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Mind Games For Better Health
how to outsmart your metabolism

For the sake of explaining my theory I'm going to concentrate on those who are carrying too much weight, because I know all about that from personal experience. Apologies to anyone who wants to gain a few pounds - I've never had the problem, so I'd rather not make suggestions in that area; but I would imagine some of these mind games could still work.

Anyway, have you ever wondered why health plans and diets don't seem to work? It's as if the one you are on was intended for a different kind of person. I mean, you'd have to think if you were paying a fortune for a solution to your weight problem, it really should deliver something positive. You have been taking these funny-tasting supplements, walking half-way round the known world twice a day and eating stuff that any self-respecting rabbit would ignore, yet the scales don't seem to take any notice. Your weight hasn't changed much and may even have gone up since you started! It's not fair. Surely there's something you can do to get on top of this problem? Actually, there may well be, and it's all in your mind.

The body, in particular the metabolism, is an amazing thing, a factory that never stops working to produce whatever is needed to keep you alive and kicking. Any substance that is ingested, whether by mouth or absorbed through the skin, is processed to extract some useful element that the body requires to function normally. A humble cookie contains fat, sugar (plenty of them!), plus cereal, fibre, perhaps trace elements and minerals and, if shop-bought, probably a few chemicals that will be listed on the packet by their numbers. As far as the metabolism is concerned, most ingredients are useful and it will decide on the waste factor - no need to explain how that works! You don't have to worry about keeping the machine working as long as you remember to stoke the boiler. What you shovel in and when is your choice, and here's where you can be the architect of your own destiny.

If I'm right and it takes a while for the metabolism to figure out what you are up to, any change of diet likely to produce an eventual loss of weight will cause a reaction in a matter of days. This is often when the withdrawal symptoms emerge - a feeling of emptiness and fragility, occasionally dizziness, eyesight not quite right, nerves on edge, plus any number of other strange reactions that could be allied to an illness of some kind. Although not the case, the effect is similar. The metabolism has had a word with the boss - the brain - and it has sent messages to organs, muscles and nerves, wake-up calls that something out of the ordinary is occurring and the owner of the body should fix it, pretty quick smart. That's when most of us cave in, usually with a binge that provides the metabolism with exactly what it has been craving during our abstinence. And what does it do with all this excess? You don't really need to ask, do you? It chucks it in the warehouse - around the waist, on the butt, on the thighs, anywhere that could do with a bit of supplementary padding. Actually, none of this excess fat is needed, but the metabolism has been doing the same thing with it for so long that is has become lazy and doesn't know any other way. Now's the time for you to take advantage with the mind games.

Let's assume you have found a diet plan that you think might work for you. It may call for the reduction of fat, sugar and carbohydrates. If it requires cutting out one or more altogether, unless there's a valid medical reason for this, I'd seriously reconsider. The total denial of a substance that has been a regular on the menu for years will be conspicuous by its absence and it will be like giving the metabolism a poke in the eye - you'll end up with an instant revolution that will cause you discomfort, pain and every reason to go back to your old habits. Far better to decrease these fat-producing elements over time, as recommended in the No-diet Diet (Healthy Living HL07). You can, however, still knock them down a bit immediately and get away with it by employing some in-house psychology.

So, it's on to low-fat meat, plenty of vegetables, salad and fruit - for big eaters of pasta and burgers that's punishment, and some! My advice is: don't pre-judge. Just bite the bullet and give it a go. Before you do though, the night before actually, when you've had your traditional feed-up and are absolutely bulging at the seams, jump on the scales. Whatever you have eaten will show up - it must. After all, three pounds of food in the stomach weighs exactly the same as carrying it in a bag. If your weight-increase from the last time shocks you, that's good - there's the incentive, plus a comforting hope that it won't be this way for long. Next day, start your diet and try to convince yourself that it's going to work. Even if you are low on will-power, tell yourself that you need to do this; and be happy - it's going to be fun. Put up with the deprivation for the entire day. Drink plenty of water or low-cal soup (Recipe R09) each time the hunger pangs nudge you. Make sure you have a good size meal in the evening as you normally would. This will settle the hunger and fill you up. The body expects this because it always gets loads about this time, and the stomach will already be producing the acids to deal with the influx. The only difference will be the kind of food because you have changed to the diet-type, something the metabolism will eventually figure out, but not right away.

Directly after your meal, try the scales again. Informed sources will probably tell you that checking your weight every day, sometimes more frequently than that, is the wrong thing to do. Their reasoning is that any ingested food takes a while to be processed, sometimes days, so a permanent change in weight won't show up immediately. Maybe not, but this isn't about what will happen in time: it’s to do with now and how it makes us feel. We're dealing with the psychological aspect - the metabolism's and yours as well. As for the advice of the experts, if it was as good as they claim, it would have helped, not hindered. It is my contention that starving yourself for a week only to step on the scales to find nothing has happened is very likely to cause the diet to be abandoned. Seeing a similar result on a daily basis, however, is acceptable and can be a driving force. You see, nobody really expects much in a day or two, or even three; so any loss at all is a bonus, encouragement to keep on with the plan because this one might really work! An increase is perhaps disappointing, but it is tolerable under the circumstances and beneficial in a way - a timely warning to watch what you eat for at least another day to see how that affects the scales. Frequent checks may not tell the end of the story, but they can help keep you faithful while you're working towards it.

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