Operation bikini (Live Well)
Operation Bikini is officially underway. The evidence for this includes the swelling number of column inches in the press this month and the prominence of new diet publications on the bookstore shelves.
Losing weight is one of the biggest preoccupations of people in the Western world and has made the diet industry decidedly fatter in the wallet. But with so much contradictory information and a seemingly infinite number of diet plans to choose, how best to prepare for Operation Bikini!?
When patients have come to me for losing weight, they have usually tried—and failed—a number of structured and unstructured regimens. There are many reasons why. Often times though, I notice that people have kept to a prescribed diet for a period of time but then fail, sometimes in spectacular fashion - either because they just got tired of the discipline or they simply lost the plot. Sometimes an unexpected life-event crops up and the whole carefully planned diet structure falls apart.
Consistent dieting is one of the most challenging undertakings because it forces you to change so many things about your daily life at the same time – what you eat, when you eat, how much you eat, what you buy, what you avoid, what exercise you do, how much you sleep, what to drink and what not to drink. It should come as no surprise therefore that this can be taxing for the mind and puzzling for the body which has been accustomed to eating/sleep/drinking/exercising in a different way.
Let’s look at weight loss as a two-part challenge: physical and mental. As there is so much conflicting advice on how to best manage the physical part, I always suggest sticking to universal truths. The three pillars of any effective diet will involve what you eat and drink, how many calories you expend and the design of your particular body. The last one is the wildcard as, quite simply, everybody’s body is unique. Genetics may play a role in how effectively you can change your body shape but you do have control over the first two. Broadly speaking, the amount of calories you take in should “match” the amount you burn off. Every activity – even breathing – burns off calories, but that activity requires fewer calories than running a marathon. So a good look at your lifestyle and habits is essential for any weight program to be effective.
During a period of weight loss you would logically want to increase the amount of calories you burn and/or decrease the amount of calories you consume. That is why exercise is an essential part of dieting. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to join a gym and throw yourself fully into “formal” exercise. There are loads of ways to incorporate exercise into your daily life, from walking up a flight of stairs or pacing more briskly to swimming in the sea or gardening. Gyms are great of course, but unless you find one that you like and that is convenient for you, it’s unlikely that you will go for very long. Unless… your motivation is high. Here is where the mental game comes into play.
As I’ve mentioned in earlier columns, motivation is key to achieving any kind of real change. With weight loss, motivation can come from “inside” or “outside” you. By “inside,” I’m referring to your own desire to make changes to your body - be lighter, have a different shape, be stronger. By “outside” I’m referring to things like a partner who has told your how much more they would fancy you if you dropped a few kilos, or making efforts to fit into that dress before the dreaded reunion, or more imposingly, a stern warning from the doctor that you had better to lose weight or else…
As you may have surmised, it’s easier to be motivated if the reasons are truly your own rather than someone else’s. But you can effectively lose weight in either case. The key in winning the mental game is focusing on the reasons why losing weight be will beneficial to you. One question I always ask patients is what they will be able to do at the desired weight that they cannot do now. The answers are as varied as the people who come to see me. Maybe it will be to fit into certain clothes, maybe to look better on the beach, maybe to be able to run for the bus and not break a sweat, maybe, simply, to feel better about themselves. Some people feel embarrassed that their goals are purely aesthetic, but if this is their key motivator then it is perfect. From the point of view of motivation, there are no answers which are any better or more worthy than any others – the only thing that is important is how much it means to you and how much you want that situation. With hypnotherapy, visualization allows people to “picture” themselves in different situations at the desired weight, doing the things they want to do, and to feel those terrific feelings of having achieved something. This kind of visualization and the feelings of well-being are strong motivators in moments of weakness.
So when it comes to dieting, there are many ways to make the process more palatable. Incidentally Taiwanese researchers have recently released a study which concludes that shopping is good exercise and may even lead to longer life. So as you can see, there is more than one way to skin a cat.