I was hoping the title would get your attention. Every one is looking for the secret to weight loss. I have seen many clients who say they have tried every weight loss plan out there, but the weight just keeps coming back. This blog is about the secret to long-term weight loss. It is about creating a new way of living—for life. It's about resisting the temptation of the grand promises of the latest shake, supplement, pill, plan, or product to lose weight. Those may work in the short-term, but invariably the pounds find their way back. And, they aren't healthy!
Just a few weeks ago, I had a client ask me what I thought about Sensa. She said she had heard about it on TV. I didn't know of it, but when I looked it up, I found out that it is a substance that you sprinkle on your food. It supposedly works based on the process and trigger of eating and feeling full. When we eat, smell and taste receptors send messages that tell our body it's time to stop eating. Sensa claims to enhance smell, thus speeding up the process which triggers the "I feel full" signal so that you "eat less and feel more satisfied."
Recently, I have heard about Body by Vi as one of the latest ways to lose weight. They want you to replace two meals with their shakes. Check out the list of ingredients in the Body by Vi shakes. Do you recognize any of the ingredients as real food? This may help you take the weight off, but it certainly isn't giving you the tools to keep it off which brings you back to the yo-yo dieting. And, if you really want to be healthy, don't you want to be filling your body with real food!?
My favorite quote from a client this week was when she said, "I'm not a fake human, so why am I feeding myself fake food?" This was after I had showed her the list of ingredients in the Medifast bar she was eating. Now she eats a bar whose ingredients consist only of nuts and fruits.
So, now the moment you have been waiting for... What is the secret to weight loss?
The secret to weight loss is simple. Eat real food. Exercise more. Reduce stress.
I know, you've heard it before, right? But, given all of the posts I have seen recently on Facebook and clients I have been working with, somehow Sensa, Body by Vi, and Medifast are winning. Our bodies are losing with these methods, but it's not weight that we are losing, it's health.
The key to success is to commit to it. Take the guesswork out of it by just committing to this new way of life. Deciding whether or not to eat that cupcake is no longer a difficult decision because you have already made that choice in your head not to. Now you are just playing it out throughout the day. Another key to success is to engage others—whether that be a health coach, family member, or friend. Tell others what you are doing and let them keep you accountable. Sign up with My Fitness Pal and track your food for a week or two to see exactly what you are eating and how it measures up. It's not about counting calories, it's about tracking your food to help you stay accountable and see the choices you are making in a day.
It does work! I've seen it over time with my clients. Not only do they lose weight with this plan, but they are also happier and more energetic than they were before. They start to feel so good about themselves, that the temptations no longer have power because this new feeling of health now wins out.
Eat real food
For those with only a few pounds to lose:
If you are currently eating packaged, processed, and fast foods, making the switch to real food will lead to weight loss. Eat lean meats and eggs, load up on the veggies (for weight loss and health, you just can't get enough of this food group!), snack on a few nuts, enjoy fruit to satisfy your sweet tooth, and eat healthy fats (like avocados, coconut). Avoid sugar, alcohol, soy, caffeine, and dairy. Eat limited healthy grains like brown rice and quinoa.
For those who have more than a few pounds to lose:
You will benefit from removing all grains and legumes from your diet (commit to 30 days and go from there). Grains include wheat (breads, pasta), rye, oats, corn, rice, sprouted grains, and quinoa. Legumes include beans, lentils, and peanuts. Sweet potatoes and spaghetti squash are good substitutes for your typical "starch" in the meal because of their texture and substance. It's about eliminating the inflammatory, allergenic, unhealthy foods from your diet.
I do recommend shakes—shakes that have real food, not that just consist of a packaged powder and water.
Here is my daily shake:
2/3 coconut water
1/3 coconut milk
1/2 cup blueberries
generous handful of spinach or kale
healthy shake powder with vitamins, probiotics, and detoxifying nutrients
other additions: fish oil, chia seeds, flax seeds
Of course there are many variations on healthy shakes with numerous recipes available on the internet. Be creative with the fruits and vegetables you add to your shake, like celery or avocado.
For a good summary on eating well, check out Eat This Way.
The more calories you burn (while eating well), the more weight you lose. Here are a few ideas. For more detail, read my blog Movement by Gypsy
- Change your framework. A standard theme I have found with my clients is the guilt that comes with the “should” of exercising. Leave behind the “should” and find your “want.” Think of “exercise” as movement that brings you joy, not as an obligation that hangs over your head.
- Think outside the box. Jumping rope is good cardio and reminds us of our childhood days. How about a game of hopscotch, Frisbee, or basketball with the kids? Or turning on the stereo and dancing around to your favorite tunes? The point is, be creative. If it gets you moving, it counts as exercise.
- Think inside the box. Some people like the gym. If you are one of them, that’s great. You don’t need to be creative like the rest of us to get exercise into our lives. Keep it up! For those of us who need a little nudge to get to the gym, think about how to make it more enticing. Can you go at a certain time to watch a show you like? Download some new tunes that are reserved just for your gym workouts? Meet a friend? Try a new class?
- Talk and walk. Instead of meeting your friends for coffee or lunch, meet them for a walk. You save money and you get some exercise. You’ll spend so much time gabbing, you’ll forget your legs are doing a lot of walking.
- Do it with a group. It is easier to cancel out on yourself than someone else.
- Count your steps. Wearing a pedometer can make walking fun and motivating. Set a goal of at least 7,000 steps a day..
- Keep moving. Try to make movement part of your daily life rather than something you do at a certain time of day that counts as “exercise.” For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator, park in a far spot at the grocery store, or do your own gardening.
Many people may not realize this, but stress absolutely can play a role in weight gain for hormonal and psychological reasons. On the hormonal side, when we are stressed, we release hormones like cortisol which serve us well in periods of stress (it makes us alert and ready). Cortisol stimulates fat and carbohydrate metabolism for fast energy. This leads to an increase in appetite. An increase in appetite means we eat more and we weight more.
On the psychological side, eating is often tied to our emotions. When we feel stressed (or tired, angry, etc), we often turn to food for comfort. The more mindful we become about our eating (and the reasons we are reaching for the unhealthy food), the better chance for success we have in the long term.
You can do it!
If you want to really lose weight for good, don't buy into these expensive, do-it-quick schemes. Yes, it may take a little more work than adding water to a faux-food shake mix, but have fun with it. Get the family involved in meal planning. Ask friends to sign up for an upcoming 5K with you. Take a class on meditation.
There is a lot of content on the Four Quadrant Living website about living a healthy life, so take some time to explore it and vow to make a change today. It may take time to change your body, but it takes a split second to change your mind. If you have been wanting to eat healthier or exercise more, change your mind about it today. The results in your body will follow.
I'd love to hear from you, so chime in below. What is your favorite healthy shake or meal? What is the form of exercise that brings you joy? What are your best ways for reducing stress? How do you involve your friends and family in your healthy living?
Be sure to get your free 47 page Getting Started Guide: Taking Your First Step on the 4QL Journey by signing up for our newsletter at the top right of this page. It is filled with a 4 quadrant health assessment as well as health tips for each quadrant including 5 Steps to Mindfulness, 12 Tips for Fad-Free Eating, 6 Ways to Closer Connections, and 9 Ideas to Detox Your Home.
Is there something in your life that you've been trying to do but just haven't been able to get it done? Like losing those few extra pounds but just can't? Exercising more but it's not happening? Starting your own business but not getting it off the ground? Doing that new hobby but not making the time? Maybe it's time for an accountability buddy!
Accountability partners can be near or far. They can be friends or acquaintances. They can be for work, exercise, diet, fun—anything you are trying to make happen in your life but are having trouble doing on your own. For work, I've got two accountability partners. Varsha is my Monday at 1:30pm accountability partner and Kenn is my Friday at 11:30am one. Varsha lives in London and I live in California, but distance is not a barrier for us. We talk via Skype. If there is a time when we can't make it, we email our goals for the week. We are both trying to grow our own businesses (and I'm trying to get my book published) so we are helping each other stay on track with weekly tasks to move forward. Being in business for myself is great, but motivation for progress has to come from within since I am the boss. I set my own deadlines, so if I miss them, I only have to answer to myself. Varsha is a friend from graduate school and is in the health field as well, Illuminated Health, so it's helpful to have her to bounce ideas off of since she understands my business.
Kenn, on the other hand, is someone I just recently met and is not in my same field. He creates websites, Coaching Sites That Work. I met Kenn through a LinkedIn group. After a few exchanges, Kenn said he liked my vibe and wanted to know if I was interested in talking regularly to help each other stay accountable. There are benefits to having an accountability buddy where there isn't the familiarity of friendship. With Kenn, I feel a little more push to meet my deadlines. Kenn is not in my same line of work, bringing a different perspective to the conversation. I am enjoying having my two work accountability buddies that each bring something unique to our collaboration.
Kenn has been good about helping me see the value in the quick win. For example, last Friday I set my goal as, "I'm going to send my book proposal to five publishers next week." Kenn nudged me to break it down even more by identifying that day one of the publishers I would be sending it to. He then asked if I could commit to sending out one proposal on Monday. This way I would get the quick win of having taken a first step at the beginning of the week to get the momentum going rather than starting the week with the big lofty goal of five for the week. I had already identified one by the time I was off the call with him and today I know I have to send one out. These little wins help us get past the stuck spots.
For exercise, I have a few ways I stay accountable. On Thursdays, I meet with a group of women to run. We call it "RePeets" because we meet at Peet's coffee shop so that after we are done running repeats, we can enjoy a drink together. This run happens regularly every Thursday at 9am, rain or shine. There are enough people on the list so that on any given day, anywhere from two to ten women will be there. We're accountable to each other. You can set up a Facebook group to keep in touch or an email distribution list. I've created a group on Facebook for weekly Saturday trail runs I coordinate. This list has grown organically to 98 members just through word of mouth. If I stop posting runs, I'll get asked by others on the list about where the weekend run is. I have no doubt that if I didn't set up this group, I would have run half as much on the trails as I did this summer. The accountability encouraged me to make it happen. It was something I wanted to do, but I needed that push.
For diet, I've had clients who find it helpful to email me their food journal daily. Having the accountability of knowing that someone will be seeing what they ate helps them to make better choices. I have another client who uses My Fitness Pal, an online diet and fitness community, to track her food and exercise. She has friends who also use this online tool and she can see what her friends have posted and vice versa.
I mention all of these examples to emphasize the point that there are many ways to set up accountability for all areas of your life. It's about stating it publicly and putting yourself on the hook. In my recent blog post, See It. Say It. Do It., I mentioned that when I was training for my first marathon seven years ago, I read The Non-Runner's Marathon Trainer and it said to tell one new person every day that "I am a marathoner." It's about accountability and putting your goal out there. Every day I did tell someone new that I was training for a marathon and it made it more and more of a reality. It became a goal I was truly committed to.
Here are a few steps you can take to help get you started:
1. Identify the area(s) in your life that you want to move forward but have been unable to do so on your own.
2. Find an accountability partner. This can be a friend, an acquaintance, a group, or an online connection.
3. Set up regular check-in dates via phone, Skype, or email. This is a very important step to making this work.
4. Set weekly, manageable goals to help each other stay on track. (Remember to set up those quick wins too to get the momentum going).
I want to hear from you. What area(s) in your life do you need an accountability buddy and how are you going to make it happen?
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Of the four quadrants, the environment is the one that people think least relates to their own health. There is a lot of focus on the Body quadrant as it relates to health—nutrition, exercise, sleep. There is a fair amount of focus on the Mind quadrant and its connection to health in the form of stress management. Although we may not think about Relationships in terms of our connection to health, we get it. When we spend time with toxic people, we don't feel good. In contrast, the Environment is seen as somehow separate from us. It is viewed as external rather than internal. But the truth is, we are intimately connected to our environment. If we keep the environment healthy, we keep ourselves healthy.
According to the World Health Organization, 25% of health problems are caused by environmental factors. Toxins in the environment have been linked to numerous diseases and health conditions, including asthma, allergies, premature birth, learning disabilities, early puberty, diabetes, reduced fertility, and even many cancers.
Environmental factors that affect our health can be found everywhere—both indoors and outdoors, as well as at work and at home. We ingest the toxins in many ways—through our skin, nose, mouth, and ears. This includes polluted air and water, excessive noise, radiation, hazardous wastes, chemical-filled cleaning products, pesticides, and food and food container contaminants. Some we have control over and some we don’t, but the idea is to lower our toxic load where we can— to do our best to make our environment healthy so that we can be healthy.
According to the Federation of State Public Interest Research Groups, scientists have found more than 100 potentially dangerous industrial chemicals and pollutants in the body of the average American. Read that sentence again. That's scary. Many of the chemicals used in products are introduced into our society and are only later realized to be harmful to our health. Unintentionally, we are the guinea pigs for these chemicals, and the price is high. For example, DDT and PCBs, once used abundantly, were banned in the 1970s when it was recognized how harmful they were. What chemical that is commonly used today will we find out in the future is actually toxic to our health?
I think about the Environment quadrant in connection with health in a variety of contexts. For example, I think about it in terms of cleaning up my personal environment which includes using green cleaning products in my home, using air purifiers to clean the air, removing shoes to keep toxins out, and gardening organically to keep chemicals out of my yard. I also think about it in terms of cleaning up the larger environment which includes reducing my use of plastic bottles, carrying my own reusable shopping bags, stopping catalogs, being kind to wildlife, and using less energy. In addition to greening my personal and expanded environments, I also think about the Environment in terms of the solace and peace it provides me. Creating my home as a safe and clean sanctuary is not only good for my physical health, but also my mental health. Being out in nature is also good for my health. Studies show that even just five minutes of exercising outdoors can be beneficial to us—increasing our self-esteem, improving mood, and decreasing anxiety. There are many ways that our health is intertwined with our environment.
if you are ready to dance with the belle of the ball instead of ignoring the ugly stepchild, here are some ideas from past blogs and the Four Quadrant Living website to help you create an environment that can promote your health. You can just read through the list as a reminder or click on the links if you want more detail.
- Environment Topics - reduce, reuse, recycle, stop catalogs, clean green, properly dispose of toxic waste, use less energy and water, walk or bike instead, say no to plastic, save lives (adopt & spay), travel lightly, simply be (in nature)
- Plastic At Home, Really? - say no to plastic, use cloth instead of paper napkins, be creative with gift wrap, print on both sides
- Shoeless Sanctuary - leave shoes at the door, clean green, avoid non-stick cookware, remodel green, set bugs free, get an air cleaner, garden organically
- Don't Judge A Weed - garden organically
- Free Space, Free Mind - remove clutter (a decluttered environment makes for a decluttered mind)
- Frying the Birds - be kind to wildlife
- My Love Affair with a Mountain, Peace by Nature - find solace (and health) in nature
You are riding on your cruiser bike whose name is Gypsy. She has red spokes, tassels on her handlebars, painted flowers on the fenders, and a very cute basket. When you ride her, you feel like a kid again. You ride around the neighborhood streets and parks, appreciating the beauty of nature, kids playing, and people out walking their dogs. In no time, you realize that 30 minutes has flown by.
Aren’t you more likely to have success incorporating the second scenario into your life than the first? Here are a few ideas to get more movement in your day.
- Change your framework. A standard theme I have found with my clients is the guilt that comes with the “should” of exercising. Leave behind the “should” and find your “want.” Think of “exercise” as movement that brings you joy, not as an obligation that hangs over your head. Even traditional types of exercise like hiking, biking, running, swimming, kayaking, dancing, skiing, and tennis can be incorporated into your daily life if you focus more on the fun and less on the result. After training for marathons for a few years straight, running started to feel more like an obligation to me. I decided to leave the heart rate monitor, distance watch, and speed expectations at home. As a result, I found joy in my running again.
- Think outside the box. My dad is one of those people who won’t make his way to the gym, but he does like to walk his neighborhood. He lives in the desert, so in the summer it’s too hot to walk outside. He gets creative. He walks inside the air-conditioned mall. I had never heard of such a thing, but he says there are many other “mall walkers” (a term I see readily comes up on Google). Mall walking certainly has its benefits. You are in a climate-controlled environment with easy access to bathrooms. You can even get some errands done at the same time. If it’s not mall walking, maybe it’s hula hooping? It’s a great abdominal workout and it’s fun too. Jumping rope is good cardio and reminds us of our childhood days. How about a game of hopscotch, Frisbee, or basketball with the kids? Or turning on the stereo and dancing around to your favorite tunes? The point is, be creative. If it gets you moving, it counts as exercise.
- Think inside the box. Some people like the gym. If you are one of them, that’s great. You don’t need to be creative like the rest of us to get exercise into our lives. Keep it up! My stepmom loves watching TV while on the elliptical at the gym. She has been known to stay on the machine for two hours because she’s hooked on a show she’s watching. For those of us who need a little nudge to get to the gym, think about how to make it more enticing. Can you go at a certain time to watch a show you like? Download some new tunes that are reserved just for your gym workouts? Meet a friend? Try a new class?
- Talk and walk. Instead of meeting your friends for coffee or lunch, meet them for a walk. You save money and you get some exercise. You’ll spend so much time gabbing, you’ll forget your legs are doing a lot of walking.
- Do it with a group. It is easier to cancel out on yourself than someone else. Also, having support from others can get you through on the challenging days, and even make it fun. Sign up for a tennis class, join a hiking group, or participate in one of the many charity organizations that walk and run various distance races. Even gym classes these days are becoming more fun with offerings that range from belly dancing to boxing.
- Count your steps. Wearing a pedometer can make walking fun and motivating. Set a goal of at least 7,000 steps a day. Make it a family activity and see who can get the most steps in a week. Walking is a great way to stay healthy. Be prepared by keeping comfortable shoes in your car so that you can go for a walk any time you find yourself with a free moment.
- Keep moving. Try to make movement part of your daily life rather than something you do at a certain time of day that counts as “exercise.” For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator, park in a far spot at the grocery store, or do your own gardening. At work, deliver something in person rather than using interoffice mail or walk to a different floor to use the bathroom. In your house, try walking around when you are on the phone or stretching while watching television. Even cleaning your house counts as movement.
I love my time on Gypsy and look forward to getting out for a ride every chance I get. What's your Gypsy?
My bike, Gypsy