Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Weight Loss Should Be Enjoyable, Not Painful

Are you caught up in the New Year's Resolution fad?  Gee, I hope not... such a waste.  The reality is that if it's worth doing you should start doing it immediately, rather than waiting until some designated starting point.

And what do you think one of the top resolutions is for 2012 or any other year for that matter?  Losing weight off course.  It's something everyone feels a need to do, but very few actually accomplish.  And the more someone fails at something, the more likely they are to avoid it in the future, which translates into: if I don't lose the pounds quickly and easily the first couple of times I try, I'm not going to ever try again.

I've said it a hundred times (as have many others) you have to incorporate a long term (forever) lifestyle change that you can live with, if you are serious about losing weight.  Bottom-line if you can't live happily with your program, you won't stick with it and won't be successful.  In fact, a successful weight loss plan should actually be enjoyable!

Thus, you must figure out what works for YOU.  Beware of some celebrity spokesperson pitching a commercial plan.  (Nothing wrong with a LEGITIMATE commercial plan, as long as it fits your lifestyle and delivers the results you need.)  And avoid programs that claim quick weight loss, as they are not long term solutions.

For me, as a meat-and-potatoes guy I wasn't about to give up the food I liked, though I knew that most of it wasn't all that healthy.  So I made a slow transition into eating much smaller portions and along the way I also started (gradually) eliminating some of the really bad stuff. (Much more info in my book.) Eating slowly was a huge part, as it allowed me to fill up much quicker.

Exercise was also key and I knew that a gym was NOT the right choice for ME. Nothing wrong with a gym if it works for you, it just wasn't my thing.  Plus, with all of my travel, a gym certainly wasn't practical as I needed something that could be done anywhere, anytime.  That something turned out to be walking.  I have progressed from 15 painful minutes per day on a treadmill to 60-90 minutes of enjoyable outdoor power walking.  And no matter where my journeys take me, I can find the opportunity to walk - airports are a big favorite.

But it's not about what works for me, but what works for you.  Lifestyle is the key ingredient of a successful weight loss program!  A great example of this concept was profiled in an article by Abby Ellin that focused on overweight Big Rig Drivers. 

When you take a minute to think about it, someone who makes their living driving a truck spends a good part of their life sitting behind the wheel of a vehicle, barreling down the highway.  How many calories does that burn?  Combine that with a bevy of fast food meals, and you have the makings for an extremely sedentary, overweight human being.

Driver Roy Williams 70 pound weight loss is chronicled in the article, which is a perfect example of making a beneficial lifestyle change.  Gone are the days of eating in Truck Stops and guzzling down sugary drinks and snacks, replaced with healthier meal and snack choices.  Plus he keeps a fold-up bicycle in the cab of his truck so he can get exercise during rest stops. It's the kind of story that everyone can learn from.

So, for 2012, avoid the hype, the ads, the promises and the pitches, focus on how you can increase your exercise (in a fun way) while decreasing your caloric input.  And put an emphasis on making it enjoyable, not painful which will help ensure that you can stick with it forever.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Which Is Better - Running Or Resisting?

Sounds kind of like a plot from the TV Show Cops, huh?  But in this case, I'm talking about pounds, not the police and specifically the pounds that are associated with belly fat.  Visceral fat (also called liver fat) is the nasty stuff that's deep within the abdomen, filling the spaces between internal organs.  It's considered the worst of the worst and is associated with an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and certain forms of cancer.  Thus, it should be a prime target for focusing your fat-busting efforts.

So in choosing an exercise/lifestyle program to target belly fat, which is the best choice - aerobic (running) or resistance (weight training)?  For one thing, choosing something you can commit to forever is a prime factor in choosing any program, as there will be no benefit whatsoever you don't stick with it.

But beyond that tidbit, researchers have found that aerobic exercise beats out resistance exercise for reducing that icky belly fat.  In addition, it resulted in a significant improvement in terms of heart disease risk factors, liver enzymes and triglyceride levels.

Certainly, resistance training is not a bad thing, as it improves strength and lean body mass, but aerobic exercise burns more calories - 67 percent more.

The eight month study done by Duke University Researchers utilized 196 overweight adults, aged 18 to 70.  The participants in the aerobic group did the equivalent of 12 miles of jogging per week at 80 percent maximum heart rate, while those in the resistance group did three sets of eight to 12 repetitions three times per week.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Walk Faster - Live Longer

I'm already hooked on the benefits of walking, as it has been a key part of my weight loss.  I'm now at the point that I shoot for a minimum of 5 miles per day, though on many days I go much further.  And over the years my pace has gotten much faster, both with normal everyday walking and focused fitness walking.  I can easily sustain a speed of 4.5 mph for 90 minutes without much trouble and I routinely reach the 5.0 mph threshold.  And since I can walk anywhere, anytime, I can stick to my plan without too much trouble.  End result is 70 pounds lost and kept off for over 5 years.

Without a doubt I have seen and experienced the positive results of walking in terms of weight management.  But it turns out there are even more benefits to walking, especially fast walking.

Several recent studies have concluded that faster walking speeds are reliable indicators of longer living.  An article in USA Today by Janice Lloyd reveals that the predicted years of remaining life for people age 65 or older increased as gait-speed increased, with the most significant gains coming after the age of 75.

In addition, it was found that predicting longevity based on gait speed was as accurate as predictions based on age, sex, chronic conditions, smoking history, blood pressure, body mass index and hospitalization.

Here is a summary of the information compiled from nine different studies involving 34,000 people:

How fast a person walks is a good predictor of longevity. An 80-year-old man who clocks 1 mph has a 10% probability of reaching 90, while a woman of the same age walking at that pace has a 23% chance. The median life expectancy for the 80-year-old man is four years. For the woman it is seven.
Up that speed to 3.5 mph, and the 80-year-old man has an 84% probability of reaching 90, while a woman would have an 86% chance.That translates to a median life expectancy of 14 years for the man and 17 for the woman.

Ok, so you might be thinking "I'm not anywhere near that age, so why do I care?" Simple answer - it will be here quicker than you think, so it's never too early to start down the path towards better health and fitness.   Plus, the later in life you wait to improve your health, the harder it is to do, and if you wait too long, it might be too late...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Whats The Best Diet? - Wrong Question!

I was chatting with with a Business Associate the other day and we got onto the subject of my weight loss.  He was impressed that I had lost 70 pounds and kept it off for over five years and then asked the million dollar question "what's the best diet and which one did you use?"  After I finished laughing (in case you didn't know I don't believe in diets...) I launched into a series of questions for him.

ME - "Are you interested in losing weight?"
HIM - "Yes"
ME - "Is your goal short term or long term?"
HIM - "Long term of course."
ME - "Then why are you interested in a diet?"

Wow - you should have seen the look of confusion on his face.  This is a very intelligent, business professional who in spite of his incredible brain power, just didn't get it when it came to the subject of weight loss.  Much like the rest of the population, he associated losing weight with some form of specialized diet program.

I don't believe in diets (and never used one) for one simple reason - they aren't sustainable.  Pay close attention to what I just said!  I didn't say you wouldn't lose weight with a diet plan, I'm saying that in almost every case, diets are not something that the average person can live with for the rest of their life.

To be honest, I have not evaluated many of the 14000 diet plans that exist out there, but for sure the majority are focused on a specified set of food restrictions over a given period of time.  If strictly adhered to, most of them will deliver what they promise - some form of weight loss.

But what happens when the diet ends?  Being that the diet itself was the catalyst for losing weight, once it ends, the weight tends to come back.  It's a known fact that most of the people who lose weight gain it back and the reason is very simple - weight loss must be a long term commitment - something you can sustain for the rest of your life.  Short term diets simply don't fit the bill... they only deliver short term results.

So my response to anyone who wants to know my secret is that you have to find a good combination of food and exercise that you can live with forever and that ensure that you burn more than you eat.  I have tons of information on this website and in my book on the details, so do the research and find something that works for you. 

Avoid the hype and ignore the celebrity endorsements - study the successes of average people who successfully lost weight on their own, and then kept it off.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Pass The Salt Please

Losing weight for the sake of losing weight is a great first step, but ultimately you should be focusing on an all-encompassing plan to improve your health.  Certainly, you don't need to overwhelm yourself in the beginning, but as you slowly make progress changing your lifestyle in such a way as to burn off pounds instead of add them on, you should also start taking notes on exactly what all is going into your mouth.  Sodium is a great example.

Sodium (salt is the main source) is long associated with contributing to high blood pressure, but it really has a lot more far ranging effects on your body.  A recent study found that a diet high in sodium can lead to all kinds of medical issues including heart disease.  An even more important aspect of the study was a finding that the ratio of sodium to potassium was even more important, than just the amount of sodium consumed.  A comparison of people who had a high sodium-to-potassium ratio versus people who had the opposite ratio, found that those in the first group were nearly 50 percent more likely to die from ANY cause, and more than twice as likely to die from ischemic heart disease. (Results were over a period of 14.8 years)

Considering that 90% of the consumed sodium in the U.S. comes from salt, and 75% of that comes from processed and restaurant foods, it certainly makes a case that what we eat could be killing us.  It's already a known fact that those same foods tend to be high in calories, fat and cholesterol, so here is yet another reason that closely controlling what you eat can have a huge impact on not only your weight, but also your health.  (Salt added via home cooking only accounts for a minor percentage of the daily sodium intake.)

Another great example of where sodium finds its way into our bodies is soft drinks - even the diet versions.  My Doctor told me a few years ago, that consuming a lot of diet soft drinks can lead to water weight gain.  Technically its temporary, as the body can flush it out, but if there is a consistent flow coming in, then there tends to be a consistent amount held.  This becomes a case for drinking more water (which will flush out the retained water) and less beverages that contain sodium - sports drinks, tea, lemonade, soft drinks, etc.

The same concept applies to all foods, not just soft drinks.  Large quantities of sodium from any source can cause water retention which yields extra pounds. (NOTE - Sodium in and of itself is not fattening and does not cause weight gain.)

Reducing your intake of sodium is just another piece of the overall healthy lifestyle puzzle.  Focus on "baby-steps".  If you are like me, and tend to drink a lot of diet soft drinks, try to gradually switch over to water by substituting water every other time you reach for a beverage.  You may never completely kick the soft drink habit, but you can easily reduce your daily intake significantly.  In addition focus on staying away from restaurants, especially fast food ones, and preparing more meals at home using fresh natural ingredients where possible.  And instead of using salt to enhance the flavor, experiment with herbs and spices that add zest without harmful effects.

So next time someone asks you to "pass the salt" go with a Hail Mary throw, over their head and into the closest trash can.  Lose the salt, save a life...

For more information on this subject, read the article by Jane E. Brody of the New York Times News Service.