After my "Unapologetic" post a couple weeks back, I received a message via Facebook from a guy I have known for roughly 30 years. It read, "I read that article you wrote for the 225 site. Fair enough, but the problem is that doesn't help people who are already down that road, who have already developed the bad habits for themselves and their children. It motivates but gives no guidance." My first thoughts to this were "Seriously?," and "It's pretty straight forward," but then I gave it a moment or two to marinate and I thought, "If I am truly passionate about helping people and families get healthier, I need to do more than just say 'Get off your ass and do it.'" So I thought some more. What would I do if my kids and/or I were 15-30 lbs. overweight? What are the first steps to success? What can anyone do, regardless of means and finances to not just "lose weight," but to make a lifestyle change that sticks?
Over the last few months, my perspectives have changed more and more. In the past, my inclination would have been to say "Exercise, exercise and then when you are done, exercise some more." This is great advice. Well yes it is and no, maybe this isn't. Don't get me wrong, I firmly believe that everyone should exercise for 30min-2 hrs 5 days a week. There are a ton of benefits to this, not limited to, improved fitness, increased heart health, mental wellness, positive attitudes, weight loss etc., all of which contribute to a healthier lifestyle, but if you run for 30 minutes you will likely burn around 300-400 calories. At this rate you will need to work out 4 hours a day to lose 30 lbs. What I have realized is that the key to lifestyle changes that stick and weight loss that is successful depends 75-85% on what you eat. Keep moving for sure, but eating better is the key.
So if I could give a family 5 steps to getting on the path to success, it would be the following.
1. Cut out fast food. I once had a friend who was trying to lose a ton of weight, like 200 lbs. My fist step was to have him print up multiple pieces of paper with "NO FAST FOOD TODAY" on them and post them on his bathroom mirror, in his car, on the back door, and anywhere he thought he'd need a reminder. He lost like 15 lbs in the first month of this. Cutting out fast food has 2-3 benefits. First it cuts out some fried food usually. Second, it cuts out a sugary beverage of some sort, and thirdly it cuts out a meal of all processed foods.
2. Cook real food for dinner. When I grew up we ate dinner at 6 almost every night as a family. We are in the midst of a generation who doesn't know how to cook. Convenience seems to trump all, to the detriment of the family dinner. Chances are if you cook dinner even 4 nights a week, you will eat less calories and will eat more vegetables, lean meats and less processed foods with a minimal effort. Stay clear of boxes and lean more on the produce section for your choices. In addition, you may look a bit at what I call "Investment cooking" on the weekends. Prepping food for a couple hours on a Sunday can set up your week for even the most busy of families.
3. Involve your kids in shopping and cooking. I have the pickiest kids on the planet. This is my fault, I have the picky gene and passed it to both of them. I know how hard it is to get kids to eat vegetables and good food. My kids just don't like a lot. One key to getting them to try new things (besides threats of corporal punishment of course) is to get your kids involved in both shopping and cooking. My wife and I are avid ingredients readers at the grocery store. Our kids now get why and will even pick something up, look at the ingredients and then put it down. They are still kids. They want Oreos and such, but realize why they don't get them, and over time have learned to make good choices on there own. My wife and I will gladly let the kids prep, cook and choose items for the menus. This gives them a sense of pride and accomplishment when they eat a meal they helped choose and prepare, even if they aren't a huge fan of broccoli. The added bonus is that you may also learn something from hanging with your kids and talking over dinner. For one, I now know way to much about One Direction. Apparently Niall Horan is Skype Sating Demi Lovato.
4. Dessert is not meant for every meal. I am not sure when it happened exactly, but dessert as a course has become the norm instead of the exception. I found that we were fighting with our kids every night if we had ice cream in the freezer. They wanted it every meal until it was gone. We combatted this a couple ways. First with low calorie fruit popsicles and fresh fruit with whipped cream as an option, and simply by not having it around. When I was a kid you didn't get a bowl of ice cream every day. Make it something to look forward to, but not a daily occurrence.
5. Sugary drinks-What 7 year old needs to drink Coke? Sweet Tea? Gatorade? Lemonade? When I was in 8th or 9th grade I gained about 25-30lbs of pure fat from drinking Cokes all day long. If I had access to 12, then I'd drink them all if possible. Cut them out or limit them and you will likely cut out a 200-300 calories a day. You know what hydrates better than Gatorade? Water, and its free. As a friend of mine says "It ain't brain science."
If you reread the list above you will likely notice a lack of "buy organic," or "you have to shop at Whole Foods," or the like. One argument I hear and read a lot is that it is too expensive to eat healthy. Really? This is an excuse and excuses are like....well you get the point. Actually, if you do all 5 of the steps above you will likely save money too, as I just cut out 2-3 grocery items for you (dessert and soft drinks), for that, you are welcome. Give it a shot, stand up to your kids and make a change.
Hugs to the haters-