Maybe I should write a book on this and make millions. But after my friend opened up to me about her struggle with overweight and weight loss, and I gave her some free advice that she liked and is willing to try — I woke up this morning and decided to put it here too.
Here are some basic principles of weight loss, as well as a debunking of some of the most common myths and misconceptions about it.
Why “Going to the Gym” Doesn’t Work
This, along with “going on a diet”, is one of the first things people think of and post on social media about when they embark on a weight loss journey — and just like the “diet”, after a few days, they lose steam and the plan fails.
There are a few reasons for this, the most important being that going to the gym is for bulking up, not losing weight. If you want to lift weights and build muscle, go to the gym. If you want to play sports, go to the gym. If you want to improve your overall fitness, go to the gym.
If you are obese and want to torture and humiliate yourself before throwing in the towel and then beating yourself up for another failure… go to the gym.
Seriously, if you are trying to lose (a lot of) weight, the gym is not for you. Unless you truly love being at the gym — I don’t, even the very nice ones are disgusting — then get the gym worship culture that we’ve been programmed with out of your head. You don’t need it. It doesn’t work for you. And especially now that gyms are one of the types of businesses that’s going to be requiring vaccinations for entry — which is really such a shame for people who are genuinely interested in health — forget it.
Just find something that you like to do (preferably outdoors, so you can a lot more benefits than those offered solely from exercise). Hiking, riding a bicycle, swimming, gardening. Even just taking a walk around the neighborhood for ten minutes every evening can be a very nice ritual. The point is that you enjoy it, so that you will want to do it and will keep doing it. It doesn’t have to be hard or strenuous, and in fact it shouldn’t be — that can put more strain on your heart than it’s worth.
The Goal of Exercise is NOT to “Burn Calories”
It takes like an hour of running to burn the caloric equivalent of two slices of pizza. So you can quickly realize that trying to exercise to burn calories is a futile endeavor, especially since junk food just makes you want to sit around. You are better off just not having the two slices of pizza. Okay, I know that’s impossible. But see if you can get your pizza consumption down to once a month. Truly, that is the fastest and easiest way to lose weight. Of course, it’s also the most difficult because you will have to deal with your pizza addiction and the emotional weight you are carrying which the physical weight represents. But if you really want to get down to it — that’s it.
You don’t need fancy workout clothes or equipment. You don’t need an expensive gym membership. You don’t need to set yourself up to fail again and experience emotions like shame to reinforce your negative emotional patterning. “Burning calories” is not a goal. It’s something your body does naturally. In fact, your brain burns 500 calories a day. (Or if you’re me, at least 1,000. My brain never stops — that’s my real secret for staying skinny 😉
There is so much misinformation about diets out there, it’s no wonder people struggle with this. But the truth is actually very simple (as usual).
The surest way to gain weight is to eat a high-fat diet, and the surest way to lose weight is to eat a low-fat diet. Even though some misinformation will tell you that’s not true, it most surely is, and here’s why:
When we eat whole, natural foods, such as a sweet potato, the body goes into a digestive process that breaks it down, and one of those main processes is the conversion of complex carbohydrates into glucose, which is fuel for the body (and is its preferred fuel, because it’s very easy and efficient). So when you eat a sweet potato, you are eating for energy, as well as for the various vitamins and minerals it contains that will support other processes of your body, along with the fiber that will support healthy elimination of waste.
A sweet potato has very little fat, which is why it’s one of the best foods for weight loss. Seriously, eat a sweet potato every day. They are delicious. You can put all kinds of toppings on them, like chili or chana masala or steamed veggies with a vinaigrette dressing. (I could probably add an entire section of recipes just based on sweet potatoes to my best-selling weight loss book too).
Now. In addition to glucose, there is another type of fuel the body can use: fat. However, this is a ‘reserve’ fuel. It will always try to burn glucose first, because again, it’s easier and more efficient. So fat tends to get stored for later, and if it’s never needed (like in a case of fasting or starvation), then it just keeps building up. Fat doesn’t even have to be converted by digestion like carbohydrates do. It literally gets stuck on your ass within four hours after eating.
Now, here’s another way sweet potatoes can help counter that (besides being low in fat themselves): the fiber. It binds with cholesterol — which is the structure that holds fat cells together — and removes it from the body. This is actually amazing if you think about it — you can eat foods that actively remove fat from the body! This is how the right foods heal you.
So what is fiber? It’s simply the structure that holds plant cells together (like we have cholesterol, plants have fiber). That’s possibly why it has the effect it does on our cholesterol, similar to how trees take in our carbon dioxide and return it to us in the form of oxygen. Plants and humans have a beautiful, symbiotic relationship.
So that’s it — plant foods. Whole plant foods. Like sweet potatoes. I am not talking about vegan junk food. In fact, I don’t recommend going vegan at all, unless you are willing to do a lot of research and work to do it right. Most people default to vegan junk food, which is why they are still fat on a vegan diet. The key is not so much being vegan (although it is true that meat and dairy are the highest fat foods), but more in what you are actually eating. If you replace meat and dairy with high-fat vegan junk food, you will still get fat. But if you focus on adding more whole plant foods to your menu, which have lots of fiber, then you will lose weight.
You don’t have to give up meat and dairy completely. Just try to get it down to three times a week, instead of three times a day. We have such a culture of excess now that we don’t think about it, and it’s funny that one of the misinformation diets insists that our ancestors ate nothing but meat all the time. Lol. Meat is extremely complicated to process, especially without modern machinery. Humans ate plants all the time. Meat was for feast days. Plants are our natural, every-day food.
That is what I like best. Oats, beans (if you can tolerate them — soaking them before cooking helps), sweet potatoes. And lots and lots of fruit. I try to eat mostly fruit every day. I don’t even really do salads unless I’m in the mood for it. I just love fruit, and I always have.
Another great thing about fruit is it’s basically fast food. You just pick it and eat it. You don’t have to do a lot of cooking, which is one of the barriers people have against weight loss. But if you do have to cook, a tip is to make big batches, or enough for two meals at once. That will cut your kitchen time (and mess) in half.
The most important thing is that it’s sustainable. So you shouldn’t try for a 180 degree flip overnight. Just make small changes that you can maintain over time, and will add up to a big different at the end. Weight loss is slow. You will need to give it like six months, although you will probably start seeing some results sooner than that. But six months of consistent positive choices, which you can then maintain and build on for the rest of your life, is the key to transformation. Think of it like being a caterpillar in a cocoon, then a chrysalis, and then at last you are a beautiful free butterfly. 🙂
The most important thing
The most important thing by far is that you learn to love yourself. I know that can sound incredibly frustrating, and you could possibly be using it as another thing to beat yourself up about because you are failing at that too. Don’t.
One thing I have noticed about all people who struggle with being overweight is that they fucking hate themselves. They speak negatively about themselves all the time. They also tend to be negative in their relationships.
This is just a pattern of behavior, it’s not who you really are. It’s just another thing to let go of.
So when I say “love yourself”, that means really just accepting yourself and knowing you are loved just because you exist. Do you believe that? I know it’s so hard sometimes, this world gets so dark and we forget who we are. But truly, if you have a soul, you are very loved, and you are very needed in this world. You don’t have to be perfect. You just have to be you.
Most people don’t really care what you look like. They care about how they feel when they are around you. And there are a lot better ways to affect how someone feels than just by your looks. Being all about looks is swimming on the shallow end. You have your own unique gifts to share which you can discover deep within you. There are many things you can do to make someone else’s life better, including your own. You don’t have to be perfect. You just have to be you.
Many industries of our modern culture are exploiting self-hatred and making BIG $$$ from it. The ‘beauty’ industry is like a three TRILLION dollar industry. They are counting on everyone hating themselves and trying to look like someone else — and so all looking the same. Have you noticed that they all look the same? They all have the Kardashian dead-eyed look.
This is fake beauty (and fake happiness — they are all still miserable inside). Notice how many trans-women are drawn to it and become ‘beauty’ influencers. It’s just another example of how fake and shallow it all is. Being a woman or being human is so much more than an image. You must connect with your inner being. That is your love and your light. That’s essentially what it means to love yourself.