My cousin David, who happens to be Judi’s elder brother, made the point when we were chatting the other day, that it’s much easier for someone to eat more healthily or lose weight if their family are supportive and backing them up, like a crowd cheering on a runner taking part in a marathon.
This got me thinking about strategies which can help people get started with lifestyle changes:
Before you start, ask yourself if you’re really committed to making a change. If not, it just isn’t going to happen. Something needs to make you feel that ‘now is the time.’ The incentive may be looking at an old photograph of yourself; knowing someone who has developed a chronic condition such as type 2 diabetes due to a poor diet, or struggling to do the things you used to because you’re overweight or out of shape..
Set yourself a realistic goal
Your target may be dropping a dress size, or having more energy, or looking better. It helps to write down a series of short-term goals: ‘This month I’ll have a soup or salad with dinner’. There are several apps available- food and nutrition trackers which can help you to get started, (e.g. ‘My Fitness Pal’, which is recommended by my daughter, Heather.)
A Healthy Diet and Exercise Go Hand-in Hand
When getting healthy is the goal, a combination of diet and exercise is essential. Neither is enough on its own.
Dust Yourself Off and Start Again
Nobody’s perfect and this is definitely the case when it comes to lifestyle changes. It’s all too easy, after a ‘slip up’ to catastrophise. You might eat a piece of cheesecake and then think, ‘That’s it, I’ve failed, I might as well eat the rest of the cake and give up.’ Don’t be so hard on yourself. Try eating the slice slowly and mindfully – enjoy it – and then resolve to get back on track.
A Jewish Slant
I’ve often wondered why it’s wired into our Jewish genes to press food onto each other? We need to find ways to satisfy the instinct for hospitality, while at the same time showing seychyl, or sensitivity if our guest would actually prefer a light lunch to a calorie-laden banquet, or a cup of tea without the thickly buttered piece of iced kuchen ‘on the side.’
Staying on Track
Some diets seem easier and some harder to stick to. When it comes to healthy eating, I love the Mediterranean diet – plenty of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, olive oil and fish – and I really believe that when people stick with this form of eating, they will gradually lose weight, feel better and be healthier.
Research suggests that low carb diets are more likely to be continued long term than some other diets. Omitting sugar and bread and other white (refined) carbs can reduce food cravings. Combining this with healthy fats, such as extra virgin olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds can work well. Intermittent fasting diets also seem to be successful. It’s even possible to combine the two, as in Michelle Harvie’s ‘Two Day Diet’.
A Helping Hand
Some of us need a little extra help to reach our goals. This may take the form of getting a personal trainer, joining an exercise or slimming class, meditating with the help of an app such as ‘Headspace’, or asking the GP for a referral for hypnotherapy or CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy.) You just need a little insight into what could work best for you. Simpler techniques include ‘time restricted eating’ where you take a 12+ hour gap between the evening meal and breakfast, or having a couple of carb-free meals a day.
So make a plan, set yourself realistic goals, enlist the support of family, friends or professional helpers, and above all – be kind to yourself.
The Story of Zak (fictional)
Zak is a runner. When running, he feels most free. It wasn’t always like this.
For over 10 years, he had been overweight. His weight had dominated his life. He had been left out of sports teams and ignored by girls. There were occasional attempts at dieting but they always failed as eating was his emotional crutch.
He was from a traditional Jewish family. His parents were both professional and always busy. Meals were the main time that the family got together. His mother favoured hearty meat casseroles and heaped plates of rice and potatoes.
How did he turn his life around? One day, when sitting alone like an outsider at a friend’s wedding, he started to appraise his life. He realised that he wasn’t happy as things were, in fact he had reached rock bottom.
He started to think of how he would most like to be and how he could get there. He used a serviette as a notepad. What he most wanted was to have a family of his own and to be a person of some standing, not a ‘bit player’ in other people’s stories. He had set his long-term target in his mind. Next, he needed to identify his goals along the way.
“Think Zak, what might help you to be more attractive to women? Obviously, losing weight but what else?” He wrote down his thoughts. “Gaining confidence? Running?… but I can barely walk at any speed!”
“Ok, I may not be confident, but I can act as though I am!” With that, he stood up straighter, pulled in this stomach and smiling (although his heart was palpitating,) he went and asked a girl to dance. She declined but he mentally marked it up as a success of a sort. He wrote down: ‘Next goal = Perseverence’ and then sat down with a glass of sparkling water.