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Looking Well and Feeling Better than Ever
By Lisa Cohn, M.M.Sc., M.Ed.R.D.

Dieting is so 2006. If you really want to be well, lose weight flatten that belly for good you are going to have find a new way of thinking about your relationship to overall health and eating well.

If you are like most Americans who started the New Year with an ambitious diet plan, by now you have probably reverted back to your old habits and gained back the weight that you lost in the days after the ball dropped.

Every year, you try to lose more and more weight to fit into that wedding dress or look great for that upcoming class reunion. And every year, the diet dream becomes more extreme. January rolls along and you swear off all carbohydrates or protein or alcohol or whatever substance you think is causing the problem, only to find yourself sitting on the couch with a bag of potato chips in one hand and a can of beer in the other, while you beat yourself up and swear, I’ll really do it next year.”

You are not alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that about 65 percent of adults in the country are either overweight or obese.  The whole country is talking about how to lose weight, but nobody seems to have an answer that works.

How did this happen? For most of us, gaining weight is a gradual process. A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that over the long haul (30 years), half of the 3,700 middle-aged adults followed in the Framingham Heart Study who started off at a normal weight became overweight by the end of the period. Strikingly, about one quarter of the study participants became obese and 1 in 10 were severely obese.

For some people, the Framingham study found that getting fat could happen all of a sudden. More than a quarter of the middle-aged men in the study became overweight within four years of being fit.

How do you catch yourself before you lose the battle? And how do you achieve a healthy weight without going through the dreaded and dangerous yo-yo cycle of gain and loss?

The diet mentality is a dinosaur approach these days. “Dieting side effects” of deprivation, headaches, acidity, semi-starvation, tummy bloating and irregular digestion, moodiness, dehydration and angst over body shape and size only set us up for an exhaustive path to repeated failure and reduced confidence in both mind and body. If you are going to stave off long-term weight gain or maintain weight loss for a long period, staging a dramatic plan for yet another quick fix is not going to work. I’m sorry if you thought that you had finally found THE DIET, but picking a guru who tells you that a particular food or type of nutrient is causing your weight gain will not work.

Instead of endlessly switching diets to find the magic mixture, you have to start with your relationship with your own body. In order to maintain health, your approach to eating has to fit within a broader lifestyle that includes exercise, mental, social and spiritual health.

Dieting doesn’t work. Try these 7 steps to make this year different.

It’s All Begins in Your Mind, Believe It and Believe in Yourself!
Make a mental change to eat for life vs. being on a “diet”. Move away from the diet lifestyle to real healthy living. Tell yourself that you are going to change the way you eat and have belief that you are going to do it. Have confidence and trust that your body will respond to the healthy new choices you will make. Set yourself up for success. Your ability to achieve results starts from within.

Get Help
Seek professional advice and coaching. All too many of us are self-proclaimed diet experts with little success and training. Trying to sift through the “diet of the week” is unnecessary and often stressful, overwhelming and unhealthy. An effective approach to healthy eating should combine nutrition science (yes, your coach should have medical and food knowledge as well as the ability to offer you options to make eating healthier easy and more pleasurable) and a working plan that will make this not just a diet, but also a lifestyle choice. It is worthwhile to share any health concerns you have with your nutrition specialist as they may be impeding your success.

Stimulate Your Metabolism
The key to releasing weight lies in increasing and maintaining a good metabolism. Start off by getting your motor running with a healthy breakfast. Eat throughout the day to stabilize blood sugar levels (and prevent a slowing of your burn rate). Keep anxiety levels and stress hormones at bay (a.k.a. RELAX) to allow the body to feel safe and free to burn and release weight. When the body is stressed it protects itself by holding onto stored energy (body fat), ratcheting down metabolism and promoting unstable blood sugar levels.

Get Fresh: Choose Real Food
Instead of wasting your time reading food labels and chasing the fad diet de jour, start by applying this rule only: Eat Real Food. Ask yourself if your food is coming from the good mother earth, an animal or the factory down town?  Avoid processed foods. The added sugars, fats and salts slow digestion. Fresh is best—for getting natural digestives and enzymes to speed metabolism and promote overall health. Organic grown herbs and spices bring simple fresh food to life and make eating pleasureful—as it was meant to be.

Be Flexible and Smile
There is no perfect way to eat. One may have certain general rules, but being too rigid will only set you up for failure. Stressing out is a sure fire way to short-circuit healthy behaviors and work against your metabolism. If being on the diet treadmill is exhausting you, give yourself a break and seek help. Keep your sense of humor and stay away from making judgments about “good” or “bad” food behavior. Accept that healthy weight change is a natural result of healthy eating and living. Try smiling every day.

Choose Healthy Living—Create environments that make you feel healthy
Your environment gives you signals as to how you should behave. If you surround yourself by healthy, relaxing things, you will be more likely to make positive, healthful choices. In my practice, we invite this mental shift by offering a spa environment where progressive nutrition programs incorporate massage, reflexology and acupuncture. This approach fosters a mind-body connection

Go! What are you waiting for?
Write out your goals and go for it! Make a list of your favorite foods—include healthy and less healthy and try to eat them every day. Remember the pleasure principle. Commit yourself to a year round plan to take better health steps.
If you are serious about changing your diet, start with a written food log. Get a grip as to what your eating habits are all about. Research says people who keep food records lose weight!

Go online to www.parkavenutrition.com or visit Lisa at Park Avenue Nutrition Spa where she can share with you more about keeping you and your family eating healthy all year.#

Lisa Cohn is a registered dietitian and long-time health educator focused on integrating positive nutritional change into broader lifestyle and family health changes. She runs the Park Avenue Nutrition Spa in Manhattan and is a Spokesperson for the New York City Youth Health Coalition. Lisa can be reached at lccnutrition@aol.com.



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