Don’t give up on looking and feeling good in your body. Modern advertising, manufactured food, and outdated information have left many of us overweight and unhappy with our bodies. Learn how to work with your body and have a healthy weight at any age.
I originally wrote about losing weight in a post called, Can You Lose Weight After 50? However, I’ve learned that this is not just a problem for women after 50. I’ve had lots of much younger women ask me questions about how I eat and why I make the choices I do. Weight gain is not an issue of age, as much as it is an issue with the modern diet.
How Modern Food Keeps Us Overweight
Modern food is designed in laboratories to be addictive, create cravings, and override your natural hunger.
It’s no wonder so many people try so hard with the traditional methods of eating less and exercising more, only to fail, and fail miserably. Or they might succeed for a time and then gain the weight back and a few pounds more.
Not only that, but modern food has billions of advertising dollars behind it to convince you that it is good for you. However, most of these types of foods are not good for you and have serious health and weight consequences.
It’s so frustrating to see our bodies getting bigger and our health getting worse, all while we’re trying to do what is right. Most people I know have really good intentions and really try to eat right. The problem is that there are so many “right” answers out there.
How Having the Wrong Goals Hurts Us
In fact, I often see people using their diet and exercise to literally punish their bodies for being overweight. How many of us have this fantasy that if we just exercise harder, faster, or more that we’ll become the ripped versions of ourselves we see in our imaginations?
Unfortunately, only a few people have the physical ability to create the kinds of bodies we see in advertising and even those are often photoshopped. It’s more useful to aim for a healthy body weight and functional fitness that is EASY to maintain for life.
And though realistic, that is not a glamorous goal!
No, everyone has a goal of their freshman high school size and weight. Really, how many of you have a certain pair of jeans that you think you need to fit into? Or a certain weight you need to be?
I mean this–once you aren’t a teenager, you aren’t meant to be a teenage weight anymore. Recently, I was back “home” where I grew up. My mom had found my 11th-grade prom dress and had put it in my room. I had to try it on! It still fit. However, I probably weigh a good 10 pounds more than I did back then. Body composition changes!
And you don’t need to fit into those old jeans anymore. Toss them!
What We Do Instead
Think about it. When you undereat to the point you are hungry and you exercise in a way that is absolutely miserable, you are punishing your body. How many of us face Monday, with the intention to “do better” with our eating and fitness goals. Or we over eat and we punish ourselves by eating less than we’d really like and exercising harder.
Your body deserves better! It deserves some love for all its hard work and attempts at keeping you alive. It works tirelessly on your behalf to keep all your systems working. That is until you have punished it to the point it can’t.
What Doesn’t Work: Diets Don’t Work
Diets don’t work. I cannot think of a SINGLE person I know, that has lost a significant amount of weight and kept it off. Diets, when they do work, typically only work short-term. I’ve known several people who lost weight and looked amazing. For a short time. Then within a few months, the weight starts coming back. Hey, I’ve gone through that myself.
What Doesn’t Work: Eating Low Fat
Of all the crap you’ve been convinced is good for you, this is one of the worst. Dietary fat does not make a person fat. Your fat metabolizing system is run by hormones that are reacting to the food you eat. Fat is constantly moving in and out of your cells. However, it is actually foods that raise your insulin that wreck havoc on your hormone system.
What Doesn’t Work: Snacking
Snacking begets more snacking. One of the best things I’ve ever done besides kicking wheat to the curb was to end my endless cycle of snacking. By snacking on typical snack foods I was always hungry and always eating.
Most snack foods are low fat, higher carb, and do little to truly satisfy you. Even if you are eating healthier snacks, it’s still something you probably don’t need to be doing. The solution is rather simple. Eat enough of the right kinds of foods at your meals to keep you full until your next meal.
Your body needs time between meals to do its job of digestion and fat metabolism. If you always have food in your system; it is difficult for your body to properly metabolize fat.
The foods that wreck your diet are foods such as sugar, grains, artificial sweeteners, and any other foods that can act like sugar in your system. Many low-fat foods are full of sugar or are a food that acts like sugar in your body.
What Convinced Me to Change How I Look at food
I eat real food. There are whole books written about eating a whole food diet and I’ll share some of my favorites at the end of the post. In general, it’s really simple. I eat meat, eggs, vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats most of the time. I’ve been eating this way for years and it’s second nature to me.
But I didn’t always. I am a normal person who loves bread, pasta, and sweets just like everyone else. At work, I would have some snacks in the morning before lunch and after lunch when I hit a slump, I would have my Snickers and diet soda in the afternoon. I wasn’t perfect, but in general, I really did try to eat in so-called healthy ways.
I guess in a way I was lucky. I was sick a lot. My digestion was a mess and I was miserable day in and day out. I know, that doesn’t sound lucky. But I was so miserable that I had to find a solution. Fortunately, I had come across a website called Wheat Belly and the name stuck with me. I looked it up and read enough to convince me to buy the book. After reading the book, I immediately eliminated wheat from my diet.
Within a couple of days, every single digestive issue I had, disappeared. I have never looked at wheat products as anything but poison since. In just two days, my body and especially my tummy were happy. Popping Pepto and Imodium were a thing of the past.
Changing How You Look at Food is Key
The thing that changed for me the most is how I look at food. I don’t see some items as food anymore. Foods are things like meat, vegetables, and fruit. Food is naturally nutritious. It is rich in color, texture, and appeal. Combined with healthy fats, it is truly delicious and is what your body wants and needs.
To me, things like pasta and bread are unnecessary fillers. They provide no nutrition, except what is manufactured into them. They raise your blood sugar and make it difficult for your body to properly metabolize fat.
So, it may seem like I eat a very limited diet. However, because I eat a wider variety of meat and vegetables than most people, I think my diet actually has a huge variety.
When you eat real food, at three meals, cravings and overeating are minimized and your body can actually do what it is designed to do. Food becomes a pleasure and not the enemy. It fuels your body and allows it to operate better.
How to have a Healthy Weight: Your Hormones
Your hormones are affected by the types of food you eat and the timing of the foods you eat. This is why the traditional “eat less” rhetoric just doesn’t work. I know there are people that say it’s not what you eat, it’s how much you eat. Your hormones will disagree. They do care WHAT you eat and are affected by it. 500 calories of bread will be treated by your body completely differently than 500 calories of steak, green beans, and butter. (Guess which one causes more fat storage?)
Here’s a link to the post where I go into detail about your fat-metabolizing hormones.
Have a Healthy Weight: Exercise
I love how exercise makes me look. I love my muscular legs and strong shoulders. It helps my core stay strong. And honestly, I have to exercise to stay mostly pain-free. Working at a computer all day is a killer! Exercise helps me relieve body and emotional stress. It is essential to my daily life.
Here’s something odd about exercise. There are experts, who doubt that exercise is essential to losing weight. I don’t know if I agree with that. But I do know that exercising to extreme is NOT necessary to having a healthy weight. I don’t have what most would consider a bikini body but I am usually happy with how I look in most clothes. And in the summer, I can throw on a bathing suit and be reasonably comfortable.
Moving is good for us. The more I move—the better I feel. That’s my story. I love walking. I like to do stretchy type exercise a few times a week. And I like to do some short high-intensity workouts, including pushups a few times a week.
It’s all good and I’ve read some articles that say the MORE types of exercise we do, the better it is for us. There is no ONE kind of exercise that is best, all the time, for everyone. (Well, walking might be the exception.) I find that creating my personal mix of exercise works for me.
Have a Healthy Weight: Eat Light in the Evening
Many of us have heard that eating lighter in the evening is better for us. This is definitely true for me. I try to eat a light dinner, early in the evening, and no snacking at night.
This seems to be the thing that makes the biggest difference for me as far as keeping my weight stable. I haven’t looked into the science behind this, but it makes such a huge difference that I have to mention it.
When I’m on vacation or going out a lot for dinner a lot, my weight typically goes up. In general, my weight stays very stable. But I see big spikes after a few days of eating at night or eating too heavy in the evening.
And the reverse is true. When I eat lighter in the evening for a few days, those pounds just melt away.
Have a Healthy Weight at Any Age
Having a healthy weight at any age involves your mental attitude as well as the steps you take with your diet and exercise. You have to believe that it is worth the effort to treat your body with love.
That is not always easy. With so many demands on your time; taking the time to prepare and eat real food can be daunting. But it’s so worth it–not just for how you look but for how you’ll feel.
It’s a great feeling to not be at the mercy of cravings, hunger, or advertising. Just a final reminder that we all are unique and what works great for me, may not be exactly what you need. But some things are bad for all of us and hopefully, you’ve found a few useful ideas here.
Stay well fed my friends!
Here are a few of my favorite books about real food.
I always recommend the book, It Starts with Food, first. It explains the WHY of eating real food in a way that is easy to understand. It’s an eye-opener about food.
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I'm a former counselor, career services leader, and college advisor. Now I coach and write at My Think Big Life promoting health and personal growth.