BALANCE Weight loss should not be an end in itself – it should be an aspect of achieving physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.
Weight loss – the whole picture
Living in the information age has many benefits. Having cascades of information at our fingertips also has its drawbacks, however. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the field of weight loss. A Google search on weight loss will return reams of information on programmes, pills, diets and much more. This can be overwhelming and lead you to constantly question your approach as you frantically search for the latest solutions.
Taking an overall look at what all the programmes and diets say can help to sort out what is really important. This is known in research as meta-analysis, where information from separate but connected strands of research is brought together and commonalities highlighted. I do not include magic formulas such as pills in this article. (Existing on little more than a pill and water will most likely lead to weight loss, but does anyone really believe that this is a safe route to optimal health?)
So what are the true cornerstones of effective weight loss? It’s important to ask this question in the proper context. That context is simply this – the desire for weight loss should never be an end goal in itself. Your end goal should always be optimal health – allowing your body/mind to function to the best of its ability. The goal is, or should be, to live to your full potential. This means operating optimally in the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual domains of your life.
With our context established then, we can now take a look at the five cornerstones. The first three will be familiar to you and are established as the absolute cornerstones of a weight-loss program. The fourth is increasing becoming a feature of weight-loss and lifestyle change programs. The last, however, is yet to have its day in the sun but, as I’ll explain, it is every bit as worthy.
A healthful, vital diet
This comes in many guises, but the essentials are all the same. Consume natural, unprocessed foods that are untainted. Your diet should be built around lots of fresh fruit and vegetables first and foremost. These should be eaten at every meal/snack. Also consume quality sources of protein from animal or plant sources (if vegetarian) and fats from your animal protein sources and nuts, seeds, oils and foods such as avocados. These are the fundamentals.
For the purposes of weight loss, you should be performing moderate-intensity aerobic exercise most days of the week. Depending upon your chosen exercise mode, this should be anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes daily. Examples are walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, dancing and playing team sports.
Exercise incorporating weight or resistance from some force will help to increase muscle tone and mass, helping you raise your metabolic rate for weight maintenance.
From the point of view of weight loss, understanding how your emotions determine your eating patterns can help you break free of destructive eating patterns. Keeping a food diary that includes how you feel daily is a great way to track this. Knowing what motivates you and how to motivate yourself through goal-setting and support strategies will also increase your likelihood of successful weight loss.
This may seem out of place in this article, but I believe it represents a vital link missing from the majority of programmes. A deeper understanding and awareness of your own inner power – the ‘God within’ if you will – has a significant bearing on your physical state. Taking time to develop this understanding can lead to a heightened appreciation of your own body, helping you to remain motivated and less likely to fall into self-destructive patterns.
Paul O’Brien is a personal trainer and life coach based in Westport.