Saturday, March 31, 2012

Got Rid Of Those 10 Pesky Pounds!

So about 5 weeks ago I made mention that I had picked up 10 pounds over the winter, something I do every year cause I have a tendency to slack off on exercise (I'm an outdoor power-walker) and ramp up on the margarita and TV Time.  Such is life - I pay close attention to my body and manage any slight gains (I consider 10 pounds to be a minor nuisance) pretty well.

Lest you think I am bragging, I am not!  But since I did manage to lose 70 pounds totally on my own without any crazy diets, gym memberships or paid programs, I am quite confident in my abilities to manage my weight long-term and now that I am approaching 6 years of success I have a pretty good handle on the ins and outs of weight management, at least in terms of MY body.

Well anyway, I made some minor adjustments... actually I simply got back into my normal daily routines and started dropping an average of 2 pounds per week, and am now back where I need to be.

One of the real peculiar things about weight loss is that you reach thresholds pretty quickly where you can't lose any more weight.  In other words, the actions that caused me to lose 2 pounds per week don't cause the same amount of decrease indefinitely.  Thus, I don't expect to see much more pounds lost now that I am back in my normal routine.  This particular balance of food and exercise seems to work fine for getting me to and holding me at a certain level (70 pounds lost) but doesn't take me any further.  In order to kill another 10 pounds, I would have to make significant changes to burn off more. 

That was one of my early lessons with weight loss.  When you hit a plateau, you have to up your game plan in order to move beyond.  And eventually one day you will max out again, or at least reach a level that you are comfortable with the balance between effort and results.

And that is why weight management is truly all about sustainable lifestyle change!   If you are going to do it, do it right or don't do it at all.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

I Used To Look Like You!

When I'm out putting in my daily power-walks, I usually see quite a few overweight people struggling to get into a walking or running routine.  Of course I applaud there efforts for getting off the couch and doing something about that unwanted fat.  But here is my dilemma - I want to encourage them to keep up the good work, but am not sure how they would react.

Being that I used to be fat myself and am still a far cry from skinny, I remember that in heavier times, I tended to ignore the state of my body.  Yeah, I knew that I needed to lose weight, but since I really couldn't see me as others did (avoided mirrors) it was easy to convince myself that I wasn't really all that overweight.  And to reinforce that fact, I tried to blend in to the background in hopes of going unnoticed.

Thus the concept of being acknowleged as being overweight is not something that most fat people welcome.  So, if I encourage someone to keep on track with their exercise, someone who is clearly in the obese category, then I am for sure acknowledging their body size, so am I helping or hurting...  I don't know?

Me personally, I want anyone and everyone who is seriously trying to lose wieght to know that I too went through that and am always willing to share my story as well as tips and tricks for staying on track.  But on the flipside, hearing that from someone several body sizes smaller, may not be more depressing than inspiring.

So what do I do?  Speak up or keep my mouth shut?  For now, I lean towards the latter... just wonder if that is the wrong thing.  If I could just help one person... that would be so awesome. 

I still don't think losing weight is all that hard - its the lifestyle change that will kill you... initially!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

If You Give A Kid Healthy Food He Will Eat It... Right?

Seems like every week, there are new "kid oriented" food standards being introduced by the Government.  So while the concept of eating better is good, sinply making new rules doesn't do much for making anything happen, except that the Government Adminstrators and Players get to pat themselves on the back.

Simple fact - if people don't like it they won't eat it.  And what you like, I might hate!  Sure, my parents cooked healthy meals and tried to get me to "eat all my vegetables" but I didn't... cause there were some things I simply didn't like and eating them would make me gag.  Thankfully, I didn't get sent to bed without dessert cause I didn't eat all the veggies on my plate, as that would have made me hate them all the worse.  But in the grand scheme of things, we must be careful, creative and even a bit tricky when trying to get kids to eat right.  And sometimes, despite our best efforts, its not going to happen and here's why.

Beside that fact that all taste buds are not created equal, there are other things that can make different foods repulsive for different people.  In my case, I am very sensitive to how something "feels" in my mouth.  Mushrooms for example can make me gag.  Thus I can't eat them and it has nothing to do with taste.  Smell can be a real killer as well, and I am one who has a very powerful nose. I think its because I have such bad vision, that my sense of feel and smell are so strong.  And in many cases, just ugly looking food is enough to make someone dump it in the nearest trash receptacle.

So my point is that if we want to make our kids eat better, then we need to craft an approach to make healthy food more appealing, rather than just taking away the bad stuff and slopping on the good.  As a kid, the few times I got stuck with a "healthy" school lunch, I chose not to eat...  of course, that potentially can lead to weight loss, but starving our children is not a great way to fight childhood obesity.

At the end of the day, the key to weight management is personal responsibility, not the Government stepping in with a bunch of rules and regulations to modify behavior, when food choice is as much taste, smell, feel and look as it is anything else.  Adults and kids alike need to learn (from an early age) that they are responsible for their lives and only they can make the best choices for the best outcomes.  Nothing wrong with our Government forcing restaurants, food producers and manufacturers to post calorie levels and food ingredients, as that helps us to make choices, but I have major concerns when they start deciding what is best for us to eat to the point it gets too restrictive.  Instead teach people how to count calories and understand how much energy/activity is required to counterbalance against food intake.

I had to learn all of this on my own in order to shed 70 unwanted and unneeded pounds.  Would have been nice to have had some really good education on the subject, presented in a clear, conscise and fun manner, so I could have maybe avoided those pounds in the first place.  Instead I got trays full of horrible, unappealing foods in the elementary cafeteria line and lectures about the basic food groups...

Ok, done with my soap box... for now.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Healthy Fried Foods?

When I first started the weight loss thing, I carefully inventoried the range and types of foods I was eating to see what needed to be "modified".  As I've said many times before, I knew I wouldn't be successful if I gave up everything I liked and was fully focused on the fact that whatever path I chose in regards to food I would have to maintain for the rest of my life.  Thus, I had to seek balance between, the good, the bad and the ugly.  Plus, I  decided to look beyond just losing weight and also focus on being healthy.

Well, right there on the top of my "everyday" food list was something quite obvious - a bunch of fried foods.  Being from the South, it was a normal staple of life - fried chicken, bacon, sausage, french fries, fried fish, fried seafood, even fried vegetables...  But everything I was reading said frying was bad.  So how do you give it all up - cold turkey?  You don't! 

Step one is moderation.  Cut back on those things that are obviously unhealthy, but don't toss them aside, or the cravings will be so strong that you will probably give in and fail on your mission to lose weight and/or improve your health. And you can gradually decrease consumption over time.  For example, I eat very little in the way of fried foods anymore (several years later) but still can't eliminate french fries completely... (TIP: Eat slow like the website says - you will fill up quicker!)

Step two is alternative cooking.  As it turns out, with frying its not so much the cooking process as it is the ingredients used in the process.  Proven fact: using olive oil or sunflower oil for frying foods is a healthier alternative than using standard vegetable oils and such wonders as "lard".  This is a huge key for supporting your weight loss efforts - alternative cooking solutions.  Though it's kinda hard to make a bad thing good, you can certainly make not so good things better... with a bit of culinary creativity.

A study published in the British Medical Journal supports the concept of preparing fried foods using healthier alternatives.  In the study, 40,000 Spanish adults (I love Spain - didn't see many fat people there either...) age 29 to 69 were followed for an average of 11 years and interviewed about their cooking habits.  Long story short, it was found that eating fried foods cooked in olive, sunflower or alternative oils was not associated with incident coronary heart disease, or coronary heart disease events, even after adjusting for factors such as calorie intake, sex, age, body mass index and high blood pressure.

So two key factors for modifying how you eat - moderation and preparation.  But don't lose sight of the fact, that you still may be eating unhealthy, even with alternative cooking methods, so always pay attention to the big picture.  I'm not sure that bacon will ever fall into the category of healthy eating...

Saturday, March 17, 2012

What Is The #1 Single Source Of Calories?

"Sugar-sweetened beverages are the #1 single source of calories in the American diet and account for about half of all added sugars that people consume."  That statement from Rachel Johnson, a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association and a nutrition Professor at the University of Vermont should get your attention. 

And this is not limited to soft drinks which is usually the assumed culprit when all the finger pointing starts to happen.  Energy drinks, sports drinks, sweetened bottled waters, fruit drinks (not 100% fruit juice), coffee, sweetened tea and flavored milks are all included in the category of sugar-sweetened beverages.

The American Heart Association recommends  no more than 36 ounces or about 450 calories of sugary beverages per week... so what does that mean?  Let's put it into perspective.

Enjoy a cold, rich glass of chocolate milk as a late night pleasure - that's about 200 calories per cup (serving size).  Like to start each day with an invigorating espresso drink from your favorite coffee shop?  A Starbucks Caffe Mocha is 260 calories.

Prefer a sports drink after a workout?  An 8oz serving is 50-100 calories depending on the flavor.  Can you buy one that small???? 

Don't understand why you can't lose weight and/or keep it off?  The answers are in your face, or at least on the labels.  The key is moderation!  No need to give up what you love in order to rid yourself of those unwanted pounds, rather scale back in order to reduce your calorie intake.  It is the one of the keys to my success (70 pounds gone for ever 5 years) and it does work!

So... pay attention to what you are putting in your mouth!

The Diet Coke Dilemma

I have one real addiction in life - Diet Coke.  But I guess in the grand scheme of things, that sure beats cigarettes, alcohol and drugs... However, the reality is that a lot of reports peg diet drinks as unhealthy due to the ingredients.  Sure they have zero in terms of calories, but plenty of other bad stuff to make up for it.  Kind of seems like everything (man made) that fits the description of low calorie, has a bunch of negative elements floating around in the background.

On a positive note, I will attribute Diet Coke as a key factor in my weight loss journey.  The day I switched from regular soft drinks to this particular brand, I saw a difference.  Of course, I was consuming huge amounts of regular soda on a daily basis at the time, thus it was only natural that I would see a few pounds disappear when going to a zero calorie version. 

So I have stuck with Diet Coke religiously (Coke Light when traveling in Europe) for many years, to the point that its just about the only thing I drink... and that is a bad thing. 

The first negative is the high level of sodium which is bad on several levels, but from a weight loss perspective, sodium can cause "water retention" which means some potentially unwanted pounds refusing to leave your body.  As per my primary care physician, getting rid of soft drinks altogether, even the diet ones, can result in several pounds of retained water being un-retained.

Beyond that there all kinds of "other" chemicals which may not be ideal for your body's needs.  Is it dangerous?  Most of what I have read (from sources like the Mayo Clinic) says that the dangers of developing cancer from diet soft drinks is overblown and that there probably is very little heath risk from the sweeteners used in production.  But that doesn't mean its healthy either.  A nice article by Marcelle Pick puts things into perspective quite well.  Though its geared to Women, her posting has a lot of great information that applies to guys as well, so give it a quick read if you too are addicted to diet soft drinks.

Ok, so I have decided its time to kick the Diet Coke habit!  I'm easily putting down six cans per day (or more).  My Doctor has suggested that every other time I have a craving for Diet Coke I reach for a glass of water instead... ICK!  I hate water.  I wanted to go with Gatorade, but she pointed out that it too has a high level of sodium and since a primary goal is reducing sodium, that switch really wouldn't solve anything... so back to the water thing.

Let me tell you something, every time I have tried to drop Diet Coke in the past, I have failed.  For me its harder to switch to water than it was to lose 70 pounds!  But I figure that if I can apply myself the same way, I can conquer this too.

So here goes... the beginning of my Diet Coke reduction plan... right here, right now... or maybe tomorrow would be better...

Wish me luck!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Walk It Off Between Flights

I get so tired of hearing people complain about not having the time to exercise because of their hectic travel schedule.  I fly on business almost every week and have turned those trips into great calorie buring experiences.  As it turns out, most large airports offer up plenty of intense walking opportunities between (or prior to) flights.  Instead of sitting in an overly crowded waiting area, why not pound the pavement between concourses.

Today I am profiling the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, as I fly through there periodically, along with thousands of other people.  The layout is almost perfect for power walking, as most of the concourses are "beyond" security, so once you get through, there are no restrictions.  But even on the "street side" of security, there is a rather large shopping concourse, which means even if you are waiting on someone to arrive, you can still get some good foot action, with plenty of distractions to boot. (Some people need distraction so as to forget they are doing something healthy...)

If you are in the main terminal building, which houses concourses A, B, C, D you will find a nice wide open walkway that joins all of the individual terminal councourse.  (For the record there are two concourses for A and two for B.)  For those that are lazy or in a real hurry, there are moving sidewalks, but I avoid them at all costs - the more steps the better.

To get a good perspective on just how much walking you can do, it measures out to about to 5300 steps (down and back) to cover all the A and B concourses (on my pedometer), which with my stride equates to a little bit over two miles.

As another example, I covered the entire distance between Gate A12 and D6 (round trip) which worked out to 7100 steps, about 3.5 miles.

So there you have it - another opportunity to keep on track with your weight loss.  Don't look for excuses - find solutions.  There is nothing stopping you from exercising everyday, no matter where you are.