a life in balance

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I found an online magazine called Experience Life via a commenter on Mizfit (I can’t remember who mentioned it – sorry!) and one article in particular has changed my whole philosophy on weight loss and food.

I was browsing this website when the article “The Smart Way to Weight Loss” caught my attention (because just like something shiny anything related to weight loss catches my eye), so I decided to check it out just to see what they had to say. According to this article weight loss requires “combining separate-but-intertwining skill sets in four key areas: lifestyle, psychology, nutrition, and fitness.” Now we all have ample experience in the nutrition and fitness areas, but the lifestyle and psychology areas are very often overlooked or given little thought, and this article really solidified some things I had been considering – but didn’t realize they were linked to my weight loss (or lack thereof).

If you’ve been reading me for awhile, you know that I abhor the term “lifestyle change”. That phrase grates on my last nerve  because it has been thrown around so much and it sounds so easy (“it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change”– whatever!), so it’s ironic that this section of the article is the one that spoke to me the most. Here’s what got my wheels turning:

 

 Lifestyle
Most seasoned weight-loss experts agree that people who commit to making lasting changes in several aspects of their lives — not just isolated changes to diet and exercise — are the most successful in losing weight and keeping it off. Change your life, they say, and your body will follow.

Start by honestly assessing any imbalances or trouble spots in your life, and pay attention to the interactions between various sectors such as work, home, relationships and money. If one area of your life is distinctly unhappy or out of balance, it will tend to create problems in other areas of your life that may, in turn, inhibit weight loss.

For example, if you’re working long hours on the job, your stress level will probably rise, leaving you more vulnerable to cravings for unhealthy foods. Plus, you’ll be short on time to shop and cook, eat well, and exercise. If you’re not getting enough sleep, you could throw your metabolic system out of whack — increasing hormones, like ghrelin, that trigger hunger.

To achieve healthy, sustainable weight loss, you need to address the underlying patterns and lifestyle behaviors that may have predisposed you to gaining weight in the first place.
Laurel Mellin, MA, RD, director of the Institute for Health Solutions, and an associate clinical professor of family and community medicine and pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, suggests taking an inventory to identify areas of your life that are currently less than healthy.

“Most people automatically assess their exercise and food, which is great,” notes Mellin, “but you also need to look at how you are getting your pleasure and joy in life.”

“Joy,” says Mellin, “is the most effective appetite suppressant.” And in our time-compressed lives, it’s in too-short supply. Ask yourself, she suggests: “Am I getting eight to nine hours of sleep, some time for intimacy, time to restore and time for meaningful pursuits that fulfill me?” If not, you’re probably looking at some core triggers for weight gain — and some insidious obstacles to weight loss.

A lifestyle in balance, explains Mellin, “helps turn off the stress hormones that ramp up appetites and contribute to accumulations of belly fat.” It also gives us more opportunities to experience surges of feel-good neurotransmitters. “There’s a whole array of healthy chemicals that are released as we exercise, laugh, play, dance, sing, pray and cuddle,” says Mellin. At a biochemical level, she notes, “all these aspects of a healthy, balanced lifestyle encourage activity and inhibit the drive to overeat.” They also leave us feeling good about ourselves and, thus, more predisposed to making healthier decisions.

 

A lifestyle in balance – that’s what I want. And that is currently what I don’t have, but I’m working on it. Taking up knitting, going to dinner with friends, working my garden, date nights with my husband – all these things that seem so inconsequential, add up to something big: a life in balance. A life in which I don’t feel like a martyr (“I never get to do anything for myself, everything I do is for someone else” – these were actual thoughts in my head recently), a life in which I get a little bit of joy to balance out all the laundry and dirty dishes. Now I understand why my husband is so serious about his hobbies – he protects ferociously the time in which he gets do his favorite things. I always thought he was just a little bit crazy, but really he’s got it right. Why should it be any different for me? It’s ironic to me that hyper-focusing on losing weight and ignoring the little things that make me happy is probably what has caused me to gain the weight in the first place. It’s going to take time to mentally shift from LOSING WEIGHT to FINDING JOY, I know, but it’s something I have to do, not only for my physical health but for my mental health as well.

I really feel like this is a big key into why I have such a hard time losing weight: I use food as entertainment. When you don’t get joy from anywhere else, food is so easy to use and abuse. It fills the lonely/bored/void feeling easily, and when Little Debbie is your only entertainment, it’s hard to give up. But I’m kicking her out of my “Fun things to do” file.

So while diet and exercise have their place, I think for me, this is what I need to spend my time and energy on improving. I’m curious as to what your thoughts/feelings/ideas/suggestions are regarding this article, so feel free to expound in the comments. I love all your comments! Oh, and you can read the entire article here.

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9 thoughts on “a life in balance

  1. Excellent post! And you know, I get this magazine and probably saw-without-seeing this article; your commentary really made it “pop” for me.

    No wonder it’s so hard for people–especially people with extra caregiver responsibilities, like parents–to lose weight. I know I’ve used food as many other things: comfort, entertainment, fill-in-the-unmet-need-du-jour. And you’re right, it’s often so much easier than finding something else to enrich our lives: we have to take time out of our day anyway to eat, not to mention that food companies count on our desire for food to be entertaining and are (as they talked about on “Refuse to Regain”) pumping lots of money into making food products that are irresistible to consumers.

  2. Wow, your post really resonates with me. I’ve been stuggling lately, thinking I need to “get healthy” when really maybe I would be better off if I just make more time for JOY in my life. Thanks for the inspiration to work more on overall balance than fitness per se.

  3. Jillie!! I am out of town on a hotel computer, so I might need to think and comment on this more. But what it made me think of is that prior to my finally starting to lose weight four years ago, I had worked very hard to make my life more balanced. I had really made it a priority to have time in the morning for my quiet time. Cut down on a lot of really great extracurricular activities that made life too crowded. Being single, of course, I always had plenty of me time, and lots of things I loved doing. But it was too hectic. Too much of a good thing. But I never really connected these changes with the ‘losing weight’ finally taking hold.

    And when I started, I remember so well thinking how very much time it took to cook/chop/prepare healthy foods, and to take the time to exercise. But I did decide that I would just have to cut out some of my other activities to make time for this if that is what was required to make this a permanent change.

    What a great blog post, girl!!!

  4. I really like that magazine and have written an article for them in the past.

    they are one of the FEW (the only?) who focus on truly being in harmony with your life and yourself as you work to get fit and stay healthy!

  5. i completely agree with this article. joy is the best appetite suppressant. i don’t have to have food to fulfill myself when i’m enjoying a good book by the pool, hanging out with my husband or napping (aaaahhhh…). so yes. i agree! thanks for posting this.

  6. Hi Jill! Loved this post. Thank you for sharing the article. For me, I needed to change my view of food. I was viewing it as a reward, a comfort, etc., instead of seeing it as fuel for my body and nothing more. It’s been difficult but I’m hanging in there. 🙂

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