If you’re still watching television or listening to the radio (meaning you have not turned it all off to avoid political ads) then take the time this week to tune into your reactions and responses to advertisements for food or weight loss products and services. Marketing for convenient fast food or delivery services before dinnertime, and for decadent candy or desserts in the evening, may all be craftily designed to influence you at your most vulnerable times, but you don’t have to fall prey.
Today, you can become your own media message.
Remember, your brain believes what it hears, so make sure you are the one talking. Start by just becoming more aware of marketing messages around you. Hours of research, millions of dollars, and many creative people are hard at work every day to find the most effective way to place, promote, and price their products for maximum effect. When they do their job well, you don’t even notice. Start noticing. Once we are aware of how we are being influenced and manipulated — even by ourselves — it is hard to allow it to continue happening.
Then, choose a different response. More research is showing the power of positive thinking, and you can see a pattern of it in the stories of successful people across the globe. It really is incredible how you can change your life just by being aware of the messages around you and choosing to respond differently. Here’s how you can be prepared with a different response when those messages try to weave their way into your mind.
Call It Out! If you ever see me talking to myself while driving around town, it’s likely I am having a dialogue with some negative force trying to break in. “Hey, media, I saw what you tried to do there! Not so fast!” As silly as it seems, hearing yourself say out loud that you noticed something helps you re-frame it in a more logical way. Try verbalizing when you notice a craving: “I am craving ice cream right now.” Hearing the actual words will make it easier to recognize the craving for what it is — a temporary moment in time — and not get caught up in its drama.
Make Better Choices More Convenient. Once you are aware of the influences around you, make things easy on yourself by putting better choices within arm’s reach. Keep healthy food ready and available at the front of your refrigerator. Change your commute so you don’t pass the drive-through that tempts you most. Learn from your patterns and anticipate your own needs. How would you help a friend or loved one be successful? Do that for yourself!
Turn Away From Negative Influences. Sometimes living in the positive means taking deliberate action against the negative. If magazines, television shows, or Internet media make you feel bad about yourself, stop connecting with them. Seek out people, places, and events that support your wellness goals. Life is too short to spend it being influenced by negative messages, and you deserve and can have better.
Your wellness goals are yours, but it takes more than just you alone to accomplish them. It also requires a positive environment and influences. This week, look around and notice the mixed messages in your life, and make sure your voice is the loudest!
Almost every week I am asked for my opinion on the trending diet plans. Paleo, South Beach, vegetarian, vegan, ketogenic, the DASH Diet, the Abascal Way…the list goes on. This week, it was Whole 30. And everyone wants to know the same thing: is this a good plan?
As usual, I respond with a question: That depends, what do you want to get out of it? I am not a registered dietician, so the only opinion I can offer on any diet program is an anecdotal and experiential one. But, that’s okay, because these folks aren’t asking whether the program is balanced and healthy, but rather whether it offers a good chance for weight loss. On that subject, I am qualified to respond.
My answer is almost always the same. Yes, this can be a great program for losing weight if the number of calories you eat is less than the number that you burn. There are dozens of healthy approaches to eating, but there are really only a few sustainable, long-term strategies for weight loss.
You can lose weight eating cereal, ice cream, bread and cheese, living off of fast food, and even eating leftover Halloween fun-size candy bars every day. I know about that last one because I’ve done it. Not all of these approaches to eating are healthy, but they can certainly result in weight loss if you manage to burn more calories than you eat on a consistent enough basis.
When looking at a new way of eating, consider weight loss to be a benefit of each and every one. Read beyond the promises of before-and-after euphoria and consider the following:
Can I Do This Every Day?
Cabbage soup might taste great on Monday. Maybe not. By Wednesday, you’re talking yourself into powering through to the weekend. And by Saturday, when the time comes to make the same food again, your enthusiasm will likely be in the same place as the cabbage soup. Look at the menus that are suggested and consider whether you can see yourself eating this food for a long time. Maybe your whole life. If not, keep looking.
Is This Practical for My Lifestyle?
Ambitious recipes, exotic ingredients, and time-consuming preparation is a fun challenge for some, but not practical for all. If you have limited time to cook or prepare food, or even if you have plenty of time but don’t enjoy it, steer clear of diet plans that feature a wide variety of impressive recipes or consider whether you can easily simplify them. Look beyond the ideal day when everything works according to plan, and think about the day when it all goes haywire. Can you follow it on those days?
What Do I Really Want From This?
Adopting a gluten-free diet for a weight loss goal may result in losing water weight as a result of a change in eating patterns, but unless you have a gluten intolerance, the benefits may end there. Avoiding animal products as a means for eating more vegetables may certainly improve your health, but may not give you the long, lean physique of your favorite vegan celebrity. Striving to change eating habits to reflect ethical or health values is a great goal, but weight loss is not guaranteed in that process. Be clear with yourself what your primary goal is for adopting a change.
Oh, and that weight I lost while eating leftover Halloween candy? I gained it back, and then some. Same with almost every other weight loss program that came with a book and a menu plan featuring magic foods that would flush my fat away. It turns out that for me, the magic came in good old-fashioned calorie counting and regular exercise.
Now, weight loss is not always as simple as calories in and calories out. Some medical conditions make weight loss more difficult, and your doctor may prescribe a temporarily restrictive eating plan to manage risk factors or aid in weight loss. Follow your doctor’s recommendations, and ask how you can create a plan together that will last for the long haul.
When my children were 2 or 3 years old, I often felt like all I said was, “no.” Don’t touch that. No, that’s off limits. No we can’t have goldfish crackers for dinner (I lost that one). Over time I got tired of saying – and hearing – the word no all day long. I wanted to speak more positively, both for my kids and for me. It was more work to come up with something that they could do instead of something they could not, but it got easier with practice, and I definitely enjoyed being a mom a lot more.
These days, I hear the same kind of language from many of us when we talk about healthy living. When I hear my clients making goals for the weekend, they almost always start as lists of things we should not do: no doughnuts in the break room, no latte on the way to work, no sleeping in, no second glass of wine, no third glass of wine…we are all well aware of the things we should stop doing to create a healthier body.
Well, for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction, and it is my opinion that when we say no to something, we are saying yes to something else.
When we say no to doughnuts, perhaps we say yes to getting off medication for diabetes. Saying no to sleeping in can mean saying yes to lower blood pressure because you’re getting more exercise. Saying no to that latte or wine means saying yes to calories that are nourishing and helpful (yes, I can also think of situations in which coffee and wine are very helpful, but you know what I mean).
It is true that we make sacrifices in order to change the course of our health, but many times what seems like a sacrifice is actually a trade-off. The key is in staying connected to the positive outcome of the change, and to acknowledge the benefit that you enjoy as a result of respecting your own boundaries.
Here are some ways you can stay connected to the benefits of your boundaries:
When we change how we see things, the things we see change. No doesn’t always mean no. This week, when you hear yourself saying no to unproductive choices that will sabotage your health, stop and ask to what you are actually saying yes.
About This Blog
Each week, I write the "Healthy Heather Blog" in the Tallahassee Democrat. It is republished here in case you are not a subscriber (what???). Sometimes it is really good and other times it is just okay. Thanks for reading it regardless of your opinion!