© Rick Hanson, Ph.D. and Jan Hanson, L.Ac. 2001, 2002, 2003
It's three years since I became a mom, and I just can't seem to lose
about fifteen extra pounds Over the years, .I've tried the usual diets,
and they maybe work for awhile, but I always go back to wherever I
started. Plus now there's Cassie and we're so busy that it just happens
that a lot of the time I grab a bagel or a slice of cold pizza and call
it a meal.
About the only semi-positive feature of Jan's long slide into depletion
after becoming a mom (you may have read her story in our book) was that
she lost a good deal of weight, ending up about twenty-five pounds
lighter than she was on her wedding day. But hers was an unusual
situation - and she'd have traded the weight-loss "benefit" in a
heartbeat for becoming less depleted!
The typical mom weighs about ten pounds more than a woman the same age
without children. It's easy to get there: the stress and hurly-burly of
raising kids makes us reach for quick comfort foods, and who's got time
for preparing super-nutritious meals?!
Sure, you don't want to be a nut about weight loss, whether it's yo-yo
dieting or extremes like bulimia or anorexia. But about one woman in
three is considered, by current medical standards, to be overweight -
and excess weight is associated with many health problems, including
diabetes, heart disease, breast cancer, colon cancer, and gallbladder
disease. Besides, being overweight can make you feel embarrassed around
others, uncomfortable making love, and bad about a fundamental aspect of
The formula for getting to and then staying
at a healthy weight is simple: regular exercise and a
high-protein/low-carbohydrate diet. Frankly, anything else is a
gimmick. Here's how:
- Three or four days a week, exercise for
twenty or thirty minutes to the point that you're sweating. If you
did nothing but exercise every other day for half an hour and cut
your daily calories by five percent, you'll lose about two pounds
a month, or twenty-plus pounds in a year. Plus it will be easier
to maintain your weight since now you've got more muscle mass,
which uses up more calories, and your overall metabolic rate-how
fast your body burns calories-will be greater.
- Eat lots of protein and vegetables, and
minimal carbohydrates (e.g., sugar, bread products, pasta). Forget
the Food Pyramid: it's an unscientific gimmick perpetrated by the
agriculture industry that has led America to be the fattest nation
in the world. For resources, look to The Zone Diet by Barry Sears,
or the various books on the Atkins diet. And don't get fixated on
"low-fat" unless you have significant cardiovascular disease risk
factors: We've found that a focus on "low fat" just drives
people's intake of carbohydrates up.
high-protein/low-carbohydrate diet has important benefits besides
weight loss: it eliminates gluten foods that many people are
allergic to, it helps stabilize insulin metabolism and thus lower
the risk of Type II diabetes, and it prompts people to eat more
vegetables which are chock full of vital nutrients.
- If you're not pregnant or breastfeeding,
try carnitine, a natural nutrient. Carnitine encourages the body
to metabolize fat, plus it can boost your energy. Take it in the
morning, before eating, following the instructions on the bottle.
You can get this supplement on our website, www.nurturemom.com, or
at many health food stores.
- Drink at least eight glasses of water a
day; besides filling you up, water helps eliminate the toxins in
fat cells that are released when you lose weight.
- Know the enemy! Face the fact that certain
foods - or food habits like snacking while watching TV - could be
addictive for you. The foods that are most addictive - sugar,
gluten grains (wheat, oats, rye, and barley), and dairy products -
are exactly the ones (alas!) that will put the most pounds on.
Plus many people actually have an allergy to these foods as
Jan has seen many people lose lots of weight and feel
enormously better when they stop eating sugar, gluten, and dairy -
it's her primary prescription for weight loss. We know it's a tall
order, but try an experiment of a couple weeks and we bet you'll
be happy with the results. If you can start to deal with yourself
like an addict with regard to these foods, life gets easy. Get
them out of your world - like an alcoholic in recovery gets rid of
the booze in the garage. Consider Overeaters Anonymous, for
general purposes, and check out The False Fat Diet, by Elson Haas,
M.D., for how the body can get hooked on foods to which it is
- Be good to yourself. For example, focus
more on your health than your appearance. Everyone wants to be
healthy, but there are a lot of mixed feelings about beauty. Women
who are nice to themselves reach their weight-loss goals with less
of a struggle than women who are mad at themselves for "being
fat." If you take a little side trip from your personal program-or
a major detour through the forbidden continent-don't be harshly
self-critical, which just makes diet-busting comfort foods more
appealing than ever. Get back on your program the next day.
Try to increase the nice things in the nonfood parts of your
life, like more cuddles with your kids, a fantastic new novel, or
a deepening of your relationship with your husband. Give yourself
rewards along the way, like permission to linger in the shower or
a new pair of pants that fit great.
- Avoid relapses. Rebound weight gain is
very discouraging; a friend of Jan's once said, sighing, I've lost
two hundred pounds, but it was the same twenty, over and over
again. Once you've gotten to a weight you like, you could write a
letter to yourself-to be opened if you're tempted to overeat-that
talks about how good you feel and look when you're trim. If you
start down the slippery slope of eating the wrong things, try to
have the warning bells ring loudly inside your head; tell someone
if you're starting to slip, and go back and do the things that
worked for you the last time you lost weight.
(Rick Hanson is a clinical psychologist, Jan Hanson is an
acupuncturist/nutritionist, and they are raising a daughter and son,
ages 12 and 14. With Ricki Pollycove, M.D., they are the authors of
Mother Nurture: A Mother's Guide to Health in Body, Mind, and Intimate
Relationships, published by Penguin. You can see their website at
www.nurturemom.com or email them with questions or comments at
firstname.lastname@example.org; unfortunately, a personal reply may not always be