Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Walking Off The Weight - It's All About The View

93 degrees, 30mph wind gusts, 186 feet up, and 1.25 miles from the nearest shore - you gotta love the center span of the Ravenel Bridge in Charleston, SC.  It ranks as one of my favorite walking spots and I hit it every time I am in the area.  

Today was interesting with the howling wind and thunderstorms on the horizon, but I really needed an energy burst and a five mile power walk is definitely the way to make it happen.  Not too many people due to the weather, but I loved every minute of it, especially the view. 

Even with threatening weather, the Charleston skyline was as beautiful a ever and I got the added bonus of a ship passing below my feet.  For sure, the Ravenel Bridge is a great experience and the kind of thing that makes exercise fun!  

If you are visiting the area, the Ravenel Bridge is the Hwy 17 connector between Mt. Pleasant and Charleston.  Parking and pedestrian access is available underneath the bridge on the Mt. Pleasant side at the Riverfront Park.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Weight Gain Factors or Convenient Excuses

Just call me a skeptic!  The longer I continue with my weight management program (4 years strong) the more skeptical I become about all the "causes" for weight gain.  Every time I turn around there is another report or article about some new reason for why people get fat.  I'm not a Doctor or Researcher, but based on what I have lost and kept off, I have become a pretty practical person when it comes to weight loss.

To be honest, I hear soooo many reasons why people can't lose weight.  Never mind the fact that they have never really embarked on a sensible plan, it seems to be the "in thing" to find someone or something to blame for their short comings and weight loss easily ranks at the top of that list.

Its amazing to me how much energy people spend looking for data to support their reasoning for carrying around all those extra pounds.  To each his own, but the more excuses you use, the less you will lose.  Now I am not disputing any of the medical studies, but so what if living in an Air Conditioned house (that one is real) contributes to your obese ways?  Don't dwell on it, get over it.

Yet another article listing "surprising reasons" for weight gain was published on the My Health Daily News website. (#11 is the AC thing)  I'm not bashing the Author, Amanda Chan, as she did a great job of reporting the findings of others and certainly the information was pretty interesting overall.  But my response is so what? 

If you feel relieved to know that one (or more) of those items might have caused you to gain weight that's fine, but what are you going to do now?  You have the weight and that is a fact, so are you going to focus on putting together a sensible weight loss plan to get rid of them or dwell on that alleged cause of those extra pounds.

They say that knowledge is power, but the real power is how you use that knowledge to better yourself.  So learn all you can, but put it to good use instead of making excuses.  In the case of excess weight, either do something (smart) about it or accept it and move on.  But either way, forget the excuse and focus on the realities.

My website is full of examples of how I got past the excuses and focused on losing 70 pounds, then keeping it off.  You can get the basics by reading my plan or go further with my book.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Walking Away From Sleep Apnea

An article today at Medscape News, by Laurie Barclay, MD suggests that effective weight loss can reduce the effects of sleep apnea, as its been shown that 60-70% of sufferers are overweight or obese. (Excessive neck fat is one common cause of sleep apnea, but not the only one.)

Wow, does that bring back some bad memories.  I used to suffer from sleep apnea and slept with a cpap machine every night.  It was one of those things I hated (just like drugs of any kind) and was determined to get rid of.  On the positive side, once you get used to sleeping with a mask over your nose forcing your airways to stay open while you snooze, the quality of sleep can be incredible!  But, it was cumbersome and a pain to drag around while traveling.  And most of all, for me, it was an artificial solution for a natural problem, as I was the classic case of middle-age overweight guy.

When first diagnosed, I asked my Doctor if there was a cure.  Her response was "if you lose 50 pounds, it MIGHT go away."  I filed that slight glimmer of hope away in the back of my head as I contemplated what to do next.  No, I didn't immediately go out and try to lose weight - that seemed too hard.  So instead I did what most people do when their health is affected by their weight - NOTHING!

Long story short, it took a few more "issues" to get me to change my attitude from "wanting to lose weight" to "focused on losing weight."  (As detailed in my book).  As the pounds came off, the health issues begin to disappear.  Once I lost the initial 50 pounds, I began to experiment with sleeping without the cpap machine.  Guess what? No Problem.  Today I am sleep apnea free and no longer tied to an external piece of equipment at night.

Sadly there are other causes of sleep apnea as evidenced by those with little or no neck fat, but as per the stats in Dr. Barclay's article, the majority of sufferers have weight issues.  Just think what would happen to the Medical Equipment business if all those patients took a new focus on life and lost weight???

So Dr. Barclay, you can use me as a poster child for the study, though for the record I am not in the age bracket that was tested, and I lost significantly more weight than those in the study.  But all things considered,  I walked away from sleep apnea - literally!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Ben Does Life

If you are looking at inspirational stories on weight loss, take a look at Ben Davis.  I saw him this morning on Fox And Friends and took a look at his blog - Ben Does Life.  It's always great to see how an everyday guy took control of his life and turned it around for the better.  120 pounds lighter and still going strong! 

I guess my 70 pounds pales in comparison, but in reality we have a lot of similarities in the fact that both of us did the right thing with weight loss - a balance between calories in and calories burned.  If you are looking for the secret to weight loss - that's it, though its really no secret at all.  If you read very much of my material, you will see that basic premise repeated over and over again.  Ben apparently does the same thing on his site as well.

So if you are serious about losing weight, read the success stories from others who have already done it and stay away from bizarre theories and magic pill programs.  Anyone can be successful with the right approach - they key is creating a sustainable lifestyle that YOU can live with forever, not just till a few pounds drop by the wayside.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Terrified Of Gaining Weight On Vacation?

So you've worked hard the past few months and managed to drop off a few pounds and now you are terrified to go on vacation, because you are worried about weight gain!  Kind of stinks doesn't it?  Finally you are getting your weight under control, and you aren't allowed to have any fun... NOT!  Vacations don't cause weight gain, your choices do!

This is why I am such an advocate for developing a weight loss strategy that is sustainable and works anywhere, anytime (within reason).  If you are dependent on a gym, you can't take it with you.  If you require special foods, you can't take them with you.  If you used a quick weight loss plan, you certainly can't take that with you.  Unfortunately, you may have already tied your wrists to some degree, just by your initial weight management choices.  But have no fear, you can still fight off those obnoxious extra pounds of fat waiting to hitch a ride on your body, by doing a bit of thinking and planning BEFORE you head out for vacation.

First of all, if you have a weakness for eating, choosing a vacation that offers up a bottomless bounty of culinary opportunities (cruise???) could be a disaster.  Ever notice how food is at the core of any cruise package.  Sure they have other activities, but the food is always a big selling point, especially when you can have all you want.  And for that matter you feel short-changed if you don't consume as much as you can at every sitting - gotta get your money's worth you know.  Though most cruise ships have gyms and workout programs, rarely will you ever burn off the calories that you consume.  

Pretty much every vacation offers up some basic opportunities to maximize your exercise without a dedicated workout.  For someone like me, I simply watch the pedometer and make sure I fulfill my daily goals.  But if you aren't a dedicated walker, then you should become one while on vacation.  

When you see an escalator, look for stairs.  If there is a both a foot and bus tour of an area, take the walking version - you will actually see and experience the sights to a much higher degree.  When you are in a hotel, take the steps instead of the elevator.  Take a harbor tour in a kayak rather than a tour boat. If you are in a coastal or mountainous area (think great views) make it a point to hike to a great spot to watch the sunset.  If you are lounging on a beach, get up an take a stroll, or better yet a nice long walk.  Thinking of a cab - think again. It doesn't take long to navigate a few city blocks on foot and who knows what you might discover along the way in terms of restaurants, stores, historical markers, interesting architecture, beautiful landscapes, etc.  Plus you start to get an intimate feel for the culture of the city, which tends to be the most memorable aspect of most trips.

And if you are flying to and from your destination, airports offer some great walking opportunities, some of which are not voluntary! 

The possibilities of keeping your body in motion rather than at rest during a vacation abound, but it's up to you to seek them out.  Just using the power of your legs may be all you need to keep on track and not only is it a healthy element for a vacation, it can save a lot of money too - no transportation costs!  You can use those savings to eat more food...bad!

When it comes to eating, you also need to incorporate a little bit of thought and strategy.  A big part of most vacations is sampling the local cuisine.  Nothing wrong with that as long as you do it in moderation and offset it with some basic exercise.  My favorite trick is simply eating slow - real slow - painfully slow - extremely slow!  Take a small bite, put down your fork and slowly chew the food and savor the flavor.  Swallow, engage in some conversation, then do it again.  When you start feeling the least bit full (and this will happen surprisingly fast) STOP eating.

If your hotel offers a free breakfast buffet (another danger zone) don't sit down for a meal, as the smells may overwhelm you and entice you to eat way too much.  Grab a muffin or fruit or whatever and head back to your room to eat.  AVOID THE TEMPTATIONS that surround and assail you.

Too many times we think of vacations as a time to be lazy and lethargic. Nothing wrong with relaxing, but when it comes to managing weight you still have to be vigilant.  Don't blow an awesome trip by bringing home some unwanted souvenirs - you can gain a pound a lot faster than you can lose it! 

Thinking of Wrightsville Beach, NC for a vacation?   Plenty of fun walking opportunities there.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Best City Parks For Walking, Running & Biking

April White published a good article in the US Airways Magazine this month about some of her top choices of parks that offer ample exercise opportunities.  Let's Go! Walk! Hike! Run! The Best City Parks takes a look at outdoor options in several major urban areas.  Strangely enough, as many times as I have been to all those cities, I have never made it to any one of the places she lists.  Not a bad thing, just means I must expand my horizons more when I travel.

Here is April's list:
New York City - The High Line
San Diego - Balboa Park
Houston - Discovery Green
New Orleans - City Park
Seattle - Discovery Park
Greenville - Falls Park
St. Louis - Great Forest Park
Philadelphia - Fairmount Park
Boston - Boston Common
Atlanta - Oakland Cemetary
Washington, DC - Rock Creek Park
San Francisco - Yerba Buena Gardens
Chicago - Millennium Park
Phoenix - South Mountain Park

Read the entire article to learn more, check out pictures and find links.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Weight Loss Is Not A Gimmick - It's A Strategy

I came across an article today on Medicine.Net that reaffirms what I already know - you don't need a special diet to lose weight successfully, in fact if you can't sustain your methods you might as well not even start, as the weight will just come back when you finish the diet plan.  Without using names, lets just say that several well-known celebs have been in the spotlight for their "dramatic" weight loss, only to have the curtain closed on them when the pounds came back.  And in pretty much every case the reason the weight returned was that they had used a weight-loss program that they couldn't sustain forever.

I figured this out several years ago when I dropped 70 pounds and detailed it in my book.  No special (icky) diets or painful workouts for me, rather I focused on burning more calories than I consumed everyday.  Sure I altered how much I ate and to some degree, what I ate, but always with the concept that I could continue those efforts for the rest of my life.

The Medicine.Net article pretty much says the same thing. Weight loss is not a gimmick, its a strategy!  The world is full of products that claim outrageous results in terms of losing pounds and our society spends hundreds of millions of dollars on the stuff every year, with only a small minority of people actually losing weight from them, and even fewer keeping the weight off long term. Do yourself a favor, focus on developing  strategy that takes into account science, medicine, and sustainability and ignore all the hype and distractions from the Marketers.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Early Workouts Lead To Better Sleep Habits

Interesting article on the EmaxHealth Site written by Deborah Mitchell about the effects of exercise on sleep habits based on the time of day that you schedule your work out.  She references a study by researchers at Appalachian State University that suggests an early morning workout leads to greater sleep quality than one in the afternoon or evening.

I must admit that I am not an early-morning-exercise kind of person, but I have known for a quite a while that I seem to have my highest energy levels (and thus motivation to exercise) starting around 10am and peaking about 1pm.  From there it starts a gradual decline.  That doesn't mean I blow off my walking late in the day, it just means I see a cycle with my energy levels.  As a result, I prefer when possible to walk during the middle of the day, but being gainfully employed with a day job makes it kind of difficult. (I do walk during lunch hour frequently.)

Interesting observation - when I think about the past week and the time of day that I did my walking, it seems like I slept better if it was done earlier in the day rather than later in the day... and if I sleep better at night, I feel better (with more energy) the next day.  Thus, if this study holds true for you, adjusting the time of day when you focus your strongest calorie burn, may actually generate a higher level of energy long-term, which will help you burn even more - nice circle!

Check out the article for more specifics.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Saying Goodbye To An Old Friend

Just finished a 4 mile walk at Memorial Park along the riverfront in Mt. Pleasant, SC.  I felt great and reached into my pocket to retrieve my trusty pedometer... but it wasn't there.  Panic began to set in!  I searched both pockets, but with running shorts there aren't many places to swallow up your stuff - the truth was staring me in the face - my pedometer was gone.  Nooooo I cried out, this must be a mistake.  I hightailed it over to my Jeep and searched around the seats, just in case it had fallen out before my walk, though deep inside I knew full well it had fallen out somewhere during my walk.

The realization hit me hard, like a baseball bat in the middle of my chest.  My pedometer is like an extra appendage to my body - it goes everywhere I do (except in water - learned that one the hard way).  I constantly check it, always gauging my progress towards my daily minimum goal of 5 miles (10,000 steps for me).

I know, I know, its not the pedometer that controls my weight loss, its the actions that are recorded by it.  But when its not there, I feel like I'm not on track with my calorie burn, so much so, that it puts me on edge and generates huge feelings of despair.  In fact, I'm having trouble breathing right now and am feeling like I can't go on without it....

Okay, I'm not really psychotic - just need to say my final goodbyes to my old friend, then head over to Dick's Sporting Goods to get a shiny new pedometer, one that's even better than the old one with more bells and whistles.  In fact, its about time I did get a new one - yeah - that old one was dragging me down, probably even holding me back.  What great luck that I finally  lost it!

Onward and upward - Don't Break Stride!