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How to Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind

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By a certain age we've all been through the gamut of weight-loss, weight-gain, varying degrees of fitness, healthiness and self-esteem. Legend has it there's a magical age at which you become reconciled with who you are and how you look. This is partly true... self-acceptance definitely comes with age PLUS you become a whole lot savvier about dressing for your body type... those 5-inch heels not only look gorgeous, but also take pounds off!!

Still, I can't help but think it's unfortunate, looking back, that self-acceptance didn't come when I was a 20-something with a much smaller derriere! And I'd be lying if I told you I don't still sometimes dwell on those weighty issues, especially when it's summer time and the layers come off.

We've all heard that one-liner "eat less, exercise more." But weight-loss isn't that easy. We know that our relationship with food is deeply psychological. And food is the one drug that we're still required to consume even when we're trying to rehabilitate ourselves from over-indulging. For the most part, though, my weighty issues have been very much the every-girls: Battling that same 5-10lbs. I can't say I've got it all sussed. No dramatic before and after here, but I did realize this year that I have learned a lot over the years, and much of what I have learned has worked. Here are some of my own insights:

Drawing from dieting experience
I've been on my fair share of diets. Some worked, some didn't. Some were sustainable, others not. But I've learned something from all of them: What works for my body, my lifestyle, my personality. Some of those diets have stayed with me and even when I'm not trying to lose weight I lean on what I learned from them.

One of the best diet books I've ever read is Dr Penny Kendall-Reed's No-Crave Diet. I've never followed it quite as stringently as I did the first time around. But I know the fail-safe bullet points: Don't eat between meals and eat 15g of protein with each meal. These are things I can incorporate even when I'm not dieting. And when I do want to shift some weight, I can shift into a higher gear and tighten up those rules. If, like me, you have 10 plus years of diet experience, don't discard all the knowledge you've gathered. You know a lot more than you're giving yourself credit for!

My other fall back plan is weightwatchers, the online version. I am a permanent member. It just makes you pay attention to what you are putting in your body. A journal will also work. But there is something about the point system and strangely, you start to feel accountable to your computer. It really works! Oh, and drink LOTS and LOTS of water...it can melt the pounds away...

Finding the exercise I love
Similarly, you likely already know what "your" exercise is. You probably went through a phase when you were pretty hardcore into it. For me, it's running and spinning classes. One of my simple pleasures is a Saturday morning spinning class with a girlfriend followed by a low fat latte!! Some people hate gyms but happily work out at home on an exercise bike or treadmill. Some people love yoga. Others love walking, which we all know is one of the best exercises there is. Work with what you love instead of "shoulding" yourself into a regime you hate. You may have fantasies of yourself running gazelle-like at 4am each morning... instead, why not embrace the exercise that already makes you happy... And don't wait for next Monday or the beginning of next month to start (yup, I've fallen into that trap too!!)

Staying motivated
The fashion world is criticized for being a superficial, frivolous kind of thing (and an industry responsible for so much body-insecurity.) But clothes are really one of my greatest passions. I appreciate the craft and artistry that goes into clothing design... a well-tailored jacket or that perfect black dress... it's something that I simply LOVE! So, of course, being able to wear clothes, to feel good in them is important for my sense of well-being (inside and out)... it keeps me motivated.

Other people may not care about fashion, but might find their motivation in training for somethng like a charity walk or run, being able to do sports with your family or go on that activity holiday you dream of. Motivation is a subjective thing... and there's no one motivation that's better... except the one that WORKS for you. Being able to say what you want and then go after it is sometimes the hardest step of all... our insecure self loves to tell us we're not going to succeed, that it's not worth trying, even that we don't deserve to be happy. But there's another voice that's more optimistic, that says you CAN do it... and that's the voice that will keep you motivated.

Life sometimes trumps regimes
I just got back from a vacation in Italy, where "Eat, Pray, Love"-style I ate all the pasta and bread I wanted. Sometimes life trumps your regime! Nobody wants to be that stringent dieter who picks at every meal and every calorie. Food is for sharing and passion!! And those moments, with friends and family indulging are part of my JOY. Any regime that requires me to completely quit those things is going to leave me feeling deprived... and we all know that cycle of deprivation and over-indulgence. Instead, I look for overall balance, I enjoy my life and stay PRESENT and live in the moment - and, yup, sometimes that means indulging and relishing every mouthful!

But there are ways to have your cake and EAT IT TOO!! - I exercise so I can eat. If I eat more, I exercise more. When you follow diet and exercise in tandem, there's a built-in system where one can compensate for the other. You don't have to deprive yourself, but you do have to be accountable to yourself. Sometimes that means I don't reach for the second slice of cake because I don't want an extra workout, other times an extra 30 minutes on the treadmill is worth every mouthful!!

All in all, I feel like I've found my balance. Sure, there's give and take... weeks when I'm better than others. The key for me is accepting that and moving on... no blaming and self-flagellation... after all, life's too short!! And because I have these little insights to guide me I find I never stray too far... I follow these little signposts I've set for myself and YES... I enjoy my food, embrace exercise, accept my body! And, as a result, those weighty issues are a lot lighter!

xo Natasha
@natashaNKPR