Sallie traded her customary bread and pasta diet for beans, fruits, vegetables, and nuts, all of which she loves. But she was also wise enough to know she needed to change her whole lifestyle, not just her diet. She became a dancing fool—hip-hop, dance recitals, the works. She started jogging and redid her backyard by hand, bush by bush, stone by stone. She installed a pull-up bar in a doorway and started doing one or two chin-ups every time she goes by. Now she walks several miles every day with her husband, who has also caught the weight-loss bug.
Today, Sallie is 134 pounds and wears a size 4. She is even more emotionally nourishing to those around her, and when she looks in the mirror, she likes what she sees. Her lifestyle overhaul had paid off.
Sallie was successful because she understood one of the most irrefutable scientific facts about weight loss: diets alone don’t work. She knew better than to buy into any of the popular quick fixes like “just eat less” or “give up carbs. ” If any simple diet change produced sustained weight loss, we as a culture would not be so obese, nor would we be spending $40 billion annually on weight loss.
The biggest problem with just eating less, especially on a crash diet, is hunger. Yes, weight peels off at first, and that’s usually very exciting. Who doesn’t want immediate results? But then, very quickly, you hit a wall. You’re constantly hungry. The hunger whittles down your resolve. You get discouraged, “break” your diet, eat more, and the weight returns. Sound familiar?
And, of course, we all know that hungry people are not happy people. When you put yourself on a restricted diet, you deny yourself the comfort and delight of food. You can’t eat fewer calories for long unless you generally feel satisfied and happy.
The last time I checked, there were only smiling faces walking the beautiful grounds of the Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami, Florida. No disgruntled, hungry, discouraged dieters here! With three decades of research and success under our belts, we know full well that the number-one surefire can’t-fail secret to losing weight is to ditch the fad diets once and for all and commit to living a better, more healthful lifestyle on every level.
The secret to losing weight involves 10 key essentials. They’re all part of the Pritikin Longevity Center’s curriculum, taught by Pritikin’s physicians, nutritionists, exercise experts, psychologists, and other faculty. Here is a quick summary:
1. Healthy, satisfying eating starts with super salads, soups, whole grains, and fruit.
Start every lunch and dinner with a large, delicious salad or soup. Super-sizing actually makes good sense when applied to salads. People joke that the salad bowls at Pritikin are so big they have a diving board on one end.
2. Eliminate high-calorie beverages.
One in every five calories we consume comes from a beverage—and those calories don’t do much to quell hunger. Soft drinks and frappacinnos are calorie-rich, but so are fruit juices. One glass of orange juice has twice the calories (100 to 110) of a whole orange (50) – or about the same as in a regular soft drink.
3. Trim portions of calorie-dense foods.
Very quickly, guests at the Pritikin Longevity Center who come for weight loss discover that they never need to go hungry. Every day they’re enjoying large portions of water-rich, fiber-rich foods so that they’re satisfied and have less room for calorie-dense foods.
By switching your morning bowl of corn flakes for a bowl of hot oatmeal and fruit, you’d take in approximately 250 fewer calories each day. That one simple change to your daily diet could help you drop about 25 pounds in one year.
4. Snack smarter.
Every snack counts—and choosing healthier options like yogurt and fruit will keep you satiated and energized without packing on the pounds. Eating just one less 100-calorie cookie a day can cause you to shed 10 pounds in a year. Here are more suggestions for healthy, satisfying, and non-fattening snacks.
5. Forget fast food; dine unrefined.
Fast food restaurants are part feed lots and part salt licks. Two large orders of fries and two regular soft drinks provide enough calories to sustain a 135-pound person for an entire day without eating anything else. Of course, no one exists on just two orders of fries and two soft drinks in a typical day, which is exactly why 135-pound Americans are an endangered species.
6. Watch less, walk more.
We were meant to chase lunch, not order it. If you walk an extra mile a day, you’ll likely lose 10 pounds in a year.
7. Go lean on meat, but catch a fish.
The absolute best fats for your heart are omega-3s, found in fish and flaxseed oil. But no oil, even so-called “good” ones, should be considered a weight-loss food. Coating your salad with olive oil can tally up as many calories as two scoops of premium ice cream.
8. Shake your salt habit.
Excess salt intake is a major contributor to high blood pressure, yet most Americans ingest 4,000 to 5,000 milligrams of sodium a day—far more than the recommended 1,500 milligrams. Salt has snuck into all kinds of foods. Many breads contain more salt, ounce for ounce, than potato chips. In cooking classes at the Pritikin Longevity Center, guests learn how to prepare food that sings with flavor without added salt.
9. Don’t smoke your life away.
Every minute spent smoking shortens your life by a minute, not to mention the wrinkles and erectile dysfunction it causes. The good news is that you will gain back years of your life if you quit.
10. Step around stress.
The link between our emotions and health can’t be overstated. One study found that people who didn’t take annual vacations were 32 percent more likely to die of heart disease. Managing stress by getting enough sleep, making time for friends and loved ones, and trying techniques like meditation will help keep your heart and waistline in shape.
Adopting one or two of these essential lifestyle practices is okay, but optimal health and lasting weight loss requires that you follow the whole program.
Why? Because obesity, inactivity, heart disease, and emotions are intricately connected. Couch potatoes tend to be depressed; depressed people eat more; people who eat more gain weight; those who gain weight tend to sack out on the couch rather than exercise; lack of exercise contributes to heart disease and obesity; both can trigger depression… you get the picture.
Embracing all 10 essentials of the Pritikin Program is the secret to losing weight, feeling healthier, and, best of all, more fully enjoying your life right here and now. At the Pritikin Longevity Center, people learn that all 10 are easier to adopt than they ever thought possible.