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Many of our successful weight loss patients share stories along their journeys with us. This is an example of a story that would not be unusual for us to hear:
I used to think that my friends could eat burgers and fries, pasta dishes and deep-fried appetizers — literally anything — and still stay trim. We would meet for lunch, and it seemed they would order whatever they wanted. Not only that, but on TV, I’d see everyone eating all the burgers, pizza, chips, donuts, cookies, ice cream…you know the drill. They have gorgeous models biting into bacon burgers, etc. So, I thought “What the heck?” and did the same.
As I lost my trim figure, I switched to a healthier eating style. I would eat salads, but others continued to eat burgers and fries and look fit and cute. Now that was not fair! I needed to find out the secret, so I started to pay attention and asked myself, “What was it they were doing differently?” As I consumed each bite of my lettuce, I intently watched them. This is what I found.
The fact is you just can’t eat that stuff on a regular basis, maintain your weight and be healthy and fit. I discovered that they were actually only eating a fourth of the burger and two fries, and they were doing exercise for one hour a day. Hmm…they were not eating burgers and fries every day or every week. They were eating fruits, veggies, lean protein and whole grains 99.9 percent of the time, or close to that, anyway.
I have to say my own version of the Serenity prayer — it helps me start each day. “Lord, help me to control what I can control to live a healthier lifestyle.” I learned some strategies to help me control the unhealthy foods. I would postpone, telling myself I could have it, but not right now. I would substitute a healthier choice, like making pizza on whole-wheat tortillas or eating before I went out. As for exercise, I told myself I only had to do it for five minutes and found once I got moving, it wasn’t so hard.
I also made some commandments for healthy living:
- I decided if I watched a TV show, I would make myself do some exercise during the commercials. Boy, those commercials can be long.
- No eating in front of the TV.
- Fruits and veggies are a free for all. Eat at least five servings a day.
- Eat lean protein.
- Write down daily calories in and calories out. Keep records of everything that goes into my mouth.
Oh, some days are hard, some are easy. That’s why surrounding yourself with supportive people really helps. For example, some days I need someone who will help unglue me from the couch and get me out to walk. Exercising with a buddy really is more fun and keeps me accountable. Weight-loss groups are another good way to build healthy lifestyle skills and keep me motivated.
We all need some support. I hope you find yours! Someday, someone will be wondering how you can eat those burger and fries and keep looking so fit.
Elizabeth Lindsay is a registered nurse and health educator at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire.