Sooooooooo….um…how’s that New Year’s Resolution working out for ya?
For many of us, we talk a good game after the holidays. It usually starts around Christmas with a “vow.” We agree to marry our commitment to work out and cut out all the “wrong” foods from our diet. We signed up for gyms and/or registered for classes at the local YWCA. J-Hud turned many of us into Weight Watchers converts; we ran to Jenny Craig after Mariah, in her infamous high-C notes, screamed at us, “YOU CAN MAKE IT!!!”; and Janet sweet-talked us into joining Nutrisystem, despite her showing no before-and-after photos. It didn’t matter. We took her word for it and joined. We returned to our powdered drinks, our grapefruit, cabbage, and/or water diets.
For the first couple of weeks, we were going strong, committed, and lost a few pounds. Life was good! We were going to finally get back into those jeans, that dress, that bra! We felt great. Then things started to wane. Mariah was starting to get on our nerves, Janet lied to us about the food tasting so great, and we started to hate on J-Hud. How DARE she turn her back on her thick sistas? Then slowly, the bad habits returned. We gained all of our weight back, and for most of us, PLUS more. Jill Scott, Queen Latifah, and Mo’Nique all moved to the slim side of town, and sadly, so did our excuses for carrying around extra pounds. WHAT WAS HAPPENING TO OUR THICK WORLD????
Don’t despair. The upside is that you are not alone. We’ve all experienced this, THIS being “The Cycle.” We make these grand promises to ourselves to lose weight, get into shape, and then cave into bad habits. We feel defeated, which affects our attitude and confidence. Then we find ourselves at the bottom of a carton of something either gooey and cold or hot and fried. So, what can we do to avoid this cycle? Well, before we can discuss how to avoid the cycle, we have to understand the reason behind the cycle.
Our bodies are designed to use and store the nutrients from foods for energy. We can’t starve ourselves, Sistas. We have to EAT. From a biological perspective, when we starve ourselves, the body goes into “protect mode.” It will hold on to every bit of energy it has stored, which, in our case, is our fat. Our metabolism slows down, and our systems begin to break down. We feel sluggish, tired, and irritable. There is no way our bodies will have enough energy to complete regular activities much less go to the gym to work out. When we restrict ourselves, we feel deprived. We will ignore hunger, which is the body’s signal to find food, or find nutrients. At some point, we will compensate for depriving ourselves. We will overeat, usually “comfort foods” such as cakes, breads, pastas, chips, and French fries. Right? Then we find ourselves right back where we started.
So what do we do? Eating too much is the reason for the extra pounds; right? Yes and no. Yes, eating too much high-fat foods can lead to gaining weight; and no, eating too many fruits and vegetables does not lead to gaining weight. Our bodies need the nutrients from foods, not the food itself. While our appetites may tell us we want that cheesecake; our hunger tells us we want the carbohydrates, fats, and protein, or essential nutrients. Eating a wide variety of low-fat, low-calorie foods packed with nutrients is the best way to keep our bodies satisfied. We can do this by making small changes in our diet and avoid diving into a restrictive eating plan that doesn’t satisfy. If you don’t normally eat seaweed sandwiches, why choose a diet that only consists of seaweed sandwiches? If you normally eat hamburgers, substitute the beef patty for a grilled (not fried) turkey, chicken, or veggie patty. Choose a whole-grain bun and nix the cheese. Use fresh baby spinach instead of iceberg lettuce, and use mustard instead of mayo. Bake sweet potato fries instead of frying white potatoes. Have a glass of iced tea instead of soda. Ingredients matter, Sistas! Making small, permanent changes to the diet can prevent the cycle of yo-yo dieting.
Just as our bodies are designed to use and store energy (from eating nutritious foods), our bodies are designed to MOVE! However, we don’t have to jump into an Iron Maiden competition our first day. Start with 10 minutes every day. We may tell ourselves we don’t have the time, but everyone has 10 minutes. Physical fitness can happen ANYTIME. Dance, jump, electric slide while you do housework, take the stairs, or go for a walk on your lunch break at work. Whatever you choose to do, sustain it for 10 minutes, then add more minutes as you get stronger. Once your body adjusts to 10 minutes, you will want to do more. That 10-minute walk will turn into a 20-minute walk. You will eventually work your way up to an hour. You’ll begin to look for activities to challenge your strength and endurance. Don’t forget to mix it up. Boredom can kill an exercise routine. Just do YOU. Do what is interesting and fun to you. Do something that you will enjoy and make a part of your lifestyle. If you don’t like to join gyms, then don’t join gyms. If you love in-line skating, grab your skates and hit the beach!
Remember, Sistas, it took some time to pack on the pounds. It may not seem like it, but it’s true. So relax. It will take some time to lose it. Be kind to yourself and love yourself throughout the process. Maintaining a great attitude is half the battle! We’re in this together! Start slow, make small changes, and enjoy the weight-loss ride.