I attended a conference in December where Meryl Streep was asked what advice she would give the 11,000 attendees.
Without a moment’s hesitation she said, “Stop worrying about your weight. Women lose way too much of their energy worrying about their weight. They could be using that energy for far better things.”
I could not agree more. That happens by letting what’s on your plate become much more important than the number on the scale. The number will be determined by the way you care for yourself with food and lifestyle.
Surprising words at this time of year? Why would a Holistic Health Coach who writes about healthy eating suggest that you not go on a diet?
If you have been a dieter, you already know the answer to this question: Diets do not work. They are an artificial and temporary method for losing weight. 85 percent of diets fail.
Diets change your eating routine for a set period. Some involve nourishing foods, while others consist of drinks and supplements and fads like eating only grapefruit or oranges for a week.
By their very nature and design, weight loss diets are regarded as temporary forms of deprivation with little or no attention to lifestyle issues that often are the underlying cause of a weight problem.
Various theories have emerged since the early 80s about the types of foods we should eat or not eat. Whatever the latest finding, whether science based, or marketing based, they continue to entice women to try them.
For example, in the early 80s, fat in foods was labeled bad by the medical community. Manufacturers jumped on the bandwagon and began producing low-fat everything – from cookies, to milk, to chips, to soups. Sugar replaced fat as a major ingredient, and weight problems have been increasing ever since.
It turns out we need fat in our diets to feel satisfied. Fat is not the problem; it is the type of fat and the volume of fat that matters. Another fad was the Atkins diet, where large amounts of protein and fat were consumed in the absence of much needed carbohydrates.
Many people who did the Atkins diet lost weight for a while, only to develop issues with mouth odor, kidney stones and insatiable cravings for bagels. We cannot limit our variety to the degree that a diet asks and remain satisfied and free of cravings.
The saddest part of a failed diet is the feelings of failure it can evoke in the woman who tried it. Many women lose weight on a restrictive diet, only to gain it back when the diet ends.
This leaves them disheartened, embarrassed and disappointed in themselves, when the real disappointment belongs to the ineffective design of the diet.
I think most of us accept that we as individuals are the sum of our physical, emotional and spiritual selves, and that each aspect affects the others.
When we function well in our personal lives and have a sense of purpose, we tend to have a healthy relationship with food. While the amount and quality of food factors into our weight, lifestyle and level of happiness influence our weight as well.
So, we need to look at our weight as the sum of our food choices and volume, our level of stress, our age, our level of exercise, our general attitude toward life and our place in the world.
I worked with a woman who exercised four hours a day and couldn’t lose a pound. Upon looking closer at why she exercised, she acknowledged she was filled with self-hate and contempt for her body.
She also acknowledged that since leaving a career after 25 years, she felt quite lost. These emotions triggered high levels of stress hormones, which in turn interfered with her goal of losing weight. Overactive stress hormones are designed to preserve calories.
Once she dared to change her punishing regimen to something more reasonable and used the extra time for self-care and developed new interests, the pounds began to drop off.
So, in a word, the answer to a healthy, self-regulating weight is love. When you love yourself you will take the necessary steps to nourish yourself – physically, mentally and emotionally – in ways that stabilize your mood, your appetite and your health.
On January 15 I’m starting my online program that addresses a balanced approach to weight management through healthy eating and a fulfilling lifestyle. All calls will be recorded for replay, so you can join anytime.
What would it be like for you if you stopped counting calories and got rid of cravings? I believe you can get there by choosing simple whole foods, eating at home as much as possible and putting your energy into having a fantastic, fulfilling life.
Do you think that you have a healthy relationship with food and weight? Do you follow a specific diet regime or focus on nutrition and good health instead? Are you trying to lose a little weight after 60? Please join the conversation below.