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January 2, 2014

A New Way to Lasting Weight Loss

The Hood Answer Mom, Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D.

Weight loss is one of the top New Year's resolutions among Americans, but you probably knew that already.

How often have you made the vow to shed pounds on the first day of the year?  I don't think I have enough fingers and toes to count the number of times I resolved to slim down just because it was January. That's before I learned to look at weight control in a way that's done me a lot of good, and may work for you, too.

As an overweight teenager, I was on my share of diets, including the Grapefruit Diet, Atkins, and the Cabbage Soup regimen. My weight may have fluctuated by ten or so pounds, but it might as well have been 50 or 75 pounds, the way it made me feel about myself. For me, weight gain equaled failure and a lack of self-control. 

It didn't help that my family associated food with nearly every emotion including joy, boredom, and sadness. I loved to eat, but I wasn't always eating because I was hungry. To make matters worse, I also have a relatively slow metabolism, and there's never been a lot of wiggle room, calorie-wise.

When I was in my early 20s, I decided I'd had enough with dieting. I knew that I had to find the balance between eating and exercise that worked best for me. No more quick fixes. I was finally in it for the long haul.

To understand how I approach healthier eating, picture a long winding road with no end in sight. The road has hills, and plenty of twists and turns. Maintaining a steady course on the path to a healthier lifestyle isn't always smooth sailing. Your responsibilities as a caregiver, parent, employee, friend, or some combination of the above can easily challenge your motivation to eat right and move around more, sometimes on a daily basis. It's OK to slip up, as long as you keep trying.

The New Year is full of hope. Here is what I wish for anyone striving for to do their best, in 2014 and beyond.

• Don't be so quick to throw in the towel. Eating a couple of cookies or having an extra glass of wine is not an epic diet fail.  You always have the next meal or the next day to do better.

• Find a solution, don't make resolutions.  What's really holding you back from improving what you eat and how much you exercise? If you can figure out your biggest barriers and start to work through them, you won't need to resolve to do the same next year.

• Give yourself plenty of leeway.  Don't expect to solve all of your eating and exercise challenges in a week or two. It takes time to learn new skills that lead to healthier habits, but it's worth it. 

• Realize there's a limit to self-control.  Willpower is often described as doing something you don't want to do, and that takes a lot of mental energy.  When you are tired, or stressed, or have too much to do, it makes it more difficult to make healthy lifestyle choices. 



Elizabeth M. Ward

Elizabeth M. Ward

Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D., is a writer, nutrition consultant, and mother of three. She is the author of several books, including MyPlate for Moms, How to Feed Yourself & Your Family Better and Expect the Best, Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During, & After Pregnancy . Ward is also a contributing writer for Muscle & Fitness Hers and Men's Fitness magazines.

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