It’s the middle of January – are you losing the weight that you planned to lose? Well I haven’t read any French yet either.
And…kind of along these lines, here is a podcast by Chalene Johnson of fitness fame called One Step Goal Mastery. It’s pretty good – check it out.
We’ve had a solid six weeks since revving up with our New Year’s resolutions to be better, stronger, smarter, and weigh less. For many of us, the tides of change have been something more akin to a leaking faucet. Why? There are lots of reasons. One is that you’ve been doing what you do for a long time. Every single time you repeat the activity or behavior or thought you entrain that habit deeper into your psyche. It takes time to undo a lifetime of training. Even bad training. Be patient with yourself and if you trip up then start over from where your tripped.
Another reason change is hard is that you’ve set your life to certain patterns. You want to start cooking your meals but all you’ve every done is microwaved box dinners. You’ll need to stock your panty with real food, make sure you have the right utensils, and plan on the time it takes to cook. If your life includes running from one activity to the next it will be hard to slow down to cook. Maybe start with the weekends and cook enough for a couple of nights? Or start with just a couple recipes that you really enjoy. Learn to cook those well and keep supplies on hand. Tidy up the rest of your pantry with healthy snacks and fruits.
One other change is difficult is because we simply take too much on and it’s impossible or unreasonable to maintain. This has been a complaint of specialty diets since diets were invented. Sure bacon and eggs sounds great for breakfast. By the third day of eating only meat you’re getting a little weary of it. Two weeks out and you hope to never see another piece of bacon as long as you live. There is wisdom in doing something good for you that you can sustain rather than doing something perfect that is impossible to maintain.
Keep a steady pace with your eye on the goal. Don’t try too much at once. Go for small wins and build to larger ones. Remember – in health and fitness – all those small gains add up.
Every stat I have ever seen about New Year’s resolutions shows that our resolve wanes and then plateaus around the end of January and by June we are all fat and laughing and asking Huh? Why is it so darned hard to do what we know is best for us? I didn’t make any health resolutions except to keep doing what I’ve been doing – trying to eat a more healthy diet based on Micheal Pollan’s mantra to “Eat food, less of it, mostly plants” and to keep moving. By moving I mean exercise – I love to run – but I also mean doing yoga, stretching when I watch TV, and playing with the kids. All of these activities add up to increased health. And if you haven’t heard then please read up on new research showing that lack of activity is twice as deadly as obesity. Just walking for twenty minutes daily can save your life – how’s that for easy? Here is a good write up in the Telegraph. For more intrepid souls here is the paper in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It is being offered as a free pdf.
I try to make health easy. I plan my runs around the family’s schedule and if I don’t get to run I can do stretches with the kids. They get a kick out of it and ol’ dad feels better. Hopefully we will see better weather soon and can start playing tennis and going on hikes. All good stuff that builds the body and relationships. We try to minimize sweets around the house. I never think of them unless I know they’re in the pantry. Then it’s as if they scream at me each time a pass.
So if you’ve dropped your resolutions pick them up again. What’s special about New Years? It’s just an arbitrary day we’ve picked off the calendar. If losing five pounds or learning French or washing the car once a week was your goal then it’s a good goal now.
To ‘re-up’ with your resolutions here is a good post from WebMD on how to develop and stick with goals – here.
Here’s good site called Mind Tools with all kinds of information to help you keep moving in whatever direction you decide.
Other good posts:
Confusing Health Advice
Yoga and Stretching for Health
Nine Keys to Healthy Eating
If you exercise or count calories you know that you need to burn about 3500 calories to lose a pound. So you eat a little less (200 calories a day) and work out for forty minutes atnight (300 calories) and, after a week, have lost a pound. In a month you weigh four pounds less, and in a year you’ve dropped fifty pounds! Except that you don’t. The math never quite works out.
Tucked into the footnotes of Yoni Freedhoff’s sane book The Diet Fix (See my review here.) is a reference to an interesting study. Researchers monitored about two hundred unfit people aged forty to seventy for a year. Half were men and half were women. Some were recommended by MDs and some responded to calls for research subjects. The subjects performed home or gym based moderate to vigorous aerobic work outs for sixty minutes a day, six days a week under the care of fitness trainers. Only six dropped out and all kept detailed records.
How much weight could you lose on such an aggressive regimen? Twenty pounds? Forty? Enough to model for the local surf shop? The average weight loss for women was 3.1 pounds. 3.1! For men? 4.0! Hardy stellar. (Though the weight loss was low it was shown that those who worked more lost more and the study appears to have been conducted superbly.)
So what’s up?
- Freedhoff uses this study to argue for the primacy of food and eating in weight loss. Eat right in reasonable portions and you will likely lose as much or more weight than when working out. (Thought he stresses that daily exercise is essential for health in ways other than weight loss.)
- Your machine or monitor dramatically overestimates the calories you burn. I have about three different monitors that all give different figures for calories burned. And to my knowledge none of them back out the 100 calories an hour I burn just sleeping. This means that I probably…
- Eat the calories back. Wow! I just burned a thousand calories! Surely I can have two brownies right? Well, I only burned four hundred calories and just scarfed six hundred. Not the kind of math that adds up to weight loss.
- We don’t eat as healthy as we think. Especially if you eat packaged foods even if they purport to be healthy.
- As much as that five hundred calorie burn feels good unless you do it every day you are likely over eating for the week or month. Calories are cumulative and one day of working out and low cal meals won’t make up for three days of snacks.
- Though you get tired from exercising you might not be getting enough good sleep. If you’re amped up from exercise you might have a hard time relaxing. If I’m up late I’m probably snacking on something.
- You’re chasing a fad. They’re fun and sometimes crazy but never really work in the long run. Stick to eating real food that you cook yourself. The best advice that I know of is to eat real food, less of it, mostly plants.
So what to do? Keep exercising! But exercise with more of an eye on cardiovascular health and muscle and bone maintenance. If you want to lose weight learn to watch your eating habits, real caloric intake, and focus on real food.
Read the study here.
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