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.