Midlife Weight-Loss Secrets Revealed!
Any story with "weight-loss secrets" and an exclamation point in the headline is guaranteed to have a huge readership. There are good reasons for this. While starting a business, going back to college or joining the Peace Corps at 50 can alter one's life, those all require big changes. Losing a few pounds, in contrast, seems simpler and quicker -- in fact, it's probably the single most conspicuous act of personal reinvention that any 40- to 55-year-old person can accomplish. Alas, as many of us have learned, it can be frustratingly difficult to pull off.
But if we look at some examples of people who have succeeded in reinventing themselves through weight loss, we see that the secrets of how to accomplish it aren't really that mysterious or elusive. What we do learn, however, is that we have to shed some of the misconceptions that have been pushed upon us by reality TV shows, fashion magazines and those diet bestsellers we pick up at airport newsstands.
Instead of forcing yourself to work out, find an activity that you can become passionate about. In this Yahoo! News video, 43-year-old Sandra Chambers, a mother of four, tells how she once tipped the scales at 240 pounds. She tried various diets but just couldn't make any progress at losing weight. Then, while attending her sons' hockey practices at a local ice rink, she noticed adults practicing their figure-skating skills, and she was fascinated. "One day, I just decided to sign up with my daughter for a class, under the guise of, 'This is for my daughter,'" she recalls in the video. As it turned out, Chambers not only loved skating, but had a knack for it. In her first competition at the adult figure-skating championships in April 2011, she placed third in the bronze division. "To be on the podium was the most amazing feeling," she says. But more importantly, Chambers' enthusiasm for her new sport motivated her to focus on shifting herself and her family to a healthier menu, and to making physical fitness a priority. "I've learned that I love exercise," she says. "Especially when it's something that I'm passionate about, such as figure-skating. That doesn't even feel like exercise to me."
The only miracle diet that works is one that's permanent. When he was in the White House, President Bill Clinton (shown above before and after weight loss) often was derided by critics for his seeming lack of control when it came to food -- whether it was stopping off at McDonald's when he was out jogging, or scarfing down campaign workers' uneaten pasta. But in the mid-2000s, after he left the White House, a heart scare that required surgery, coupled with a desire to shape up his appearance for his daughter Chelsea's wedding, motivated Clinton to make dramatic, permanent changes in his eating habits. Clinton adopted a strict vegan diet, giving up the meat, potatoes and pizza that he'd craved over the years. Instead, a diet of vegetables and fruit, which he augments each morning with a smoothie made from almond milk and a protein supplement, enabled him to lose 25 pounds. Here's a 2010 CNN interview in which the former President talks about his approach. Clinton, incidentally, isn't the only high-profile converted vegan -- according to this Bloomberg Businessweek article, the list ranges from former Olympic track star Carl Lewis to actor Alec Baldwin. As this Cornell Daily Sun article details, retired Cornell University nutrition professor T. Colin Campell and Cleveland Clinic researcher Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn have documented the scientific evidence that plant-based diets can not only help people achieve weight loss, but also help reduce the risks of chronic ailments and even help undo damage from degenerative diseases.
[Related: 10 Websites for Vegans]
What works is a total lifestyle change. This recent Huffington Post article tells the saga of Steven Levy, a 50-year-old Los Angeles-based talent manager whose clients include Mark Feuerstein of the hit cable TV series Royal Pains and The Talk co-host Sara Gilbert. While Levy has achieved an impressive career, he's struggled for most of his life with being seriously overweight. Finally, at age 44 and 320 pounds, Levy decided to opt for a drastic move -- gastric bypass surgery, in which the size of his stomach was reduced and his food intake was rerouted to bypass a portion of his small intestine. But the operation doesn't necessarily provide a panacea, as this Mayo Clinic article details, because some patients' bodies adapt, enabling them to eat more and absorb more calories and regain whatever weight they've lost. But Levy chose to utilize the surgery as a tool to facilitate making other major changes in his life. He began working out religiously for an hour each day, including four sessions with a personal trainer and three spinning classes. He also adopted a different approach to food. Instead of starving himself or opting for fad diets, he concentrated on eating a healthy, balanced diet and concentrating on limiting the size of his portions. Today, he weighs just 157 pounds, and he feels great. "I am living proof that anything is possible," he told the Post's Ann Brenoff. "...At 49, to be in the best shape of my life, is just an amazing thing to me."
If you need encouragement in your own weight-loss efforts, this just-published study by researchers at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston provides some very positive news. The researchers, who surveyed data for 4,000 adults with a history of weight problems, found that contrary to popular perception, 63 percent of them were successful in losing at least some weight. About 40 percent managed to lose at least 5 percent of their body weight -- a modest reduction, but enough to significantly improve a person's health, according to the researchers. Another 20 percent lost 10 percent of their weight or more.
How did that 63 percent succeed? Contrary to what you see in late-night TV commercials, the study found that self-reported use of popular diets, nonprescription weight loss pills and diet foods or products was not associated with weight loss. Prescription weight-loss medications did help some people, but most successful subjects didn't utilize them. Instead, researchers reported that the basic formula for weight loss was fairly simple: Those who exercised more and reduced the amount of fat in their diets were more likely to lose weight. Additionally, though the three people we described above all managed to lose weight on their own, the study suggests that those who join structured reducing programs report higher weight loss. Here's a 2005 study from the Annals of Internal Medicine that ranks various commercial weight-loss programs by effectiveness.
Read more: Weight Loss 2.0
Previous Post: 10 Amazing Facts About MLB Pitcher Jamie Moyer
Next Post: Waiting for J.K. Rowling