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Can you actually enjoy losing weight?

Lauren Fairbanks is a Brooklyn-based writer and editor who has penned for AOL, Young Money, and Eating Well Magazine, among others. She's also the founder and editor of LifeStyler, a NYC centric guide to budget living.

Make weight loss a pleasure

It’s March, which means you’re ready to slim down for spring. But you’ve also succumbed to the same unhealthy lifestyle habits that you vow to kick with your new year’s resolutions — every year. Perhaps the problem is your perspective on losing weight. Weight loss coach Jena la Flamme tells SheKnows that keeping your resolve to shape up is as easy as making weight loss pleasurable.
Woman with hula hoop

Shape up
& have fun

It’s March, which means you’re ready to slim down for spring. But you’ve also succumbed to the same unhealthy lifestyle habits that you vow to kick with your new year’s resolutions — every year. Perhaps the problem is your perspective on losing weight. Weight loss coach Jena la Flamme tells SheKnows that keeping your resolve to shape up is as easy as making weight loss pleasurable.

We spoke to la Flamme, who is the founder of Pleasurable Weight Loss, a feminine approach to losing weight, about how to redefine the way we think about weight loss to make it sustainable and actually enjoyable. Change the way you diet and exercise and you’ll change your body.

SheKnows: What is pleasurable weight loss, and maybe more important, can weight loss actually be pleasurable?

Jena la Flamme: Weight loss actually has to be pleasurable or it isn't sustainable. We're either in stress mode (when we store fat) or relaxation (when our hormones are optimized and fat burning is turned on). Stressful diets are crazy. Anything that's stressful will put you into a stress response. Additionally, most women are lacking pleasure — both while they eat and in their general lifestyle. Pleasurable weight loss is about finding those things that are pleasurable and using them create a healthier lifestyle. It starts with a mindset and then it becomes physical.

SK: Why do a lot of women have so many issues with sticking to a diet or healthy lifestyle choice?

JLF: They're lacking pleasure. We've been raised to think of pleasure as a reward for hard work. It's a once-in-a-while treat, rather than realizing pleasure is a biological requirement. Additionally, a lot of people really feel guilty about pleasure. They don't go the extra mile to find out what does give them pleasure. If you've grown up in a stressful environment, pleasure can feel really foreign.

Through evolution, all organisms have evolved to move toward pleasure and away from pain. We're metabolically programmed to get the sensory experience of eating and if we don't get that sensory part, our body is still hungry. We think we can control the body, but our body is stronger than our mind, and in terms of evolution, it’s older too. Don't back your body into a corner because your body's been so deprived of pleasure while you eat, and make it a priority to have a really pleasurable meal.

SK: Is it bad to have a stringent exercise and health routine, since for a lot of us exercising isn’t hugely pleasurable?

JLF: Stringent for who? If your body is having a good time out of it versus "Oh, I hate it, but if I just read a book on the treadmill or listen to my iPod it’ll go by faster,” it’s going to be more productive. You're not going to lose weight pleasurably by sitting on the couch. But the feminine body might prefer dancing, yoga or tennis or something playful and active. There's got to be something that will work if you're curious enough to find something that will work.

SK: How do you find that activity that works for you?

JLF: Use your curiosity to find these pleasurable activities (pole dancing, hula hooping, finding ways to connect with other women), and stay open to what's in your neighborhood, what's convenient, and what your friends are into — trial and error [is a large part of it].

SK: A lot of people have already given up on their new year's resolutions to be healthier — what can they do to get back on the horse?

A lot of times, [women’s] pleasure often gets lumped into one area — food. To make eating more pleasurable and to facilitate weight loss, use these actionable tips:

  • Switch to the idea that pleasure with food is good and necessary. If you don't have it, you're going to overeat.
  • When you're stressed, you're desensitized to pleasure. Before you eat, relax. Take five big breaths, settle yourself down, eat in an environment that is relaxing and you'll be sensitized to pleasure.
  • Seek unadulterated pleasure in every bite you eat. Do this by slowing down and breathing and feeling your body. Pay attention to what you taste, smell, see, feel and experience. This will activate your body’s natural appetite control.
  • Eat to the point of energy. Notice and track your energy as you eat, on the spectrum between tired and energized. As you eat, your energy will go up. When you’ve had enough to eat, your energy will start to go down. Stop eating when you feel your energy decrease.

JLF: I would say rather than focusing on the [individual resolution], shift your focus from the goal to the environment (or what I call the ecology). Imagine you have a rainforest plant and it says, "Hey, I want to live in the desert," but then it withers and dies. Why? There wasn't a support system that would support its goals.

What will support your goals?

  1. Community — finding groups, finding classes, finding friends, putting yourself in an environment where people are already doing the types of pleasurable activities that you’re interested in. Say you join a mountain biking club. Those people like to wake up on Saturday morning, they like to go biking and eat healthy food. By becoming part of the group, you'll start to be influenced by the group's thoughts and activities.
  2. Be really honest with your desires. What do you really want? Why do you want it? What will having this do to you? Why is it so important to you? And then respect and honor that desire and pursue that desire. Keep focused and keep working towards that desire through baby steps. People think that their desires are "I want to lose weight." They need to get more honest with themselves about what they really want because then they'll have more motivation to pursue [their goals] rather than abandoning them and just fitting in with a status quo.

SK: Are exercise trends detrimental?

JLF: I always tell my clients to "diversify your pleasure portfolio." If you find something you love, don't leave it behind because of the herd. One definition that I use is to define true pleasure and counterfeit pleasure: "True pleasure is to find what gives you pleasure now, in a day, in a week, in a month, and a year" versus “Counterfeit pleasure: I ate a pint of ice cream; I drank a bottle of wine — but in an hour you have a sugar headache; in a day you're bloated; in a week, you've gained 5 pounds.” Have a long-term view of pleasure and look for things that give you sustainable pleasure.

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