Having lost a large amount of weight three years ago after my husband walked out on me was no surprise, as I was too depressed to feed myself. Having kept the weight off all these years later, though, puts me in a select group of people, especially at my age: mid 40's, when weight loss is supposedly harder to maintain. Everyone wants to know what's the secret? In a nutshell, it's about eating well, and living right. Yeah, yeah, you didn't want to hear that – what does it really mean?

Let's start with living right: do you listen to your inner needs or do you routinely tune them out? It isn't called the boob tube for no reason. Is television hypnotizing you? Ok great, it's high definition, it's three-D, and you want to make conversation at the water cooler, but is it taking up more than an hour of your day? Chances are there are few other activities you would let rape you of your time like this. If you can't let it go cold turkey, first get it out of your bedroom and don't watch it while you are eating! You eat more when you aren't aware of what you are doing. Plus, the television itself is slowing down your brain waves, making weight loss more difficult. Try turning if off completely for a day a week. Work yourself up to two then three and so on until you're done with it. Then replace that time with something creative and expressive.

The obvious replacement would be learning your way around the kitchen. After all, eating well is step two in the game of permanent weight loss. If you learned to stay away from processed food you would never have to diet again. What's wrong with processed food you ask? Certain things were never meant to be eaten. You can excise them from your diet and never look back. Tropical oils top the list. The body can't digest them. Companies use them as filler in processed food, but you'll never find a recipe that calls for them. Stay away from fake sweeteners. They may be cancer producing, they may not, but they absolutely have NO nutritional value. Studies show that when given the choice, rats become addicted to sweeteners. In fact given the choice between cocaine and sweeteners the rats choose sweet! So if you think giving up your sweet tooth is hard, you're right!

Lots of processed food is sweetened with high fructose corn syrup because it's cheap. While some natural foodies feel honey is the only acceptable natural sugar, there's little evidence that it's better than brown or white cane sugar. It's the high fructose corn syrup that has recently been shown to cause obesity. Here's a rule of thumb for healthy living: if you must have a sweetie/dessert, make it yourself. The time you spend baking it will give your addiction time to chill out. And nothing you make at home need have fake sugar, high fructose corn syrup, food dyes or tropical oil. You will find you CAN be thin and eat a chocolate chip cookie.

What if you don't want to learn how to cook in your new time that opens up around NOT watching TV any more. There are other equally nurturing things you can do. If you are a parent I highly recommend getting to know your kids. They're only small once and for such a short time. Imagine what a nicer childhood memory it is if you spent time playing with them or taking them places rather than plopping them in front of a video? Board games can be found cheaply at yard sales and thrift shops, and anyone can find a deck of cards. One thing my mom did for me was read books to me, with me, listening while
I read, encouraging my brothers and I to read to one another. It's very bonding.

Another thing you can do with your new found time, is take up a sport. I started doing yoga, although that wasn't really what made me lose weight, I'm sure it helps maintain my weight loss. If you take a class you can also enjoy the social aspect. Yoga is less daunting to start than an aerobic class, you do what you can and it's non-competitive. Aerobics is fun too, or weight lifting at home or at a gym. If you haven't got money for that stride out of your house and walk. If you live in a dicey neighborhood buy a big dog to take with you. There are plenty of medium to large size mutts waiting for you at the local pound who would be more than happy to be your new best friend. A dog is the best walking partner in the world because they will never call on account of rain, never put their marriage in front of you, walking comes first!

Another thing you might consider with your non-TV time is getting involved in what ever religion you are. Having a spiritual side to your world view is actually a healthy way to live. Even if you think your religion has nothing to do with weight loss, if you think about it, being punitive to your body is not esteemed in any of the world's major religions. In Catholicism gluttony is even a sin. In Buddhism, self indulgence is misguided. Meditation is good for the soul, and definitely less fattening than eating microwave popcorn in from of the TV, even if, yes, even if, what you are watching is a DVD.

There are some things in processed food that are not exactly dangerous, but over done. The main ingredient I'm thinking of is sodium. The body WILL die without salt, but don't worry. The average American eats too much not too little. If you eat frozen tv dinners, or otherwise processed food, especially canned food look at the per cent of daily sodium is in each serving and consider how many servings you've had. If you give up on processed food, this is one less thing to keep track of, you would never salt your own food to that extent.