The holiday dance is over, and all the fun behind us is right there, behind us. A bit more jiggle in the seat. A bit more fluff around the middle. And so we heave a sigh and commit ourselves to any diet program we think will quickly pull off the pounds that have been creeping on for the past few months or years.
This is the season of the crash diet, 2-week diets, 1-month diets, patches, pills, bars and drinks. We’ll adopt any diet no matter how foreign to our nature, so long as it promises to melt the pounds off fast and without effort.
In this country we have developed a passion for taking off weight as quickly as possible, mainly because we use such miserable methods to do it. If these diets lasted any longer, we’d lose our minds long before we lost our paunches. As if the physical discomfort of these crash diets — hunger, dizziness, bad breath, constipation, sleeplessness — weren’t enough, the sad fact is, they’re just plain dangerous.
Of course we all know losing weight quickly is something we should never do deliberately. Fast weight loss signals our bodies that something is very wrong. Fast weight loss heralds illness or a period of fasting ahead, and our bodies are programmed to respond by slowing our metabolisms down so that we can heal or survive without losing weight on fewer and fewer calories. Anyone who’s stuck to a diet for more than a month understands that no matter how strict we are, we will reach a plateau where our bodies learn to live on less.
Fast weight loss can wreak other kinds of havoc, too, throwing hormones off balance, leeching calcium from bones, eating up lean tissues, bringing anemia, irregular heartbeat, hair loss. It’s just not a good way to lose the weight you probably took months or years to put on.
The most annoying thing about fast weight loss is that it is almost always followed by fast weight gain. Our bodies want to achieve a healthy stability. What your brain perceives as normal is not a weight on a chart in your doctor’s office. Your brain only knows what’s normal for you. So if you’re normally overweight, losing weight puts your system on alert that something may be wrong.
On the other hand, if you lose weight very, very slowly, your system can adjust, can manage the loss more easily. Keep your weight loss to 1 pound, or certainly under 2 pounds per week, and you’re far more likely to keep the weight off over the long haul.
Slow weight loss gives both your body and your mind a chance to adjust to the new lifestyle you will need to adopt to keep your weight off. Small, permanent changes are the key to taking that weight off. And one of those permanent changes ought to be, of course, daily exercise.
Oh yes. I said it. Daily exercise. If you want drama, if you want momentous change, if you want to feel better quickly, the best resolution you can make this year for a fitter 2005 is a resolution to add daily exercise to your life. Adding a half hour to an hour of moderate exercise per day can, without changing your diet dramatically, help you lose as much as a pound a week. While you lose weight safely, you’re likely to feel happier, sleep better, and enjoy constantly improving health. It is the only magic I know, it’s available everywhere, and it’s absolutely free.
Happy 2005, friends. I hope it’s a healthy one for you.