Forget fat diets… and don’t leap into unhealthy shortcuts like bariatric surgery.
The new weight loss paradigm is based on making informed, daily choices about healthy eating. Using this simple system of avoiding liquid sugars and eating whole foods like quinoa and fresh vegetables, a Texas woman named Teena Henson achieved extraordinary results without dieting. Over two years, she accomplished a 160-pound drop in body weight and restored herself to a remarkable state of fitness and health, all without resorting to fat diets, weight loss pills or risky surgery.
How did she do it? Her success story baffles those steeped in the American culture of quick fixes and fashionable shortcuts. Henson simply did something that’s increasingly rare in modern society: she took responsibility for her own health and stopped blaming everyone else for her obesity. By understanding that she was responsible for her own health, not her doctor and not a drug company, Teena Henson was able to start making deliberate, daily choices that moved her in the direction of weight loss success.
Those choices included things like switching from fried foods to grilled foods, eating whole foods instead of processed foods, and giving up sugary sodas altogether. Those seemingly simple steps, combined with walking as a form of gentle exercise, delivered extraordinary results: they took Henson from 332 pounds down to 166, shedding literally half her body weight. The feature photo of this story shows Henson’s before and after photos. Yes, it’s the same woman in the two photos!
Simple solutions elude a shortcut culture
What’s so remarkable about this story is not merely the fact that Henson dropped half her body weight through simple changes in diet and exercise. What’s remarkable is that such a success story is so rare: in a culture of dietary shortcuts, a woman who decides to make healthier lifestyle choices stands out as truly extraordinary.
Most approaches to dieting, of course, rely on dubious diet drugs or diet supplement pills that accomplish nothing. Diet fads restrict people to extreme, single-food regimens like eating only grapefruit or cabbage — a sure way to develop nutritional deficiencies. And extreme dieting surgeries rely on the removal of significant portions of healthy organs as we see in bariatric surgery.
While pills, fad diets and surgeries are increasingly popular, they are rarely effective. Henson’s true achievement was in recognizing that up front. As reported by KDVR.com:
In the past, Henson would put herself on diets to make everyone happy, but they wouldn’t last long. There was an endless array of rules, from eating nothing but grapefruits to nothing but carbs, until she realized that “diets” just weren’t for her.
“For me, ‘diet’ is a four-letter word for failure,” she said.
What she was looking for was a lifestyle change. And not because her friends and family wanted it for her, but because she wanted it for herself.
“Diet” is temporary, but lifestyle changes are forever
The problem with all weight loss diets is that they prescribe temporary behavior, not lasting solutions. Any diet that says, “Here, eat in this radical way for a few weeks” is doomed to failure from the start.
Lasting lifestyle changes require abandoning processed foods and eating fresh, whole foods combined with regular exercise (like walking). This simple yet powerful principle, however, continues to elude desperate dieters who misunderstand the whole point: it’s not about extreme short-term solutions to your weight problem; it’s about consistent, long-term changes to your daily habits that produce long-term results.
This is why I’ve always had a problem with Weight Watchers, which licenses its name to a whole series of Weight Watchers processed foods such as chocolate cake or brownies. The very idea of a Weight Watchers chocolate cake is contradictory: if you’re hoping to eat in a healthy way, you shouldn’t be eating chocolate cake at all, regardless of how many calories are in a serving.
Although I’m sure there are exceptions to this observation, Weight Watchers looks more to me like a cover story for people who want to pretend they’re making healthier food choices. If Weight Watchers branding was really based on sound nutritional principles, the entire fresh produce section of any grocery store should be labeled “Weight Watchers,” and the name should never appear on processed, manufactured foods like chocolate cakes or brownies.
Also: just because something is named “diet” doesn’t mean you will lose weight by consuming it. Diet sodas, for example, have been proven over and over again to accomplish no lasting weight loss whatsoever.
The rare trait of personal fortitude
When I was growing up, I remember being awarded Presidential Physical Fitness awards in grade school for meeting basic performance standards in pull-ups, sit-ups and running. The awards referred to children being of “sound body and sound mind.”
Today, the medical establishment teaches us that children of sound mind are achieved through mind-altering psychiatric drugs like Ritalin or Adderall. A sound body, we are told by surgeons, is achieved through cosmetic surgery or partial stomach removal. This is true even in children, as bariatric surgery is now being performed on children as young as two. Somehow, the idea that we should control what our children eat is an alien idea across our culture, where children are taught victimization rather than personal fortitude.
The idea that a parent could raise an extremely obese child and have no idea why they are obese has always bewildered me. I’m pretty sure that children can’t go out and buy junk food on their credit cards. Virtually their entire diet is controlled by what their parents buy for them to eat. As such, an obese child is a clear sign of an ill-informed parent who somehow hasn’t come to grasp any connection between the food they buy and the body weight of their child. (Many parents have also forgotten how to say “No!” to their own children, failing to set healthy boundaries on food and soda consumption.)
What we need to be teaching our children is the simple but powerful idea that you are what you eat. If you eat junk, your body will express junk. If you eat healthful foods, your body will express good health. If you eat a cancer-causing diet, your body will express cancer, and if you eat an anti-cancer diet, your body will prevent cancer.
These ideas should not be revolutionary; they should be common sense. Yet in a modern society that has grown bizarrely detached from food and health, these concepts seem to be strangely rare.
Thank goodness there are still women like Teena Henson who haven’t forgotten the simple rules for weight loss success: Don’t fall for fad diets, skip the diet pills, avoid dangerous surgery and earn your weight loss through consistent behavioral changes designed to achieve your long-term goals.
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