This blog was written from my perspective as a Personal Fitness Trainer and a lifelong exerciser. It provides very helpful and easy-to-understand tips on losing weight and getting into better shape. My goal is to help those who struggle in one or both areas. All of the information comes from a longer paper on the same subject which you can access through a link at the end of this posting. So, with this brief backdrop, I am pleased and honored to share the following information that I believe will help you achieve your health and fitness goals. More importantly, it will help improve your quality of life in countless ways. I’ll start with Diet and then shift to Exercise. Okay, the warm-up is over—let’s roll.
Diet—Tipping the Scales for Success
Losing weight is hard, hard work…but not impossible. Don’t get discouraged—you can do it. I promise that the following advice will help you achieve your goals:
1. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! No matter what anyone says, losing weight requires a strong commitment, self-discipline and sweat. So, when seeking dietary information, consult with a nutritionist or registered dietician if possible, or go to other reliable sources, like the American Heart Association or US government’s excellent website on nutrition, www.ChooseMyPlate.gov.
2. Mice that roar (little things really add up).
When it comes to diet, work the margins--all the time and with bulldog tenacity. Examples of what I’m talking about include switching to low fat or fat free milk, cutting the cream cheese from the bagel (or half of it), eating only 100% whole wheat bread, using half as much dressing on your salads, drinking that extra water religiously, removing skin from the chicken before it’s cooked, switching from mayo (high calorie, high fat) to mustard (no calories, no fat), etc. Individually, these might seem like “small potatoes” (pun intended). Together, however, these little things really add up. Big time.
3. You can’t eat the ice cream if it’s not in the fridge!
Most of us have self-discipline issues when it comes to certain foods. For me, it’s ice cream. I eat too much of it when it’s in the house. Knowing that’s the case, we limit our ice cream purchases. Do that same thing with items you have trouble resisting. Warning--don’t go shopping when you’re hungry when you are more apt to load the cart with bad stuff.
4. Portion distortion…but small is beautiful.
A big key to diet is portion control, which is no easy task these days. Way back in the day, a quarter pounder and Big Gulp were considered enormous. They quickly became the norm, and then grew legs. When eating out, order a plate of pasta and split it, get the 6 oz. sirloin instead of the bigger one, go out for lunch rather than dinner (smaller servings and even less expensive), box up ½ of the meal BEFORE you start, not after. And, when at home do little things like use smaller plates. You’ll be amazed at how it fools you.
5. The tortoise beats the hare once again.
Finally, don’t try to lose your weight quickly. Crash diets rarely work and can be quite dangerous. Most short-burst weight losses resulting from fad or near-starvation diets are normally just the loss of water weight. And, those “lost” pounds typically come right back.
Exercise—Getting Maximum Return on Sweat Equity
Here are some additional guidelines that focus specifically on the exercise side of your wellness plan. I’m hoping it will help you better understand why it’s absolutely crucial to establish balanced goals that include different, but complementary, components of total fitness:
1. More “mice that roar.”
Just like diet, you can benefit a lot from working the margins here, too. Do short bursts of exercise at every opportunity. Consider these examples: (a) do 25 sit-ups every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning, (b) do 10 push-ups every other morning, (c) do 15-30 minutes of stretching four nights a week (more on this later), (d) park the car at the far end of the parking lot, (e) walk to your gate at the airport rather than taking the tram or moving walkway, (f) walk or ride your bike to work if possible, and (g) use the stairs instead of the elevator at work every day.
2. Take heart: Pump up the volume.
I already touched on cardio work briefly. It’s incredibly important. Cardio training will make you look and feel better. It will also lower your resting heart rate…increase your good cholesterol…decrease your risk of type 2 diabetes, hypertension and heart disease…help you deal better with stress…improve your blood pressure…and lots more. To pass “cardio muster” your activity must (a) use large muscle groups (think legs), (b) use oxygen (think labored breathing but still being able to talk), and (c) be continuous. Jogging, cycling, swimming, stair-climbing, certain types of dancing and brisk walking are examples. Pick one that excites you and do it at least 30-minutes, 3-4 days per week.
3. Don’t resist the resistance training.
Cardio is great, but you need more than a strong heart and powerful lungs. Supplement your cardio work with resistance training (a $10 term for lifting weights). It’s important for both men and women (ladies, among other things, it slows down the onset of osteoporosis). There are many other benefits and different ways to go about training. It depends on your goal. For most people, I suggest focusing on what’s called “dynamic strength” or muscular endurance. This will support your overall quality of life and help you do things over and over without getting fatigued.
4. “Weight,” there’s more.
I want to pass on three more important suggestions about resistance training. First, to pick the right weight to lift: When you finish the last repetition, say #12, you should have some doubt that you could complete #13. In other words, the last rep should be hard. Trust me, you’ll know. Second, understand that muscles generally come in pairs—biceps and triceps, quadriceps and hamstrings, and so forth. There’s a great tendency to just focus on one side (often the one seen in the mirror). Finally, slow down when doing your lifts and pay attention to your breathing.
5. Stretching for success.
There’s one other important component of total fitness--flexibility. “Dynamic stretching” is what you should do before and after exercise. Do it for at least 5 minutes before you begin your workout. After your workout, take 5-10 minutes to stretch again as you transition back to normal. The other type of stretching is called “static stretching.” For this one, think of lying on your stomach stretching your back while doing a “Flying Superman” pose. Stretch to the point of mild tightness without discomfort and hold it for 15 seconds or more. A good source for some specific stretching exercises is www.exrx.net.
Losing weight and getting into better shape are not easy. The hard work and self-discipline that are required will draw on your strength of character, for sure. In the end, it’s worth the effort though. I hope you’ve found the above information helpful and maybe even inspirational.
I’ll close with two quotes. The first is from Zig Ziglar, who said, “What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” Right on, Mr. Ziglar! The second quote is what Yoda said to Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back when Luke was discouraged and ready to give up his training to be a Jedi Knight: “Do or do not. There is no try.”
All journeys begin with one small step. I wish you well--now Just Do It!
For a more in-depth guide to health and fitness, please click this link.