Friday, March 20, 2009

Habit, Habit, Habit

When I was getting my M.A., I studied and read a lot about habit formation. It's an intriguing process and interesting to see how our minds and bodies form and cling to habits.

As we are looking at "weight loss" and building healthy habits for ourselves and generations to come, I think habit is a key part of what will be our success.

It is a common tendency to start a diet by thinking about what you CAN'T EAT and what you HAVE TO LIMIT. However, that isn't really practical and will not lead to lasting results. If, for example, you say that you are not going to eat anything sweet until you lose all of your weight, you need to be prepared to not eat anything sweet for the rest of your life. If you say you are going to eat just 1200 calories a day until you lose your weight, you are -- once again -- setting yourself up to only be able to eat 1200 calories a day for the rest of your life. Why? Let me explain some of the things I have been learning that lead me to these conclusions.

1) Our bodies have fat cells. Though I plan on writing an entire blog on what I am learning about fat cells, the gist is this: At the conference I attended, I heard that there are three times in a woman's life when those fat cells DOUBLE: puberty, pregnancy, and menopause. Once a fat cell is formed, IT WILL NEVER GO AWAY (unless you have surgery to remove it, which doesn't really appeal or apply to us here). HOWEVER, though you cannot get rid of a fat cell, you can PROGRAM YOUR FAT CELLS to be thin or fat. That's funny, isn't it? Have you ever thought of a THIN fat cell? Well, look around you. There are people around you -- somewhere in your family or among your roommates from college or whatever -- who have lost weight and been able to keep their fat cells thin.

Once you have fat cells in your body, you cannot get rid of them; so they will always have at least a little bit of fat in them because they are, indeed, FAT CELLS. HOWEVER, do not despair! Everyone can program their fat cells to be thin or to be fat. But IT TAKES TIME for these things to happen. That's why they tell you to exercise during pregnancy -- to keep your fat cells as THIN as possible or, better yet, to keep your body from creating extra fat cells. SO -- we are NOT JUST LOSING WEIGHT; we are REPROGRAMMING FAT CELLS to be THIN FAT CELLS instead of FAT FAT CELLS and preparing our bodies to NOT form additional fat cells during periods when we cannot help but put on a lot of excess weight (like pregnancy). And that tells me that whatever you do to reprogram them is what you are going to have to do to keep them thin.

#2) My nutrition friend from the seminar I attended said that one of the #1 mistakes women make in this country is that they UNDEREAT. Can that be possible? With obesity on the rise, is it possible that women really under-eat? YES. And, believe it or not, CALORIES ARE GOOD -- CALORIES ARE OUR FRIENDS. Calories are what give our bodies fuel to function every day, fuel to get through the days and nights, to keep our blood pumping and our brain working and our muscles moving, etc. So, if you cut out calories that YOUR BODY NEEDS TO FUNCTION and maintain itself, you are slowly destroying your body.

So how many calories does the average woman need? 1800-2200 a day! Seriously, folks! That is how many we should be eating a day -- fat, fit, and everything in between. It doesn't matter. If you are going to DRASTICALLY CUT CALORIES, you are eventually going to throw your body into survival mode where it feels it needs to horde all of the calories it is getting out of fear that at some point, you are going to stop feeding it altogether and it's going to have to be able to sustain itself. Is that a message you want to send your body when you are trying to LOSE WEIGHT and MAINTAIN A HEALTHY WEIGHT AND LIFESTLYE? No-o-o-o-o! Besides which, if you do take away from your body the calories that it needs to sustain itself, when you stop dieting and stop eating those 1200 calories a day because you are right where you need to be, YOU ARE GOING TO GAIN WEIGHT.

SO ---- THUS WE SEE FROM ALL OF THIS that when we are talking about losing weight and being HEALTHY, we need to use wisdom and do it correctly: SLOW AND STEADY WINS THE RACE!!! Thank you, Mr. Turtle and Mr. Hare, for that great lesson!

As you sit down now and think about what goals you want to set for yourself and how you are going to walk this journey to a healthier, fitter, and slimmer YOU, think about what you are going to CHANGE -- FOREVER -- and decide what you are willing to give up and what you are not.

I AM NOT WILLING TO GIVE UP SWEETS for the rest of my life! So, as I'm losing weight I need to learn to be moderate in my intake of sweets so that I can still eat them and enjoy them without feeling attached to them or having withdrawals from NOT getting enough.

On the other hand, I could just tell myself I'm diabetic and then give them up completely! WRONG!!! No way - my mind knows I'm NOT diabetic; my body knows I'm NOT diabetic, and they are the only things that matter in MY weight loss. So -- sweets are IN -- in moderation!



I SO agree with your comments here. When I have been successful in losing weight (especially the baby pounds), it is because I have learned to live in moderation. I know what my trip up's are and so I do not have them around the house. I would rather purchase one ice cream cone every once in awhile then have a tub constantly tempting me in my own fridge. And you ARE right. You have to learn to live realistically. As the W of W states, "moderation in ALL things." Even sweets. ;-)

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