I recently ate out at a local restaurant and was immediately overwhelmed by two observations. The first was the enormous girth of its diners. I had never seen so many bulging BMIs in one location in San Luis Obispo.
The second was the fatty food the restaurant served. Nearly every appetizer and entree was deep-fried and smothered in sauce. There were several healthy choices available, but they were well hidden amid the more caloric fare.
I’m not a dietitian. I don’t claim to be an expert on carbohydrates or grams of fat. However, I have spent decades teaching clients how to make good choices for themselves.
I don’t cast blame on the restaurant. While its food may be contributing to America’s growing waistline, it’s not forcing folks to eat its crème-filled desserts or fried lasagna. There are many ways to spend money on food. We have the ultimate vote with our forks.
Each of us is responsible for creating our own healthy lifestyle that promotes long term physical and emotional well-being. Healthy lifestyles are comprised of various components, including stress management, positive self-esteem, stable relationships, strong social networks, manageable schedules, regular exercise and wholesome eating habits.
When each component is running smoothly, we feel happy, well-rested and in control. When any one of them is out of alignment, we feel unbalanced and out of sorts. A serious problem, such as obesity, indicates that several components have gone terribly awry.
Excess weight is no different than other issues that negatively impact our well-being. Such diverse problems as alcoholism, depression, anxiety, ADHD, back pain and migraines all require sufferers to make wise decisions in their lifestyles to help manage their diagnoses. They may still need medical or psychological intervention. And lifestyle changes don’t guarantee they’ll be symptom free.
Yet the solution begins with a simple question: “What changes must I make in my life?”
Tips for making healthier choices
Identify your target. Sometimes the issue is obvious. At other times, it’s harder to name. You may even be reluctant to face it head on. Focusing your energies in the right direction means you’re closer to ultimate success.
Develop a plan. Decide how you’ll approach your particular issue. To lose weight, you may choose to eliminate snacks and start walking every day.
Create a network of support. Join Weight Watchers. Work out with a trainer at the gym. Swim laps with a friend. They’ll hold you accountable to your commitment and encourage you to show up when you’d be tempted to stay home.
Get expert advice. Consult a physician, nutritionist, therapist or other expert in the appropriate field. They’ll provide the information you need and be able to monitor your progress.
Steer clear of pitfalls. Decide what situations get you into trouble, and avoid them like a trip to the emergency room. If you want to shed pounds, stay away from restaurants that serve fatty, salt-laden food. If you must go, order low-calorie options, or eat half of your meal at the restaurant and take the other half home for lunch.
Assess your progress. Once you’ve embarked on your program, check in to see how you’re doing. Some areas may be running smoothly, while others may need to be tweaked.
Be realistic. Losing 50 pounds may seem overwhelming. Setting targets to lose it in stages — or taking steps to avoid gaining more weight — might be more appropriate goals.
Recover from setbacks. There will inevitably be times when you blow it. But don’t panic. That’s part of the process. Analyze what caused the snafu. Fix any problems that you can. Then begin again tomorrow.
Hang in there. You didn’t develop this problem overnight; it won’t be solved quickly, either. In fact, you may be managing this issue for the rest of your life. Rather than getting discouraged, accept what you need to do on a daily basis. Then make wise decisions to create the best lifestyle you can.
Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit lindalewisgriffith.com.