For most, the new year calls for a few resolutions. A common goal after the holiday binge is weight loss or just healthier eating. Succesful weight loss is less about the total of calories consumed and more about the nature of food. If you’re looking to improve your lifestyle, here are seven essentials:
- Think long-term. A 30-day sugar fast may help, but the real issue is what is eaten all year long. Lifestyle reform is a game for the patient; it’s a marathon rather than a dash.
- Don’t go it alone. First consult your doctor, then establish a support group. James H. Fowler’s book, "Connected: the Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives," shows that people who overcame the addiction of smoking did it with the help of their friends.
- Set goals. Performance tends to improve if measured and improve faster if results are reported and goals are set. But what’s critical is to pick the right metric. The shame wrongfully associated with obesity has complicated the psychology of weight loss. Consider a less stigmatized and perhaps healthier goal, like dress size, waist measurement or your 10K time.
- Exercise. There is a growing body of knowledge that fitness is more important to health than weight. A fit, overweight person can expect to live longer than a normal-weight person who isn’t fit. Muscles are key to health.
- Eat differently. There’s a turning away, started recently, from factory foods in favor of whole foods. These are the foods our great-grandparents ate before the industrialization of food. "In Defense of Food: an Eater’s Manifesto" by Michael Pollan opens with a seven-word directive: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
- Be informed. The food industry spends more than $30 billion annually to tell its story. It’s difficult to find an unbiased source for information, though specialists consider knowledge-based books like "In Defense of Food: an Eater’s Manifesto" a good place to start. There is also a wide range of sources on the Internet.
- Cook. In the 20th century, cooking was steadily transferred from the home kitchen to a distant factory or a local restaurant. In retrospect, we can see that shortening our time in the kitchen appears to have shortened our lives. Someone who knows and loves us will always be the best cook.
Skip Hellewell writes the blog Word of Wisdom Living, online at www.wordofwisdomliving.com, a 52-week program of manageable healthy changes.