When Ramani Durvasula’s young daughter became ill, she took stock of her life and realized that her daughter’s condition may be out of her control, but her personal health was not. As a licensed clinical psychologist and professor of psychology, Ramani was in tune to why she was overweight, she just needed a new perspective. By adopting some “old school,” habits, Ramani lost 81 pounds.
As the mother of four children, Ramani noticed the creeping-on of weight over the years. She attributed it to less activity, not being mindful of what she ate and the common pitfall, emotional eating. “I used food as a one stop shop – lover, friend, numbing agent, celebration tool, kleenex – just about everything,” she said.
Like many women, Ramani thought she knew what she weighed but after a frustrating night preparing for a date with her husband, she began to wonder. “I knew I had put on a little weight, but figured I should be able to toss on some oversized garments my mom brought me back from India,” she explained. “I put these big tent clothes on and dress after dress ripped. I was mortified, sad and confused. I stepped on a scale – assuming I would weigh in at about 160 pounds. I stepped on and it registered 202 pounds.”
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1. a feeling of discomfort or weakness caused by lack of food, coupled with the desire to eat.
2. a severe lack of food
3. a strong desire or craving
Those are the dictionary definitions of hunger. But what does hunger really mean? If you break hunger down to the most basic definition, what is it?
A medical definition states that hunger is “an uneasy sensation occasioned normally by the lack of food and resulting directly from stimulation of the sensory nerves of the stomach by the contraction and churning movement of the empty stomach.”
We’ve determined hunger is the contraction and churning of an empty stomach. Now when was the last time your stomach was truly empty? Claims vary on just how long a healthy, well-nourished person can survive without food; usually it’s somewhere in the area of three to ten weeks. However, the feeling of hunger usually happens after just a few hours of not eating.
Our resident nutrition expert, Mary Hartley, R.D., recommends using the Hunger-Fullness scale to determine how hungry you are. The scale goes from one to ten, with one being extremely hungry and ten being extremely full. “It’s best to train yourself to eat at 2.5-3.0 and stop at 7.5-8.0, and then get hungry again in 4-5 hours.”
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Diets don’t work. It seems like such an obvious, undeniable statement. But if it is true, why does the diet industry continue to thrive? Well, because people always want to lose weight. So when one diet fails to achieve the desired results, it’s off to the next one. In some cases like with major commercial diet brands, they’ve created such a strong brand loyalty that people will often go back to their approach over and over again.
While pondering this simple but important question of why diets fail, I asked two health authors and advocates to chime in.
“In my experience, the key question isn’t ‘Why do diets fail?’, but instead ‘Why do experts keep telling us to eat in ways that we can’t keep up?’,” said Jonathan Bailor, author of The Smarter Science of Slim.
In simplest terms, it’s a matter of supply and demand. It’s just that in this case, the consumer continually goes back to a product that fails them. Could you imagine any other industry this logic would work for?
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When most people start a diet, they focus on the numbers that appear on the scale, but Colleen Fields had a different sort of goal in mind, her dress size. In January 2010, Colleen weighed 304 pounds and wore a size 26 W. Her goal was to shed enough weight so that she could wear a size 12 by her 40th birthday. She knew she had just under two years to make it happen.
As a child, Colleen remembers being “chubby,” but says her real struggle with weight didn’t occur until after she had her second child. She gained 75 pounds with her son and never shed the extra weight. Then, a divorce and the demands of being a single parent caused her to gain even more.
Colleen explains, “I had a terrible marriage that left me with significant self-esteem issues. I left him shortly after my son was born and I poured myself into my kids (I also have a daughter, same father, who is three years older). I went back to school, I worked full-time, and I shuttled them to all of the normal kid activities – Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, gymnastics, baseball, soccer, dance, swimming, etc. I wanted to give them as much of a normal childhood as possible despite the fact that their father was not involved in their lives, and in the process I ignored myself. I would leave work, pick them up from day care, take them to their activities, grab fast food, get home and do homework, then put them to bed and I would do my own homework. There was no time for me and I didn’t make me a priority.”
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I would never guess by her images on Google that Laura Wellington used to struggle with her weight. But she uses diet-talk to describe her former mindset when she says, “I’m just in my self-destructive mode, but I can always go back on a diet.” Eventually, Laura does change her perspective in many small ways that add up to a critical mass when she becomes fundamentally changed. Exactly how she did it is not the point. Laura is simply writing about the lessons she learned for living a meaningful life along the way.
Somehow, Laura, a young widow, mother of four, owner of a TV show and brand, turned it all around. In trying to explain how she did it, she was inspired by a presentation, A Leadership Primer, on victory in business and life made by General Colin Powell. She applied Powell’s twenty principles for business to a weight-controlled life, and she sprinkled her new book, The Four Star Diet, with personal anecdotes and advice from inspirational leaders like Gandhi and Einstein. The book has only 136 pages and you don’t have to read it in order.
Laura Wellington believes that weight control is about taking personal responsibility for choices in less than optimum circumstances. As a result, she asks you to “reflect daily,” “look below the surface,” and “live fearlessly!” When General Powell asserts, “Endeavors succeed and fail because of the people involved,” Laura interprets it as, “Birds of a feather flock together,” and then explains how positive role models provide invaluable visual lessons, while toxic people in your life must change or perish. She takes no prisoners, in the best possible way.
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