During one of my recent interviews for My Menopause Radio I interviewed Sherry Pagodo, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine at the University of Massachusetts about how to lose weight and really keep it off as the new you. She agreed it’s not easy. But according to Dr. Pagodo, it’s doable if you follow these 5 steps.
1. Develop a long-term mind set
Being on a diet is great for losing 5 or 10 pounds but it’s not effective for long term weight loss. It’s a short-term fix. To really keep weight off, think of your weight loss as a destination – a new you. When you decide how much weight you are going to lose, think how much younger, happier, sexier and healthier the new you is going to look and feel.
To keep that new destination realistic and achievable, make changes that are sustainable and not too great a stretch. Saying you are not ever going to eat dessert again or that you will keep your daily intake to only 1200 calories likely won’t be something you will keep doing. But not eating seconds, or only eating dessert 3 times per week or only half of dessert is something you can do. Making a few healthy substitutions is also doable: brown rice for white rice; whole grain for white bread or white pasta; eliminating sodas or sugary drinks for water with lemon or lime. Also eating slower allows time for your stomach to know you are full and tell your brain to stop eating. All things you can easily do and sustain.
2. Avoid Food Cues
You know what it’s like to have someone come to your meeting with a box of donuts or put a bowl of nacho chips on your table – it can be hard to say no even if you are not hungry. Send the cues away. Maybe you go into a fast food restaurant and head for the salad bar but along the way you smell the French fries. Hard to resist them. So don’t go in there. Drive past, don’t drive through. Stay away from the buffet tables and all you can eat restaurants. That will also reduce your intake of sugar, fats and salt – the most addictive components of food that make the reward center of your brain light up like an alcoholic’s or drug addict’s reward center when they get their fix.
Going through your home and cleaning the cabinets and the refrigerator of processed foods (the ones in packages and bags or cans) will also help. You are much less likely to eat a box of Oreos or the carton of ice cream if they don’t exist in your home to cue your brain into desire.
3. Track What You Eat
It’s easier than you think. There are a number of food intake Apps available ranging from free to $39.99 annually. What you are really doing is changing a habit and that can take time. It takes about 3 weeks to 3 months to change a habit so don’t be surprised if nothing seems to be different in a week or two. But if you are persistent, you will be creating new habits that help you plan a long-term weight loss and avoid food cues. You will reset your food thermostat and make it easier to say yes to healthier food choices.
Exercise is an essential part of maintaining weight loss. And the approach that works best is to view your exercise with the same eye as a trainer. Focus on three areas over time:
Endurance – Exercise longer
Distance – Exercise further
Intensity – Exercise harder/faster
By continuing to up the bar, you increase the value of your exercise. That doesn’t mean that the goal is to run in a marathon. But if you walk for half an hour, try to walk either a little longer or a little faster each week. That will help you to continue to both burn calories and increase muscles mass. I also like to suggest burst exercising. With that approach you start doing an exercise for as fast or hard as you can for only one minute, then rest for two. Continuing that cycle for a total of only 10 to 15 minutes can really help you make a difference and burn calories with only short windows of exercise.
5. Stress Control
As John Lennon wrote, “Life is what happens to you while you’re making other plans.” So we all get more than our share of stress and it wreaks havoc on our body, mind and spirit. Stress increases the adrenal hormone cortisol, which elevates blood sugar, increases heart rate, breathing and blood pressure and lowers immunity. When the blood sugar drops after a stressful experience, we get hungry again. Chronic stress also leads to depression. Over time, stress becomes a cue for eating.
One common stress is being over committed. Like the woman who got up at 5:30 am to get her kids ready for school, took them there, worked all day, stopped off to see her mother in a nursing home on the way home and then at 8:30 gets home to get her kids into bed and get to bed early to start the entire routine over again. And being that stressed and overbooked makes it very hard to lie down and feel relaxed and drift off to sleep.
Like a person who puts too much food on their plate, this woman puts too much “life” on her plate – her plate is “too full.” To deal with the stress she has got to “take something off her plate” in order to have time to decompress her stress. That can both lower her stress and improve her sleep. For a very helpful FREE E-book on stress and how to control it, click here.
Theses are some of the types of topics covered each month in My Menopause Magazine, the first magazine in the Apple newsstand dedicated to providing information, insights and inspiration to women in and around menopause. The app is free as is the first issue. Use BONUScode and get the current issue free as well.