For Terence Flanagan of Grand Rapids, Michigan, losing weight was not a matter of choice, but a medical necessity. At 23 and a full six feet, he was touching 400 lbs, and doctors were warning of severe consequences if he didn’t get his weight under control. “Back in 2003, I was an obese wreck,” says Terence. “I was embarrassed to go out and meet people, and my job as an estate agent meant that I was constantly having to do that. It got to a point where I seriously wanted to give it up and just hide in a dark corner.”
According to a study conducted in October 2004, 18 percent of Americans could be described as clinically obese (roughly 32 percent more than their ideal body weight). In numerical terms, this meant one in five Americans was clinically obese. The situation, sadly, persists. “I would say that we are leading increasingly sedentary lives,” says nutritionist and dietitian Deborah L. Sayers. “Our lifestyles now revolve around sitting in an office or sitting at home or sitting in a pub or club or whatever. And all the labor saving devices that have become part of our lives make things worse.”
So weight loss is the need of the hour. And natural weight loss is fast gaining ground as the preferred method among a large part of the global population. Very simply put, natural weight loss methods do not involve a specific diet (high-carb, low-carb, high-protein, low-protein, zero-calorie, negative-calorie, the works), pills, powders, weight loss clinics…I could make this a really exhaustive (and exhausting) list, but you get the drift. In essence, natural weight loss is all about how you can use your body to get rid of the excess flab that it has been carrying.
Natural weight loss basics
“When you are starting out on your natural weight loss program, the two basics that you need to keep in mind are nutrition and exercise,” says Deborah. “And it is essential that you set realistic weight loss goals.” In effect, what this means is that not everyone can expect to acquire a body like Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt (amazing pre-ordained combination of good-looking bodies), because what shape you end up with will depend to a large extent on your body type. However, you can most definitely shed excess fat and eliminate obesity regardless of your body type.
So, the basics: “The creed of ‘drink plenty of water, eat healthy food and get regular exercise’ is easy to sum up but so difficult to maintain,” says Deborah. Terence agrees. “I was so tempted to gorge on all the burgers and ice cream that I could, and then wash it down with a miracle diet pill,” he says. The fact is, however, that he didn’t, and four years later, weighs 170 lbs for his troubles. “I guess I still need to lose about 10 lbs or so, but I am not complaining. And I am never going to use pills and stuff.”
The biggest problem with ‘pills and stuff’ is that you are forever at risk of regaining the weight you lose once you stop using them, whereas if you lose weight naturally, you can actually manage your weight too. As Deborah says, “Just keep doing the things you’ve been doing.”
So what have you been doing?
“Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, sup like a pauper.” Hmm…now where have we heard that one before? In my case, it was from my mother’s Aunt Fran, who made sure her family started the day with a meal of mammoth proportions, or that was what it seemed like to nine-year-old me when I stayed with her occasionally. Breakfast was a Ritual That Must Not Be Tampered With, and involved fruits (more than one kind), raw vegetables (carrots were vomit-inducing but Good For My Eyesight), smoked salmon or tuna sandwiches, and even a lamb chop on occasion. And raw honey…oh my, lots of it, and milk or cream depending on your preference.
Okay, I can feel some of you wincing at the list, but just change a few of the items around (rye bread and yogurt are a good idea, for instance) and make sure the stuff is organic, and you do indeed have a breakfast fit for kings. The thing is that you need to eat a large one, and then go easy on the lunch (simple brown bread and cucumber sandwiches will do nicely), and eat a light snack by 7 pm. AND STOP EATING thereafter. For a full diet chart, consult a dietitian, but the point is to limit the calorie intake.
Studies have proved that people who consume a majority of their daily caloric requirement early in the day tend to consume fewer calories for the rest of the day, whereas people who eat larger meals at night tend to consume more total calories each day.
If daily workouts and a regimented exercise schedule is not an option, try walking – nonstop for at least an hour every day, preferably early in the morning or after sunset. “You don’t have to half-run,” says fitness trainer Dennis Li. “You can just walk at your normal pace. Walking is the best cardio-vascular exercise there is, particularly for those who are unable to go in for any other kind of cardio training. Regular walking boosts your metabolic rate and therefore promotes constant burning of calories.”
Drink at least eight glasses of water every day, beginning with first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. Water is unparalleled when it comes to flushing out the toxins from your body, and is great for your circulation.
Eating healthy, drinking water, walking: is that all there is to natural weight loss? Er…yes, actually. Hear it from Terence: “Just cutting down on the carbs and sugar made such a huge difference. And I walked as though I was going to break the world record. It was difficult, but my cravings for sweets began to disappear after the first two months or so. And my mom advised me to look in the mirror every time I felt like giving up.”
So there you are. And if Terence can do it, any reason why you can’t?