Dieting unplugged: 8 Tips for low stress long-term wellness

“Weight loss” is a difficult concept to shake. We take it as our life’s work from an all too early age. It is so ingrained in our consciousness; we can’t seem to think of it in any other way.

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  • “Weight loss” is a difficult concept to shake. We take it as our life’s work from an all too early age. It is so ingrained in our consciousness; we can’t seem to think of it in any other way. However, weight loss is merely a diversion from what really matters. Wellness takes into account our entire being. Our state of mind, level of satisfaction, and our degree of happiness cannot be measured by stepping onto a bathroom scale. Yet, these attitudes and feelings significantly influence our efforts to become physically well. Improving any one area of wellness will positively impact all other areas. Losing weight may not be the best place to start.

  • Below are 8 tips to help you think differently about your overall health and take the stress out of changes you need to make.

  • Ditch the scale

  • “I did everything right. I skipped the chocolate cake and exercised instead. Why did I gain two pounds?” The bathroom scale measures everything about your body that can be weighed, including your bones, organs, liquids, muscles, connective tissue, brain, and, yes, your fat. It doesn’t tell you which elements contributed to your weight gain. Bathroom scale anxiety comes from giving an inanimate object too much power. The number between your feet cannot decide whether it’s a bad day or a good one. Remember this: It DOES NOT have the power to dub you a hopeless failure. Keep the significance of the number in perspective. If the scale is causing you stress, get rid of it and focus on your wellness goals instead of your weight.

  • Dump the diet

  • Diets fail because they are too restrictive, and we are in too big a hurry to be skinny. People lose weight on diets. However, the vast majority of them gain it back. We try diet after diet hoping to finally find one that works. Get off the diet rollercoaster and start taking care of yourself in a sensible way. Look at your lifestyle and assess your wellness goals. Start small with your own modifications. For example, eat all the things you normally eat, but serve yourself more sensible portions. Start walking once a week with your neighbor. Keep it up until it becomes a sustainable habit. Then, move to the next goal. Congratulations! You are living healthier.

  • Enjoy eating

  • We have this idea that if food tastes good, it’s not good for us. One punishment of dieting is restrictions on satisfying foods. We accept this as the price we must pay to be skinny. If I eat a meal that isn’t satisfying, I will be looking for food that is satisfying. Eating is intended to be enjoyable. There is nothing wrong with eating tender, juicy steak, or a piece of rich chocolate cake. Taste it. Savor it. Take your time. Chances are a small amount will be enough to satisfy, and you won’t feel the need to overindulge. Try new recipes that add flavor without adding excessive amounts of fat and sugar. Sit down and engage your brain and your taste buds in the experience of savoring tasty, healthy food.

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  • Slow down

  • We’re all in a rush to fit into our skinny clothes. Maybe all we want is to lose 10 pounds, but we expect to do it in one week. Why are we so impatient? My own wellness journey took over six years. During that time, my motto was, “Slow and steady wins the race.” Give yourself permission to take as long as you need to reach your wellness goals. Don’t forget to be persistent. The tortoise won against the hare because he never stopped moving forward.

  • Move your body

  • We are meant to be mobile beings not couch potatoes. Exercise can be a great stress reliever. When I began my quest for wellness, I walked to the end of my road and back, which was about a half mile. There are many different forms of exercise. My husband’s grandmother loved line-dancing. She stayed active throughout her 92 years. Find one or two physical activities you enjoy and get moving. Instantly you have treated yourself to a healthier body and a greater feeling of well-being.

  • Gather friends

  • Reach out to people around you and decide to support each other in becoming healthier. Whether it’s an exercise buddy or someone who is just one anxious phone call away, the caring support of friends will make the journey easier and more fun. Humans are social creatures. We achieve greater heights with help from each other.

  • Start a joy journal

  • What makes you happy? What things are you most grateful for? When did you feel successful today? When we focus on the good things in our lives, we are less likely to dwell on momentary setbacks. Find a notebook or journal that makes you smile when you look at it. Keep it close, and write down things that brighten your day. Consider writing three things you are grateful for each day. You will be amazed to discover that your life is full of so many things for which to be happy.

  • Random acts of kindness

  • It’s easy to become wrapped up in our efforts to change unhealthy habits. We want to live a healthier, happier life so badly we’re afraid to take our eyes off the prize. Helping another person, even in a small way, gives you a chance to move outside yourself and focus on the needs of someone else. It doesn’t take a lot of time to make someone else’s day brighter, and you’ll feel happier too.

  • Earlier, I mentioned my quest for wellness took six years, but that was just the beginning. Success comes gradually, and it will be less stressful when we make gradual, consistent changes with persistence.

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Pamela Brayton lives in northern New York and is a life-long student of creative writing.

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