In my last post I talked about setting the foundation for your weight loss journey and pointed out some strategies you can use to establish a strong base. I asked you to take a look at what is working for and against you. In this post I am going to focus a bit more on the role that awareness plays in creating a healthy lifestyle.
What does losing weight mean to you? Are you instantly hit with visions of all the things that you won’t be able to enjoy anymore and dread about stepping on the scale? If you are serious about losing weight and keeping it off you have to create a life that supports your goal. Understanding your habits and tendencies are a significant piece to the weight loss puzzle.
Over the next couple of weeks take a look at the things you do on a day-to-day basis. Do you get that latte and scone every morning before work? What is your evening routine like, do you have a couple of glasses of wine with dinner? Sure, you may be hitting a spin class three days a week but the caloric expenditure in those classes are being undone by daily habits you don’t even think about.
It may not seem like much but when you think about calories like money there is a nickel-and-diming effect that can add up over time. The better your awareness the better you will be able to attend to counter productive habits. So, use an app, write in a journal and start keeping track of what is working for and against you.
Could you imagine beginning with parallel parking when you first started driving or playing a song for friends at your first attempt at the piano? Yet, so many people start their weight loss journey in the middle without establishing a foundation to work from. It is no wonder failure rates are so high, most people are starting at the wrong point in their program.
So, where to begin? Start with a review of what you have done in the past, what has and has not worked for you? You have to take a look at the road you have traveled through critical eyes; if you lost a lot of weight over a coupe of months on a low calorie diet only to gain it back did it really work? If you don’t have many references for what has worked for you look at what has worked for other individuals. The National Weight Loss Registry is a great resource to find individuals that have lost weight and kept if off.
Next, take inventory of what resources you have available to you and what barriers you need to address. Will you be using a gym or equipment at home? Will pizza Friday be an issue for you and what is an alternative? Who in your life will support your efforts and who will razz you for not having one more beer when out and about? Your journey doesn’t take place in a bubble and you should account for as many variables as possible.
Your attitude will play a significant role in your success and you have to be open to trying new things and staying aware. Developing your awareness will be the key to really establishing a solid ground to develop from. Keep a notebook for the next couple of weeks of your eating habits and exercise routine. Check out Penzu.com for a free on-line notebook.
Some of the best advice I have ever been given about working out: “you don’t have to enjoy the work out but you can enjoy what it does for you.” Believe me, I can see it on the faces of those people hamster wheeling those elliptical machines, they don’t want to be there and if they can just go 20 more minutes life will be good. However, there is a big difference between optimizing your workout and just going through the motions.
In a recent article by Michael J. Joyner in Outside magazine entitled Why You Need to Be Doing Burpees, Joyner highlights a study that shows an increase in mortality versus an individual’s ability to get off the floor. Think about it, if you have fallen and you can’t get up what does this say about your physical ability? Gravity is a bitch, it is constantly working to push you down and keep you there.
Working out isn’t just about going through the motions in the gym, it is about optimizing our ability to move against gravity. Now, you can go to the gym and exercise, get in a little cardio go over to the weights and do some bench, curl some dumbbells, get that pump on. However, think about how this would help you if you suddenly slipped on the ice and needed to catch yourself or had your arm trapped under a boulder, needed to cut your arm off, then crawl to safety. OK, maybe that is a little extreme but how do those traditional exercises serve to improve physicality?
Here is a list of traditional compared to there more athletic exercises
Bench Press vs. Burpees or Clapping Pushups
Cable Pulldown vs. Pullups
Elliptical vs. Stair Climbers or Running
Squat vs. Front Squat or Kettlebell Swings
Missionary Position vs. Amazon Kneeling Reverse (look it up will make you chuckle.)
I love what I do for a living, working with individuals to transform their lives is extremely rewarding and never dull. Having worked with hundreds of people up to this point I can tell you that while some basic parameters do exist (burn more calories then you eat) there is not one size fits all success formula. Today I am going to give you a list of the top-five tendency I see with in clients that are successful at losing weight and keeping it off.
Be honest: Sure, that bag of chocolate bites is around 150 calories but does it make sense that a fit individual would eat these on a daily basis? In order to lose weight you have to be completely honest about what you put in your mouth and emphasize quality over quantity. It is the difference between seeing food as a way to fuel your body and food as something you consume to pass the time.
Focus on the process: Don’t get caught up in what you will eventually look and feel like once you finally achieve that fitness goal. What does your daily/weekly/monthly plan look like? Get some basic behaviors down that you can check off at the end of the day and set small goals that you can evaluate each week. When you stay in the moment and attend to the choices you are making right now the success will work it’s way out.
Support: Who is on your team? A client of mine was working on better portion control at dinner and had discussed this with his wife not knowing his youngest daughter was listening. During the evening meal one night he reached across the table to get another dinner role and was smacked on the hand with a spoon. “No Daddy!” When faced with stern six-year-olds it is better to back down and appreciate the lesson you have just learned. Employ as many people as you can on this journey, the more support you have the better.
Journaling: All my successful clients utilize something to track thoughts, accomplishments and work through barriers. Find an app, start a blog, or just invest in a notebook but make sure you have something to get something brief down about your day. They track the foods they eat and the activities they participate in. You could come up with a scale that will allow you to rate yourself and give a quick reason behind the grade. Also, try voice recording, most computers and phones have some type of note recording software. Even if you don’t review it just hearing yourself out load helps.
General Activity: At my heaviest weight (260) I was spinning for an hour, five-days-a-week at 5:45 in the morning then, going to work. The thing is, once I was at work I really didn’t move for the rest of the day until I went home and surfed cable until I went to bed. You have to stay as active as possible and you are better off finding 5-10 minutes here and there to just walk around then only working out once and sitting on your butt for the rest of the day.
Please, there are other pieces to this puzzle and if there is something that you have found to be helpful please post up for the benefit of others.
I have discussed emotional eating a couple of times in this blog. Everyone does it in one form or another, even if you aren’t the curl up on the sofa, watching Beaches, while tears of grief fall into your pint of Chunky Monkey following yet another disastrous Match.com date type. Some of my clients go into mindless eating mode when they socialize out of happiness, while others reach for a quick unneeded snack out of boredom.
Have you ever stopped to ask, “why am I eating this?” For many, food can be an escape, a way of postponing something they are dreading but have to do or, a way of interrupting uncomfortable feelings that they have. Nobody likes to feel uncomfortable and food is a really easy way to occupy your brain and escape from your feelings if even for a couple of minutes.
The next time you reach for that sweet or salty treat try this strategy. Simply ask, “why am I going to eat this?” Then take a second and search for the feelings that you are having in the moment, are you anxious, afraid, bored? Once you identify that feeling write down what you think is causing you to feel this way and note that eating will not help you solve this issue.
Don’t look now but I think your job is trying to kill you. Adults spend a lot of time at work and in a given week you interact much more with your colleagues in the office then you do with your family at home. Your work environment may actually be one of the more significant barriers to your weight loss efforts.
Think about the extra calories you get from grazing around the break-room or out of the jellybeans jar on your co-workers desk. How often are you hitting happy hour with friends after a long day of wrangling with issues in your department? Your work environment can be detrimental to the healthy life that you want to lead if you allow it to, but you have a choice.
While you can’t control the people around you, you can monitor your actions and decide what will or will not work against you. Don’t allow yourself to throw your hands up in defeat because it is yet another birthday this week with cake. You can choose to have a smaller piece or nothing at all. Don’t worry, gaining the reputation as someone committed to taking care of themselves isn’t nearly as damning as you think.
Raise your hand if you have found yourself saying any of the following:
“I don’t have time for exercise right now.”
“Things just got busy, I will get back around to my diet next week.”
“As soon as I get this project off my plate I will start working out again.”
The mindset that people can adopt around living a healthy lifestyle and attending to their self-care can really work against them. Aren’t you pretty much saying, I don’t have time to take care of myself when you make a comment similar to the one’s listed above?
This is the thing, healthy living isn’t something that you do, it is a way of being that takes your needs into account no matter what is going on. Sure, there are going to be busy times in your life but, there are always things you can do. Maybe a project is dropped on you at work and you can’t get your normal workout in. So, pay a little more attention to what you eat and go for a walk after dinner.
What are your suggestions to those that say they are to busy to take care of themselves?
I have fond memories of block parties, BBQ and fireworks from my childhood for our 4th of July celebration. Holidays can be a pretty interesting challenge for those of us trying to live healthy lifestyles. You battle against sabotaging thoughts steeped in tradition and memories, “it’s OK to eat that extra helping of (insert what ever mayonnaise laden salad your mom makes), it’s the 4th!”
Your secret weapon, choice. So many of the decisions we make come down to that moment when you can either choose in favor of your health or go in another direction. Think about the last time you went to a restaurant, you looked at a menu and struggled a bit between the angus burger or the chicken breast wrap. You have the choice, stay in the moment, consider what you really want out of your lifestyle and choose your health.