The 5 Secrets to Losing Weight

By Jim Turk

You really shouldn't be expected to skip the cake when someone puts it right in front of you, should you? You're entitled to have it. Is it fair that others can indulge but you can't?

So you have bad genes and pack the pounds on faster than others. That's not your fault! Grow up and get over it!

Secrets to losing weight

You don't have the strength, right? You don't have the willpower.

It's not about willpower. That's an excuse and if you don't want to change, you won't. I'll tell you what real secret to passing on the pastries is, but you're the one that has to do it. If you're locked into eating a certain way and living life on the path of least resistance, you won't get very far. It's not about a magic pill or fad diet. Those things are horrible for your health and won't teach you anything. It's about five choices. These are the 5 secrets to losing weight, improving your health, and lowering your chance of developing diabetes and a host of other diseases. They are the key to feeling better and staying that way.

1) Know the facts

Discover the best weight-loss facts! It's hard to eat the right things and avoid the wrong things if you're always shootin' from the hip. You need to arm yourself with knowledge not only about what's good and bad but why it's good or bad. Knowing that you shouldn't smoke when you were 12 didn't stop you from trying it. Knowing that it would cause cancer and you would die pushed you in the right direction, though. The “why” will help you to make future decisions based on your knowledge and not just what you were told to eat or not to eat.

There are some basic rules to follow that make this super-easy. Think about the fact that we are machines that were built, or evolved, to run on a certain fuel. That fuel isn't what we eat today. Sure, it doesn't seem like as much fun as the candy aisle, but it's true.

We aren't built to eat a ton of carbohydrates (carbs). They just weren't readily available in ancient times. Sugar and wheat products were not common to our hunter-gatherer ancestors, like it or not. Wheat, sugar, and refined products like high-fructose corn syrup in the amounts that we see today are things our bodies didn't adapt to. We ate fruit (fructose is the sugar) when we could but that was only seasonal. Reduce it and try to completely eliminate the non-whole grain stuff. I've eliminated all wheat-based foods.

As hunter-gatherers, our bodies learned to store carbs for later use. We didn't see them very much, so we weren't going to let them go to waste, right? What didn't get used for immediate energy needs went to our hips, and still does. This is where the 'junk in the trunk' starts.

Fats have been demonized in the last few decades. The irony is, if you cut the carbs way down, the fat doesn't matter so much.

What you do want to do is try to switch to good fats. This is fat from things like fish (salmon and tuna), nuts, avocados, and olive oil. Also, eat more skinless chicken, baked fish, and grass-fed beef so you consume some saturated fats.

It is particularly important to try and minimize the trans fats like those in processed meats, margarines, and fried foods. Processed and packaged foods weren't on our ancestors' menu and they should be on ours either!

Don't sweat the protein. If you eat the right kinds of meats, nuts and seeds, you'll get enough. Oh, and eat a lot more veggies and fruit; mostly veggies of course. It's not rocket science to eat healthy.

2) Be prepared

It's the scout's motto. Being prepared is perhaps the biggest obstacle in changing your diet. If you want to eat the right things, you'll have a tough time finding them pre-packaged in the grocery store. But when you do decide to take the time to prepare your own meals, you want to make sure you have plenty of the right foods on hand.

If you don't, figure out what works for you, bag it up or cook and freeze lots of it in portable packages. It may seem pretty Evangelical to prepare like the end is near, but there is a reality here. Having portions of healthy food available at home or on the road can be a real life saver. And it's not impossible.

This is something I'm still figuring out. I eat a lot of nuts, which make for easy, portable snacks, and I also cook a lot of food and freeze it. I eat a lot of salad with chicken, tuna, cold-cuts, or leftover meat. You can also get nutrition bars with very few ingredients and no added sugar or wheat, like Larabars, for example.

The message here is that it takes a little time to get over the change, but once you figure it out and are prepared, it's fine. Even eating at a restaurant isn't so bad because I know I'm pretty safe to order meat with a salad, baked potato, or veggies. Soda is always bad because of the sugars, so order diet occasionally, water, or unsweetened tea.

3) Change your focus

Mmmm...donuts. Don't be a 'Homer'. If you stare at the donuts and think about the donuts, you'll crave the donuts. It'll be hard to resist. It's a simple concept - focus on the bad stuff and you'll get the bad stuff.

Avoid the temptation of chocolate cakeFocus on the good stuff. When someone puts the chocolate cake in front of you, don't think about how good it must taste and how it's not fair that others get to eat it and you can't. The point isn't that you can't, it's that you have chosen not to. You don't have to do anything.

You know that you'll feel lousy in five minutes if you eat it. You know that you'll feel worse about yourself tomorrow. You already know what it tastes like, so what's the big deal?

Or just turn the other cheek. It's just like I tell my kids when they fight, “just walk away.” Remove yourself from the situation or breathe and think about something else. I promise you'll be happy that you skipped it and it will be easier the next time.

I sometimes turn my attention away from the offending food and just be. Sounds corny, I know, but I just sit and count my breath in a calm way while I feel the air go in and out of my nostrils. Do whatever you want, but that works for me. With a clear mind, I don't worry much about the chocolate cake. The reality is that it's over in a few minutes, anyway.

This gets better with practice. If you don't focus on the sights, smells, and peer-pressure, it's going to be a lot easier next time. That's key – get through it this time. The process snowballs. It gets easier, I promise.

4) Break the addiction

Hard to imagine that you're as bad as Charlie Sheen or Whitney Houston, but it's the same idea. White flour products and other simple carbs are addictive. They trigger dopamine production in your brain, which is the reason you want more the next time. It works just like a drug, but the habit can and should be kicked.

Don't believe me? Here's a story about this very thing by Dr. Oz.

So the problem is really like an onion, as Shrek might say. You've got the smell and taste that draws you in and makes it seem appealing; you have the culture and tradition of everyone eating dessert after a meal, having cake at birthday parties and weddings, and the addictive aspect of the simple carbs. There are layers to this problem.

All of these things can be overcome. If you do the things I listed in point 3, you can break the addiction cycle. Don't focus on the bad things or that's what you'll see. Think about the good aspects of not partaking, breathe your way through it, or walk away. You can do it. You don't feel obligated to smoke crack when you see it in the movies, do you?

The first time is the worst and it'll get easier every day. Cigarette smokers have a tough time during those first few days, but the further they are removed from the situation, the easier it becomes. Give it some time.

5) Celebrate the little victories

Every time you get past a challenging situation, that's a victory. Remember that. If you passed on the Oreos last time, remember how awesome it was and how you felt better about yourself later on. That's a little victory that you can turn into big motivation.

Focus on how empowering it was to pass on the donuts. If someone that you're not terribly fond of brings treats to work, take pleasure in watching them get irritated when you don't indulge. I used to do this – she actually would challenge herself to make something 'Jim likes' and then would get more upset when I still passed. Score!

Don't hesitate to use anything and everything as motivation. As I said before, it snowballs. When things go right, it makes everything else seem easier.

This is really the key. This is what everyone will label as willpower that you are lucky to have and they aren't. It can be frustrating, especially when you've worked hard to get there. Forget about that. They are weak and defensive. You've cracked the code.

By Jim Turk, MS, is a former marathoner, current health-nut, and was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2008. He's figured it out.

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