A couple of ground rules first. When I say to kick back and relax for weight loss, I don’t mean to imply that there is no effort involved in losing weight. The old truths still remain. If you eat more calories than you use, you gain weight. If you use more calories than you take in, you lose weight. A combination of exercise and sensible nutrition are the key. Nuff said!
However, trying too hard to lose weight can actually sabotage your weight loss efforts while possibly creating an unhealthy situation for you.
First of all some simple facts. If you cut your food intake too drastically or limit your food choices, in addition to potentially depriving yourself of essential nutrients, you may actually alter your metabolism so that your body learns to survive on fewer calories. Not only does this mean that strict dieting may result in only small losses, but, as so often happens, when you finally fall off the diet wagon your body will continue to use fewer calories for its daily functions and activities and store even more fat than before. This is why yo-yo dieters tend to gain weight over time.
Seriously restricting your food intake may also deprive you of energy. This can result in lowered ability and willingness to actually perform the very activities that can help burn calories. An extreme decrease in nutrients coupled with related psychological effects may also produce a mental unwillingness to keep going with the program. Since, at least it seems to me, one of the reasons for weight loss is to be happy, healthy, and enjoy life more, creating this sort of situation seems like a lose-lose proposition.
From the physical standpoint, trying too hard in terms of difficulty or amount of exercise may result in actual physical injury. At the very least, someone trying to do more than they are actually capable of may reach a point where their body and mind team up to demand that they “knock it off”.
Now, let’s talk about stress and weight loss.
If you are trying too hard, whether physically or mentally, you are stressed. In fact, as soon as you decide to “go on a diet” or “start trying to lose weight”, you are under stress. Ever hear of “stress eating”? Well, it’s real. There are psychological and physiological reasons why, but the bottom line is that when under stress, many of us are tempted to eat more. Chemicals in our bloodstream, such as cortisol, not only cause us to want more food, but even act as a drug, which they are, producing nearly irresistible cravings in some people.
So here’s what you do.
Start your exercise program off at an easy pace. Slowly increase the difficulty or time. There’s no hurry. The key to good weight loss results with exercise is to keep at it for weeks, months, and even years. In fact, if you’re on the right track, you are creating a lifetime habit.
Make your nutritional choices wisely. There is no law anywhere that says a piece of pie or bowl of ice cream will send you back into the gutter. In fact, there is no reason why such treats cannot be an occasional reward for good behavior. The occasional nutritional indiscretion will not offset a daily lifestyle of exercise and good nutritional choices.
Try to relax. Try meditation, yoga, long walks, prayer, good conversations with friends…whatever works for you. Get a good night’s sleep, because being short on sleep can actually trigger cortisol production. Yes, this is a bad thing. A good night’s sleep can help your weight loss program immensely.
Last, but definitely not least, recognize that you are only human and will err no matter how hard you try. You would tell your best friend to forget about it and just get back on track if she admitted to pigging out on a quart of Rocky Road. Be your own best friend and learn to forgive yourself.