The thing about change is that is seems so permanent. If it is too last, permanency is what we’re after, right? But it is the long term aspect of change – Â that feeling that we’ll miss what we’re moving away from so much that we’ll barely function without it – that prevents most of us from ever taking a step toward it in the first place. Â To succeed with any new health outcome, you’ll have to change something, so buck up and get over it – change isn’t so bad.
Let’s address a few of the factors that Â make change so difficult in the first place, and hopefully by the end of this post, you’ll have a better longterm outlook. ‘Kay, here goes…
FEAR: Let’s call it what it is: a feeling. Embrace it. Let it sink it. Sit with it. Sleep with it. Don’t fight it – just feel it. The more you let it sink it, the more it weakens. Eventually, you’ll arrive at a day when you’ll tell FEAR to split, and you’ll move forward with your plans to change. Â It’s just a feeling. It can’t hurt you.
STRUGGLE: Yep, change is a challenge. Yep, you might relapse. Yep, it might be frustrating. Next excuse, please?
ATTITUDE: If I’ve heard the word “can’t” once, I’ve heard it a bazillion times. You can. You might not want to do what it takes at this moment, but you CAN. People do it every day. They change. So can you.
TIMING: There is no right time to start a change. Yeah, it seems easier to make a healthy change after a holiday, after a vacation, after the “busy time” at work, after the new moon… Seriously, what are you waiting for? Just do it, already. You don’t need all the information you can get your hands on about weight loss in order to get started – if you don’t know by now that saturated fat is bad, sugar is bad, white bread is bad, fast food is bad, etc., then you’ve been living under a rock. You don’t need to know what the most effective workout is – just start exercising. You don’t need anything other than the desire to leave where you are in order to go where you want to be.
Over the course of change, there will be slip ups. There may be backslides. That is all part of the process, and each slip makes you a little stronger for your next start. Eventually, the slips are fewer and fewer. Long term, you will barely remember the you you were before change was necessary.
What purpose does food serve for you? Have you thought about it before now? It is okay if you haven’t Â - I didn’t either, until recently. While defending myself for making certain food choices, I realized I have a food philosophy, and that having such a thing actually enabled me to embrace a lifestyle that has resulted in lasting changes, nutritionally speaking. Mind you, my diet was not always nutritionally sound. There was a time when a giant Â soft pretzel and a diet Coke was a meal on Friday night. I was young and stupid then. Happily, I’ve seen the light.
My philosophy is now that food should first satisfy hunger. I eat only when hungry. Secondly, food should nourish my body. The variety of foods that can serve this purpose make food fun, and provides a learning opportunity. The more I learn about food, the more I want to make the right choices. The payoff: I feel good! Really, really good, all the time.
A beloved exercise physiology professor I had in college bestowedÂ Â two analogies that caused me to read every food label from then forward: He asked, “What happens when you put salt in the gears of your watch? The gears stop, the watch stops, and it can’t be fixed without replacing many parts and great expense. That is what trans fats do to your body,” he said. That was the day I consciously made a point to omit trans fats from my diet, and my family’s diet. If I must buy it in a box or bag, it is organic. Otherwise, I make it myself.
He also used to say that your body is like a BMW – finely engineered, perfect in function, and as such, it required premium fuel to achieve peak function. It also couldn’t sit idle. Â Like any sports vehicle, our bodies work best when we move. “You can put crappy gas in your car, and if it breaks, you can replace your car. You can not replace your body.” Crappy food is crappy fuel. You don’t need me to tell you that, but remember those words: Crappy food is crappy fuel. Eat enough of it, and you will break.
My food philosophy embraces nutrition. My food is functional, because I don’t want to replace my vehicle – I want to keep it for as long as I’m alive, and I want it to stay in peak condition for as long as possible so that I can live life to its fullest. I can’t find what I need to fulfill that goal in a bag of Cheetohs or a plate of Alfredo and I would never consider looking there for it.
When you know why you eat what you eat, you begin to realize that food can serve many purposes that are often totally unrelated to satisfying hunger or nourishing our body. Food can be an emotional tonic. It is fun to eat in the company of friends. It is something to do when you are bored. It can be a temporary high, a sleep inducer, a pacifier, a reward, and a punishment. If why you are eating doesn’t not align with where you are in life, or where you want to be, likely your food choices are working against you, rather than for you.
“I eat to live my best life.” That is my food philosophy. What is yours?
Iâ€™m addicted to watching The Biggest Loser (donâ€™t worry, Iâ€™m gearing up for a loooong series of posts re: this show very soon â€“ later this week, actually, so sit tight.) I love watching the massive transformation that takes place in a relatively short time. It is amazing, donâ€™t you think? Off the show, people just like that are able to lose weight, and keep it off. They arenâ€™t famous, of course, like the contestants, but they should be. Keeping weight off is HARD work. So how do they do it? I want to know, donâ€™t you?
Fortunately, weight loss is a subject that colleges and universities spend a lot of time, and money, researching, which means the answers we seek are ripe for the picking, if you know where to look.
Cue Dr. Len Kravitz, Assoc. Professor of Exercise Science at The University of New Mexico. Iâ€™ve had the pleasure of attending a few of Dr. Kravitzâ€™s courses at various fitness conventions, and I simply adore him. I knew heâ€™d have the answers to this pressing question: How do you keep weight off successfully? It didnâ€™t take long to dig up an article on the University of New Mexico website written by Dr. Kravitz. Kravitz summarized (thank you Dr. Kravitz!) the results from The National Weight Control Registry. It turns out, those who are successful at losing weight, and keeping it off, have specific traits and habits. This is what I learned…
1. Make exercise a priority, and exercise more. According to Kravitz, women burn an average of 2,545 calories/week during planned physical activity. That is about 360 calories per day, or the equivalent of a thirty-minute run, or one-hour walk. The sad truth is, most people donâ€™t exercise. In fact, in all of the states but five (Washington, Oregon, California, Hawaii, and Alaska), less than 18% of Americans engage in sports or exercise on an average day. (http://www.bls.gov/spotlight/2008/sports/pdf/sports_bls_spotlight.pdf)
2. Eat healthy 80% of the time (or more), making low-fat, low-calorie foods the mainstay of their diets. Also, participants in the registry noted that their eating patterns were the same on weekends as they were during the week. Weekends can ruin otherwise healthy eating patterns, so Iâ€™m not surprised to learn that successful weight losers try hard to stick to their usual, healthy eating habits. Although, 39% did say they followed stricter diets during the week. Those that ate consistently healthy all week long were 1.5 times more likely to maintain their weight loss during the following year.
3. They live a healthier lifestyle for themselves, rather than for another person, or to fit into a social norm. In most cases (85%), there is a â€śtriggerâ€ť that sparks their weight loss journey, such as a medical condition (23%), reaching an all-time high in weight, or seeing a picture themselves. There were several contestants on this seasonâ€™s Biggest Loser that said seeing a picture of themselves â€śshockedâ€ť them into realizing how big they had gotten, and motivated them to start losing weight. I have also noticed the shock on the contestantsâ€™ faces when the showâ€™s doctor delivers the scary medical prognosis for each of them, if they donâ€™t lose weight.
4. They weigh themselves frequently. Self-monitoring is key to reaching any goal, especially weight loss. Read â€śSuccessful Self-Monitoring: Log and Chart your progressâ€ť for tips on self-monitoring.
(And I added 3 of my own traits, based on health behavior change paper I wrote in college):
5. They eat breakfast every day. This is SO important. Although, I know many people who just arenâ€™t hungry in the morning. I do wonder if, for people who this is the case, eating a regular breakfast would bump up metabolism enough that in time they would be hungry in the morning? Iâ€™ll research that bit some more. (Not sure what to eat? Check out the post: “The Best Breakfast is the one you’ll eat!”)
6. Donâ€™t focus on the short-term effects of weight loss. Instead, they view the changes theyâ€™ve made as â€ślifestyleâ€ť changes that will last a lifetime. This part is really important. To keep weight off, a lifestyle change is key.
7. Watch less television. Think about it â€“ not only is the sedentary behavior setting you up for a slower metabolism, but TV watching also promotes mindless snacking. And I suppose that for those who have to give something up in order to make time for exercise, TV is a logical activity to forego. Although, I have a dear friend that trained for a full marathon, on a treadmill mind you, by taping and watching her favorite shows while she logged mile after mile. I admire her focus. Even with my favorite shows to watch, I couldnâ€™t stay on a treadmill that long, but I say, if it works for you, by all means, DO IT!!
IMPORTANT STUFF: According to the NWCR study, those who kept weight off for 2 years or more had significantly higher odds of keeping the weight off, reducing their change of “regain” by almost 50%!!
If youâ€™d like to read the full article, here it is: Winning at Losing: Secrets of Long-Term Weight Loss
If you have successfully lost weight, please share your own Secrets to Success! Everyone struggling with weight loss or weight maintenance would benefit from hearing how others managed to pull it off, and keep it off.
The mysterious “fat burning zone” continues to confuse many gym-goers. The theory goes something like this: working out in a “zone” of intensity that is less intense for at least 20 minutes will burn more fat calories than calories from carbohydrate. Is this true? Yes and no, but mostly no. You actually burn more calories from fat right now, sitting still, reading this post, than you do on the treadmill. That is because in the resting state, the body burns a higher percentage of fat calories. As you crank up the exercise intensity, you burn a little less fat per calorie. However, it really comes down to the total number of calories you burn per exercise session — if you want to lose weight.
Here is an example:
Let’s pretend for a moment that you decide power walk for 40 mins on the treadmill. This would burn approx. 5 to 6 calories per minute. After 40 mins, you will have burned 200 to 240 calories. Not bad. Percentage-wise, about 50% of these calories will come from fat, so about 100 to 120 calories.
Now, let’s say you decide to add running intervals to your power walk at a 1:1 ratio, meaning that for every bout of less intense cardio, you do an equal-length interval that is more intense. After 40 mins of this type of intense activity, you will likely have burned between 400 to 450 calories. A bit less fat is burned during intense activity, BUT, you burned more total calories. So, if 40% of those calories come from fat, you will have burned 160 to 180 fat calories!
This was a simple example of how interval training can turn up the calorie-burn. Try adding intervals to your current cardio routine if you want to 1) burn more total calories and 2) burn more fat!
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “a calorie is a calorie,” and that when weight loss is the goal, you can probably loose weight on a 1,200 calorie/day diet whether it is 1,200 Twinkie calories or apple calories. At this point, you might be thinking, “Cool! I’ll go on the Twinkie diet!”Â Â Our bodies are smarter than that though, and I say, thank goodness. I know – I’m no fun at all . Last week at the grocery one of my kiddos held up a box of Twinkies and had the audacity to ask me to purchase them. I nearly burst a vessel in my forehead trying to restrain myself from smashing the box with my feet.
All calories are not created equally. Take a peek at the chart below:
Keep in mind that a carbohydrate is not necessarily bread. Veggies, fruits, and whole grains/seeds are also carbs (much healthier ones, I might add). Protein can be from meats, fish, tofu, beans, nuts, and eggs. Fats are what they are, and of course, they range from the unhealthy variety (full-hydrogenated vegetable oil), to healthy oils, such as olive, safflower, and sesame oil. Then, there are the dreaded alcohol calories from beer, wine, etc. Calories from alcohol decrease the amount of fat that the body utilizes for energy. Note: this is a bad thing, as we WANT to use fat for energy, since it packs more calories (9, if you read the chart above). Fat is your friend when it comes to energy. Remember that – in case I give a pop quiz. But alcohol inhibits the body’s use of fat for energy. Bad. That is what the “beer gut” is – excess fat the body can’t get rid of. For more on this, visit: Rochester.edu
Think about the calories you are consuming every day. You need a variety of foods, a variety of colors, and a variety of types of calories, and if you are trying to lose weight, make sure your calories pack a nutrient-dense punch. This means limiting refined sugars, unhealthy, saturated oils, and foods that are too easy for the body to break down, which is just about anything white (white bread, potatoes, snacks, crackers, and again, sugar). In fact, I often tell clients to count nutrients rather than calories. When you eat the way you should, the weight often takes care of itself.
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