Category: Weight Loss Articles

Do You Wish You Had the Perfect Body? It’s a LOT of Damn Work

At the gym one day, I shamelessly eavesdropped on a conversation between two women that went something like this:

(As a tall, thin, glistening woman walked by) “Oh, look at her. She’s so skinny, she probably hasn’t eaten since Clinton was president.”
“You know she’s had work done–nobody could look that perfect without some help.”
“Listen to you talk! I would kill for your thighs.”
“Oh, please–look at these flabby things! And you’re one to talk, Ms. Perfect Abs.”
“Perfect? Maybe perfectly awful.”

Here’s the thing: These women looked great. They were strong, curvy and obviously fit but, like many women, they were so focused on their imperfections, they weren’t seeing what I was seeing. And it’s not just women who are so hard on themselves. Men also talk about their bodies, just not the same way women do. Witness this conversation between my husband and one of his buddies:

“Dude, I’m getting fat.”
“Dude.”
(Shrugging) “Let’s go get a beer.”

Whether you’re a man or a woman, chances are you don’t have the perfect body. Chances are even greater that you’ve done things to try and get the perfect body. Things like leg lifts, crunches, squats, lunges, hours on the treadmill, hundreds of salads, thousands of glasses of water…all of it in the hopes that you will finally get rid of those love handles or those chunky thighs.

What you’ve probably figured out is that all the exercise and dieting in the world may not be enough to achieve that perfection so many of us desire. We’re still a product of our genes. The question then becomes, how much can we really change and what do we do if we can’t get that perfect body?

How Much Can You Change Your Body?

We all approach our bodies differently. Some people scrutinize every detail to see what they have or haven’t achieved. Others studiously avoid looking at themselves unless they absolutely have to. With images of effortless perfection coming at us from TV, magazines and the Internet, it’s no wonder we fret over our own bodies. Why can’t I look like THAT, we wonder?

One reason is that many aspects of your body are determined by factors beyond your control and that starts with your body type.

What’s Your Body Type?

It’s hard to know how large of a role genes play in what we can accomplish with our bodies. They determine things like height, hair color and eye color, but they also determine your basic body type:

  • Endomorph – This body type tends to have a higher body fat, big bones and a slower metabolism. For that reason, it may be difficult to lose weight.
  • Mesomorphs – With this body type, a person is more muscular and may have an easier time losing fat and gaining muscle.
  • Ectomorph –  People with this body type tend to be lean and may even have trouble gaining weight due to a faster metabolism. Yeah…that sucks, right?

Most of us fall somewhere in between these different body types, which means that some of us will lose weight easily and quickly while others won’t. There are also different body shapes:  Apple, pear, hourglass…you know the drill.

While we may think that the right combination of exercise and diet will give us the ideal body, we may be limited by our inherited body type.

So, what does that mean for you?

The truth is, no one can tell what you can or can’t change about your body. You can lose or gain fat by burning more or less calories, and you can change the amount of muscle you have by lifting weights.

You can control the calories you put in your body and the calories you expend with exercise and activity, but, what you can’t do is choose where you lose that fat or gain that muscle.

So, what if you do everything right and you still have stubborn areas of fat you can’t seem to get rid of? One option is, of course, plastic surgery, but, I have a better idea. What if you could change your idea of a perfect body? This process requires dedication and commitment, a commitment to changing how you think about yourself.

Can You Accept Your Body?

The idea of accepting your body just the way it is may seem completely foreign to you.

In fact, it feels like the world around us is set on keeping us unhappy with our bodies. We constantly see ads, commercials and informercials for diets, pills and gadgets to help us reshape every inch of our bodies.

There are magazines with pencil-thin models on the front and headlines promising solutions for everything from flabby abs to dimpled thighs.

If you didn’t know better, you’d think getting the perfect body is something we should all be working on morning, noon and night. Even if we don’t work on it all day, a lot of us are at least thinking about it.

And many of us may balk at the idea of body acceptance. If we accept our bodies, won’t we become complacent? If we embrace our bigger thighs or love handles, won’t we get even fatter?

Many of us are afraid that, unless we put ourselves down and remain constantly aware of our flaws, we won’t be motivated to exercise or eat right.

The good news is, there is some evidence that a healthy body acceptance actually encourages us to exercise and eat right. In

There are a number of ways to work on body acceptance and, yes, I’m going to talk about exercise.

First Exercise For a Healthy Body

While exercise isn’t a magic pill for creating the perfect body, it does have magical qualities on your body image and self-esteem.

A variety of studies have shown that people of all ages and genders experience improved self-esteem, self-worth and perceptions of how attractive they are after starting an exercise program.

While many of us use exercise as a tool to get the perfect body, it can also be a tool for shifting your focus away from perfection and on what you can accomplish each and every day. Exercise improves your:

  • Strength and endurance. When you exercise, you may be so focused on the scale that you’re not aware of other progress you’ve made. But, if you pay attention, you’ll notice those strength gains in other areas of your life – being able to carry more groceries or pick up your kids or grandkids without throwing out your back. You’ll have more energy to get everything done without feeling exhausted.
  • Confidence. Mastering a new activity makes you more confident. You may start that kickboxing class or strength training workout tripping over your own feet or feeling a little ridiculous, but, it only takes a few workouts for your body to get used to those activities and get better at them. That confidence may spur you to even greater goals like signing up for a race or taking an active vacation.
  • Connection. We spend so much time sitting, we forget what it feels like to actually move our bodies. When you start exercising, you learn about your body in a whole different way – how it feels when your heart speeds up and your breathing increases. You can feel your muscles contract and, best of all, you feel your own power. That awareness makes you realize you’re capable of so many things.
  • Function over appearance. When you spend more time moving your body, you become more interested in doing things to make it work more efficiently. Now, instead of only focusing on how to make your thighs thinner, you’re focusing on how to make them stronger so you can make it through that next 3-mile run. Your goals change as you focus on staying healthy and fit.

Rethink Your Goals

If you’re ready to give up on the idea of perfection, it’s time to set new goals for yourself.

Doing this will open the door for new ways of thinking and new ways of exercising. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a goal to lose weight or even to improve on different areas of your body.

It’s when those goals leave you frustrated that it may be time for a change. Try this step-by-step process for creating new goals:

  1. Make a list of your goals. Write down every goal you have and estimate how long you’ve had that goal (e.g., “I’ve wanted smaller thighs for the last 25 years”).
  2. Assess your goals. Put a star next to any goals that, a) you’ve had for years and haven’t achieved, b) may be out of reach and, c) that make you feel bad about yourself. For example, if you’ve been trying to get rid of those love handles for the last 5 years, nothing has worked and you feel awful every time you think about it, that goal deserves a star.
  3. Get rid of your impossible goals. Go through the goals you marked and ask yourself how likely it is that you’ll reach that goal, given all the time and energy you’ve already spent on it  (or maybe HAVEN’T spent). Then ask yourself what would happen if you crossed it off your list. What if you decided to forget about getting rid of those love handles for once and for all? If you’re ready, do it! This may take some practice in your thinking.
  4. Set new goals. Just because you get rid of some goals doesn’t mean you stop working towards something. The difference now is that you can set goals based on new parameters. Instead of getting rid of your love handles, what if you focused on getting in a certain number of workouts each week or building strength so that you can do more around the yard or house? Think about what you want your body to do rather than what you want it to look like and set your goals accordingly.

You may need some help in both letting go of old goals and setting new ones. These resources can help you get started:

Another part of giving up perfection is changing how you think about your body and about exercise. It’s funny how exercise can seem impossible when you’re trying to change your body…and why not? Doing hundreds of crunches to get flat abs would frustrate anyone since spot reduction isn’t in the cards.

But, opening your mind to the possibility that exercise can be used for something other than reshaping your body may just put physical activity within your reach. Consider these different activities and how you might use them to further your new goals:

Cardio Exercise

You know cardio burns calories and that helps with losing weight. But, it can do so much more

  • Strengthens your heart and makes it work more efficiently
  • Increases your lung capacity
  • Improves bone density
  • Lowers bad cholesterol and reduces your risk of heart disease and diabetes
  • Lowers stress, depression and anxiety

Looking at these benefits may help you come up with those new goals. For example, knowing cardio can lower bad cholesterol, you could set a goal to get off your cholesterol meds using regular workouts. Or, you could work towards reducing your stress by scheduling short workouts throughout the day.

Strength Training

Like cardio, strength training is great for losing fat and gaining muscle, both of which contribute to looking better. But, since you’re getting away from perfection, other reasons to lift weights include:

  • Increased strength and endurance
  • Protection from injuries
  • Better coordination and muscle control
  • Improved balance and stability

Use some of these benefits to set your new goals. For example, if you have problems with back pain caused by sitting too much, set a goal to work on your core strength. This Quick Fix Core Workout can be done in about 5 minutes!

The point is – start using exercise to your advantage rather than thinking of it as an evil thing you HAVE to do. All the benefits of exercise are yours for the taking, not something you have to dread. As long as you stick with what feels good to you, you can sort of forget about exercising into that perfect body. Because unless you’re genetically blessed already, it probably ain’t gonna happen.

And that, as they say, is ok.

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You Already Have What You Need to Lose Weight You Just Need to Tap Into It

Despite the seemingly endless information out there, losing weight still seems like a mysterious process, doesn’t it?

We know it’s fundamentally about making sure we burn more calories than we eat, but it’s also about much more than that. Every choice you make each day, whether to exercise or not, whether to have the grilled chicken or go for the burger, whether to watch TV or go for a walk will determine whether you lose weight, stay where you are or even gain more weight.

So, what do you need to make those good choices day after day? It’s all about empowering yourself…putting yourself in the driver’s seat so that you’re making the choices instead of feeling like you have no choice.

1. Make It About Taking Care of Yourself

It may seem obvious, but making daily healthy choices starts with a fundamental desire to better yourself and not just to lose weight. The decision to be better, look better and feel better isn’t based on guilt, shame or the fact that your pants feel too tight. It’s based on the fact that you want to stop feeling sh**ty about yourself.

You want to feel good. You want a better life. And that desire is what will drive your choices.

When you have the right mindset, you’re able to look at exercise in a new light, as something that feels good rather than a punishment. You stop expecting instant results because you’re not as focused on those external changes. You’re also able to bypass excuses (I’m too busy, I’m too tired, etc.) that stop you before you even start.

Here’s how to start working on that mindset. Start by:

  • Fostering your desires. We all have moments when we desperately want to lose weight, but that desperation doesn’t lead to lasting motivation. Ask yourself what you really want for yourself. Go beyond thinner thighs or smaller love handles and, instead, ask yourself what would really make your life better? Having more energy? Staying healthy and active for your kids? Write these things down to remind yourself of what you really want.
  • Asking around. If you know healthy people, ask them why they exercise every day. You may hear something about weight loss, but you’ll also hear other reasons – it makes them feel better, it gives them energy or life wouldn’t be the same without it. Think about what you hear and imagine having those reasons for yourself.
  • Practicing. Most of us know how to make healthy choices, we just don’t follow through when it comes to crunch time. Overcome that by practicing one new healthy choice each day, no matter how small it is. Have an extra glass of water or take a walk on your next break. Those are the choices that lead to weight loss.

You can get started right now with this free 7-Day Kickstart Exercise Challenge. You’ll have easy-to-follow challenges that steer you in the right direction without overwhelming you.

2. Make It a Choice

One thing we humans like is choice.  As soon as we feel we have no choice, that’s usually when things go wrong.

That’s one reason many structured diets don’t work. There are so many forbidden foods that you end up craving all the things you’re not allowed to have. At that point, you may give in to those cravings just to stop that internal struggle.

But, healthy eaters don’t forbid certain foods. They often don’t even follow a particular kind of diet; they simply give themselves the choice of whether they’ll eat healthy or not. Each time they choose a healthy meal, it becomes easier to make that healthy choice the next time around.

It sounds strange, but knowing you can have anything you want allows you to make a choice. You’re in charge instead of being at the mercy of your cravings or emotions and that’s when you’ll feel the most empowered. You can learn more moderation by:

  • Keeping a food journal. Keeping a journal will make you aware of your eating habits as well as times you could make different, healthier choices.
  • Planning your treats. Being healthy and losing weight doesn’t mean you only get to eat tree bark and lemon wedges. You’re still allowed to have pizza, brownies or a burger now and then. The trick is the ‘now and then’ part. Planning for your treats will allow you to work those extra calories in so that you don’t sabotage yourself. If you know you’re having pizza on Friday, you can plan on a lighter lunch or a longer workout to help deal with those extra calories.
  • Make small changes. Giving up everything at once is not only tough, it’s a little scary. Rather than change everything in one day, choose one thing to work on – eating a better breakfast or replacing your afternoon Coke with a cup of tea. Work on that one thing until you’ve perfected it, then move onto the next. Try this 6-Day Nutrition Challenge to help ease you into some healthy choices without being miserable or feeling deprived.

3. Commit to Your Exercise Time

One reason many of us skip exercise is because we don’t actually commit to it. You might have a vague idea of getting in some workouts this week, but until you actually commit yourself, it won’t happen.

It’s hard to commit to something in the future, especially a workout. You may tell yourself you’re going to exercise while mentally leaving the door open to bail on the idea if something better comes along.

Successful weight losers not only commit to exercise each week, they also guard that time fiercely. The more often you show up for your workouts, no matter what you actually do during the workout, the easier it will be to make exercise a habit. These tips will help you make that commitment to exercise:

  • Schedule your workouts. Sit down with your schedule and carve out your exercise time for the entire week.
  • Start simple. Keep it short and easy – Something you know you can do – 10 minutes of walking, for example, or a simple Weight Training Routine.
  • Plan your routine. Write down what you’ll do, where you’ll do it, when you’ll do it and how long you’ll do it. You can always change things later if necessary.
  • Prepare yourself. Get everything ready for your workouts ahead of time to reduce the chance of changing your mind.
  • Protect your time. Plan everything else around that exercise time.
  • Always follow through. No matter what’s going on, try to follow through with every planned workout. Even if you only get in 5 or 10 minutes, keeping your commitment will empower you to follow through the next time. That consistency will help you build strength, endurance, and the momentum to keep going.

4. Prepare for Slip-Ups

One thing I’ve learned, both from my own experience and experience with clients, is that we will all slip-up. It’s just impossible to be perfect 100% of the time, even if you are Martha Stewart.

Most of us will be thrown off track by vacations, holidays, business travel, illnesses, life changes.

It will happen.

People often get frustrated when, just when they get into a solid routine, something happens to throw them off, but that’s what life is all about.

Sometimes just knowing it will happen can help you relax and deal with it. Some ways you can prepare yourself:

  • Allow some flexibility. If you’re going on vacation, chances are you won’t stick with your normal exercise and diet routine. Make a plan for how you’ll be as healthy as possible, but give yourself permission to back off a little so you don’t agonize over every little thing. Even if you gain a few pounds, the world won’t end. Just promise to get back to the routine when the vacation’s over.
  • Focus on the present. If you’re sick, have an injury or have a sick family member, you may not be able to exercise at all. That doesn’t mean you have to abandon all things healthy but do what you can to keep your calories under control and plan on how you’ll get back to exercise once you’re recovered.
  • Plan ahead. If you’re traveling on business, research where you’re going and figure out how you’ll exercise when you get there. Bring some workout DVDs, resistance bands or make use of the fitness room, if the hotel has one. If you have your schedule handy, schedule some workout time in, even if it’s just 10 minutes here and there.
  • Get back on track. If you get blown off course by the holidays or a surprise family visit, start back to your routine as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the harder it will be.

5. Realize There’s No Quick Fix

Most people know weight loss is a slow process – at least intellectually. But because of all the infomercials and questionable information out there, many of us have a secret belief that, if we could just find that one diet/exercise/pill, it really would be quick and easy.

The truth is, you have to exercise and eat well most days of the week to really get where you want to go.

Successful weight losers know this and act accordingly, committing themselves each day to exercise and healthy eating.

There is no point at which they can stop making these healthy choices and go back to eating junk food and sitting around the house. If they do, they’ll go right back to where they were before they lost the weight.

To understand this for yourself, think about how you approach weight loss. Do you try diet after diet, only to quit after a few weeks? If so, maybe you need to quit dieting and focus on the lasting changes you can make.

Do you start exercising, only to quit if you don’t see results? Maybe setting more realistic goals would motivate you to stick with it. You may even need some mental tweaking to open your mind and find a new perspective about weight loss.

6. Create Your Own Motivation

Isn’t it fun to make plans to exercise? It feels good to imagine yourself getting up tomorrow at 5:30 and going to the gym, getting in a killer workout before you start your day. But, what happens when 5:30 rolls around? Suddenly that “great idea” you had to workout so early in the morning seems utterly ridiculous.

Making plans to exercise is the easy part. Following through takes a different set of skills and it starts with realizing that you have to create your own motivation.

Too often, we wait until we feel like exercising but how much does anyone feel like exercising at 5:30 in the morning? The key is to find something, anything, that gets you moving. Once you get started, the rest will fall into place.

  • Promise yourself a reward. Sometimes just having something to look forward to is enough to get you out of bed – a hot bath, a massage at the end of the week or a leisurely night watching your favorite TV show. Promise yourself something good in exchange for your hard work.
  • Remind yourself of your goals. Write down your goals and put them next to your bed, right on top of your snooze button. When you wake up and consider skipping your workout, look at your goals to remind yourself that this workout is a necessary step to reaching them.
  • Don’t stop looking for motivation. Some days, motivation may be hard to come by. Even reminders of your goals may not be enough to get you moving and you may be tempted to roll over and go back to sleep. Hey, you tried, didn’t you? Instead of giving up, keep digging through all the reasons to workout until you find one that resonates with you. Each day, something different will motivate you – you just have to find what that something is. While you’re digging, go ahead and put on your workout clothes. Now, lace up your shoes and get started on your warm up. By the end of it, I’ll bet you find a reason to keep going.

7. Always Take Action

Too often, we get so focused on the scale that we forget success comes from what we do each and every day. Sometimes, taking an action, no matter how small it is, can make the difference between staying on track and getting completely derailed.

  • Keeping your commitment to workout, even if you have to do something shorter
  • Getting right back on track when you slip up.
  • Finding satisfaction in your healthy choices. Each time you make a good choice, you get stronger and more confident.

8. Be Annoying

Another thing that successful weight losers do is become one of those annoying picky eaters who’s always asking questions in restaurants.

Healthy eaters have to be willing to ask for what they want and can’t be afraid of special requests like sauces or dressings on the side. You can’t be afraid to ask questions about how things are cooked or if you can make substitutions.

For example, I went to lunch with a bunch of personal trainers and thought the waiter would have a stroke from all the special request ‘could you bring that sauce on the side?’ ‘Is that cooked in butter or olive oil?’ ‘Do you have brown rice instead of french fries?’

Eating healthy and watching calories requires vigilance and it may mean asking questions and making special requests which makes some people uncomfortable.

9. Take every opportunity to move

One of my successful clients has a rule for herself – she always parks in the furthest space from the door, no matter where she’s shopping (even if it’s the grocery store). Many successful people use this type of thing to stay more active.

All those little movements, extra steps you take around the house or the office, every time you stand up and stretch, they all add up and contribute to your overall calorie burn.

Some ideas:

  • Take a lap around the parking lot before going in to work or wherever you’re going
  • Use the bathroom on another floor every now and then
  • Make your phone calls while taking a walk
  • Sit on an exercise ball while you’re on the computer or watching TV

Just standing up more than you normally do can make a difference. It doesn’t have to be a big deal…just think about how you can move a little more.

 10. Take the pressure off

Last, it’s really hard to be consistent if you’re white-knuckling it through every choice. Instead, take a deep breath and remember this: You don’t have to change everything in one day. Focus on just one choice – A workout, a salad, a glass of water, a walk outside. Pick that one healthy thing and do it.

Done.

Being successful doesn’t always mean a number on a scale. What’s really satisfying is checking off that goal in your to do list. Every time you accomplish that, it gets easier and easier.

 

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All About Your Metabolism – Here’s how to speed things up

The word “metabolism” is thrown around a lot these days. How many times have I looked at someone skinnier than I am and think – “Man, I wish I had her metabolism.”?

Actually, I usually think, “Man, I wish I had her arms/legs/flat belly/really expensive workout pants.”

But I know that a speedier metabolism would at least help me get closer to that Skinny Woman.

So, what do you know about metabolism? You know that if yours is too slow you might gain weight. But what exactly does that mean?

Well technically “metabolism” is the word to describe all of the biochemical reactions in your body. It’s how you take in nutrients and oxygen and use them to fuel everything you do.

Your body has an incredible ability to grow, heal, and generally stay alive and without this amazing biochemistry, you and whatever body you have would not be possible.

Metabolism includes how the cells in your body:

  • Allow activities you can control (e.g. physical activity etc.).
  • Allow activities you can’t control (e.g. heartbeat, healing wounds, processing of nutrients & toxins, etc.).
  • Allow storage of excess energy for later.

So when you put all of these processes together, it’s easy to imagine that they’re all going to work a little differently for all of us.

For some, it works too fast. For some, too slow. And for some? Just right.

That’s what we call your “metabolic rate.”

Don’t worry – There will not be a pop quiz after this.

What is Your Metabolic Rate and How Can You Make it Go Faster?

Your metabolic rate is how fast your metabolism works and is measured in calories (yup, those calories!).

The calories you eat can go to one of three places:

  • Work (i.e. exercise and other activity).
  • Heat (i.e. from all those biochemical reactions).
  • Storage (i.e. extra leftover “unburned” calories stored as fat).

I kind of feel like all of mine go to storage, don’t you?

As you can imagine the more calories you burn while working, moving and creating heat, the easier it is to lose weight and keep it off because there will be fewer “leftover” calories to store for later.

So, how do you measure your metabolic rate?

There are a couple of different ways

  1. One is the “resting metabolic rate” (RMR or BMR) which is how much energy your body uses when you’re not being physically active. Calculate your BMR.
  2. The other is the “total daily energy expenditure” (TDEE) which measures both the resting metabolic rate as well as the energy used for “work” (e.g. exercise) throughout a 24-hour period. Calculate your TDEE.

So, What Makes My Metabolic Rate Slow or Fast?

Short answer: A lot of Things.

Your Thyroid

You know about your thyroid, right? It’s a little gland at the front of your throat that releases hormones to tell your body to “speed up” your metabolism. Of course, the more thyroid hormone there is the faster things will work and the more calories you’ll burn.

On the other hand, if your body doesn’t release enough thyroid hormone, then you know what happens. Yep…you burn fewer calories.

More about your thyroid.

Your Weight and Size

Another thing that affects your metabolism is how big you are. Larger people have higher metabolic rates, but that isn’t the end of the world because one thing you can do about it: Increase lean muscle tissue.

In other words, lifting weights.

Muscles are more metabolically active than fat so the more you have, the higher your metabolism will be. Your body burns more energy even when you’re not working out. It’s like free weight loss!

Well, not really but sort of.

There’s another reason you want to lift weights, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. A funny thing happens when you go on a diet or start losing weight: Your metabolism actually slows down because your body is trained to hold onto body fat. I mean, what if you’re not eating because all the food is gone??

You know it isn’t, but your body doesn’t.

Lifting weights can offset this little problem, helping you hold onto muscle that would otherwise be lost through the weight loss process.

Here’s a great workout to get your started: Total Body Dumbbell Workout.

Cardio Exercise

When you do cardio, your metabolic rate goes up because your muscles are burning fuel. This is temporary, unfortunately, but it definitely affects your metabolism in the long run, especially if you’re losing weight.

Don’t forget you have to lift weights, too.

Here’s an easy Low Impact Cardio Workout you can try to get your metabolism moving.

The Food You Eat

We often don’t think that eating can actually help us burn calories, but it’s all part of your overall metabolism.

Your body actually burns calories to absorb, digest, and metabolize your food. This is called the “thermic effect of food” (TEF).

You can actually use this it to your advantage when you understand how your body metabolizes foods differently.

Fats, for example, increase your TEF by 0-3%; carbs increase it by 5-10%, and protein increases it by 15-30%. By trading some of your fat or carbs for lean protein, you can slightly increase your metabolic rate.

Another bonus of protein is that your muscles need it to grow. By working them out and feeding them what they need they will help you to lose weight and keep it off.

Stress and Sleep

There is plenty of research showing that your metabolic rate is affected by things like sleep and stress.

In one study published in Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders, researchers found that stress increases the hormone, cortisol, which can increase the development of belly fat.

Lack of sleep can have the same effect and, of course, make you even more stressed out.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to metabolism and how so many different things can work to increase (or decrease) your metabolic rate.

So, you know that you can increase your metabolism by:

  • Doing cardio
  • Lifting weights
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Dealing with stress
  • Focusing on getting more protein

If you want the full workout experience without having to think anything about it, I’ve got some options for you:

7-Day Kickstart Exercise Program – This free program takes you through 7 days of simple challenges that help get you going in the right direction.

8-Week Weight Loss Program for Women Over 40 – This is the whole shebang – 8 weeks of cardio and strength workouts in video/pdf form, all planned out for you.

Below, is a great recipe for upping your protein. Eat up and enjoy!

Recipe (Lean Protein): Lemon Herb Roasted Chicken Breasts

Serves 4

2 lemons, sliced
1 tablespoon rosemary
1 tablespoon thyme
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)
dash salt & pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive old

Preheat oven to 425F. Layer ½ of the lemon slices on the bottom of a baking dish. Sprinkle with ½ of the herbs and ½ of the sliced garlic.

Place the chicken breasts on top and sprinkle salt & pepper. Place remaining lemon, herbs, and garlic on top of the chicken. Drizzle with olive oil. Cover with a lid or foil.

Bake for 45 minutes until chicken is cooked through. If you want the chicken to be a bit more “roasty” then remove the lid/foil and broil for another few minutes (watching carefully not to burn it).

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can add a leftover sliced chicken breast to your salad for lunch the next day!

References and Sources:

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-energy-balance
https://authoritynutrition.com/10-ways-to-boost-metabolism/

Seematter G, Binnert C, Tappy L. Stress and Metabolism. Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders. 2005;3(1):8-13. doi:10.1089/met.2005.3.8

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Are You White-Knuckling It? It’s Time to Let Go

When we set out to lose weight, there are two different things happening.

First, there’s what we think should be happening. You start working out, eating salads, doing All The Things to lose weight…and those things are hard, right?

We sacrifice the foods we enjoy, grit our teeth through temptation, sweat and grunt and burn during our workouts. At the end of the day, we’re triumphant and exhausted for all our hard work and it feels like we should see something for those efforts, at the very least, a few pounds gone on the scale.

After a few days or weeks of this, you feel like you should see some massive progress right? And you’re not wrong to want that. You deserve it.

So, that’s thing number one.

The second thing that’s happening is going on with how your body approaches weight loss.

As you workout and eat less and do All The Things, your body is not thinking –

“Dang, I’m dropping this weight like a hot brick!”

Your body is more like -“Well, I need some time to get used to what you’re doing and then, when I do, I’m going to lose about a fraction of a pound for every pound you think you should be losing. Now let me get back to growing more mitochondria.”

It’s just how the human body works…

Weight Loss is Slooooow

The thing is, the scale can’t measure everything you’re accomplishing and it may be weeks or months before you see significant changes.

When we see very little movement on the scale, we start feeling that we sacrificed something, that we missed out on something – That causes the problem.

If you feel that way, you may end up wondering:

Do I have to keep this up every day? And for what?

For weight loss to work permanently, there has to be a sense of rightness in what you’re doing. A sense of power when you realize you really don’t need that afternoon donut to make life worth living.

A sense of satisfaction when you move your body in a new way. If it feels like a chore, like a sacrifice, if you have to white-knuckle it through every choice, how long can you keep it up?

Enjoying exercise and healthy eating really is possible and it starts by learning about yourself.

  • What are your goals and what do they mean to you?
  • What’s your motivation and what are the obstacles that stand in your way?
  • Do you really understand the role of exercise in weight loss?
  • Is emotional eating keeping you from enjoying healthy foods?

The thing is, if you’re white-knuckling it through the weight loss process, nothing’s going to stick. You have to be invested in the choices you’re making so you don’t feel like you’re missing out.

So, here’s a question for you: What if you just let go? Stopped trying to control everything? What if you just did it and see what happens?

You may be surprised.

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The One Problem You Need to Fix to Start Losing Weight

What’s so hard about weight loss? There are about a hundred answers to that question, one of which is pizza.

But, step back and look at the big picture and it gets a little more psychological.

I know…that’s heavy, but just stick with me here and think about one question:

Do you value yourself?

I’m going to define this in my own terms. By value you yourself, what I mean is this:

  • Do you take care of yourself because you’re worth it?
  • Do you put yourself first so you can take care of everyone else around you?
  • Have you stopped reading? Don’t bail on me now. I’m going somewhere with this

I’m thinking about this because I came across a couple of interesting things when I was researching an article.

First was a study that was trying to find out the predictors of successful, long-term weight loss. Now, in this study, they found that people who focused on internal motivators like self-efficacy, interest in what they were doing, and enjoyment of exercise had the most success at long-term weight management.

If you’re interested, this study was published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise and it’s called Exercise Motivation, Eating, and Body Image Variables as Predictors of Weight Control.  I know. Easy bedtime reading.

Now the second thing I came across was sort of on the same subject of motivation.

In this study, researchers collected data from a group of women who continued to exercise after completing a structured exercise program. They found that the most important aspect of adherence wasn’t the type of exercise they did or how much weight they lost.

It was self-worth.

As the study authors suggested, “Women must value themselves enough to continue to participate in physical activity once they start.”

That was a study about women, but this applies to everyone, of course.

As I was thinking about these studies, I asked some of my clients and friends this: What’s the number one thing you need in order to exercise?

Here are the answers I got: Money (to hire a personal trainer, personal assistant, etc.), motivation, time, and, from one person, “A crane to haul me out of bed in the morning.”

When I told them about these studies and the fact that the real motivators were one’s ability to succeed as well as one’s self-value, I got some rolled eyes and, I’m pretty sure one of them flipped me a secret bird by rubbing her eye with that finger.

Yeah, I caught that.

Let’s Dig In

I don’t want to get all psychological here, but…well, okay, I kind of do. I think we all have different things that motivate us – External things like

  • I want to look good
  • I want to fit into those jeans
  • I want this fugly cellulite to just go away

And those things can be really motivating.

But, they don’t have much staying power. Sure, the state of your cellulite may get you going today but, eventually, you’ll get busy with real-life issues.

Paying bills and figuring out your purpose in life and cleaning cat barf and, suddenly, the state of your cellulite is the least of your problems.

But internal motivators, now those have some stamina. Knowing that a workout is just going to make you feel good about yourself or that you’re going to get better at something or that you just want to do something healthy for yourself because you’re worth it…now, those are the long-term power sources you can draw on whenever your energy is waning.

That’s a lot to unpack, I know, but what you do with that information is actually very simple.

Here’s what I want you to do. I want you to take some time today, maybe like 10 or so minutes, and I want you to write down what you want for yourself. Think about how you feel, mentally and physically, and then think about how you want to feel. What’s missing and how do you get it?

How can you put yourself first? Because that’s really how you start to value yourself. You deserve a little time to figure out what you need, right?

Once you have a good list of what you need, pick just one thing and do it.

Today.

That’s how you really take care of yourself.

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Want to Lose Weight? You’re Going to Have to Get Real With Your Eating

For most of my life, I’ve been pretty lucky with my weight. I have a decent metabolism, grew up in a healthy environment where we exercised and ate healthy meals and I’ve been able to carry those good habits into adulthood…

Until about 4 years ago when my body went haywire with what I like to call “Weight Gain Extravaganza!”

This is painful for anyone but, for a trainer (who should know better, right?), it’s excruciating.

When the weight gain started, I did what I’ve always done when my pants get a little too tight:

I exercised more.

I tried more and more exercise, but that only added to my stress and stress actually makes you gain even more weight. Not only because of stress hormones but because stress makes us reach for all those comforting, carby foods to make us feel better.

And the thing is, there was something I wasn’t being honest about.

I was eating too much.

I’d never had this problem before, so I just kept telling myself I was doing great even though I was doing all the wrong things:

  • Eating out more – Work and body image stress made me so tired and down, I didn’t have the energy (nor did I even care) to shop or cook. Then we would go out and there would be wine and, of course, just this once I would have the burger and fries…before long, it was more burgers than salads.
  • Drinking more – ‘Nuff said
  • Eating all kinds of carbs – Carbs, in and of themselves, are not bad. We need them…but we don’t need to eat them all day like I was. Popcorn, crackers, ‘vegetable’ chips…it just went on and on.

With all the exercise I was doing and all the results I wasn’t getting, I finally figured out what I had been telling my own clients all along:

I had to get real about my eating.

Getting Real with Your Diet

The thing about weight loss is that exercise isn’t the best tool in toolbox. Yes, it burns calories, but as weight loss goes, it simply doesn’t burn enough to cause serious weight loss.

Exercise is essential, though, because it’s great at helping us avoid more weight gain and it helps us maintain more muscle mass. If you diet without exercise, you lose muscle and that just shuts down your metabolism even more.

Because of that, all my exercising was not able to overcome all the extra calories I was eating, which led me to two of the most dreaded words in the English language:

Portion Sizes

We’ve all heard it before, right? That a serving of, say, chicken is about the size of a deck of cards or that a serving of veggies should be about the size of your fist. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never really paid attention to that.

Then there’s the confusing world of servings vs. portions. You may have a single portion of something, but it may include more than one serving.

I know, it’s like understanding Calculus but think about it like this: A small bag of chips may come as one portion, but there are probably 2 or 3 servings in that bag…and you don’t just stop at one serving. Who does that?

Which explains why we end up eating too much. We eat too many servings without even realizing it.

And then there’s another problem.

We almost always underestimate the number of calories we’re eating.

In one study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine (a little light reading) found that people underestimated the calories they were eating by a whopping 38%. That means a 200-calorie estimate could actually be 276 calories.

Thinking about that and what had been going on with me for the past few years, I realized the crazy reality I created for myself:

I had convinced myself that I really was eating healthy.

Liar, liar pants on fire.

And it isn’t just me – We all do it. I can’t count all the clients who claimed a healthy diet, yet they were getting zero results, just like I was.

What I learned from them, and what I had to relearn for myself is that: If you believe you’re doing everything right and you’re not losing weight, there’s a good chance you’re eating more than you think you are.

Yes, it could be a medical issue like thyroid problems, which are common and you should always see your doctor if you’re not losing weight just to make sure everything is in working order.

And if it is? You’re going to have to do what I did. You’re going to have to change how you eat.

How to Change You’re Eating

I’m going to tell you how I started managing my portion sizes because that, along with my workouts and stress management tools (taking walks, deep breathing, getting fired, a little meditation – wine, I’m not going to lie), has finally started working for me.

Another hard truth: Changing how you eat and focusing on portion sizes is a lot of work, especially if you’ve been doing what I did – Eating out a lot and eating a lot of crap.

To really get results:

  • You’re going to have to make more of your own meals
  • You’re going to have to measure what you eat
  • You’re going to have to keep track of what you eat

Each of these things means you’re going to need to:

  • Plan your meals
  • Spend a lot of time at the grocery store
  • Spend time prepping your meals
  • Writing everything down

The good news is, there are some great resources out there to help you figure out this portion control thing. Here’s how I did it.

Efficient Nutrition Portion Control Containers Kit

This neat little package is how I got started changing my diet. It’s actually part of the Beachbody Challenge I signed up for, the 80-Day Obsession.

You don’t have to do that program to follow the container kit, but adding exercise will really help you. Holler at me if you want help with that or check out my 8-Week START program which guides you through 8 weeks of fun (well mostly) workouts.

These containers are the easiest way to manage portions that I’ve found. Yes, it involves some measuring, but that’s made very easy by the color-coded containers.

How it works:

  • You use the formula they give you to estimate how many calories you need to lose weight (this is always a guesstimate since no formula will be exact).
  • You find the plan that fits with the calories you’re allowed to have. For example, I’m on Plan B which is a plan for 1500-1799 calories. That’s reasonable for my weight and exercise regime – It sets me up for weight loss but I’m not going so low on my calories that my metabolism shuts down.
  • The plan you’re in determines your daily food intake, which involves the color-coded containers:
    • Green for veggies (this equals 1 cup)
    • Purple for fruit (1 cup)
    • Red for protein (3/4 cup)
    • Yellow for healthy carbs (1/2 cup)
    • Blue for fats (1/3 cup)
    • Orange for dressings and seeds (2 Tbs)
    • Teaspoons for things like oils and butter
  • Your plan tells you how many of each container you can have each day. For example, I get 4 greens, 3 purples, 4 reds, 3 yellows, 1 blue, 1 orange and 4 teaspoons. And some days I don’t even get all my containers because I’m too full.

Sound complicated? It’s really not once you get going and this particular kit includes a 21-day meal plan guide, which is the only way I figured all of this out.

I’m not going to lie, it’s a lot of work but if you try it, even for just a week, you’ll notice a few things:

  1. You’ve been eating too much
  2. You can eat less and still feel full
  3. Eating more often keeps your energy up and helps you avoid that icky I-ate-too-much feeling
  4. You’ll start losing weight

This is not a diet. I hate diets and have never been able to follow them.

This is more of an eye-opening experience to how you’ve been eating and that in and of itself is worth it.

There are other things I’ve found helpful with this portion control experiment because, to really get it down, prepping for your meals ahead of time is a must. I know, pain in the butt, but that’s what it takes.

Here are my favorite accessories:

If you decide to go for it, you can head over to the FIXATE Nutrition website (it’s part of Beachbody) and they have tons of ideas for meals and prepping.

Having never had to watch what I eat, this has been an eye-opening experience for me and, as hard as it is to change, it’s worth all that hard work. You look better, you feel better and, the best part is, you feel better about yourself.

There’s nothing worse than the guilt and shame of gaining weight, but taking action helps ease that.

That alone is worth it!

What about you? Do you have any portion control ideas or stories? Leave a comment.

Source:

Wansink B, Chandon P. Meal Size, Not Body Size, Explains Errors in Estimating the Calorie Content of MealsAnnals of Internal Medicine. 2006;145(5):326. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-145-5-200609050-00005

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What is High Intensity Interval Training and Why Should You Care?

If you pay any kind of attention to fitness and exercise, you’ve probably heard of high intensity interval training. In fact, HIIT is about the hottest ticket in the fitness world because there are so many benefits like:

    • You get in shape faster  — Studies have shown that you can build endurance more quickly with interval training than you can with steady state cardio.
    • Everything else gets easier – This kind of workout actually teaches your heart to pump more blood to your muscles. At the same time, it also teaches your muscles how to extract oxygen from that blood more efficiently. That means all the other stuff you do, exercise and just daily movement, gets easier because your body is trained to respond faster.
    • Shorter workouts — Because you’re working at a high intensity for short periods of time, your workouts will typically be shorter, a good thing if you’re busy or just don’t want to workout that long. In fact, one study concluded that HIIT can improve your health enough that inactive women who don’t want to spend a lot of time exercising can still achieve fitness with these kinds of workouts.
    • More fun – So, ‘fun’ may be a strong word to use with exercise, but interval training does tend to be more enjoyable than other workouts. Why? Because there’s some variety. You’re not just getting on a machine and going nowhere. You’re changing your settings or maybe even your exercises, making the workout feel shorter.
    • More weight loss – If you work hard, your body burns more fat and you get that afterburn, the calories your body expends after the workout to get your body back to its pre-exercise state.

Now, The Drawbacks

Of course, interval training isn’t perfect and it isn’t for everyone. Because it involves high intensity there are some things to consider:

  • You’re a beginner, overweight and/or have joint problems – If you look at a typical interval workout, it usually involves a lot of jumping and working really hard. If you’re a long-time exerciser, fine. But if not, beginners may be wary of this kind of training. Studies have shown that the right kind of HIIT can be done by overweight people or even people with diabetes or other conditions. The key is to start with lower intensity exercises and gradually increase the intensity (don’t worry, I have a workout for you).
  • It’s hard – It’s hard to work hard and not everyone likes the feeling of working hard. It’s uncomfortable, right? But, like I said, you’re not working uncomfortably hard right out of the gate if you’re a beginner. Don’t forget that.
  • It can cause injury – If you do it too much or do the exercises wrong, you can put your body at risk for injury. Of course, walking across your kitchen can cause injury, too, so there you go. At least in my house with a dog roughly the size of a pony and two cats.

With all that said, what’s the bottom line here? What I’m suggesting is that you try interval training at least once a week if you’re not already doing it…even if you’re a beginner.

That said, here’s the bottom line – If you’ve never done HIIT before, you need to start slow and easy. That means your high intensity intervals will keep you just out of your comfort zone – Like a Level 6 or 7 on a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is sitting on the couch eating bonbons and 10 is a breathless, death-like feeling.

Getting Started

If I’ve convinced you to give it a try, good because I have and idea for getting you started and here it is:

Tabata Training

Yes, that’s a thing.

I really like doing this kind of HIIT training with my clients, especially beginners because it moves quickly and it doesn’t feel as miserable as other cardio workouts.

Here’s the deal: Years ago Dr. Izumi Tabata, a professor in Japan wanted to help the Japanese speed skating team improve their performance.

So he did a study where he took participants through a 4-minute workout. The exercisers were on a stationary bike and they did 20 seconds of all-out sprints followed by 10 seconds of rest. They repeated that 8 times for 4 minutes.

They found that the skaters did much better with that kind of training than other types of cardio.

You’re probably not a speed skater, so what do this have to do with you? Well, like everything in life, when a study comes out about some new whoopy-zing workout, fitness professionals realize they have a new way to torture..er..inspire their clients in new and exciting ways.

Should You Tabata and, If So, How?

Yes, I think you should Tabata and I’m going to tell you how to do it.

As I mentioned before, this is a HIIT workout and, in the original study the exercisers did all-out sprints.

You don’t have to do that, nor should you if you’re new to this kind of training. If you’re a pro, go for it.

The Basics

Okay, so here’s what you need to do for a Tabata Workout:

  • Warm up thoroughly
  • Do an exercise working as hard as you can for 20 seconds. Now, that is as hard as you can work – That may mean an all out sprint or marching in place. Maybe it’s even just doing some arm circles – Whatever feels like a bit of a challenge.
  • Rest for 10 seconds
  • Repeat that exercise (or a different one) 8 more times.
  • If you’re good with that length of workout, stop there. Otherwise, pick another exercise and do another Tabata. A typical Tabata workout might last from 10 minutes (including the warm up) to 45 or more minutes depending on your fitness level and how hard you’re working.

Here Are Some Ideas

  1. Tabata Outside – If you’re walking or running, warm up and then speed up as fast as you can for 20 seconds, resting for 10 and then repeat that for 4 minutes. Take 1 or 2 minutes to recover and then repeat as many times as you like.
  2. At the Gym – You can also do Tabata training on any cardio machine. Just speed up or increase the incline or resistance for 20 seconds, rest for 10 and repeat 8 times.
  3. At Home – My favorite way of doing Tabata at home is to choose 4 exercises. For high impact, you can choose things like jumping jacks, jogging with high knees, burpees, and jumping lunges. For low impact, think about step touches, knee lifts, marching in place and hamstring curls. Do each one for 20 seconds, rest for 10 and repeat for 4 minutes. Then choose 4 more exercises or keep doing the same ones for about 15-30 minutes. Here are some to try:
    1. Beginner Tabata Workout – PDF
    2. Advanced Tabata Workout – PDF
    3. Tabata Video Workouts

Believe it or not, the workout seems to move much faster when you workout like this. You’re only focused on that 20 seconds of work rather than a big chunk of exercise that may seem a little overwhelming.

Some Tips

  • Always warm up – always, always, always. Give yourself at least 5 minutes of cardio before doing anything high intensity.
  • Check yourself – Because your rests are shorter than the work sets, the intensity accumulates throughout the 4 minutes. So, if you’re doing it right, you should be pretty breathless (or at least working hard) by the end of the Tabata. Give yourself a little time to recover and see how you feel.
  • Use a Tabata Timer – Trying to watch a clock for 20 seconds is a big pain in the rear. If you have a smartphone or tablet, try using a Tabata timer. I like the Tabata Pro Timer.
  • Work at your own level of intensity – You want the intervals to feel challenging, but not so awful that you never want to workout again. If you practice, you’ll be able to do more over time.
  • Try 1-2 Workouts a Week – Too much HIIT can cause burnout and overtraining, so you don’t want to overdo it. Mix it up so that you have a little bit of everything, like some steady state cardio, some weight training, etc.

Got a question? Email me and we’ll work it out.

Sources:

ACE – Certified: June 2017 – How to Safely and Effectively Use HIIT With Clients Struggling With Obesity. ACE Fitness. /certifiedarticle/6406/how-to-safely-and-effectively-use-hiit-with. Accessed June 19, 2017.

Ghodsi Z, Nasrin, Zolfaghari MR, Fattah A. The Impact of High Intensity Interval Training On Lipid Profile, Inflammatory Markers and Anthropometric Parameters in Inactive Women. Medical Laboratory Journal. 2016;10(1):56-60. doi:10.18869/acadpub.mlj.10.1.56.

Trapp EG, Chisholm DJ, Freund J, Boutcher SH. The effects of high-intensity intermittent exercise training on fat loss and fasting insulin levels of young women. Int J Obes. 2008;32(4):684-691. doi:10.1038/sj.ijo.0803781.

 

 

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Embracing Uncertainty

Weight loss is a complicated thing and, if you’ve ever been through it, you know that there are often questions that are hard to answer and obstacles that stand in your way.

Question #1: When are you actually going to start losing weight?

That, my friend, is the question that, could I answer it, would allow me to be writing this from my own private island as I sip something tropical and allow a shirtless man to fan me with palm fronds.

Wait, why am I still writing this? I just solved the biggest mystery in the world! I quit!

Lessons in Life

This brings us to life lessons. What’s funny about that is that I actually just typed ‘lesions.’

In a way, I’d rather have to learn about life’s lesions because, by definition, a lesson is “a useful piece of practical wisdom acquired by experience or study.”

Sounds like a real hootenanny doesn’t it?

And, really, life lessons tend to be the most painful to learn.

Still, learn we must and there are some weight loss lessons that, once learned, can actually help you keep going when times get tough.

Embrace Uncertainty

One of the most important weight loss lessons to learn is to embrace uncertainty.

The fact is, you won’t always know if you’re doing it right.

You can track calories-in vs. calories-out, exercise every day and watch your diet, but you won’t have any immediate feedback indicating you’re on the right track. The scale just can’t measure the tiny changes happening inside your body on a daily basis, all of which will lead to weight loss and fitness. Things like:

  • Your heart becomes stronger and more efficient so it can deliver more oxygen to the body.
  • Your genes actually change when you exercise – They are improved for aerobic performance and muscle growth.
  • You change at a cellular level. The more you exercise, the better your cells can dilate blood vessels so that more oxygen is delivered to your body. You actually increase the number of mitochondria in your cells.
  • You increase longevity.
  • You create a sense of wellbeing.

None of those sentences included, “You drop tons of weight,” I know, but all of those things contribute to that end goal.

Even knowing that and knowing that losing weight takes time, deep down, we’re still looking for fast results. When they don’t come, we often feel frustrated to the point of quitting.

Giving your body time to respond to what you’re doing is part of the weight loss process.

We focus so much on the scale as a gauge of how we’re doing, but, sometimes, the scale can be the worst way to measure your success.

The scale can’t measure what’s really happening in your body. It can only tell you you’re heavier (which could be because of anything – You ate something, drank something, you’re retaining water, someone put 10 pounds on your feet when you weren’t looking, etc.).

Or it can tell you you’re lighter (which, again, could be simply because you just went to the bathroom, or took off your shoes).

In fact, your weight may not change very much during the first month or so of exercise, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t getting results.

So what do you do if you’re working hard, but that work isn’t showing up on the scale?

First, embracing the uncertainty of the process, rather than fighting it, can ease a lot of your frustration.

If you’re doing all the right things to lose weight, allow yourself to focus on other ways of tracking your progress: Completing your workouts, getting stronger, building endurance, feeling more energy, feeling good about yourself, sleeping better, etc.

If you’re not sure if you’re doing all the right things to lose weight, educate yourself on the basics of weight loss, try a guided program or consider working with a professional, like me, to look at what you’re doing and ease your worries.

Either way, there will always be some uncertainty in the process. We can only do what we can, right?

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3 Truths and a Lie

Whenever I go to the grocery store and stand in line looking at all the fitness and health magazines, there’s a moment where I think: “I could totally look like HER if I do those 3 flat-belly ab exercises!”

And then the checkout person asks if I want paper or plastic and I remember that I’m standing in a grocery store, not in never never land and that I will never, ever look like her even if I did a thousand flat-belly ab exercises.

It’s that kind of in-your-face marketing that makes all of us think losing weight is just 3 exercises or 3 superfoods or 3 whatevers away. And they make it look so easy, don’t they? Flip open a fitness magazine and there’s the hard body, zero bodyfat fitness model standing on one leg with the other foot wrapped around the back of his head and it seems so effortless, you actually think of trying it.

Close the magazine and step away from it slowly, because it’s lying to you.

There’s nothing easy about losing weight.

That doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing, however. What it does mean is that knowing the facts about losing weight can help make the process, at the very least, less painful. It all starts with three truths and one ugly lie.

Truth #1: Starting Will Never Get Easier

The first rule of exercise is that there’s never a perfect time to start doing it. It’s like having a baby or getting married…life will never be settled and perfect enough to do it.

It’s easy to sit down on Friday and proclaim, “I’m going to get up Monday morning and go to the gym!” You envision the New and Improved Monday You gliding through your gym workout, sweaty and happy and fit.

But then Monday comes and it’s morning and you have to get up and the gym is just….so loud and exercisey and workouts require effort and sweat and the bed is so toasty warm….

Yeah, it looked a lot better on Friday than it does on Monday morning and there is no New and Improved You that suddenly wants to workout.

The thing is, exercise is always going to require some sort of effort and there are always going to be obstacles that stand in your way.

You still have to workout even when you:

  • Wake up on Monday
  • Change jobs
  • Go on vacation (some exceptions apply)
  • Work late
  • Get sick (again, exceptions here)
  • Someone else gets sick (exceptions, etc.)
  • Are in a bad mood
  • Are tired
  • Had a bad night’s sleep
  • Go on a business trip
  • Have a big fight with your spouse
  • Don’t feel like it

In order to make exercise something you do all the time, no matter what’s going on, you have to do a few things:

  1. Make it easy to do it – Know what you’re doing beforehand. Get all the stuff you need the night before. Make it a breeze to put on your clothes and get moving. As soon as you have to look for something, your brain will start telling you to go back to bed.
  2. Start with workouts you KNOW you can do – Maybe running for an hour on the treadmill is what you think you should do, but maybe that’s just a little too much to start out with. But this 5-minute Core Workout? Sure you can. Allow yourself to choose workouts you enjoy, even if they’re not killer workouts. Just start. You can always add later.
  3. Practice – The only way to get better at something is to practice it. You have to practice scheduling your workouts, practice following through with your workouts. Some days you’ll get it right and some you’ll get it wrong. Experimenting will help you find a schedule you can live with.
  4. Be self-aware – The other thing is to notice when something isn’t working. If you keep skipping your workouts, you need to know why. It’s not just because you suck, it’s because there’s something wrong. Maybe the workouts aren’t right or the timing is bad. Maybe you just don’t know what you’re doing and so you do nothing. Once you know why you can do something about it.
  5. Do it anyway – Even if you think you can’t, try. We all have days when we’re just not sure if we can do it. That’s fine…maybe you can’t. But promise yourself you’ll at least do the warm up. Most of the time, you’ll keep going.

Truth #2: Going on a Diet Doesn’t Work

Do you ever do that thing where, it’s Saturday and you’re eating a giant plate of french toast drenched in maple syrup and butter and you promise yourself that, after this weekend, you’re going on a diet?

It feels good to think that on Monday, a New and Virtuous You is going to wake up and WANT the oatmeal and the salad without dressing and the grilled chicken. And maybe you do that. You eat that oatmeal and salad and you feel good about yourself, as you should.

But eventually, Virtuous You will breakdown under the weight of all the decisions, the choices you have to make to stay healthy. Is that salad dressing fat-free? Is brown rice really good for me? Oh my god, did I just eat something with SUGAR in it? WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!

The constant vigilance makes every bite less and less appetizing and, at the same time, all the things you can’t have are starting to add up – The wine and the burger and, heck, just some regular salad dressing for god’s sake!

The underlying theme here is that we must suffer to lose weight, but if you’re white-knuckling it, it’s only going to backfire. Here’s more on that.

Truth #3: Why White-Knuckling It Doesn’t Work

So, what happens with all that suffering? We sacrifice the foods we enjoy, grit our teeth through temptation, sweat and grunt and burn during our workouts. At the end of the day, we’re triumphant and exhausted for all our hard work and it feels like we should see something for those efforts, at the very least, a few pounds gone on the scale.

But the scale can’t measure everything you’re accomplishing and it may be weeks or months before you see significant changes.

And, it’s that very feeling – The feeling that we sacrificed something, that we missed out on something – That causes the problem. If you feel that way, you wonder: Do I have to keep this up every damn day? And for what?

For weight loss to work permanently, there has to be a sense of rightness in what you’re doing. A sense of power when you realize you really don’t need that afternoon donut to make life worth living.

A sense of satisfaction when you move your body in a new way. If it feels like a chore, like a sacrifice, if you have to white-knuckle it through every choice, how long can you keep it up?

Instead of suffering through a diet, try:

  • Adding good things to your meals: We usually approach food as something good or bad. Don’t eat this, do eat that. Instead of taking something away, try adding something healthy. Eat an apple before lunch, drink a full glass of water before a snack. Eat twice as many vegetables as you normally do. Filling up with healthy stuff means there’s less room for the stuff that adds more calories.
  • Plan your treats: Pizza and burgers are fine, as long as you don’t have them several times a week. Plan when you’re going to have your favorite foods and, for the rest of the week, try leaning more towards the healthy stuff – Salads, grilled protein, you know what I’m talking about. Now you have something to look forward to and you don’t have to feel guilty about it.
  • Get it out of your face: The single most important thing you can do is take junk food out of your house. If it’s not there, you can’t eat it. If you see a bag of chips every time you open the cabinet, you’re going to eat them. You can even do it one at a time if you have multiple foods you eat on a regular basis. Start with the chips – replace them with whole grain crackers if you like something crunchy or air-popped popcorn. Get used to life without chips every day and then move on to the next.

And The Lie – Being Healthy Sucks

From a distance, exercising and eating healthy looks like one giant drag. You have to watch what you eat and be annoying at restaurants, asking how they cook this and is there butter in that? Can you put the dressing on the side? Can I have that with steamed broccoli?

And then there’s the whole exercise thing and that has multiple issues: Figuring out what to do, working hard enough to make a difference, physical exertion when what we’re used to doing is sitting on our rears most of the time.

Looking at it that way, it’s easy to think that being healthy sucks. But, there are things you get out of being healthy and these things are worth a lot.

What you may not realize is that the more you practice healthy behaviors, the more you want to do them. Here’s what happens when you stick to it:

  • You start to enjoy healthy foods. Would I rather have Doritos instead of Wheat Thins? Probably. In fact, I used to live on them. But, after working on my diet for awhile, I realized I can live without them and it’s okay. You learn that it really is possible to live without those kinds of foods and, and added bonus, your body just feels better when you eat better.
  • Your priorities change. Because your body feels better when you eat better, that becomes more important to you than the instant gratification you might feel from having something with too much fat or sugar. Not all the time, of course. Sometimes you may need that indulgence but you won’t need it all the time.
  • You learn how to deal with temptation. The more healthy choices you make, the easier it is to avoid common pitfalls like the overloaded buffet at a party or lunch out with friends when everyone else is having the burger and fries. When you eat healthy, you eat on a regular basis so you’re not starving all the time. When you’re starving, a salad just isn’t going to do it, is it?

There are lots of other things but the point is, the more you practice, the easier it gets and the better you feel about it. The same goes for exercise, if you approach it in the right way. The more you exercise, the stronger you get and the better exercise feels to your body.

The key is to start easy. Just pick something, even if it’s just one stretch, and do it every single day. Same time, same place. After a week, add another exercise…it really can be that simple.

And it doesn’t have to suck.

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Why It’s Not Your Fault You’re Not Losing Weight

Okay, maybe it is a little bit your fault, but there are forces working against you that you may not even be aware of.

I’m assuming that you’re trying to lose weight and, I know what they say about assuming making an ass out of you and me, but I think I only know two, maybe three adults who aren’t actively trying to lose weight.

That leaves the rest of us.

I know the frustration of exercising and eating endless salads (dressing on the side!), only to find that the scale hasn’t moved one bit.

Why? There are a lot of reasons, some we can control and some we can’t. The one thing I want you to understand is this: It’s not entirely your fault you’re struggling and there’s something you can do about it.

Why is Weight Loss So Hard?

There are two overarching reasons it’s hard to lose weight and I’m going to break them down for you.

Your Environment Doesn’t Want You to Lose Weight

The first problem is the universe.  Specifically, planet earth where we have so many things that create inactivity

  • Our jobs – If you have a job, what is it?  Are you sitting at a computer right now like I am?  The American Heart Association says that sedentary jobs have increased 83% since 1950.  That is just crazy!  And, it’s making us fat.
  • Streaming Video (e.g., Netflix) – I love Netflix. I love binge-watching.  When I am binge-watching, here’s what I’m not doing:  Moving around.  Back in 2009, The Neilsen Company figured out we were watching about 153 hours of TV a month.  I would imagine it’s even higher now.
  • iStuff – iPads, iPhones, tablets and video games are fun. And we usually sit while using them.  One study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology studied survey data and found that Americans spent about 54.9% of their time doing sedentary things.  That comes out to almost 8 hours a day.  Yes, that just made me stand up and walk around my house.
  • Cars – Collectively, we all wasted about 6.9 billion hours sitting in traffic in 2014.  And just think about the good old days – Yes, I’m going to say it.  In my day, I used to ride my bike and walk everywhere.  Now, I drive one mile to see my doctor when I could totally walk.  Suburban sprawl and busy schedules make it harder to find the time to walk.
  • Cats – There is actual study showing that cat owners are messy and lazy.  I wouldn’t say I’m completely messy or lazy (I have two cats) but, when I got a dog a couple of years ago, I walked a lot more.  Dogs require walking if you want to keep your furniture/shoes/socks/walls/baseboards/clothes, etc. in tact.  Cats?  Require 23 hours of sleep.

The bottom line is, in this world we actually have to invent reasons to move around.  And your environment isn’t the only thing working against you…your body is too.

Your Body Doesn’t Want You to Lose Weight

Aside from the world we live in, we have another problem – The human body.  The human body is designed to store…no, a better word is hoard, fat.  That’s because, back in the day, food was scarce and we needed to be able to live off our own body fat should famine occur.

It’s survival of the fittest at its best…only we don’t really need that anymore.  Now, we actively try to eat less and our bodies simply don’t know the difference between going on a diet or full on starvation.  As soon as you restrict your calories, your body goes into survival mode and holds on to that fat with both hands.

Basically, your body is working double time to keep the weight on.

The Dieting Backlash

And here’s another fact we’re only just starting to understand:  If you go on a diet or weight loss program, your metabolism actually slows down.  When you go off that diet (which you probably will because diets don’t work) and start eating more, those extra calories are stored as fat.

One study by Columbia University found that this backlash starts to happen at around 8 weeks of dieting and, here’s the worst part:  To maintain a steady weight, dieters had to eat 400 fewer calories a day after dieting than before dieting.  Their metabolisms actually reset to a lower number, something they probably didn’t know until they gained the weight back, and more.

That just crazy talk.

Your Mind Doesn’t Want You To Lose Weight

Yes, I know.  You think you want to lose weight but, if you really did, you would be doing all the the things you need to do to lose weight.  That is:

  1. Getting enough sleep
  2. Managing your stress in a healthy way (I know, drinking wine and eating Doritoes is so much more fun than meditating, isn’t it?)
  3. Exercising – Not just taking a walk now and then
  4. Eating healthy foods – when you’re actually hungry and only until you’re full (I know, that’s hard)
  5. Moving around instead of sitting for 8 hours a day.

If you don’t do these things, you don’t lose weight.  You might even gain weight and here’s why:

  • Stress – Dr. Len Kravitz wrote about this in The Cortisol Connection: Tips on Managing Stress and Weight.  He says when we get stressed out, our bodies release cortisol – the so-called stress hormone.  And, as Kravitz suggests, that stress hormone directly effects fat storage when you’re stressed.
  • Lack of Sleep –  Sleep is another thing that affects our weight.  One study published in The Journal of Sleep studied short sleepers (5-6 hours), average sleepers (7-8 hours) and long sleepers (9-10 hours) and found that short and long sleepers were 35% more likely to experience a weight gain over 6 years.  And here’s something interesting – the long sleepers were also more likely to gain weight, while average sleepers didn’t.   The problem?  Researchers cite a ‘“24-hour-a-day” turbulent lifestyle” that changes  our hormonal profiles and screws up our energy balance.
  • Lack of Exercise and Shifty Numbers – And not just not working out, but not working hard enough, at least during some workouts.  And, here’s the rub:  If you do exercise (yay you!) you may think – Darn it, I’m burning some serious calories!  The truth is, exercise isn’t all that great at weight loss.  Why?  Because we don’t burn as many calories exercising as we think we do.  If that treadmill says you burned 500 calories after a 30 minute run, you can bet that number is off by up 15%, maybe more.  If you’re counting calories, that can really mess up your totals.
  • Sitting on Our Collective Butts – And then there’s that general lack of movement.  What you may not realize is that Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenisis (or NEAT) is part of the overall calories you burn each day.  How many calories do you think you burn when you sit as opposed to standing or moving around?  Yeah.

What’s the Answer?

Now, I don’t mean to stress you out even more with all these numbers and stuff.  What I’m trying to do is, first, educate you about all the all the things that contribute to your weight and your health.  It’s not just because you suck, so you can stop kicking yourself and feeling guilty for failing.

It’s easy to fail in the environment we live in.  And, failing is always a part of success…you know that, right?

So, let’s get to the good stuff, the most important thing I want you to remember:  You can do something about this and it doesn’t have to be hard.

Forget About Will Power or Self-Control

If you’re not losing weight, you probably think it’s because you just don’t have enough willpower or self-control.  You think – “I was all prepared to order that salad but, when I got there, I was suddenly eating a cheeseburger.”  Then you feel guilty and like a loser.  But, wait.  That isn’t really the case.

The truth is willpower is a bunch of crap.  Yes, willpower can help you in certain moments, but willpower doesn’t have enough stamina to last through all the decisions and choices you have to make each day.  And those choices are what determine weight loss.

Decisions, Decisions

Here’s something interesting about the human brain

Losing weight is all about one decision at a time.  The decision to drink water instead of Coke.  The decision to go for a walk instead of sit.  The decision to get your dressing on the side.

Yes, that’s simplistic, but it really is all about the choices you make every day and we have to make a lot of them.  What does that have to do with anything?  First,  Do you know what happens each time you face a choice and have to make a decision?  Your brain gets tired.  Every single decision drains your brain of energy, thus making each subsequent decision harder and harder.

Here’s what David Rock, who wrote Your Brain at Work (an excellent book) has to say:

“Conscious mental activities chew up metabolic resources, the fuel in your blood, significantly faster than automatic brain functions…Your best quality thinking lasts for a limited time.”

And here’s my absolute favorite part of his reasoning:

“The answer is not always just to ‘try harder.'”

Just think about it.  You wake up in the morning and have a healthy breakfast.  But, by the time you hit lunchtime, you’ve probably made thousands of other decisions and now?  You’re hungry.  So you’re brain is tired and needs fuel and so does your body.

If someone is standing in front of you with an apple or a donut, what are the chances you’ll choose the apple?  In that kind of shape?  Probably not great.

Making it Easy to Make Better Choices

The real secret to exercising and losing weight lie in a few key behaviors and tricks.

  • Make exercise a habit – This is probably the single most important thing that will help you when your willpower is on the fritz.  I’ll cover this in depth later but, for right now, here are some quick tips for this:
    • Do something every day – It doesn’t really matter what you do, so much as just showing up every day for some kind of exercise.  It could be walking every day or you could set up a more complex program.
    • Do it at the same time every day if you can – Doing this starts to teach your brain that this is your exercise time.  Do it long enough and you’ll automatically be programmed for exercise.
  • Make it easy to be healthy – In order to make good decisions, you need to eliminate the things that make them hard.  For example, it’s easy to choose an apple when that’s all you have available.  But if you know there’s a box of cookies in the cabinet…well, you get the picture.
    • Clean out your pantry – If I have Doritoes in the house, I will eat them.  The entire bag.  I’ve made it a rule to NOT have them in my house.  If I really want them, I can go out and get them but I’m lazy, so I know I probably won’t do that.  Set rules for what you allow in the house.  You don’t forbid yourself to eat it – We all need treats now and then – But if it’s not there, you won’t eat it.  And if you really want it, you can always go get it. Sometimes just knowing that is enough.
    • Make it easier to exercise – The hardest part of any workout is just starting, but there are tricks exercisers use to make it easier.
      • Habit – I mentioned this before.  If you’re used to doing it, it’s less of a hassle to get yourself going.
      • Be prepared – Yes, Boy Scouts (aren’t the Girl Scouts supposed to be prepared too?), that means get everything you need before your workout.  If I can’t find my shoe or my water bottle or whatever, that’s just one more reason to say ‘screw it.’  Get every single thing you need – Clothes, water, food, watch, etc. the night before.  Put it next to your bed or somewhere close.
      • Put on your workout clothes right away – As soon as you get up, if you’re a morning exerciser, or when you get home from work.  Waiting will only give you more space between your intension to workout and all the excuses you can come up with in the meantime.
      • Know what you’re doing – Have a plan.  If you need help with that, hire a trainer,  go check out some of my programs at Verywell.com or consider working with me.  I’m good at that kind of thing.

Okay, so, you’ve got a broad outline of behaviors, but where do you actually start?  I’ll tell you:

Pick One Thing

Today, pick one thing you need to work on.  It can be anything – Maybe you need to work on exercising more or maybe you snack too much after dinner.  Whatever it is, it bugs you and every day, you promise you’ll do better and you don’t.

Pick that thing and look at it.  Really, look at it.  Get some paper and write about it, if you can.  Ask questions:

  • Why do you keep skipping your workouts?  Is it because you hate them?  Or you don’t know what you’re doing?  Or you don’t have the right shoes?
  • Why do you snack at night?  Is it because you’re bored or is it just a bad habit?

Once you’ve picked that thing, figure out some solutions.  What could you do to fix it?  If you hate your workouts, what’s an activity you don’t hate?  If you can’t figure out what to do, who could you ask?

Think of it like this:  If a friend were to come to you and lay out the problem you’re wrestling with, what would you tell them to do?

Tell yourself that.

Now, you have something to work on.  And that one thing is all you have to work on.  I’m giving you permission to forget about all the other stuff you’re doing wrong because, remember what I said above?  Your brain doesn’t like multitasking or making tons and tons of decisions.

Right now, just use your energy on that one thing.  Every day, that’s your focus – That One Thing.

When you’re done with that one thing, when you feel that you’ve mastered that, pick the Next Thing.

Slow and Steady

I know.  This approach isn’t very sexy, is it?  There’s no instant gratification.  No quick weight loss.  No amazing results!  Just you and your one thing.  But when you change that One Thing?  That’s a change that will last.  That’s a change that will go so deep, you won’t even remember when you were doing (or not doing) that One Thing.

Just One Thing.

Sources:

Rock, David. Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long. Harper Collins E-. Print.

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