Saturday, June 16, 2012

Why Can't I Lose Weight? - Part 4

On to the next phase of discussion in answer to the all endearing question of "Why Can't I Lose Weight?"  As I said in Part 1, the simple answer is: "because you don't know how".  If indeed you are having trouble with this task, don't feel ashamed as the statistics support you!  The fact of the matter is that the majority of those who try to lose weight are unsuccessful, especially in the long term (meaning it all comes back!)

The sad thing is that the concept of weight loss is pretty simple and there are plenty of sources of legitimate information that explain how to lose weight and keep it off.  However, most humans being who they are, prefer to look the other way and seek out "quick fixes" and "easy solutions", neither of which really exist, unless of course you believe all the marketing messages being thrown at you by the makers of literally thousands of weight loss products.  (They profit - you lose - but not in the pounds category)

If your goal is to find such a product/device/pill or whatever, then there is no need to keep reading this post, because you won't find it here.  Just bookmark it for the future, so after you have exhausted a ton of money and endured endless hours of frustration, you can come back and focus on the proven recipes for weight loss.

So on to the focus of Part 4 of my series on "Why Can't I Lose Weight?".  Today the spotlight is on exercise.

EXERCISE! - How does that word make you feel? Tired? Queasy? Uncomfortable?  Does it render visions of mindless calisthenics, dreaded high school gym classes, stomach cramps, and painful joints?  Or perhaps thoughts of "I would rather have a root canal than have to work-out".  You see, that is the problem with that word, because for most people who aren't engaged in some form of regular exercise, it is perhaps the most negative of all words in the English language, right up there with colonoscopy, diarrhea and taxes.

But, the process of exercise is a requirement when it comes to weight loss.  Remember that the key is to burn more than you eat - each and every day!  Just eating less won't cut it. You have to have both parts of the equation.  So you must overcome the negativity associated with the word to even have a chance at success. Luckily it may not be as hard as you think.

The thing about exercise is that it comes in many forms, not just focused work-outs or activities like jogging.  To be successful with exercise you need to find activities that meet the following criteria:
1. Fun - so you will enjoy it.
2. Easy - so you will actually do it.
3. Accessible - so you can do it anywhere, anytime.
4. Simple - so it fits into your daily lifestyle
5. Trackable - so you know how much you are burning

FEAST - Well believe it or not, I wasn't trying for that acronym, it just kind of evolved, but since it did, it does tie in nicely, because you are far better off to FEAST on physical activity than on food.

For my FEAST, I chose walking.  I know that sounds really boring to a lot of you, and on the surface it could be.  But it does fit all the criteria and since I travel frequently for my job, it works wherever I go.  To keep it fun, I choose interesting routes so I get the best scenery.  Yes, I do live in a beach community, so I do have some great walking sites, but even when I travel away from home, I scope out great walking opportunities and follow through.  Plus, I walk airports - a lot.  Beats sitting around in a crowded gate area staring at strangers.

Now lest you think walking is wimpy, its not.  In fact, studies have shown that fast walking burns as much calories as medium running, and its a heck of a lot better on your knees.  Of course, its highly unlikely you will start off in the "fast" walking category, but its something to shoot for.  BTW, I walk 5 miles or more everyday and at speeds up to 5 mph... but I have been doing it for a while.  

To get started, buy a pedometer and focus on 10,000 steps per day - great program, and very easy.  You can learn a lot more about walking on this site and by reading the Eat Slow Walk Fast book.  Too much detail to cover in a blog posting. 

So you don't like walking - fine - there are plenty of other activities such as running, swimming, aerobics, gym classes, tennis, golf, etc.  And there is nothing wrong with mixing it up.  For example I do a lot of Stand Up Paddleboarding which is a real workout.  The key is to be consistent with calorie burn every day!  That's why its important to choose activities that fit the FEAST criteria, so that you actually can do them every day.  If its too hard to work it in, it won't get done.  "The more excuses you use, then less you will lose!"

And one other thing, whatever forms of exercise you choose, you want to make sure you can continue with it for the rest of your life, because weight management is a long term thing!  As well, your forms of exercise should be measurable (trackable) so that you can be sure you really are offsetting your food calories with the proper amount of exercise.  Harvard Health Publications offers a nice chart to help you figure things out.


Going beyond focused exercise activities, start modifying your daily habits to get more calories burn in just through routine activities.  For example, avoid escalators, elevators and moving sidewalks as much as possible.  Look for the sign that says STAIRS.  Stop looking for parking spaces near the entrance of buildings!  Look at the opposite end of the parking lot, where I bet you won't have to fight for a spot.  The one exception being bad weather, though in such conditions you actually get in even more exercise by having to sprint from the far reaches of the lot.

If you work at a desk, find excuses to get up and walk around at least once per hour.  Schedule more face-to-face time with colleagues - in their office - instead of using so much email, as again it will force you out of your chair.  I have a tendency to make conference calls outside in the parking lot, using my cell phone.  I have walked up to three miles in a routine phone meeting.
Summing it all up, successful weight loss revolves around the concept of burn more calories than you consume!   Find some fun and creative things to do that burn calories and get moving today! And of course, each and every day from here on out...

To be continued...

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