How To Maintain an Ideal Body Weight.  Maintaining an ideal weight is a constant battle for many people.  Often the outcome of this battle is a perpetual weight gain/weight loss seesaw.  Women frequently have a bigger problem than men because they tend to have more body fat.  Despite the millions of pounds spent annually on weight loss clubs, diet books, diet pills, liquid diets and fancy spas still more and more people are struggling to control their weight.  It seems that the more people struggle with weight loss diets, the more their weight seems to inch its way back up.  The result is often weight gain to a level that exceeds the previous high weight. Moreover, the emotional impact of being overweight and the weight loss/weight gain seesaw is devastating.  We are conditioned, mostly through the media, to equate self-esteem with personal appearance.  Thus, people with weight problems often experience severe swings in self-esteem that relate directly to their current weight and it’s comparison to the current “fashionable” body type.  Additionally an otherwise competent person may feel “weak” or a “failure” because they are unable to control their weight and negative feelings and beliefs cause them to give up and resort to sugary high fat foods in order to feel better. Research abounds with legitimate, but inconclusive theories about why people are overweight.  Some theories suggest that a low level of “brown fat” in some people causes fewer calories to be burned after a meal.  These people are more likely to gain weight.  Other studies show that people who are prone to overweight have more than the ordinary amount of fat cells at birth or develop them during periods of overeating.  Thus, there may even be a genetic basis for obesity. Another idea is the “set point” theory”, which concludes that each individual has a predetermined “set point” where their weight naturally gravitates (where caloric intake is balanced by caloric output).  For some the set point is low:  We all know that lucky someone who can eat and eat and never gain weight.  For others it is high:  Some of us seem to gain weight at the mere sight of a cream puff!  The jury is still out, but evidence points to regular vigorous exercise as one way to lower a person’s “set point”.  However, current research is contradictory. What’s the answer then to this mystery of weight control that eludes some many wonderful, competent people?  There is no single solution for all people.  While self-control is involved in weight control, obesity does not seem to be simply a question of willpower.  Therefore, this article is designed to help you figure out what might work best for you and to provide some ideas that may help you to stop torturing yourself with a weight struggle. Give yourself a break from dieting!  Most popular diets (that is, those that are not medically prescribed for specific medical problems) are rigid and unnatural.  People become easily bored with them and begin to resent them.  For this reason such diets are rarely maintained over a long period of time.  People feel the compulsion to “cheat” and consequently feel guilty.  They generally wind up going back to whatever eating pattern they had before – often with a vengeance. Research has found that people who are able to get off the diet cycle can settle into more normal, non-bingeing eating patterns.  This alone may produce at least some weight loss.  It may be hard to lose the reins on dieting, but it appears that people who eat what they desire and listen to their bodies generally lose their obsession for foods and maintain a reasonable weight. Taking a break from dieting can help you gain perspective on your problem.  Try to discover what it’s like to eat sensibly.  You deserve to eat what you like just like anyone.  In fact, feeling that you don’t deserve to eat what satisfies you may encourage irrational eating.  Once you get into a pattern of paying attention to eating normally – according to your body’s signals of what it needs – food will lose its power over you.  Listening to your body can make its needs become clear. If you’re like most people who are heavier than they want to be you are constantly in a state of either dieting or eating too much and feeling guilty and unhappy.  Either way, this feeds a vicious cycle of self-deprivation and over-compensation.  That’s not how a normal person eats!  Overweight people are further pressured with worries about health risks associated with excess weight.  While these concerns may be legitimate, the pressures they create only add to anxiety, which helps keep the vicious cycle going. Eating less is not the answer.  Most people think that the less someone eats the more fat they will lose.  This is not necessarily true.  Although your intake of calories and corresponding level of activity (burning calories) have an effect on weight they are only part of the equation.  Just as important is how and what you eat and how you exercise.  The best way to lose weight is with a healthy eating plan of nutritious foods (often with more but smaller meals, eaten throughout the day).  Often 6 small meals will facilitate weight loss better than one or two larger meals. What happens when you eat too little in an attempt to lose weight?  The human body expects and/or needs a certain volume of food in order to complete the tasks and functions that you demand from it.  This obviously varies with a person’s level of activity and overall physical condition.  When your body does not receive an adequate supply of fuel it presumes itself to be starving.  As a natural survival response your body essentially says “I am not getting enough fuel so I will need to slow the consumption of the fuel”.  It does so by slowing the metabolic rate.  When this happens there are residual effects.  As the metabolic rate slows, calories are consumed at a slower rate making it even more difficult to lose weight.  Even more importantly in an attempt to hoard the fuel your  body will hold on to, and even bloat fat cells in anticipation of starvation.  Your body will then begin to break down muscle tissue as its alternative source of fuel.  As your metabolic rate drops a loss of energy is experienced making it even more difficult for you to find the motivation to exercise.  This increases the downward spiral taking you further from your goal for weight loss.  Since muscle weighs more than fat you may lose some weight by eating less, weight loss is more likely to be the muscle that you wanted to keep rather than the fat you wanted to lose. Muscle consumes calories every moment of the day in an attempt to maintain itself.  The more muscle mass the quicker you can lose weight and the more energetic you feel.  For healthy weight loss it is important to not only maintain but also increase muscle mass and density. Start listening to your body.  Allow yourself to eat what you wish.  Slow down and focus on the enjoyment that food brings you. Give all your attention to your food (no tv, computer, book etc.)  Many people eat so fast that they barely remember eating, much less enjoying their food.  RELAX! A good way to help you slow down your eating is to put your fork or food down between bites.  Above all, pay attention to your body’s cues that tell you when you are satisfied.  STOP THERE.  You can always have more later if you really want to.  Overeating, as we all know, is an uncomfortable feeling. Work on loving and gratifying yourself at any weight.  You may have said to yourself, “I’ll get pretty clothes when I get thin,” or “I know when I’m thinner I’ll go out more and meet more women/men!”  DON’T WAIT!!! Do good things for yourself now.  So what if you have to buy those slacks two sizes bigger than you want to?  Sizes are only numbers to help you find clothes that fit your body – not statements about whether or not you are attractive, worthy, or good.  Besides, looking like a second-hand store reject will only make you feel worse.  There are many so-called “heavy” people who look great.  They buy smart clothes that fit them well and wear their hair fashionably.  People come in all shapes and sizes.  Believe it or not, not everyone is attracted to the muscle image or the fashion model body.  You are short-changing yourself if you resist meeting people because you don’t think anyone will be attracted to you.  It’s a risk to get out there and meet new people, whether you’re married or single, but it’s a risk that all people have to take, regardless of their size. Understand that our society’s image of beauty is narrow and unrealistic.  We all come in different shapes and sizes, and it’s ridiculous to think that the fashion magazine image is the only indicator of true beauty.  Very few people become models – and this year’s look will be next year’s castaway.  In many parts of the world, fleshy, voluptuous bodies are given high status.  Look for the beauty in everyone you meet – including yourself – and work hard to focus on that. Focus on your personal power and learn to trust yourself.  Weight loss clubs and diet pills may help some people, but when you seek help from an outside source, you give up some of your power to help yourself in the way that uniquely suits you.  It becomes hard to listen to what your body tells you if you eat what other people tell you to, take a drug that alters your body’s messages, or adopt an attitude that may not be your own belief because you’ll do anything to lose weight.  The more you realize that you can truly control your own life in most regards, the closer you’ll be to finding an eating pattern that is right for you – despite the double messages from society that create so much pressure for us all. Losing weight and keeping it off is not easy, but it’s not impossible.  Put your efforts where they will do the most good.  Work hard to love yourself, to respect yourself, and, above all, to trust yourself.  And learn to enjoy eating and the positive results that enjoyment produces. In my next newsletter I’ll discuss where our eating habits come from and how hypnosis can help you change your behaviour and perceptions. Until next time……………
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