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Posts Tagged ‘fad diets’

March 18, 2018

The gift of presence

2:22 pm - Posted by Gregg

The phrase “Physician, heal thyself” has been coming to mind a lot lately. And not because I’m a doctor. I am, however, a person who advocates being present and living in the moment. As someone who weighed over 450 pounds when graduating from college and who eventually took off the excess weight through healthy eating and exercise (no fad diets, pills or surgery required), I learned that being present (mentally) was key to any life goal—physical or otherwise.

Yet recently, I’ve developed a tic that’s come to symbolize my newish pesky habit of mentally replaying things from the past (as if I had a time machine and could somehow “go back” and undo what’s already transpired) or fretting about the future (imagining scenarios that might never take place, but worrying about them anyway).

This tic (AKA idiosyncratic habit) is hitting the “next track” button when virtually any song starts to play while in the car or when I’m exercising on the treadmill. It seems I only need to hear the first couple notes of a tune to know I don’t want to hear the entire thing and, therefore, choose to skip ahead to the next track (even though it turns out I don’t really want to hear that particular ditty either).

Here’s where I must admit that I’m old enough to remember buying “albums” on cassette tape and having no choice but to listen to an entire “side” of the cassette in order to reach and listen to a favorite song. Sure, they eventually came out with tape players that could skip ahead. But that technology usually resulted in a warped tape and often would skip several songs at a time. Ironically, having to sit through an entire side of a tape was, in a way, helping me to be present (while patiently waiting for a favorite song on an album).

But cut to several years later—now—when technology allows us to skip over songs with reckless abandon and I don’t seem to possess the capability of listening to any song with patience. At first I didn’t realize how often I was reaching over to hit the “next track” button (or asking Siri—or whomever—to do it for me). But recently while tooling around town with a friend, she pointed out that just when she was ready to sing along with a song, I’d hit “skip” and the tune would be over in an instant (thereby usurping what was about to be her big number).

Upon realizing that I do this as often as I do, I soon recognized what it symbolized. Mainly my penchant for not being present. Not being here, in the now—always wanting to get to “What’s next.” Even though I recognize that there are a lot of good reasons to stay mentally present in our lives.

Again, as someone who worked hard to achieve wellness (in all its definitions), presence is always something I’d relied on for inner peace. Yet here I was, thinking about the past or future—even sometimes while actively meditating. And outside of meditation, this lack of mental presence was now being symbolized by not having the presence of mind to listen to an entire 3- or 4-minute song.

For others—perhaps even some of you reading this, this non-present mind might be symbolized by always looking at your smartphone, turning to social media during any downtime (or even during social times), seeking out a show on some cable news network in order to become “outraged” or simply getting so caught up in thought that you’re missing out on the here and now—the only time and space we really have the opportunity to live and interact in.

These days, while doing my best to listen to any music track that starts playing from any my playlists, I do my best to recall the quote attributed to Tao Te Ching author Lao Tzu: “If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.”

The good news is that we can exercise our mental muscle for staying present simply by focusing on our breath. Whenever you find yourself stuck in the past or the future (mentally), bring yourself back to the present moment by taking three deep breaths (and yes, you should put down your smartphone or turn off the cable news first). As you breathe in, think “In.” As you breathe out, think “Out.” Do this slowly and methodically for at least three intervals. In other words, stop yourself from going back to the past or jumping into the future—two places we don’t need to be. These three simple breaths offer the potential to bring our minds and bodies back into sync—and our overall awareness back to the present moment.

Advanced students might want to try walking into an elevator and watching most everyone else turn to their phones, while you stand there proudly aware of the elevator itself, the people you’re riding with and perhaps even the muzak playing over the loudspeaker (no skipping those tracks after all). For extra credit, next time you arrive early when meeting someone at a restaurant, just sit at the table without turning to your phone. Try the 3-breaths exercise. Or simply offer a smile to a passing server. Sure, you’ll likely freak everyone out (“Why did that person just make eye contact with me and smile? Don’t they have a smartphone?!”). But you’ll be there in your fullest capacity. And by turning this all into a game, you’ll reap the rewards by living a more present, and, hopefully, more satisfying life.

As for me, along with recommitting to staying mentally present as often as possible, I’ve also taken a vow to not skip tracks when in the car or working out. No matter what song comes my way, I’m determined to listen to it and enjoy it fully—even if it’s a random remix that goes on and on and on. Much like life goes on and on (if we’re lucky enough). And why not be as mindful of this life—and these present moments—as we possibly can be?

Image source: The Graphic Recorder

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April 19, 2012

Tube tied

9:19 am - Posted by Gregg

Photo source: ABC News

Did you hear the one about the bride-to-be who ran around town attending to last-minute wedding details with a tube up her nose? Sadly, this isn’t the beginning of a joke, but is instead something that has the potential to become a disturbing trend among brides-to-be who want to shed 10 to 20 pounds before walking down the aisle and saying, “I do.”

Well, I say, “Please don’t.”

Perhaps you saw the recent ABC TV news report about what’s being called the K-E diet. This so-called diet requires the insertion of a feeding tube, which goes in through the nose and runs down to the stomach. Through the tube, the dieter is fed a continual slow drip of protein and fat (mixed with water), which reportedly contains no carbohydrates and equates to ingesting only 800 calories in a 24-hour time period, according to ABC News.

Along with having the feeding tube running into their noses throughout the entire 10-day process, dieters must also carry the food solution with them at all times. ABC news also reports that brides-to-be who are on the K-E diet claim that this extreme weight loss method is warranted because they need to get rid of excess fat in order to fit into their wedding dresses. Needless to say, some doctors are somewhat skeptical of this process, noting that fad diets are often cyclical.

As someone who spent years (and years!) trying – and often failing at – different diets (many of them of the fad variety), I know what it’s like to desperately want to lose weight before a certain social obligation (not to mention just wanting to lose weight in general). But how walking around with a feeding tube up your nose (and a bag of fluid “feed” thrown over your shoulder) is preferable to simply eating less and exercising more is beyond me.

How is it that, as a community of dieters, we continue to ignore the simplest – and usually best – solutions for losing weight? Can living with a feeding tube in your nose (which snakes through to your stomach) really be easier than relying on a measuring cup when preparing meals and power-walking on a treadmill when wanting to burn calories? Really?!

I understand that much of our obsession with finding a “magic wand” to take off excess weight has to do with wanting it to come off quickly. But successful dieting does not require a degree in rocket science (much less a feed bag of liquid “food”). There’s nothing wrong with common sense solutions. And the real work involved with these common sense solutions can help us to stay grounded mentally, and therefore potentially keep excess weight off after we’ve gotten rid of it.

As anyone who has ever crash-dieted knows, although you might lose some weight quickly, the weight doesn’t necessarily stay off. And our bodies can become aware of the starvation mode and will often retaliate by gaining even more weight back than we’ve initially lost. This is to say nothing of the reduced energy level that going on a “diet” such as this one would potentially leave the dieter with. Can you imagine these brides, although fitting into their dresses, stumbling down the aisle in a low-energy fashion – as if they were cast members of AMC’s The Walking Dead?

Again, there are easier, even less expensive ways to lose weight. Not to mention potentially less dangerous to our overall health (and psyches). Most brides plan their weddings a year or so in advance. So why not start cutting back on portions and rich foods at the time wedding planning begins, rather than waiting until 10 days before the ceremony?

And if all else fails, why not choose a wedding dress with a flattering fit and a comfortable cut? Anyone who has been to a wedding will assure you that a bride’s real beauty shines from within. None of us are checking waist sizes as the brides walk (or potentially stumble like zombies) down the aisle. However, wewill turn, stare and point at you if we see you at your bachelorette party with a tube sticking out of your nose and a liquid feed bag hanging from your shoulder.

While quickie solutions might sometimes be “quick,” they aren’t always “solutions.” If something sounds too weird, too wacky and too outlandish, take the hint and try dieting the old-fashioned way. Your health – and your body – will thank you for it.

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September 30, 2011

There are no magic wands

9:36 am - Posted by Gregg

When people I’ve recently met find out I’ve taken off over 250 pounds in excess weight and kept it off for over a decade, they excitedly ask me how I did it. Sadly, nothing brings disappointment to their faces faster than me answering, “Eating less and exercising more – along with drinking lots of water and getting plenty of sleep.”

Peoples’ usual responses to my revelation are, “Oh,” – as if I’ve popped their balloon or accidentally stepped on a kitten.

I understand their disappointment. Who wouldn’t want me to answer with, “I found this magic wand and lost all the weight in a day’s time. Here – you can have my magic wand, if you’d like.” After all, we’re all looking for shortcuts in life. So why wouldn’t we want a shortcut to losing weight and getting healthier?

But the fact is, there is no magic wand – and by ‘magic wand,’ I include pills, surgeries, fad diets and other farfetched means that people use in order to try and take off the pounds as quickly and as painlessly as possible.

Because of the dieter’s quest for a magic wand, individuals and companies have taken to selling products backed up by often spurious claims that tell us these items might finally solve the dieter’s lifelong effort to take off excess weight. This activity seems quite criminal to me – all conjured up to rob the dieter of his or her hard earned money by playing on their weaknesses and fears as well as their desires for permanent change.

This practice has come to national attention in the last couple of days, now that the Federal Trade Commission has clamped down on Reebok for making what it refers to as “false claims” about Reebok’s popular selling “toning” shoes.

I have to admit that when I first saw these shoes being advertised (by “celebrity” spokesmodels including Kim Kardashian no less), I rolled my eyes. Imagine my surprise when one of my closest friends, who is very athletic, bought a pair, wanting to tone up a bit more. I couldn’t believe my friend was taken in by the claims (not to mention by anything promoted via Twitter by Kim Kardashian).

According to news reports, the FTC has settled a class action lawsuit regarding Reebok’s claims in product ads that its’ Easy Tone and Runtone shoes “strengthen and tone key leg and buttock muscles” [more than regular shoes might]. Reebok is having to pay a $25 million fine while also having to offer refunds to customers (even though reportedly standing behind its technology).

Dr. Cedric Bryant, Chief Science Officer for the American Council on Exercise, has also weighed in on this issue, stating, “The take home message is that whether you walk in normal running shoes or you go out and purchase and make the investment in these toning shoes, you’re going to get similar results and effects.”

My big question is, why wouldn’t any of this be common sense to the consumer – much less the dieter, who surely has tried these ‘magic wand’-type of products before and likely only gained weight?

Sadly, this is just one example of the kind of “magical thinking” we want to believe might set us free from our excess weight. I know people who have ordered horse tranquilizers from Canada, believing claims that they were a celebrity secret for losing and keeping off unwanted weight without dieting. If this seems crazy to you, consider a popular diet pill that’s available at most stores here in the United States, with instructions that warn the user to wear dark underwear due to the risk of “anal leakage.”

Like it or not, much of the blame for products like these being on the market rests with us, the dieting audience. There’s a reason that the dieting business has become a multi billion-dollar a year industry. It’s because we are suckers. And we’re often unwilling to face the hard fact that we are responsible for our excess weight and, therefore, we are responsible for taking it off.

Horse tranquilizers? Anal leakage? Shoes that tone our bodies without extra work from us? Why not just have a salad and go for a power walk instead?

But don’t lose all hope. In truth, ‘eating less and exercising more’ can be a real magic wand of sorts.

Once I stopped trying to trick my body (No carbs! Only grapefruit! Cabbage Soup!) and started eating right and moving more, the excess weight literally melted off within a year’s time. Now, I’m not claiming that you’ll have the exact same results. I had a lot of weight to lose, so the weight came off quickly for me. Everyone has different metabolisms and their bodies will respond differently. But ask any doctor – even someone with a Thyroid condition will lose weight if they eat more sensibly and add working out to their daily routines. No ‘magic wand’ required.

Less tricks. More common sense and self-responsibility. Try it. The results just might be magical.

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