When We Go to Extremes

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There are a lot of extreme things out there. Extreme sports, extreme food, extreme vacations, pretty much anything can be made extreme these days.  Extreme can be a good thing, as some people really like to push themselves when it comes to sports and thrive in an “extreme” atmosphere.  But extreme can also quickly get out of hand and become dangerous, especially when it comes to the way you eat.

Extreme dieting is not a new issue.  People have gone to great lengths just to lose weight and shed pounds.  We have heard of the grapefruit diet or the cabbage soup diet.  Back in the day, those were some pretty extreme diets.  Subsisting only on one kind of soup or one type of fruit is definitely not a healthy or sustainable way to lose weight or eat.  That seems like common sense for most of us.  Yet there are still extreme forms of weight loss out there today.  This week I came across this article from Health magazine.  It highlights seven crazy and ridiculous methods that people actually use to try and lose weight.  From feeding tubes, to tapeworms, to having a patch surgically attached to your tongue that makes it too painful to eat any solid food, the list is pretty extreme.

When I first read this article, I thought, “Come on now people!  This is just silly!”  As I kept reading, I started to feel really sad.  It made me sad to think of the extremes that some people will go to just to lose weight.  It made me sad that some people felt that this was their only hope at being thinner.  It made me sad that I used to think the exact same way.  It also made me mad that in some of these situations (feeding tubes and tongue patches in particular) doctors, people who are suppose to be helping, not hurting, were endorsing these forms of weight loss.  To be honest, it also made me feel a little helpless.  How can I, one person with very little pull, help stop this?  How can I make even a tiny dent and convince people that this is not the way to go?

Once I stopped feeling helpless, I realized I can keep sharing my story and my experiences with others and help guide them in the right direction.  When it comes to diet and lifestyle, extreme will NOT help you.  Sure, on some extreme diets you will lose weight quickly.  That’s what happens when you cut out food and starve yourself.  That weight loss though isn’t healthy weight loss and it is not sustainable.  Taking extreme measures to lose weight will just hurt you in the long run.  With some of the methods listed in that article, they can cause serious medical damage.  At the very least, you are taxing your body and messing with your metabolism which will make it really difficult to maintain a healthy weight in the future.

I understand the helplessness that can accompany trying to lose weight.  At times it can feel like nothing works.  You either can’t lose weight at all or you lose the weight just to have it all come back.  You feel that you are on a never ending diet and you are tired enough that giving up and going back to your old lifestyle seems more and more appealing.  Not caring anymore is a lot easier than caring sometimes.  I have been there and I know it’s tough to push past that mentality.  Truth is the only way to truly be healthy is to change for the long term.  You have to make yourself view it as a lifestyle change, not just a temporary fix.  You can’t have the mindset that you are going to do this until you lose x amount of pounds and then go back to the way things were. It doesn’t work that way.

Yes, changing for the long haul is hard and daunting.  You mean I have to do this forever?  Yes.  Yes, you do.  Stop looking at all the things you are “giving up” or “losing”, don’t put food into categories of can have or can’t have.  View it as you are CHOOSING to live a better life, you WANT to have great health, you are GAINING good nutrition and habits.  If you are at a point in your life where you are ready and willing to change, don’t overwhelm yourself.  Don’t make a massive change to your life, because changing everything at once can cause overload and make you want to quit before you even begin.

Start small and start simple.  Remember, extreme doesn’t help when it comes to a lifestyle change.  Cut out candy bars as a snack and have fruit instead.  Go for a 10 minute walk on your lunch break.  Read a book instead of watching TV at night.  Easy things that you can sustain, and once you have made those into a habit, move on to the next change.  Will this take a long time? Yes, but this is what helps you change for life permanently.  As you slowly start changing your life, you will start to see the benefits of living healthier.  Those stairs that used to wind you at work are now a breeze to climb.  Chronic headaches that used to plague you are now few and far between.  You sleep better at night, you have more energy than before, and you are actually enjoying real food more and more instead of processed junk.

If something doesn’t work for you or doesn’t seem to benefit your personal health, then stop and try something different.  That is OK! Remember we are all different and our bodies need different things.  Maybe your friend is feeling amazing by running every day and subsisting on a more Paleo- type diet, but those things leave you feeling drained, sluggish, and you are SO not motivated to run for even 5 minutes.  That is totally fine!  Find out what works for you.  Health is very personalized, which makes it so great.  You can customize your life to give yourself maximum health benefits.

The main takeaway for this post is to keep things simple.  I don’t want you to feel that the only way you can lose weight is to take up smoking or swallow a tapeworm.  You and your health are worth so much more than the damage those methods will cause.  The only extreme you need in your life is extreme happiness.  Keeping your best interests in mind will help lead you to the best health you can obtain, I promise!

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