Sunday, December 30, 2012

If You Want To Lose Weight DON'T Make A Resolution!

Its that time of year again, when people starting coming up with resolutions for improving their life in the coming new year.  And what do you thing tops the list of New Year's Resolutions??? Lose Weight!  But if you really are serious about losing weight (this time) then the last thing you want to do is make a resolution to do so.  Why?  Because statistics show that only 8% of the people who make New Year's resolutions actually are successful in their efforts. 
I've seen it first hand.  Each year on New Year's Day, my favorite walking spot - The Loop at Wrightsville Beach, NC - is crowded with new faces, intent on making a positive change in the weight and fitness category of their life.  By March things are back to normal, as the glory and glitz of the New Year's resolution has worn off and the new faces go into hibernation until the next New Year rolls around and they try again.
The problem with New Year's resolutions is all the drama.  I listen to people throughout the month of December ranting and raving about how they are going to lose weight - next year - while stretched out on a couch stuffing their face with an inconceivable conglomeration of blood thickening, waist widening, junk.  In fact, many of them seem to increase the bad food intake, kind of like its a last hurrah before tackling the weight loss challenge.  Too bad, cause its only going to make the task that much harder.  
When I interject a question like "why wait until next year?" it opens a floodgate of excuses like: "I'm preparing myself mentally" or "the holidays are too busy".   Hmmmm.....  If you have to set a date to start, it really means one simple thing - you are putting it off.  And if you are putting it off, it means you aren't ready to tackle the task.  And when it comes to weight loss, most who start the task have no clue of what they are doing and what makes sense for them - and that is why they fail.
So how do you get started?  For one, don't make a silly resolution to lose weight.  That's kind of like saying I want to make a million bucks when you don't have a job.  Wanting is not going to get you there.  Research, planning and action will!  The weight loss world is full of myths and "lose quick plans" which are great for helping you lose your money real quick, but not necessarily any pounds.  One of my motto's is - it doesn't cost anything to lose weight!  There are plenty of paths to success without having to buy into any program or equipment, other than maybe some shoes...
The first and foremost rule of losing weight and keeping it off is: sustainable lifestyle change.  That means whatever method(s) you choose today, you want to make sure you can continue them forever! Weight loss is not a temporary thing.  It has no end.  Once you start you need to be able to stay the course forever.  If you don't the weight will come back.  So think long and hard about that concept before you start.
FACT - 150 million Americans try to lose weight each year and less than 30% succeed, in spite of investing over $42 billion.  Why do they fail? - Because they don't have a clue.
To help you join that elusive 30%, I will post a 5 part series on getting started losing weight, based on what I did which ultimately resulted in a 70 pound weight loss that I have kept off for over 5 years.  You can also read my e-book about the process if you want an in-depth look at what I did.  Either way, take the time to learn before jumping into an ill-conceived exercise plan or fad diet. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

How About No Pain And No (Weight) Gain

Perhaps one of the hardest things about exercise is that it can be somewhat painful, especially in the beginning.  In fact, depending on the level of discomfort combined with the degree of pain tolerance that you have, your aspirations of losing weight and getting in shape can come to a crashing halt real quick.
One aspect is that you simply overdid it or chose the wrong exercise.  It's critical that you start slow and use techniques that are suitable for you.  I didn't start out power-walking 5 miles per day...  But in reality, there may be a real physical issue causing your pain.
A recent Harvard study suggests that sugary soft drinks can worsen the osteoarthritis in men, but not women.  Though the causes are not certain, the researchers speculate that several ingredients in sugary drinks damage bone health. Caffeine, for instance, can promote osteoporosis, phosphoric acid may interfere with calcium absorption, and high fructose corn syrup — a common sweetener in carbonated beverages — can also negatively affect bone.
So for those men with a soft drink craving, a switch to diet soda might be the right choice?  No way.  Additional studies from other sources suggest that Aspartame (found in diet sodas and artificial sweeteners) can also worsen arthritis since it causes inflammation in the joints when regularly consumed.  (For women too!)
BTW - you don't have to be old to have arthritis or knee pain.
So if you are experiencing knee pain when exercising, a reasonable first step is to cut out all soda.  I know, easier said than done as I am still battling a Diet Coke addiction.  Luckily I don't have the knee pain, but I can feel plenty of other affects when I drink too much of it.  I have cut back - a lot, but still haven't completely dumped it. 
My strategy is this - drink one large glass for each can of Diet Coke initially.  Then work towards two large glasses for each can, etc.  Most days I keep my Diet Coke consumption down to two cans and sometimes zero. 
Keeping things in perspective, if you experience pain while trying to exercise, look for solutions rather than letting it be an excuse to avoid physical activity.  Their is a lot of information on the internet, so Google it and see what others are experiencing. 
The reality is that you should be able to prevent weight gain with little or no pain!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Sedentary Saturday - A Thanksgiving Tradition?

So you ate too much on Thursday, loaded up on leftovers on Friday, and stood in a variety of lines looking for deals on stuff you probably didn't even need.  Watcha going to do today?  REST!  Uh huh, and that is why I call it sedentary Saturday, and I don't mean that as an endearing term. 
Estimates range from 4000 to 6000 calories consumed during a typical Thanksgiving feast.  And with so many people continuing the binge well into the next day (or longer) its the making of an unhealthy situation  Combine this with the lack of exercise that typically occurs during the long holiday weekend, and you have the perfect storm in terms of weight gain.  
Do yourself a favor, avoid leftovers today and avoid the couch.  Get out of the house and at least do some serious walking.  BTW - shopping doesn't count for exercise, because its minimal walking at best.  So if you are thinking of mall walking, fine, just don't stop to shop, keep your body moving.  Have family visiting and feel like it would be rude to walk out on?  Take them with you!  Walk and talk instead of sitting and chatting. 
But Sedentary Saturday is not just about today - it also marks the beginning of a cycle that stretches through to the New Year.  Too much food and not enough exercise, and sadly most tolerate it using the "Holidays" as an excuse.  Listen, the Holiday Cheer turns into the New Year's nightmare come January 1st when you wake up with an additional 10 pounds of fat pressing down on tired knees and ankles.  And then its time for the most popular New Years resolution of all - lose weight!  And you know how many people are successful with that????? Less than 30%... 
There is no magic solution here, other than to force yourself to focus on food in versus calories consumed.  I use a simple trick in terms of eating - I focus on how I will feel 30 minutes after I eat.  That is when most of us feel regret because the euphoria of the food has been replaced with an uncomfortable pressure in the gut.  I then use that vision to help me eat very slow and STOP when I feel the least bit full. 
And in terms of exercise, there are no holidays!  That's why I preach finding something you enjoy, so you can stick to it, even when everyone else is snoring on the couch with distended bellies protruding outwards like humps on a camel...
Sedentary Saturday - don't let it be the start of something you will regret.

Monday, October 22, 2012

If The Shoe Fits...It Still Might Not Be Right For Your Workout

Another 90 days and another pair of shoes worn out.  Though I have been going through this cycle for 5 years, I still find it hard to believe that shoes that look so good (new even) on the top are so decimated on the bottom.  But when you put hundreds of miles on them, they do have a tendency to wear out.
My first indication that I'm approaching the end-of-shoe-life is shin splints.  It starts out on a mild level, but gets increasingly worse on each successive multi-mile jaunt.  In the case of me feet I tend to put more pressure on the outside edges when I am walking in the fast and furious mode.  Thus, my shoes wear faster on the outside as well, which means over time that my feet are tilting to the outside with each step.  That "angling" of my feet puts more strain on my shins, which in turn causes pain.
Though I have been aware of this for several years, I have continued to buy the same shoes, simply because they have done a great job consistently, without giving much thought as to whether they were THE RIGHT SHOES.  
In my early days of power-walking I went through several different brands and styles and evaluated them strictly on how comfortable they were on my feet.  But as it turns out, there is a lot more to selecting the right shoe than comfort and fit.  My tendency to put more pressure on the outside edges of me feet is a great example as its a real condition and there are shoes engineered to compensate for it.
Underpronation/Supination: The two terms "underpronation" and "supination" can be used interchangeably to describe a runner whose foot does not roll in at all or even rolls slightly outward with each step in the running gait. The runner pushes off mainly from the small toes on the outside of the foot. An extremely small percentage of the population underpronates. Typically, a runner with a high arch will underpronate. A runner with this foot mechanic will have extreme wear on the outside edge of his or her current running shoe. Underpronators generally need a NEUTRAL shoe that encourages a more natural inward foot motion.
Dicks Sporting Goods has some excellent information about how to buy the right shoes on their website and its worth reading and understanding BEFORE you make a purchase.  Don't buy based on brand, fashion, looks or even fit alone, but rather on whether its the right shoe for your needs.
After reading this and further discussing with a Store Associate who was very knowledgeable about athletic shoes, I tested a couple of different styles and bought something totally new and different.  I can readily feel the difference in support and so can my feet.
Being that "discomfort" is one of leading excuses for NOT exercising, it pays to get shoes that move you forward rather than hold you back.  Every step counts in the war against weight!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

It's Not What You Eat, But What's In It

I lost 70 pounds, have kept it off for 5 years and NEVER used a diet.  (No surgeries or drugs either, plus I don't do the gym routine.)  A big part of my success was eating slower so I could fill up quicker and paying attention to what was in my food, rather than giving up the stuff I liked.  Many times, we can simply modify the ingredients and still get great tasting food, but with far less calories.  Challenging when you go out to eat, because you lose control on the cooking, but very doable at home.
If you don't know who Rocco DiSpirito is, you need to drop everything you are doing right now and go meet him - at least online.  He is known for his excellent food recipes that deliver great taste, while not loaded up with calories, fat, and other icky stuff.  In a recent segment on Fox and Friends he shared some of his Italian creations that came in under 350 calories.
As an example, he talked about the meatballs his mother used to make that easily had 250 calories each.  He modified the ingredients and created a new version with every bit the same savory flavor, but only 45 calories each.  And, most important of all, his Mother said they were the best she ever had.
"Google" Rocco DiSpirito and check out all he has to offer in the fight against fat!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Why Do You Eat?

I don't advocate starvation, because its not healthy, not sustainable, and not a viable weight loss method.  But eating habits in general have a larger effect on gaining weight than exercise.  Sadly, the typical adult can easily eat more calories in a day than they can burn off. 
Thus, a big part of the weight loss picture is controlling what goes in your mouth (forever, not just a couple of weeks) in order to maximize nutrition while minimizing stupid calories.  But its not just the type of food you eat, its also the amount you eat.  You get just as many calories from eating multiple small servings as fewer big servings, when totaled at the end of the day.  So if you are one who skips meals, but constantly nibbles all day long, you may not be doing yourself in favors.
A very useful tool for analyzing your eating habits is to ask the question "Why Do You Eat?"  In reality, far too many people eat for reasons other than being hungry.  (I tend to eat when bored.)  Here is a list of the top reasons that people eat.  Where do you fit in?
  • Many of us eat because we are hungry - makes sense.
  • Most of us eat because its a habit - Meal Time!
  • Others eat because they want the energy that comes with the digestion of food, be it for energy for sports, or a way of fighting off fatigue throughout the day.
  • Some eat simply because of the overall nutritional value.
  • Environmental triggers such as sight and smell can trigger a desire to eat.
  • Others eat for the pleasure of the taste.
  • Boredom can lead to people popping snacks into their mouths as a way to break the monotony of the moment. (me!)
  • And then there are the people who use food as a comfort.  Studies show that individuals who are feeling sad have a tendency to eat more of less-healthy foods as a way of dealing with their emotions.
  • Along the same lines, eating may be used to combat stress.
  • And finally, lets not forget social interaction.  You eat, because you are with others who are eating, or having mealtime meetings, or at party's where food is served, etc, etc.
These are important questions, because so much of what most people eat is totally unnecessary towards sustaining their bodies.  They simply end up eating for all the wrong reasons and start stacking on the pounds.
Established habits and behaviors are very hard to break, but at the heart of successful weight loss is lifestyle change.  If you can make positive changes that make a difference and live with them forever, you will lose weight and keep it off.
By the same token, don't go too crazy, or you will find yourself going nowhere.


Monday, September 3, 2012

So You Started Walking - But Is It Enough?

If you started walking as a way to get exercise, congratulations, you are now part of the 6 in 10 adults in the country who use walking for physical activity.  Not only does walking have proven health benefits, its also something you can easily do with friends and family.
So, go ahead and pat yourself on the back for getting started on a path to fitness.  I'll even drink a toast to you for your efforts...oops... that means calories for me, but what the heck, I'll just go out and burn them off.
OK, now that the celebration is over, time to get back to work.  Just taking basic walks is not good enough in the long run, because you may not be burning off enough calories to reach your weight loss goals.  Truth be known, walking is great exercise, but it has to be done at a rate and frequency that ensures you are burning off the maximum amount of fat that you can.  Of course that doesn't come overnight, but over time you should gradually pick up the pace and make sure you are doing so on a daily basis.
According to the CDC (Centers For Disease Control) the proper amount of physical activity for adults and children looks something like this: 
  • Adults - 2.5 hours per week of physical activity at a moderate rate.  Think "fast-paced walk".
  • Children - 1 hour every day of physical activity at a moderate rate.
In reality, 2.5 hours per week isn't all that much, as you can do 30 minutes everyday for 5 days.  The key is too start out slow and work your way up. 
For example, I now do 5 miles or more of walking just about every day of the week. (I mix it up with 4 to 5 miles of  Standup Paddle Boarding).  My top end speed is 5mph, which is pretty fast in the walking world. BUT I had to work up to all of that over a period of time.
So at the end of the day, be proud that you have taken steps to get moving, but always be sure that those steps really count!


Monday, August 27, 2012

Obesity Studies Have No Purpose

According to a recent study profiled in USA Today, Mississippi has the highest obesity rate in the USA with Colorado clocking in with the lowest.  So how does that help us lose weight?  Everyone knows that being overweight has many adverse consequences, so another report that confirms that there is a lot of FAT in America really doesn't do much for making any of it go away.
Even worse, some busy-body Government official will see yet another case for the Food Police to intervene. meaning another round of rules and regulations about what we can eat. 
The new regulations in New York City about limiting the size of soft drinks in restaurants are a joke.  It won't help people lose weight, it will just change how they buy what they buy.  And if they want a giant sugary soft drink, they will still buy it, just in a different establishment, like one of the thousands of kiosks on the streets of Manhattan that sell soft drinks, or a convenience store, or a grocery store, or whatever...
First of all, no one can lose weight unless they are truly motivated (from within) to do so.  Thus, instead of creating silly rules, a far better approach to reducing obesity in America is to provide people with useful and practical information about how to lose weight without going insane. 
But perhaps if we look deeper into the results of the study mentioned above, we can get a glimpse into what some of the culprits of weight gain really are and how they can be dealt with.  The top four heaviest states after Mississippi included Louisiana, Alabama, West Virginia and Michigan, three of which are in the South.
Being a Southerner I know full well what we have working against us down here in the lower right of the country - FOOD.  Or maybe a better definition is FRIED FOOD.  The typical southern diet actually includes healthy stuff like vegetables, but then we go and screw it up with a heavy dose of grease.  This is a prime example of how just a change in cooking habits can make a big difference in the caloric (and health) value of the food we consume. 
One of my first lifestyle modifications was to cut down on (not eliminate - too hard) fried foods.  Over time I begin to eliminate many of those things that I used to eat routinely.  The key is to go slow, because if you give up too much too soon, you probably will fail in your mission.
In addition to cutting back on bad stuff, I started looking on how to improve the good stuff to make it edible.  One of the problems with diet change is that the really healthy stuff sometimes has no flavor.  To go from fried chicken to baked skinless, boneless chicken can be a real shocker in the taste department, as in none.  But with some experimentation in terms of spices and flavorings, you can create some really good tasting food that is satisfying to eat, yet healthy for the body.  My wife has a dozen different chicken recipes that actually work!
Just everyday little things like tomato soup can be improved.  Though somewhat lightweight, tomato soup has a ton of sodium, which besides being unhealthy in general, can also cause water retention which adds on pseudo pounds (not fat, just weight).  But if you get the low sodium version its like eating water with red food coloring...ugh.  The solution is too use a dash of garlic and maybe some pepper, which will make a TREMENDOUS difference in the taste.
So if government bureaucrats really want to help, they should quit making rules, call off the Food Police and focus on providing useful, helpful tips for making lifestyle changes that matter.  At the end of the day, you can't force people to lose weight or make better food choices, but you can certainly provide them with the tools to make informed decisions.
Bottom line, some people just don't care if they are fat or not... so quit the studies and leave them alone... it's their life and their choice.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Yoga Goes Adrift For A New Twist


I'm not in to Yoga.  Granted I don't know much about it and thus have no real opinions about the practice, but by the same token what little I do know has never really sparked my interest...until now.
I happen to be a standup paddleboarder, which as it turns out is great exercise in a great setting.  So when I saw a recent article in the News & Observer that focused on Yoga done on paddleboards, I couldn't help but read it.  Yoga Finds A Place On The Water profiles Heather Moore of Fuquay-Varina, NC who is yoga instructor and entrepreneur.  She decided to merge the two work-out methods and now offers instructional sessions on Lake Jordan (NC).  Her early efforts seem to be working with over 50 participants this summer.
I must say this is one heck of a unique concept.  On the surface paddleboarding and yoga are about as far apart as bacon and lettuce, but when combined in the right way (bacon bits on salad), they become very complimentary.  In the case of paddleboarding, balance is a key issue, and yoga is big on balance.  Thus, if you can successfully execute yoga moves on a paddleboard sitting dead in the water, you are definitely going to improve your SUP skills.  

I will probably stick with SUP as a standalone and keep on paddling my @$$ off for a great workout, but I can see the potential of yoga-boarding...
Whether this has any appeal to you or not, the message that I am trying to get across is that exercise doesn't have to be a hardship.  With a little bit of research and creativity, you should be able to find a variety of enjoyable, yet beneficial activities that will help you lose weight and get fit.  Without a doubt, this has been a core part of my success - making weight loss FUN!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Need Motivation For Your Work Out? Maybe Its The Wrong Work Out

I saw a tweet the other day from a woman asking for some helpful ideas to motivate her to go do her workout.  Nice, but sad.  If you need constant motivation for working out, then you are probably going down the wrong path.

Most people approach weight loss from the totally wrong perspective.  They assume its going to be a tough, painful experience so they just need to suck it up and go do it, until the goal is reached.  Without any research, they choose exercise methods based on social perspectives - they see fit people running, movies and TV suggest gyms should be the norm, celebrities promote home workout videos, etc, etc.  In reality, those are only a few of the many activities that burn calories and contribute to weight loss.  The key for anyone and everyone, is finding an activity that is enjoyable such that you LOOK FORWARD to your so-called "work-out" rather than searching for motivation for something that is unpleasant.

In addition to being a positive experience, your exercise regimen should take into account your goals, whether they are burning off pounds or building muscle.  In addition, whatever the choice, it needs to be something that can be done routinely - so climbing Mt. Everest doesn't count...  If there are too many obstacles, then you won't do it on a daily basis. And it helps to actually have multiple activities so you can mix it up a bit.

While running seems to be at the top of the list, it doesn't work for me.  My brother on the other hand has been doing it most of his life and gets a mental and physical boost every time he hits the street - like everyday.  In my case, due to several knee operations and minimal cartilage,  I am not supposed to run. Doesn't mean I can't do it (what's a Doctor know anyway) but I took up walking instead, which eventually turned into power-walking. 

For some reason, walking isn't taken all that seriously in terms of health and fitness, yet studies show that power-walkers like myself burn as many calories as joggers, plus we tend to go further which means even more benefit. 

I know a lot of runners who are happy to do 3 miles in 20 minutes.  I can do 2.5 miles in 30 minutes and routinely go 5 to 6 miles total.  BUT, I didn't start at that level.  Used to be 15 minutes on a treadmill (yuck) 3 to 5 days per week.  I made the same classic exercise mistake initially by using a treadmill - I hated it!

But it all turned around when I moved outdoors and begin hunting for walking opportunities with a view, which made it interesting and fun.  And when I travel, walking becomes a mechanism to see new sights from a ground level perspective.  Plus walking can be done anywhere anytime, and even at moderate paces, its quite healthy.

OK, so running and walking isn't for you.  Fine.  What does sound interesting?  Sadly, activities like chess don't burn many pounds, but swimming and tennis do.  And beach volleyball - one of my favorite Olympic sports - but it requires a beach, or at least sand...  So, make a list of activities and do some research into the benefit and calorie burn for each.  Target things that make sense for you and look for variety so you can keep things fresh and fun. Power and stand up paddle boarding are my main "workouts" and I look forward to them such that I don't need motivation to get moving. 

For the most part, the only time I have needed motivation is when I was battling pnuemonia, and beleive it or not, I got in my walking every day, though at a reduced pace.  So the next time you start to dread your "workout" don't look for motivation, look for a new approach.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Celebrity Weight Loss Claims May Not Carry Much Weight After All

Why is it that so many in our society are so totally enamored with celebrities that they will blindly follow them right over the edge of a cliff.  Can't people think for themselves anymore? 

I get so frustrated when I see "So And So Celebrity Has Incredible Weight Loss" in the headlines, like that means something. 

Lets face it, most of them live a life that is all about being in the headlines and getting paid endorsements to sell a product.  But when it comes to weight loss, how many of them really lost the weight they claimed using the product they swore was the be all to end all?? 
Who's to say they weren't doing something totally different on the side, while promoting a product (for a handsome fee) in front of the cameras.  That seems to be the case with Kirstie Alley according to Reality TV Magazine.  As per their reports, she is being sued for promoting Organic Liaison while on Dancing With The Stars by claiming " “I am proof of its success; I lost one hundred pounds on Organic Liaison.”
The lawsuit alleges that her weight loss was a result of her extreme exercise regimen while on the show rather than the weight loss product, thus making her product claims fraudulent.
So I wonder how many other people bought into this product solely based on the celebrity claims?

There is another celebrity spokesperson who pops up almost daily in TV ads who is rumored to have secretly had bariatric surgery during the time she was supposedly dropping pounds using a product line that was paying big bucks for an endorsement.  No names here, because its only an allegation that hasn't been proven, but it wouldn't surprise me.
Sorry, but this kind of stuff makes my blood boil.  My brain gets fried from an endless bombardment of incredible product claims and marketing messages when I know full well that you can lose weight without any of these miracle programs.  For the life of me, I can't understand why people are so oblivious!!!!!!!
And beyond the hype, even if some product really does live up to its claims, what are you going to do to make sure the weight doesn't come back?  Why don't you go back and ask some of those celebrities who USED to be in the spotlight, but who have mysteriously disappeared from the public stage, at least in the weight loss arena. 
Personally, I don't care what means you employ to drop pounds.  But in the real world of weight management its not how much you lose or how quick you do it, rather its how long you are able to keep it off. What good is losing 50 pounds if you gain it all back? Nothing - big waste of time.
I never used any celebrity-endorsed product and not only lost 70 pounds, but have kept it off for 5 years.  
If you really want to lose weight, do yourself a favor and run as fast as you can away from celebrity endorsements - that alone might burn off a couple of pounds.  Instead do some research into what ordinary people are doing everyday to lose weight successfully.  You can start with some of the national statistics on my Long Term Weight Loss Tips page.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Not Another Magic Pill For Weight Loss

The FDA has approved the drug Qsymia which supposedly helps patients lose weight by suppressing their appetite while giving them a feeling of fullness.  Reports say its expected to help obese individuals lose about 10% of their weight. 

Sadly, this will probably result in a large number of couch potatoes heading to their Physician to get a prescription, so they can go back home and continue their sedentary ways while believing that the weight will magically disappear without any effort on their part, other than swallowing it.  NOT!

Read the fine print from the drug manufacturer - when used with a diet and exercise plan.  So there!  My concern with any of these products is that the masses put all their faith in yet another drug, rather than focusing on the core element of weight loss - a balance between eating and activity. 

In addition, some Scientists have expressed safety concerns, as reported by Nancy Hellmich's article on 7/18/12 in USA Today ...anyone remember Fen Phen?????

The reality is that its a tool for people who are unwilling to take on the task of managing their food input on their own.  And on top of that, its only effective for up to a 10% drop in overall weight.  So for someone weighing in at 300 pounds (that was me) the most they could expect is 30 pounds, and that is only if they are on a realistic weight loss plan.  Of course, it would be hoped that with the right diet and exercise such an individual would lose more than just 10% - I lost 70 pounds without any drugs.

So hopefully this will be used in the right way, but I'm willing to bet money that the average user will treat it as a magic pill and "weight" for results that likely will never materialize.  I might sound pretty negative here, but I have seen too many people fail in the weight loss game because of their blind allegiance to a drug or surgical procedure. 

Yes I know people who have had gastric bypass and are now gaining the weight back slowly but surely because they refuse to adopt a meaningful lifestyle change that would ensure the weight stayed off.  In addition, I have a close friend who has gone through extreme weight swings depending on drugs to lose it, then gaining it all back and more after dropping the drug. Sadly, she has been enabled by Doctors and always manages to find someone who will prescribe what she wants when its time to drop some pounds again.

Reality check, most drugs aren't meant to be taken for a lifetime, thus if your weight loss is the result of a drug, what happens when you quit taking it?????

Do yourself a favor if you are anxious to lose weight - adopt a lifestyle change you can live with forever and get started today.  There is plenty of useful information on my website to help you with this endeavor.  And feel free to email me directly, as I will be glad to share what I have learned over the last six years - the time that I have managed to KEEP THE WEIGHT OFF.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Share A Meal - Kill Some Calories

OK, so the picture is a bit scary and that is not exactly the method of sharing I have in mind... But in the real world, my wife and I do like to eat out a couple of times a week and its a well known fact that most restaurants focus on taste over health when it comes to creating their offerings.   However, you can't live your life locked away in your house eating rabbit food if you expect to be able to maintain a weight management program for the long term. 

I still eat most of what I want, but in much smaller portions than in the past, and a great technique for doing that successfully is sharing meals with someone else.  Now I don't mean ordering two meals and then eating off each others plates, I'm talking about splitting ONE meal between two people.

My wife and I do this every time we eat lunch out and many of our dinners as well.  It really cuts down on how much each of us eats, thereby reducing calories as well. (And saves some money too.)  One drawback is that some restaurants have anti-sharing policies, but most do not. 

Eating in smaller portions routinely has made our stomachs shrink, such that it seems quite normal to eat half of a half sub, rather than half of a whole sub - did you follow that math????  One of our favorite meals is the Baja Chicken Wrap at Tower 7 in Wrightsville Beach, NC.  We cut it in half and though it looks pretty small, when eaten slowly it fills us right up. 

Considering that just a few years ago I could have wolfed down the entire wrap by myself and still wanted more, I have definitely come a long way.  And its not nearly has hard as it seems.  The key is to eat extremely slowly and listen to your body.  When it starts to signal FULL, quite eating.  You can help this along by taking baby-sized bites and engaging your meal companion in plenty of conversation between each bite, so as to really stretch out the eating process.

The method works, but it will take some practice in the beginning, especially if you are one who tends to shovel the food in at the speed of light.  Been there done that, but no more and 70 pounds lighter as a result...

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Weight Loss Tips - Don't Let The Vacation Manage You, Manage The Vacation

Vacation! Great idea, unless you are trying to watch your weight.  Unfortunately, going on a nice relaxing retreat from the daily grind of modern life can easily lead to complacency in terms of food and exercise.  I mean, what the heck, most of us are already spending too much money on the experience and have adapted by casually saying "I will worry about it later".  Thus, the same becomes true of taking in and burning off calories..."I'm not going to worry about it right now - on vacation!"

But a wonderful break from reality, can quickly become a nightmare of realization if you come home with a bank account void of dollars and a body full of fat.  Trust me, you can gain 10 pounds really quick if you let your habits get out of whack.  And you certainly can't lose it as fast as you put it on.  So the trick is to avoid an extended situation where you are piling on the calories which leads to you know what...

The first step to avoiding a pound-heavy vacation is to plan it with food and exercise in mind.  I know, that sounds like you are taking the fun out of everything, but that's not necessarily true.  Fun on a vacation (or daily life for that matter) shouldn't revolve around food, but rather experiences.  Don't make every meal a gluttonous occasion by overeating.  Stick to the same amounts and types of food you eat at home!

Also keep in mind how quickly calories can add up over the day, even when taken in small doses.  If you a hearty breakfast to prepare for the day's activities, you have probably already brought in 800 calories or more. (See the calorie apps on this site for more info). Then a lunch on the go at a fast food restaurant for convenience adds another 600-1500 calories. Grab some snacks along the way, soft drinks, beer, whatever, and you easily chalk up another 500 calories or more.  And its not even dinnertime yet...

Because you are away from a controlled environment such as your home and work, you have limited choices when it comes to eating, especially if you are on a very rigid diet. That's one of the reasons I focused on portion control, more than specialized foods when I started my weight loss journey because the concept works everywhere.

Sooooo, you must find ways to burn off all those calories, which isn't likely to happen if you stay on that kind of consumption track.  Thus, you will have to focus on controlling that input as your first means of defense, followed by adequate calories burning activities that blend in with your vacation.

For example, if you are a golfer walk the courses instead of renting a cart, and keep a close eye on how much food and alcohol you consume.

If you like history and museums, choose a route that involves as much walking as possible, rather than driving from place-to-place.  Washington, DC is a great example.  There is a lot to see and when you take a first glance, the tendency is to drive.  But its really very walkable.  Same with New York City.

When we vacationed in Seattle, we drove a car into the city from our hotel in Redmond, then parked (and abandoned) it for the rest of the day, using our feet for transportation instead.

Another simple thing that you can do is stay on an upper floor in a hotel and take the stairs.  OK, 30 floors could be excessive, but I have no problem walking to the 10th floor and most people can easily handle 4 to 5 stories.

If you have a tendency to overeat, stay away from buffet meals or all-you-can-eat specials.  Cruises can be dangerous that way, as well as a lot of resorts.  You can't put your "blinders" on when you head out for vacation, unless you don't care about your weight.

I just got back from a great vacation at Carolina Beach, NC where we rented a house with another family.  Due to the number of people we were bringing it had to be pretty big, plus we wanted to be near the town center and have a dock for our boats.  We ended up with a house called King's Latitude which was four stories, plus had a deck on the roof which added another level.  The importance of this is that there was NOT an elevator, which meant lots of steps and lots of opportunity for burning off calories.  And since I am the guy who does all the daily walking, I suddenly became everyone's personal servant as they sought ways to avoid all those steps. 

It was interesting to see the attitudes about walking in general.  We had decided for simplicity that we would eat out every night instead of cooking.  So at mealtime on the first night I was ready to walk to a restaurant, only to discover that several of the others were ready to pile into cars.  "Hey guys, its only a couple of blocks no need to drive." They stared back at me with blank facial expressions, as the idea of walking a few blocks didn't go over to well.  I then pointed out that there were no parking spots anyway, so they could walk or drive in circles all night.  Eventually everyone got the idea that walking wasn't such a bad thing and the rest of the week, all involved pretty much stayed on their feet and left the car keys behind.

It should be noted that this was not a crowd of lazy overweight people, it just so happened that it was more of a mindset than anything else.  Why walk when you can drive.

Over the course of seven days, I ate a lot of restaurant food and countered it with a lot of walking, averaging 12 miles per day.  I had a great time and gained no weight.  And yes, I did come home with an empty wallet...

Weight management is all about long term lifestyle.  You have to choose methods that you can live with forever and apply every day, whether at home or on the road.  And vacation is no exception...

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Chasing Their Food For Better Health And Weight Loss

 A couple of days ago, I read an article in the Star News (Wilmington, NC) written by Mike Voorheis about a local couple who had adopted the Paleo Diet as a method for healthy living.  Tammy Jackson and Will Poole were looking for a lifestyle change to help Will battle Type 1 Diabetes rather than a weight loss solution.  But along the way, Will managed to not only reduce his insulin use by 60 to 70 percent, but he also dropped 32 pounds.

So what exactly is the Paleo Diet? The name conjures up all kinds of prehistoric visions and running from dinosaurs would surely burn off some calories, but where does the food aspect fit in, other than T-Rex getting fed by slow moving cavemen? 

Interestingly enough, the diet focuses on eliminating processed foods (not available in the Paleo era) and focusing on modern versions of the very things early man would have had available to him.  In theory, foods that he would have to chase down or gather.

Examples Of Items That Are Permitted:
Rabbit And Goat Meat
Lean Beef, Poultry And Pork
Various Games Meats Including Turkey
Fish, Seafood, And Shellfish
Fruits And Most Vegetables
Nuts And Seeds

Examples Of Foods That Are Not Allowed:
Processed Dairy Products
Cereal Grains Including Rice, Rye, Corn And Barley
Legumes Including Peanuts And Peas
Food With Salt Such As Deli Meats, Bacon, Olives, Sausage
Fatty Meats
Soft Drinks

In the case of Tammy and Will, they modified the plan to better fit their lifestyle and have included more meats, vegetables, and nuts. But even with those changes, they have still seen the benefits of their new focus on eating with Tammy losing weight as well - 20 pounds in three months!  (An interesting plus that she noticed is reduced muscle soreness after intense physical activity.)

Of course there are plenty of nay-sayers in regards to the Paleo Diet.  For example US News And World Reports ranked it as number 24 in a study of 24 diets.  And some Nutritionists frown on the lack of grain and diary.  But overall, the diet has merit as a baseline plan for modifying eating habits for the long run. 

I give Tammy and Will FIVE STARS for searching out a dieting concept that they are committed to for the long run, rather than some kind of icky unsustainable plan that promised quick results.  If they stick with it (along with regular physical activity), they should have no problem maintaining their weight loss for the long term.

Remember, dieting is a waste of time because it has a beginning and an end (I lost 70 pounds without one.)  Diets, however, when adopted for the long run (as in forever) have merit if they provide you with foods that you like, prepared in healthy ways such that your body receives the necessary ingredients to keep it strong and energetic.

As a side note, I used the guidelines from the American Heart Association to help me focus on better eating. But at no point did I engage in eating habits that I couldn't sustain forever!!!!!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Dieting Disasters...Short Term Solutions Never Last

DIET - I hate the word!  In fact, I think that single word is one of the biggest impediments there is to losing weight and keeping it off.  For one it always seems to be used in a negative context... "I gained weight and need to go on a diet"... "can't wait to get off this diet"... "I hate this diet"... "no thanks, I'm on a diet"... 

So right off the bat, the word can cause heartburn and nausea, before you put the first piece of food in your mouth.  Thus, for someone who wants to lose weight, the prospect of going on a diet can cause a lot of anxiety and may actually become a road block that discourages them from even trying.

The second problem, is that since so many diets deprive people of the foods they like, there is a tendency to cheat or quit early.  Thus, people on diets can easily become the very miserable individuals that they initially perceived all dieters to be.

The third problem, is that diets are treated as short term solutions, thus most people choose something based on promises of quick results, no matter how distasteful it really is, because they see it as a temporary situation.

BAD THINKING all the way around.  Temporary weight loss initiatives have temporary results. Typically, the minute you stop whatever program you were using to shed pounds, you will start gaining them back, so you can NEVER treat a diet as a temporary discomfort to your current lifestyle. 

According to an article on MSNBC entitled When You Lose Weight And Gain It All Back, researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles analyzed 31 long-term diet studies and found that about two-thirds of dieters regained more weight within four or five years than they initially lost.  Now that really stinks.  The only thing worse than engaging in a diet you really hate is to gain back all weight!

But the statistic is there and proven, thus it pays to think about the future before you engage in ANY activity designed to help you lose weight.  Make sure you ask the all-important question before starting anything new: "can I continue this forever?"

Speaking as someone who has defied the statistics, I never went on a "diet" per se.  Instead I changed my eating habits (slowly) to focus on eating less, paying attention to calories, and focusing on better food choices.  Trying to change a meat and potatoes guy like me to yogurt, fruit and cottage cheese wasn't a real option (still isn't).  I enjoy my food, and still eat things I like, but in moderation, among other things. 

Said another way, I make educated food decisions and control what goes in my mouth, but don't eat bizarre stuff that doesn't satisfy me.  As the MSNBC article points out, people have a tendency to put all their faith in a program created by someone else, rather than taking control of their own destiny by devising a plan (based on facts and research)  that works for them.  Look at all the celebrities that are referenced...

But on the flipside, not all diets are bad.  In fact, there are plenty of good ones out there that people use successfully all the time.  I am NOT against diets at all, just the concept of short-term dieting.

If you have read any of my posts or my book Eat Slow Walk Fast, you know my theme is "sustainable lifestyle change" and I never let up.  That's because it works and for the most part its the only thing that works for the long term.  And if you aren't committed to the long term, don't even waste your time with the short term.

Stay tuned as I profile a couple who adopted a diet plan that fit their lifestyle and not only lost weight, but improved their health as well...

Friday, June 22, 2012

Exercising With Dolphins

Had a fantastic experience yesterday!  Went out early in the morning on my stand-up paddleboard  and did 5 miles along the back waters of Wrightsville Beach.  Great time of day, because its so quiet and peaceful. As I was paddling near the Coast Guard Station a dolphin broke the water about 50 feet away.  I instantly stopped to watch and see if he would come up again...and he did...about 25 feet away.  Over the next few minutes he got progressively closer with the final pass being just out of arms reach.  It was so cool!  The air was so still that you could hear and almost feel the gentle swish of his body as it broke the surface then arced back under after a quick exhale through the blow-hole on his back.  For a brief moment in time, I felt like I was in a totally different world, just me and the dolphin.

Eventually he moved on, but it was a moment I will never forget. 

Living on the coast, I have seen plenty of dolphins while boating, even when walking.  But its rare to get so close to one.  And the feeling you have standing on your board, out on the water with this amazing creature is indescribable.  And it was made even better by the fact that there were no distractions - boats, cars, noisy people, barking dogs - so peaceful, so mesmerizing. 

I've always dreamed of swimming with dolphins in the wild and this was certainly the next best thing.  And to top it all off, I was getting a good dose of fitness by being there on my board.  You can't go wrong with exercise that has these kinds of benefits!

As you may already know, I am not into the gym thing at all.  The whole concept of  structured "work outs" with weights, machines, mats, etc. is just a total turn-off to me.  In fact, when I was first starting the weight loss journey, it was one of those things that I saw as a roadblock to success, as it would be something I dreaded everyday, such that I would continually find excuses to avoid it.  Luckily, that isn't the only way to get exercise.

The key of course is finding things that fit your lifestyle and are actually enjoyable to do.  (Paddleboarding with dolphins fits my criteria!!!!) Gyms are great for some people, but not everyone.  It's something I have written about multiple times and of course gets plenty of coverage in the Eat Slow Walk Fast book.  Long story short, walking is my core form of exercise (5 - 8 miles per day).  But stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) is now a regular activity, though I can't do it everyday.

Of course, just like with gyms, SUP is not for everyone, but there is a certain thrill to being out on the water enjoying and interfacing with your surroundings - totally different from a boat.  On top of that, it give you a good upper body workout (nice balance for my power-walking).  And its not a coastal sport, as you can do it anywhere you have a body of water. I actually learned how to do it in my backyard pool.

So don't get dragged down by exercise that you dread - find activities that you can look forward to, as that will keep you on track for burning calories, killing pounds, and getting healthy. And if you make it down to the coast, rent a paddleboard and look for some dolphins.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Losing Weight At Work

I've always said that successful weight loss is all about lifestyle change.  If you can switch over to daily routines (key word - daily) that include reasonable exercise and proper eating, you can lose weight and KEEP it off.  If you have to stress yourself to do it, then you probably won't go very far.  Bottom line, if its too hard to do, most of us won't do it!

Assuming that most of us work, its safe to say that a major part of most days involve a high degree of dedication (8 hours?) towards staying employed.  Though some might have jobs that involve exercise, many of us spend our days parked in a sitting position with little opportunity to get up and move around.  (Flat Butt Syndrome!) 

As it stands right now, most employers are more concerned with getting tasks done, than with finding ways to provide staff with healthy lifestyles while at work.  But there are changes appearing on the horizon.

As health care costs increase significantly each year, Companies are waking up to the fact that healthy employees cause less financial drain than unhealthy ones.  Besides higher attendance rates, staff members who maintain a higher degree of fitness also tend to be more energetic and typically exhibit a more positive attitude while at work.  And of course, healthy workers tend to use medical services a lot less than their unhealthy counterparts.  All of this adds up to one thing - places of employment need to be gateways to healthy living, not impediments.

An article by Monte Mitchell of the Winston Salem Journal focuses on what one NC Manufacturer is doing to help their employees lose weight and enjoy healthier lifestyles while at work.  Renfro Corp, the worlds largest manufacturer of socks has among other things, marked off a walking track on the floor of a warehouse at the company's headquarters in Mt. Airy, NC.  Workers are encouraged to use it where appropriate as a means of getting up and refeshing themselves in a healthy way.

Staffer Sharon Flippin lost 35 pounds over the past year, a feat that she attributes to the efforts of her employer. She typically walks a mile each morning and afternoon on the indoor track.  "It helps me keep from getting stressed and clears the mind, and you have the added benefit of exercise," said Flippin.

Unfortunately, Renfro Corp is more the exception than the rule at this point, but the trend towards the development of corporate wellness programs is slowly catching on.  For example, I do weight loss motivational presentations for companies based on my success at losing 70 pounds using a combination of simple things that anyone can do.

But in the meantime, any efforts to incorporate a healthy lifestyle while at work may fall on your shoulders.  Where practical, try to get out of your chair or work station at least once per hour to walk around.  Consider taking the longest route between two points (without being counter-productive with your time).  This can be as simple as taking the steps instead of the elevator.  My favorite approach is doing conference calls on my cell phone in the parking lot (we don't have an indoor track). 

Trust me, there is always an opportunity for exercise if you just open your eyes and look for it - the real problem is that most people spend a huge amount of brain power trying to find ways to avoid it!

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