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An effective weight loss P.L.A.N.

Hoping to lose weight this year but feeling overwhelmed already? Here's an easy, memorable, and holistic acronym to help you get and stay on track.

I’ve read an awful lot of posts, articles, and tweets this week about how to lose weight—undoubtedly there’s something about the New Year that inspires resolve. But a lot of the advice has struck me as unrealistic (three-week juice fast, anyone?) or tepid (write down your resolution … then what?).

So I was glad when I read the following email from Eudene Harry, MD, medical director for the integrative and holistic Oasis Wellness and Rejuvenation Center in Orlando, Florida. Her advice for lasting weight loss and better health strikes me as practical and effective. In her words, it’s all about having a P.L.A.N. Here’s what she means.

P = Preparation. Whether you are the CEO of your home or CEO of a Fortune 500 company, you know that the odds of success increase with preparation.  One of the biggest missteps is to depend on “willpower.”  If you are stressed after a long day at work, you didn’t sleep well the night before, and you missed your afternoon snack, what will you choose when you get home: the chocolate chip cookies or preparing a sensible dinner?  If, on the other hand, there are no cookies available and you have already prepared dinner, then what do you chose?  That’s the difference between willpower and preparation.

Step 1: Go through the pantry and fridge and dispose of tempting leftovers. Restock with your favorite fruits, vegetables, and raw nuts, all of which make easy snacks.  Divide the nuts into appropriate single-serving sizes. Remember: preparation, not willpower.  

Step 2:  Take a few hours one a day a week to prepare for the week ahead. (Get meal-planning ideas and recipes here.)  If you already know what you are going to have for breakfast, you’re less apt to skip this meal, making you less likely to overindulge later.  If you know that you’ll be eating out this week, take time to look at the menu items and nutrition facts for the restaurant online so you can make healthy (and seemingly spontaneous) choices. 

 L = identify your Limits. It may be presented as daily points, calorie count, or prepackaged foods, but the take-home message is the same: Know your limits. A simple rule of thumb is to eat your vegetables first, perhaps with 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil or crushed nuts to ensure absorption of all the nutrients vegetables offer. Then eat your protein source (a portion the size of your palm), and finally, a half-cup of carbohydrate.  Make sure carbs are whole grain and high fiber.  Eating this way slows down the absorption of sugar and thereby prevents insulin spikes and reactive hunger, it helps you to feel fuller more quickly, and it maximizes nutrient absorption.

Other things to consider are limiting sodium to less than 2,000 mg a day; limit alcohol to one to two drinks a week; and ask for all sauces and dressings on the side so you control the amount used – no more than 1 tablespoon. Avoid fried foods, trans fats, and foods whose primary ingredient is sugar.

A = increase Activity. This not only will help you to lose weight but also will improve your energy, moods, and muscle tone. The first rule of thumb is to pick an activity that you like – or one you don’t hate.  Next, shoot for consistency before quantity.  Starting out with an hour a day may feel overwhelming and exhausting, and can also cause an injury, which would derail all your good intentions.  If 10 minutes four times a week allows you to be consistent, then start there and build up.

N = cut out Negative talk. Remember when your grandmother said you could attract more flies with honey? I think this is what she meant. Beating up on yourself gives you the excuse you need to continue the habits that have kept you in the same place.  We have just left a season where, hopefully, we have been reminded of the importance of being kind to others. Why not extend that kindness to yourself? Instead of constantly looking for proof of why you are going to fail, look for evidence of success:  “I exercised 10 minutes a day for four days last week and already I am feeling a bit better. Wow, imagine when I can do it for 15 minutes.”

Dr. Harry concludes: “I often hear patients say, ‘It’s been a month and I have only lost three or four pounds.’  This is not defeat; this is success! In 12 months that will be 36 pounds. Another thing I hear frequently is, ‘It has been two weeks. I feel better but I haven’t lost any weight so why bother.’  Try – ‘It’s only been two weeks and already I am starting to feel better. Imagine what I can accomplish in three, six, or 12 months.’ Remember Einstein’s rule: You can’t solve a problem from the same mind frame in which it was created.”

Do you think Dr. Harry's advice is sound? What would you add (or eliminate) to meet your goals? Tell us on Facebook or in the comments below.

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