The first time I was asked this, I was honestly taken aback. I am a cardiologist, not a miracle worker! I thought my job was to mend broken hearts, get people through surgery, and make them dizzy with blood pressure medication and resentful toward me for taking away their bacon cheeseburgers. I didn't get into this to solve people's weight concerns. I would rather leave that for someone else with more time, more patience, and maybe even his own television show.
But I slowly began to realize something.
Sure, people want to be healthy. No one wants to be hospitalized with a heart attack or watch a loved one undergo open-heart surgery for a problem that might have been prevented. No one wants high blood pressure or diabetes. No one wants to take medicines. No one wants to be tired all day or feel lousy performing simple tasks.
But it's hard to feel your blood pressure.
It's hard to see your cholesterol or blood sugar.
However, there is a cardiac risk factor that stares you in the face each and every time you go to brush your teeth, put on (or take off) some clothes, or ask someone out on a date (or wait to be asked out). Your weight.
Your weight is a barometer of your health, including your heart health. People care deeply about their weight, and for lots of different reasons. And heart health usually is not one of them. That's okay with me, though. It doesn't matter if our motivations are different, just as long as our solution is the same. I don't mind getting to your heart through your stomach, as the saying goes. Just so long as I get there.
One thing I've learned from taking care of loggers and executives, grandmothers and kids just out of high school is that you can't treat everyone the same way, even if they have the same problem. A truck driver might have a different perspective on his blood pressure medication regimen ("No water pill, please") than a software engineer. A single mom with three kids will see the world differently from a retiree trying to improve his or her quality of life above all else. We recognize this diversity every day in health care, and we change our approaches and sometimes our actual therapies to achieve the same results. If heart medications and invasive procedures can be tailored to individuals, then it seems to me that healthy lifestyle choices can be too.
In a culture of evolving individuality-from our shoes to our smartphones-we each expect to experience the world in our own unique way, even if a common approach is cheaper or more readily available. This is in direct contrast to previous generations, when there were fewer choices and people had fewer expectations. Today, we are searching for more possibilities, and we want an individualized, personalized experience in everything we do.
We are used to thinking about our destination before we plan our route. Our goals exist before we figure out how to reach them. And we sometimes dream about where we want to be without paying attention to where we are right now.
So if losing weight is your objective, how you go about it may not seem important to you. But setting your goal is really your challenge. Because you do have to figure out how to get to it.
How do you lose ten, twenty, or even fifty pounds? What can you eat? How much exercise do you really have to do? The difficulty of figuring it all out seems insurmountable. The mountain always does when you are sitting at the bottom, staring at the summit. But if you take a moment and look at the path, you can find short goals along the way to keep you interested. To keep you engaged. To keep you inspired. To keep you going.
As you open this book, and turn these first pages, you are in a sense beginning a journey. It may be a journey that you have begun many times before. And you do not need to be acquainted with ancient Chinese proverbs to know that this journey, like so many others, begins with a single step.
With a single pound.
Weight loss is the goal. It is a number. It is a dress size. It is a deadline. But contrary to what some weight-loss programs might suggest, you cannot live your life day to day with only the big picture in mind. It is too hard to stay on the path. It becomes too easy to make a misstep and feel that you have to start over again.
The truth is, we live our lives without having an overarching plan, but instead by being nimble and flexible. We make a seemingly infinite number of small choices, many of which we don't even recognize. And they take us, slowly or quickly, closer to or farther away from where we genuinely want to be. Even though we want to fulfill whatever promise we make to ourselves, our strategy will be reaching our goal step by step, rather than trying to leap toward it in a single bound, only to realize in midair that we can't actually fly.
Losing weight begins with a single pound.
Eat. Drink. Exercise. Act. Live. Once you understand the two hundred different weight-loss Solutions presented in the chapters that follow, you can combine them to reach your own personal goals. Be flexible. Remember, one pound at a time. To keep you going. Toward where you want to be.
It's the Flex Diet. It bends so you won't break.
From The Flex Diet by James Beckerman, M.D. Copyright © 2011 by Dr. James Beckerman. Reprinted by permission of Touchstone, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
The Flex Diet is available in bookstores nationwide and online: The Flex Diet: Design-Your-Own Weight Loss Plan