Self-Care Series #1: Healthy Weight Management
This blog post may seem unusual to my regular readers at first, because it is about diet and weight management.
Since my intention with these posts and the work I do is to help you “Maximize Your Impact”, I can’t help but take notice of a mounting trend with the clients I work with and many of the people I have encountered in my professional dealings over the past two decades.
All are smart, busy, stressed, high-achieving, motivated, and driven people who can set goals for themselves and get things done when they want to. They are expert multi-taskers and go at a pace that may seem dizzying to those watching them. And yet when it comes to their own “self-care”–or taking care of their health and their own internal and spiritual well-being, well– that frequently takes a back seat.
Can you relate to my observation? Are you still carrying the weight your doctor keeps gently nudging you to lose during your annual physical? Do you need to make time for yourself, but you are too tired and stressed to do anything about it? (Better yet, do you even make it to the doctor for an annual physical?) Does your exercise routine consist of walking to and from your car each day?
Here’s a case in point and what drove me to write this post and my series of posts to come on taking care of yourself. This one today is about maintaining a healthy weight.
Last week I received a call from a high-powered, super successful woman I used to work with well over a decade ago. She and I have kept in touch via email over the years and had casually met for lunch occasionally, but this time she called me with urgency in her voice.
“I need your help”, was her cryptic voice mail message.
When I called her back, she recounted to me the story of her recent visit to the doctor. She had been diagnosed with diabetes, high blood pressure, and sky high cholesterol, prescribed a boatload of pills, lectured about her high starchy and fatty diet, and given a stern warning. (Her father had died of a heart attack at age 59.)
“Off the bat, you need to change your diet and lose 40 pounds” he began.
“Really think seriously about adapting a regular fitness plan. At your age (she’s 47) there is no reason for your health to be in this shape—you have control over your lifestyle factors. Your family history is against you but you have choices.” (A straight-shooter–I like this doctor!)
I listened intently and all the while was wondering in the back of my head why she was calling me.
“I’m calling you because you always talked about the importance of taking care of myself when we talked, and more importantly, because you are a great role model for health and fitness. Can you give me some advice on how to get it together with my weight? How do you do it so well?”
This is not the first time I have been asked this. In my Women’s Leadership programs, I can’t tell you the number of times people have brought up this topic and asked for tips and advice on maintaining a consistently healthy weight despite their busy lives and stressful schedules and jobs, and ask me how I do it myself so successfully. And believe me, it is not easy. So as I pondered my answer, I decided to include my thoughts in this week’s post to remind us all of things we can do each day.
So here are seven weight management rules I live by:
1. There is no such thing as “Going on a Diet”
After gaining the freshman “25” in college, I tried every diet known to man. I was fascinated by losing the weight and know more about calorie and carb counts than I care to admit. I can recount every celebrity diet tip ever published and can spout out the eating plan to boot. Only when I made a mindset change and lifestyle choice about eating healthy and determining what foods worked for my particular body did I reach my desired weight and maintain it for decades.
Going on a diet implies that you will go on it for a short while until you reach a goal, and then go off it. Maintaining a consistent weight and healthy eating regimen means you have made a permanent lifestyle choice to regularly choose certain foods over others. Period.
2. I “Bust Myself” regularly
I have placed a high value on my health. Maintaining a consistent and healthy weight is one of the few things entirely up to me to control as a critical factor to my health. The consequence of that choice is that every subsequent food choice I make should be in alignment with that value. So each time I want to reach for a donut because it looks good or it is sitting there in the conference room, the question I always pause and ask myself is, “Is this choice in alignment with what I say I value?
Or am I someone who says I value one thing and does another?”
(For some reason, this “busting myself” muscle has gotten stronger and stronger each time I do it…it builds over time.)
3. Eating healthy or exercising more is not a license to eat more
I am struck by how often people tell me they are trying to lose weight and begin to exercise more, only to increase their calorie intake and eat limitless amounts of “healthy” foods. Just because almond butter, avocados, and juices are deemed “healthy” doesn’t mean they are free of calories. Basic principle is figure out what amount of healthy food intake works for you and don’t use more exercise as a license to eat more.
4. “I’ll start tomorrow” is not an option—this is not a dress rehearsal
If I mess up with a choice I make, then I make a better choice at the very next choice point. I don’t use it as an excuse to “go off it” and blow the whole day. Remember, there is nothing to “go off of” if it is not a diet…
5. I avoid extremes
Vegan, gluten-free, fat free, carb free, and whatever else free –I have experimented and know about them all. They work for some people and are lifestyle choices you can make for different reasons and health needs that may help with weight management as a bonus. I have found that for me to be successful —moderation is the key. I eat a bit of everything and even have a slice of pizza once in awhile. On a daily basis, I try to avoid processed foods, fried foods, too much starch, and fat-laden foods and eat mostly whole foods rich in nutrients. Basic but works.
6. I make constant trade-offs
And so maybe I’ve had a rough day and the only thing that will comfort me is a chocolate chip cookie. I’ll have one. The operative word is one. Not two or a whole bag. One. And I’ll compensate with something else the rest of the day, and make sure the rest of my choices are in alignment with what I say I value—which is my health. And I remind myself that maintaining my weight is a critical part of that value and is only in my control.
7. I weigh myself every day
Some may disagree with this, but I swear by it. Weight is a metric. I like metrics. Not to drive me crazy, but as an indicator. It is the only way I know of to keep myself on course. If I go up over 2-3 lbs—I know it is time to adjust my choices and change course.
Weight management is personal and unique to each of us. It is really pretty basic and each of us has to find what works best. The important part is that we pay attention to our health and take care of ourselves regularly. We have one physical container and it is the one that allows us to do all the other things we do in this world. Shouldn’t we prioritize and treat it accordingly?
What about you? What tips/advice do you have to share to motivate us all to keep our health and weight in the forefront?
Hope you find this first post in my series on self-care to be a catalyst or reminder for you today. Please share with others. Here’s to your health!