February 25, 2011
I had a lively conversation with my indoor cycling girls yesterday morning during the pauses between songs. The John Mellencamp song “Wild Nights” was playing, so I threw out the question “Have any of you had a particularly Wild in-the-John-Mellencamp-manner Time recently?” Heads hung, eye contact vanished and silent breathing filled the room. Okay, then. Time to rephrase the question. “ Have any of you ever had a Wild Time?” (silence again).
Like any aerobics teacher worth her weight, I had to keep pushing. I tried to inspire them with my story from my 20’s. I was dating an Irishman named Liam Seamus McDuffee who took me to the most raucous Irish bar party I’ve ever step danced into(those men in kilts really don’t wear anything underneath!!) I woke up the morning after with green hair. It was AWESOME.
So now the girls in spinning class are all digging deep in their long-term memory bank and my friend Kelsey pipes up “I have a tattoo!!!” Well, since no one else in the room had a tattoo, we needed more details: Where?!! (she wouldn’t tell us, but I know that it’s not visible in the locker room) but when we pressed her for more info she told us that her kids thought it was a birthmark. Score one for Kelsey!
Next Sarah shouted out that she used to have a belly ring and Mary claimed that she had once stayed up until dawn 30 years ago when she was at Cornell and then it came out that several of us had been to nude beaches (but only a few of us were actually naked on the nude beach. Ladies, that is cheating. If you are going to get wild and go to a nude beach, you cannot wear your tankini.) The memories were now flooding back. Several spinners recalled dancing on a table but to my disappointment, none did it nude nor with a lampshade on their head.
When you are in your twenties, even trickling into your thirties, life is loaded with peak moments. Wild times are as available to you as they are to Charlie Sheen. And young adulthood is not only the rowdiest period of your life. It’s got bigness in general. You graduate, get a job, get married, buy a house , get a dog, have kids.
It’s just like the Katy Perry video. Just one fireworks display after another. One toast after another.
Then, as we age, there’s the long stretch of space before any more peaks and that’s not even counting the valleys. At my gym, we might not be able to remember the last wild time we got wild, but every one of us can remember at least a few funerals. Valleys blindside. Peaks diminish in both quantity and quality. And then there is the long spaces in between. The ho-hum pace of life can be hypnotic in a highway-hypnosis-kind-of way.
So the best advice I can give anyone in my Workout World who finds themselves in the plain vanilla space between life’s banana split moments is to aim for a goal.
Goals, if they are very specific and achievable, can be very motivational and they get us out of the loop in our heads that make it hard to get started TODAY.
Let’s not forget exciting. If your goal can be, in anyway, exciting, that counts as an extra topping for sure.
Your goal could be lofty, like 72 year old New York Times Health Reporter Jane Brody, who, last year, took her two artificial knees and hiked in Tasmania, then walked all over Sydney and finally biked 35 miles a day on a cycling tour of Vietnam. (I was so jealous.)
Or it could be a practical goal, like aiming to jog the entire way around the block without stopping to rest. Or fitting into your old wedding dress. Or giving up wine for a month: not very exciting, I realize, but it might be just what you need to do to fit into your wedding dress, and THAT part would be exciting!
Go online and Google “5K races” plus your zip code and find a local race this spring that you could train for.
Determine to return to a class reunion in good shape.
If you get stuck or need some advice find someone who could help you.
Keep yourself motivated, not through excitement about wild plans or peak moments, but also by mixing up your workout and trying new challenges. You’ll get satisfying results.
Put an event or an occasion on the calendar. Be sure it’s realistic but make it challenging. Tell some people who love you what your new goal is and ask them to lovingly support you; or to join you!
Then you have to break it down into measurable portions so that you know what you have to do each day to stay on target.Write each day’s efforts on a chart on the fridge.
Check , check, check it off so you can see your progress.
Your goal doesn’t have to be a peak occasion. When you become chronologically enriched, you have to find ways to bring satisfaction and excitement to the spaces between the big moments, right? So swim the river, dive in with the Polar Bear Club, loop the neighborhood, bike the state or county, or here’s an overdue one: quit smoking. Making the big changes that you’ve been meaning to for years just takes a few weeks of discipline. Vicious effort becomes Virtuous.
In the back of your mind, if you have a nagging improvement that you could make to improve how you feel about yourself, Do it now!
Especially if it is the type of healthy change that can add years to your life. Don’t wait for the peaks or the valleys in life. The spaces in between are where there’s room to live better.
February 18, 2011
The third day of any diet is absolutely the worst. It’s worse than being on Staycation during winter break after a snow-filled winter and it’s worse than your friends getting on a plane to frolic on the beach in Buenos Aires and it’s even worse than them dropping their dog off at your house on their way to the airport at the beginning of that break.
Making it through your third day of a new regime is harder than the longest staycation.
Author Martha Beck wrote a book called “The Four-Day Win” in which she explains that if you can make it through Day Three of any diet you are 90% more likely to get to your goal.
Firstly, we often eat out of habit, because we want to, not because we are hungry. Eating is extremely enjoyable .
Hunger is something very different. Hunger is a demand, not an option. Real hunger, although part of the daily life of millions of people on this planet, is uncommon in our Western world except among the very poor and those engaged in dieting. One thing you learn from the worst moments in a diet is what hunger really is. Not only does it help one appreciate the suffering of those that don’t have enough food because of their situation rather than choice, it also teaches us a vital lesson about why we eat.
So the first three days of your diet may give you a “taste” of true hunger. After you’ve really felt hunger a few times in the course of the initial three days, you realize that most of the times people say, “I’m really hungry” they’re nothing of the sort. In all likelihood they’re motivated to eat by something other than hunger. Getting familiar with hunger teaches you how disconnected your desire to eat is from your body’s need for calories and how important it is, because of that, to control what you eat by some means other than instinct or will power.
This is where meal planning comes in. Planning meals in advance may seem like a pain and a real joy-kill as far as ruining the spontaneity that makes life enjoyable.
Eating is important; it’s one of very few things in life that isn’t optional. If you don’t eat, you die. If you eat too much for too long, you die.
You wouldn’t entertain the idea of investing in a company that didn’t have a budget, where the staff said, “We just spend whatever we feel like most days. It’ll all work out in the long run.” Not only would such a company probably go bankrupt, its department heads would have no way of knowing where the money was going and they’d have no way to measure actual performance against goals to discover where problems lay.
But by trying to “play it by ear” about what you eat or to try to balance your long term calorie intake meal by meal or by making every food decision on the spur of the moment, you’re placing something even more precious than your money, your own health, in the hands of a process that inevitably leads to major health complications.
Now occasionally in the business world, there are infrequent exceptions to the rule, like the manager who can run a small size business without a budget or a plan or there might be the rare “natural,” with a talent for assimilating large quantities of detail and extracting the meaning within, or else a business owner with a sixth sense for upcoming problems and a defensive instinct for solving them. These few, lucky corporate people the corporate equivalent of naturally skinny people that can eat whatever they want and never gain an ounce.
They don’t need the assistance of the calorie calculations that the rest of us must have to maintain or lose weight.
Here is a scene that replays itself in most households most every night after dinner. No one in your family eats the left-overs. But most nights there’s a big spoonful of macaroni and cheese or something equally delicious) leftover, not enough to make it worth getting out the Tupperware but too much to feed the dog and too much guiltlessly throw away. So you and the dog decide to split it as part of the clean-up patrol.
200 calories might not seem like much but if you are on a diet this is a 10% increase over the number of calories you need to eat maintain your weight.
If this happens regularly enough, there’s a small shift in the balance between calories in and calories out.
If your balance slips up by as little as 150 calories a day–an ounce of Fritos, the rest of your sister’s smoothie, a piece of leftover bagel when the kids had to run for the bus- the scale will start to creep up. Granted it will only be a third of a pound a week or 1.25 pounds over the course of a month, and even if you weigh in daily, it won’t even show up for awhile. But the trend line will start to rise.
After six months (five to ten pounds later )you might not feel fat but rather powerless and frustrated. “I just can’t seem to lose any more weight!” you complain.
And all from one extra helping of mac & cheese per day. That’s why meal planning is key.
No matter how long or severe your diet, the first 72 hours are the worst. This sad fact forces most people to abandon their diet which, if continued, would soon yield sustainable weight loss without undue discomfort.
Once you’ve surmounted the difficult period at the start of a diet, you can be assured the worst is behind you; it’s unlikely you’ll experience anything that bad for the rest of its course. Humans may have a limitless ability to ignore unpleasant facts, but we’re also able to endure truly awful realities: high school, boot camp, root canals, going public, life–as long as we know it’s only for a while and we’ll never have to do it again.
Planning a diet from an understanding of how weight loss really works gives you a handle on how long you’ll have to endure its unpleasantness. Knowing how feedback can control your weight equips you with at least intellectual confidence that once you’ve lost weight you’ll never have to go through that again.
This explains the rocky start every dieter must endure. There is a delay, usually between 48 and 72 hours, between the time you cut back on calories and when fat burning begins in earnest. In those hours, you will experience the most severe shortage of nutrition in the entire course of your diet. You’ll feel cold, weak, irritable, tired yet prone to sleep poorly, and a constant, gnawing hunger that urges you toward the refrigerator and implores you to rethink your resolve to lose weight. It will feel worse than the idea of your vacationing friends on the beach in their bikinis.
First, some perspective: the first two or three days of a diet are rough but, all in all, you won’t feel anything close to as miserable as when you catch a winter cold, nor will you suffer as long or feel the lingering effects of a cold. A cold makes you feel really awful and leaves you in worse shape. Starting a diet makes you feel less miserable for fewer days than a cold and it’s the first step toward much better health.
Only the fact that it’s self-inflicted makes it harder to live through. A all, you don’t voluntarily catch a cold and you don’t have the option of ending it at will.
I view what must be endured in the first few days of a diet as an investment that will pay off in reduced suffering later on. As I mentioned in conjunction with exercise, it’s worth comparing the undeniable aggravation of dieting with the inestimably less enjoyable by-product of excess weight: heart attacks, strokes, and premature death. If you think of a balance sheet with three days of hunger on one side and six weeks of recuperation from a coronary on the other, it’s a lot easier to get through the first days into the long haul where dieting becomes at most a nuisance to be tolerated.
You won’t be as hungry after four days. That’s only 96 hours. Get four days behind you. It’ll be over before your friends step off the plane complaining that their belt is too tight.
February 11, 2011
You are the only one who knows exactly why you decided to lose weight but, without considering vanity and other more minor motivators, let’s begin with a couple of biggies. How do you feel about staying alive for longer? And how does not dying of a heart attack sound? Let’s not forget staying younger for longer and remaining out of the nursing home.
Look around and you will see lots of obesity but what you will not see is lots of obese septuagenarians or octuagenarians (and God Bless any sized nonagenarians you might see on the street.)
People who remain obese into their second half of life cut the length of that second half by more than half that of a normal weight person. The 70, 80 and 90 year old people you see living an active life are the lean ones. And it’s not because the heavier old folks stayed home, or that they decided to lose weight in their fifth or sixth decade. It’s because, as Hippocrates, The Dr Oz of 460 BC said more than 2400 years ago, “Fat men are more likely to die suddenly than the slender.”
If you are obese, you are going to live a shorter life. Raise your hand if you’re ready to go even one day sooner than you have to.
I often try to motivate with more immediate benefits of weight loss and exercise. How we look in the mirror is highly valued in the world today. And watching the number on the scale go down and the wiggle room in your waistband is reinforcing because it is measurable. But the most fundamental reason to lose weight is to live younger for longer. Whatever you treasure in life, good luck enjoying it if you’re dead.
There’s a huge trade-off that we can’t quite comprehend because it comes AFTER the fact- at the end of our lifespan. Is living five or ten more years worth the inconvenience of establishing new eating habits or even the slight irritation level of a stricter diet or committing to thirty minutes of walking every day? Think of someone you’ve lost and tell me that even one or two more days would not be an immeasurable gain and worth much more discomfort than not having ice cream every night before bed. Look at your children and imagine not being around to see their children. Death at any time is too soon and early death due to a deconditioned lifestyle immediately disqualifies you from any benefits you look forward to at the end of it all, whether it’s finally getting your IRA benefits, retiring to the Bahamas or seeing peace in the Middle East (we may have to live a few lifetime lengths to get to see that one.)
Changing your diet is not fun and days struggling to stick with an exercise are wretched, but keeling over dead is worse. Tomorrow will be better. And each day you stick with it the less it will impinge on your mood.
Even if obesity doesn’t shorten your lifespan, you’re opted to suffer from a slew of medical complaints and issues that will make the years you live less pleasant and more limited. By medical complaints I refer to the really big irritations like heart attacks, diabetes and high blood pressure as well as to more vague style-crampers like such as shortness of breath (“Hey! Wait for me!”) and muscle aches and joint pains.
Pick up a ten pound bag of potatoes and see how much effort it takes to lug that thing everywhere you go all day long. Yet many people walk around with many times that weight strapped around their middle. No wonder they have no energy or feel awful. This proves the point that you can get accustomed to almost anything.
If you’ve struggled with obesity for a long time, it’s difficult to pinpoint what it’s costing you not just in how you feel every day but even more difficult to see it in terms of future health problems at the opposite end of your lifespan.
The only answer is to do it and find out how great you’ll feel without the extra weight. Stick with the thirty minutes a day. See the diet through and experience its happy conclusion for yourself.
The first month or so is not easy. Focus instead beyond the hunger to how you feel physically and energetically and pat yourself on the back for what you’ve accomplished so far. And remember that it will be worth a few hunger pangs.
February 4, 2011
To burn it off, you’d have to walk or bike for five hours straight or play tennis or swim for three hours. Or if you didn’t feel like doing that you could run a half-marathon.
Next, compare those exercise minutes (hours) with the calories in these items:
One serving of loaded nachos- 570 calories
12 Doritos-150 calories
Large slice of double cheese pizza-390 calories
Obviously, even sixty minutes of exercise does not burn off much food.
So unless you are a professional athlete or a stair master maniac don’t even try to exercise those calories away in order to lose weight. Exercise will help your drop pounds in less obvious ways like revving up your metabolism and by sometimes reducing your appetite. But those are side benefits.
The real reason to exercise is for longevity and vitality: you will live longer and you will feel better.
Consider the benefits of exercise from those standpoints.
Unless you grew up athletic or involved in sports, we all grow up and get to an age where people can’t MAKE us do things we’d rather not. And if you don’t love to exercise, the case against doing it is rather persuasive.
-Exercise takes up time.
-We don’t always feel like exercising
-Why take up time doing something you don’t feel like doing when it takes up valuable time in your day?
But there is a flaw in this reasoning. The premises are correct but the conclusion does not factor in the irrefutable evidence that exercise will, for almost everybody, make you live longer.
Say you are forty years of age and you workout fifteen minutes every day from age forty until you’re age 65. You will have spent three months exercising during the span of those 25 years.
But there’s solid evidence that this amount of exercise (just fifteen minutes a day) will allow you to live three years longer so you’ve just added 1000 days or 2.75 years to your lifespan.
Even spending just fifteen minutes a day exercising can extend your lifespan to what works out to be 2.5 hours more per day to do whatever you FEEL like doing. Even if you only added one more year to your lifespan you will still end up with 270 additional days if you exercise.
Still not convinced?
Let’s talk about FEELING BETTER
Not only does exercise give you more days on this earth, it also makes your time more pleasant. You feel better, think more clearly, it wll make you a better lover, you’ll sleep better and have more vitality for all activities in your daily routine.
If you aren’t convinced yet, consider that if you do not exercise, you are much more likely to have a heart attack, or if you are going to have one anyway, that you are going to have it sooner rather than later. Even if you are not convinced that you’ll feel one bit better if you start exercising, you’ve got to admit that you’ll feel much worse after dropping to the floor with a heart attack. Have you talked to someone that’s had a heart attack? They will tell you unanimously that you’d be better off avoiding it. Those who were not resuscitated were not available for comment.
WHAT TO DO?
Just get moving. Thirty minutes a day. Aim for every day and then, even if you miss an occasional day, you will get five or so workouts in per week.
HOW SHOULD YOU DEAL WITH THE SUPER BOWL FEEDFEST?
Since you can’t exercise enough to burn off all those calories, the BEST plan is to try not to overeat in the first place. That means you need a plan. Here are a few tips. See which ones are applicable to your party plans.
-Have a plan and tell someone about it so you can be accountable to someone who is in the same room with you and who loves you and wants you to succeed. And remember that last part when they tell you to back away from the bowl.
-Create opportunities to make the correct choices. Get in the habit of waiting just a minute or two between your impulse and your action. I call this the delay technique.
-Use positive self back-talk. So if a simple “no I don’t need that nacho,” isn’t working, then tell yourself: “Well, maybe I do need it, but not yet. First I’ll go get a drink of water, and then I’ll decide if I really want it I can have it. At least some of the time, you may actually change your mind and talk yourself out of it.
-Envision consequences. When considering whether you want a second helping of nachos ask yourself if it’s worth another hour on the treadmill. If you eat it will you feel bloated and gross tomorrow?
-Consider the Butterfly Effect. Little decisions over time add up. Life is about trade-offs and you don’t get to have everything. Choose Carefully.
-Not deciding is Deciding. If you walk into a Super Bowl Party without a specific plan of (food)attack, (I will have a glass of water between each glass of wine OR I will not eat standing up OR I will not choose a seat in front of the nachos .you ARE deciding (by not planning carefully).
One last great idea is to get some exercise between now and kick-off time. And may the best team win.