The journey...

Life is in the journey, not the destination, so do what you can and take it one day at a time. Go slow, do it right, and make your changes permanent — then help out others who are where you were.

~Jillian Michaels

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Friday, August 27, 2010

Really, what IS a "Lifestyle" Change???

Weight Watchers? Slim for Life? Atkins? Body for Life? South Beach? Herbalife?  Jenny Craig? Nutrisystem?

There are HUNDREDS of weight loss programs out there and each have testimonials of results.  So how do you separate the fact from the fiction, the real vs. counterfeit?

A few days ago I received a facebook message from a curious friend that was the inspiration behind this blog, she asked, "Are you on any special plan?  WW, ATKINS, Eat Clean, Count Calories...I need help and I don't know how to push myself at all!!!"

The simple answer to this question is NONo I am not following any "special plan" and no I'm not on any of the trendy programs solicited on our airways and street corners.  With that being said, I believe most effective daily "diets" follow a bit of the truth that is mixed in with the chaos of ANY of these weight loss program and their theories.  Atkins preaches protein which protein is very important for our bodies to build, restore and fuel muscle (especially when working out) and burn fat more efficiently - however, eating the wrong meats in excess isn't healthy for your heart and you begin to overload your body with saturated fat.  WW & Count Calories plans make you more conscious of "how much" you are taking in your body versus what is going out which in theory is "good."  However, there are many followers who don't spend much focus on the nutrition behind what they are taking in, just as long as you stay within your daily "budget."  I've met numerous people (and used to be guilty myself), who would save ALL their points or calories to be spent on food such as ice cream.  According to these weight loss "diet plans" you are right on track because you didn't exceed your limit, but is that healthy?  ...anyone else see bad habits forming?

Do I disagree with those who are on the weight loss programs mentioned above, absolutely not! Do I think that you can save money by learning the tools on your own - ABSOLUTELY!

I guess the real question to ask yourself is, "Are they giving you the resources to continue on for life or are they giving you just enough to where you have to keep coming back and paying them MORE in order to be successful?

I don't have anything "negative" to say about Clean Eating because I agree that our foods have become so "filled" with fillers, pesticides, toxins, chemicals and JUNK that are unhealthy and unnatural to be in our bodies - it's no wonder that diseases steadily increase with each passing year.  The comment I have concerning that "movement" is it's typically seen as a faux pas if you don't stick strictly to 100% organic and unprocessed foods.  In a picture perfect world - that'd be ideal.  In a fallen economy where money is hard to come by and all-natural, organic, unprocessed foods are more costly than the "fresh" produce at your local Wal-Mart, you can't look down on those who simply are unable to afford this type of grocery list.

AS FOR THE "PLAN" I'M ON: I "try" to eat as clean as I can nowadays, but I don't feel like a failure if I have a processed or take out meal.  I love me some protein and earn my "activity points" with daily exercise.  I'm conscious of my calories but it hasn't become my part time job.  I wear a body bugg (go read this funny blog about a similar product) that motivates me to "move more and eat less" but I don't refuse myself anything completely.  Calories in vs. calories out really is important even if it's a subconscious thought in the back of your brain and I don't care what anyone tells you, there is truth to the theory but again, if my calories out offsets my calories in but my calories in all have detrimental effects on my body was it really effective weight loss?  Eating a balanced diet is important for given your body it's proper nutrients and fuel but I don't have a picture of the food pyramid on my plate (which isn't even a pyramid anymore) - although those plates are kinda cool. :) Skinny chicks really don't eat salads and you aren't going to find me shedding all my pounds by eating mainly salads either (don't get fooled by popular salads out there anyways, with some you might as well have enjoyed a juicy steak and let your muscles munch on the protein because by the time you add the high fructose corn syrup filled dressings and other toppings, you've ruined it anyways).  If I feel hungry, chances are I'm going to eat so I typically have 5-6 meals a day to keep my metabolism alert and active and it also helps because I know it's never long til my next meal.  To say I'll "never" about a meal is unlikely but that doesn't mean I'm unopen to having my personal opinion changed.  By no means do I feel that "my way is THE way," but it has proven effective for me.

I always tell people that I am thankful for the WW program because it was a stepping stone for me.  I lost my first 25 pounds on program before growing wings of my own and gaining the confidence that I really can do this!  I walked out the door of my last WW meeting with my 25 lb milestone award and have since continued on with OVER 125 MORE pounds lost by being more conscious!  Conscious of what goes into my body and the effects it has on me (either good or bad) and conscious of exercise.

But seriously, what does a LIFESTYLE change really "mean"?

I believe this is something everyone needs to take some time and define for themselves.  It wasn't until this past weekend that I really started to give this some thought.  I've noticed three main categories for weight loss if you will:
  • "Dieters"
  • "Surgery undergoers"
  • "Lifestyle changers"
I won't touch on the "dieters" or "surgery undergoers," but since I am personally opting for the "lifestyle changer" route, I think it's important to think a bit on what lifestyle change means to me?  There are some key factors that I believe are ESSENTIAL if you are calling this a LIFESTYLE change.

1.  Is it REALLY healthy?  Starving yourself is not!  Eliminating entire food groups is not!  Sticking to strict diet and throwing out exercise is not!  Aiming to lose "10 pounds or more" a week is generally not (although it's possible, I've done it, but realistically it shouldn't be a weekly goal).  Skipping meals in order to "cheat" is not.

2.  Is it manageable and realistic?  To say you'll "never" eat out again with your friends or "never" have a sweet treat or "never" go off your daily routine is unlikely when making a LIFE change.  I promise you, when you tell yourself you CANNOT have something, all it does it makes you want it 1000x's more!  Life happens and not everything is pre-planned in a food journal.  What about vacations, special occasions and holidays?  Is it realistic to refuse yourself the foods that may only come around once a year for the rest of your life?  Is it something you spend more time pitying yourself over or do you allow some room for grace?  Do you deprive yourself so much so that when something throws you off track or messes with your busy schedule that you are so ravenous that you have no sense of control? I've found that when I allow myself a little more "leniency" I'm able to make wiser choices when I eat out or go to an event because I don't have my inner "fat girl" trying to "make up for lost time," she's still living happy and healthy and not battling that uneasy feeling of being restrained & restricted.

3.  Are you able to really, truly enjoy your LIFE according to this plan?  Is it more of a chore than it is natural?  Who wants to live a dull, boring, strict life (even if it's only in their daily diet)?  I believe that with a real healthy lifestyle change you won't feel like your day-to-day choices are a chore and bore.  I know that I actually ENJOY the healthier foods I'm eating and it doesn't feel like a bland, boring fate.  Getting creative and experimenting with new ways to make your favorite foods healthier becomes FUN after awhile.  Concocting new shakes, recipes and treats is enjoyable and exciting to share.  Living this new life I'm creating is something I now WANT to do and not feel obligated to do.  I'm not going to lie, in the beginning it may take awhile to kick the old habits but if you are replacing them with something that feels more like an adventure than a assignment you'll want to keep travelling the road your new life has you on. :)

4.  DOES IT HEED RESULTS?  Is your new lifestyle change causing you to do more than just drop weight? Check with your doctor, run it by a physician.  Get your blood work done and other tests to evaluate if your blood pressure, cholesterol, body fat %, lean muscle mass and such are improving.   Are you becoming healthier on the INSIDE and out? Do you feel healthier and cleaner inside - stronger and more energetic on the outside?  When you are fueling your body properly, your body really does start to "feel" great!  It's amazing, what I used to think a "good day" felt like at 342.2 pounds.  I was so used to my body being achy, bloated, stiff and easily tired that I thought it was normal.  I now know that my BEST day then is like my worst day now.  I can move without losing my breathe, I can jump without hurting my knees, I can bend and touch my toes, I can sleep without my body stopping it's breathing.  I can fit in restaurant booths, shop at normal clothing stores, ride amusement park rides and use a normal bathroom stall.  I CAN LIVE A LIFE THAT I LOVE...

I challenge YOU, think a little about what a "lifestyle change" really means to YOU!  Don't base it off of what I'm doing or what you've seen your neighbor do - what is healthy and realistic for Y-O-U (I cannot stress the HEALTHY part enough)?  Write a blog defining YOUR lifestyle change if you are a blog writer.  I'm interested to hear about the journey YOU are on and what this change means to YOU - email me at if you'd like.  I just want to see people loving themselves (inside and out) and living a healthy & active life that they LOVE!


Verse of the Day:

Galatians 2:20 (NIV)

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."


Ashley and Taylor Hankins said...


This was good. Everything I've been reading from you lately has been right on track.In so many of those weight loss programs, people gain the weight back and even more- just like your cartoon so eloquently pointed out. :)

I wanted to point out something about the Atkins diet. It focuses on proteins and lots of meat right? Well, since I am living in Asia now I know a little bit about the Asian diet. They do not eat very much meat at all. Nothing like Americans. We think we have to have it at every meal. Obviously they're getting their protein from other sources. But look how thin they are! As a general population, Asians are so skinny! Maybe they've got the meat thing right? They do eat it, but in moderation, and certainly not as much as we think we have to have every day!

I know a few people that recently got together and decided to do this diet plan together. I don't remember the specifics but I do know that none of it involved exercising at all! I don't see how someone can honestly believe that you will get lasting results that you can be proud of without accompanying diet with exercise. I'm sure people out there do, but do the results last after you stop the diet? What about muscle tone?

You know I'm gonna comment about organic and unprocessed food. I wouldn't say it's considered a faux pas to not eat 100% organic....maybe something with really really strict beliefs about it would say that. It's more like- eat things as close to their natural state as you can (Apples, instead of apple juice, strawberries, instead of strawberry fruit snacks, etc), and one other important thing with fruits and veggies is to follow the dirty dozen guidelines- the top 12 most pesticide-laden produce that you should buy organic. Another good list is the "Clean 15" the produce with the least amount of residue that you really don't have to worry about buying organic. More on that here:

One thing that I'm not sure I've ever really heard you mention is your thyroid disorder. I think you should talk about this more because I've talked to several people who use their thyroid problems as an excuse to not lose weight. You are a perfect example that it can and does happen!

I'm so glad you decided to make a lifestyle change and not just go on a diet!

Ashley and Taylor Hankins said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lesley said...

great post girl! i agree completely...i think everything in moderation. doing something to the extreme one way just causes you to rebound the other way.

Journey2Goal said...

Perfect. Perfect. Perfect.
I'm so glad you addressed the fact that that those of us who are losing weight aren't always on some "fad diet", I've been there done that and all it did was got me skinny and then fat again REAL QUICK!
The book Women, Food & God is a great resource for learning to eat when we are hungry... not when our emotions are.
Good job Mesha, you are such an inspiration to SO many... keep rockin' it girl!

S said...

Interesting. I guess I'm not sure why you bring up that you have identified 3 groups of weight loss folks if you are only going to talk about one.
I have lots of experience with all 3 of your "categories" and am often surprised what people have to say or think they know.
All of the lifestyle changes in the world are well and good, but until a person deals with the heart of why they eat what they do and how they use food, it doesn't matter. No true lasting change and peace will be found. Which is why people try all the other fixes. They don't want to deal with what's really going on.
It's easier to distract yourself by counting points and calories or exercising 3 times a day or make excuses about why you can't afford to eat healthy or focus on feeling sad that you can't eat a pound of M&M's than it is to take a look inside and do the real work and change that needs to be done.