Healthy Lifestyle Tip #6: Try a Change of Focus

My whole life I had been trying to lose weight. I had tried so my diets, joined countless gyms, read many websites and advice columns. I’d had some success on occasion, lost a bit of weight, but I had never kept it off. Finally, I realized that I was likely going to be heavy my whole life, and just decided to accept that fact.

Then, about a year ago, I developed some heart palpitations. I had this occasional flutter in my chest as my heart skipped a beat. I went to the doctor, and she said this was just something that sometimes happened. She did a bunch of blood tests, and while my cholesterol and other numbers weren’t great, they were all within normal. She of course told me to lose weight, but she never connected my weight to the heart palpitations. Even though the doctor found nothing wrong, and the palpitations stopped on their own, the incident still scared the crap out of me. I have 2 young kids, and I want to live to see them grow up and have kids of their own. I decided that perhaps if I exercised and made my heart stronger, maybe the palpitations wouldn’t happen again. That was when I decided to buy Zumba Fitness Rush for the Xbox. When I started, my whole focus was just improving my cardiovascular health, and getting more fit. I wasn’t thinking about losing weight at all.

I have often wondered why I’ve been successful this time, when I haven’t been so many times in the past. And I honestly believe that it was the change in focus, from losing weight to improving my health and fitness, that has made all the difference. Losing weight is a very slow process. Getting to your goal weight can take years (a bit over a year for me). However, as soon as you start regular exercise, you are already becoming a healthier person. The evidence is almost immediate. Perhaps you are no longer out of breath when you climb the stairs. Then, you are able to walk a bit faster than you did the week before. For me, it was being able to do more intense and longer Zumba workouts. The progress was obvious and quick when I wasn’t concentrating on numbers on a scale.

Then one day, I noticed I was having an easier time controlling my eating, and my pants were getting looser. I have heard that regular exercise reduces your cravings, and that definitely seemed to be the case with me. I realized that if I payed attention to what I was eating, I might actually be able to lose weight this time, and I started logging my food using MyFitnessPal. However my focus remained becoming healthier, and in further pursuit of that goal I started paying more attention not only to the calories in the food I was eating, but what that food was doing for, or to, my body. I read some books, and realized just how unhealthy most processed foods really are, and just what they do to our bodies. I decided to eat mostly whole foods, especially vegetables. I realized that I could eat an unlimited amount of vegetables, and as long as I controlled my portion sizes of everything else, I still lost weight. It was revelatory. I never had to be hungry! And the vegetables were good for me!

I believe that it was this continuous focus on becoming a healthier person that has carried me through to reaching my goal weight. I also believe that this is the reason I will never gain the weight back, because it is still my focus to be the healthiest person I can be. That goal has no end, however it has constant rewards. I continue to go to the gym, and I keep getting stronger, and my cardiovascular health just gets better and better. I continue to eat healthy, and I hardly ever get sick, my skin looks awesome, and I feel fantastic. For me maintenance changes nothing except perhaps eating (a very small amount) more, and that is okay because I really like all of the lifestyle changes I have made to become a healthier person.

So, if you have tried losing weight your whole life, perhaps it is time to stop trying. Just try to become a healthier person tomorrow than you are today. And then do it again the next day, and the next, and the next…

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