberries, a tiny bit of coconut, cinnamon, and agave nectar in the morning: how many calories does it have? I have no idea and truly don’t care in my non-dieter’s mindset.)

7) Get at least 8 hours of sleep a night. I found that I really dropped weight when I started going to bed early (I’m in bed by 10 at the latest). The later you stay up, the more tired you feel the next day and the more likely you are to reach for empty calories to give you instant energy. (You’re also less likely to wander over to the kitchen after hours for a snack.)

8) Exercise at least 3-4 times a week, no excuses. This is last, but definitely not least. Get moving and you’ll find—as I have—that your appetite is naturally controlled, your motivation is up, and you want to eat healthier. I’ve found that exercising first thing in the morning, before breakfast and before the to-do list starts piling up, is the best way to start you off on the right foot.

The bottom line is listen to your body: if it’s hungry, have something to eat; if you’re tired, go to sleep; and get moving. By listening to your body, you’ll become more in tune with it—and the result will be a body you can feel truly proud of. And by not obsessing, you’ll be amazed at how quickly the weight comes off, and more importantly, stays off.