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Archive for the ‘fitness’ Category

Elimination Won’t get You There.

I’m going to be nice. If you are on a diet where you have to avoid something, I won’t pick on you. Many people have to avoid certain foods for lots of reasons. If you think it is making you healthier, well, that depends on what you are replacing the banned food with.

This post was prompted by my amusement over my husband’s creamer bottle, proudly stating iIMG_4611t is gluten and lactose free. If you have celiac disease, or are lactose intolerant, that’s a good thing to know. However, if you think for one moment that either of those things makes creamer healthy, it doesn’t.  First, the ingredient list is closer to a chemistry classroom than a kitchen, and second, sugar is a top ingredient. Third, I don’t know how quickly you’d go through a quart bottle, but in our house, it’s about a one a week. I did the math. That’s 35 calories a serving, times 63 servings, 2,205 calories a week. That’s a whole days worth of calories in one extra ingredient. That is a perfect example of little things adding up.

Getting back to the “Free” business. Just because something doesn’t have an ingredient that is on your personal no-no list, doesn’t make it a good product. I know vegans that live on brownies and potato chips, since they make vegan versions. White bread is vegan, and there are a multitude of reasons to not eat it.

I’m lactose intolerant, so I might get enticed by our little creamer here, except for all the problems already mentioned. Nowadays there are dozens of options, from lactase pills, lactose free milk, soy, almond, coconut and rice milk. Since I look to milk for protein, carbs, and calcium, I opt for soy. Most almond milk, no matter how fortified, doesn’t have the same profile. When you decide something is off your eating list, you have to carefully consider what to put in its place.

Another example. Sugar is very bad for you. I could show you all the studies, but it is like using rocket fuel in grandma’s sedan. Unless you are very, very active, you won’t use it, and it will raise your blood sugar and increase the odds you’ll get diabetes. Like everyone else on this planet, I have a strong desire for sweets. So what to do? Rather than substituting something else, I try to keep the quantity of real sugar to a minimum. I try to avoid “mindless” sweets, and save my sugar for the “good stuff”, in my case, chocolate.

I found another funny example. Look. It’s a sensible choice. No fat, no cholesterol, no trans fat. Must be good, right? Turn it over and read the label. IMG_4646

IMG_4647 Twenty seven grams of sugar in a one third cup serving. That is identical to a Snickers candy bar. If you are trying to lose weight, fine. A snickers has 250 calories. If you are striving for all over health, and healthy foods, no.

I love my cranberries. I put them in almost everything. However, I don’t put 1/3 of a cup in. They are a condiment, and a source of sugar. I do try and eliminate certain foods, sugar being one, so I try and keep that overall amount of added sugar down to 25 grams. I wouldn’t want to  blow all of that on one serving of cranberries!

Moral of the story? Don’t trust labels or eliminating specific categories of food to make you healthy. Eat mostly vegetables, then fruit, then grains, meats and dairy and finally sweets. Read the labels. Learn all you can. Whatever your favorite belief system is about food, read the criticism of it and see if it is accurate. If you aren’t getting the results you want, rethink what you are doing. Don’t follow fads. Keep trying.

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Your New Normal

For the longest time I’ve struggled to find the right way to convey the idea of what it takes to go from living an unhealthy lifestyle to a healthy one. I found it the other day from an unlikely source.

I was sitting in my kinesiology class and we were talking about upper motor neuron lesions, and brain plasticity. My instructor said that people with these kinds of injury don’t get normal back, they get a kind of new normal.

While weight loss and fitness are COMPLETELY different from spinal cord injury or head trauma, the same idea does apply. If you want to get fit, you have to make a new normal. It is truly the concept of not dieting, but changing your eating habits for life. It isn’t going to the gym for a quick fix January first, and dropping out by February, but rather swapping post meal tv for a walk. It is making new choices at the grocery store, the restaurant, in our leisure activities and our social events.

We are the product of the sum total of our daily activities. If that involves more in than out, we gain weight. More out than in, we lose it. So, we have to make a new normal that pares down the in, while increasing the out. Every choice we make is part of creating the new normal.

The analogy to recovery from brain or spinal cord injury goes a bit further. Just as you would not get up out of bed and walk a week after suffering such a condition, but rather you would struggle, and work and have triumphs and setbacks, so it is with creating a new lifestyle for yourself. You set yourself on the path, and you cannot even see the destination at first. You just make one choice, then another. Eventually you pick up steam, the earlier choices are cemented in, and you layer on the new ones, until finally, one day, someone asks you, “how did you do it?”

If there is anything I hope you gain from this analogy is to change the mindset of quick weight  loss – THERE IS NO WAY TO DO THAT AND BE HEALTHY. They are starting to refer to the “Biggest Loser phenomena” because the people who lost weight on the show really struggle to keep it off. It has to be slow, incremental, permanent changes.

If anyone is offended by my analogy, I apologize, and I hope I’ve made it clear I am not saying the two situations are in any way the same in seriousness or pain.

Scrooged

man shaking his finger at you.

You are hereby absolved from your Christmas baking. Yup, you don’t have to do it. I know what you are thinking, “I was enjoying this lady’s blogs, but now I’m wondering if I’m reading stuff from a nut job. I mean, here it is August, why are you talking about Christmas now?” Well, I figure if I say it now, you’ll have time to let it digest. Plus, if I say it any closer to Christmas, I’ll probably get hate mail.

So back to the Christmas baking. Either you are the Nana, MeeMaw, Gigi, Grandma, Granny, Mom, Aunt or other producer of the family Christmas goodies, or you are the recipient. If you are the recipient, pass this on to the producer. You know who they are! They are the martyrs who tell you, “I was up till midnight last night making three dozen pfefferneuse, two dozen chocolate chip and two batches of kringles.” They are the ones who bring the huge plates of cookies to the office parties or give them as gifts. They strive to outdo each other as the preeminent cookie supplier. Points are given for both quantity and quality. They wouldn’t dare have less than three kinds of cookies on hand for any occasion from November 30 to the end of January.

They are also the ones who complain that they can’t lose weight, or they gained x number of pounds over the holidays. So stop it. Just stop.

I can hear the screams of outrage now. “I can’t, my family expects it.” “What fun are the holidays without goodies?” “Lighten up, you have to live.”

So how serious are you about your health? Do you really want to lose weight, or do you want to just complain without really doing anything? How about that family? Do you really want to set your children and grandchildren up to be overweight as well? Do you seriously want to train them to be unhealthy? It scares me how we have this mindset to give our children food that is bad for them, simply because it is not making them fat at the moment. What do you think happens when they stop growing? Also, if that food is unhealthy for you, why do you think it is any less so for children? While it is a topic for its own blog post, we are training our children to be unhealthy by giving them the white flour, sugar, salt, processed meats, and fats that we know we shouldn’t eat. Our society is a bit schizoid as well in its competing beliefs that we should party for two months and not gain weight. Generally, people gain 1-5 lbs over the holidays, and never lose it. Half of that is alcohol, so there is another part of the equation, but telling people to not drinking is even less popular than telling them to lay off the baked goods!

If you can’t stop, may I suggest modifying. Instead of baking two or three kinds of cookies, bake one batch of one kind. Do not bake another till the first is gone. When you have multiple kinds, people feel obligated to take one of each, encouraging over-consumption.

Think about it. All the time you save not baking all that stuff will give you time to go for a walk or to the gym. If all this is causing you to have a glassy eyed look of horror pasted on your face, well, you have a few months to adjust to the idea. And when you come out of hibernation in the spring a few pounds lighter instead of heavier, you’ll thank me. Really, you will.

Your Weekly Pep Talk

I know some of you out there are really struggling with your weight. I don’t like to make weight the main issue, health is far more important, and while there is a correlation between the two, most people focus on weight for appearances. I like to refer to it as healthy eating. Healthy eating usually leads to weight loss, since most people don’t get too overweight on eggplant and okra, even if it is fried.

I’m here to give you a pep talk.

All the right information is already out there, it’s just so much easier to succumb to the “lose weight fast” garbage. So I’m just going to give you another reinforcement of the good stuff so you can renew your efforts this week.

Reassess

What are the sticking points for you? Quantity? Feeling hungry? Favorite foods you don’t want to give up? Psychological need to treat yourself? Everyone is different. Take a piece of paper and write down your problem areas. Be specific. Write “Every night I REALLY want a bowl of cereal. I can’t go to sleep without it”. Or, “Going out to eat makes me so happy, I can’t give it up.” “I won’t or can’t cook.”

Make a plan

When it comes to food, planning is everything. Like spending, it is the impulse items that get you every time. Even if you don’t count calories, you need to control portions, and decide  what you are going to eat when you are hungry ahead of time. Plan breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus any snacks you need. If you need a good quantity of food, plan to add a large salad to each meal- yes, you can eat greens for breakfast. Really clamp down on the starch and fatty foods, and decide how you can increase your vegetable and fruit intake. Swap hot dogs for fat free ham or turkey, add 2x as much lettuce, tomato and onions to your sandwich.

Some things are a given, if you are still eating white bread or pasta, swap it out for whole wheat immediately. No one should be eating white bread any more. Make sure your pasta and potato servings are 1/2 cup. Put that potato in your one half measuring cup. If it won’t fit, eat half. Buy one box of “white wheat pasta”, whole wheat or Barilla’s protein plus. Cook your pasta, rice and potatoes ahead of time and reheat- it makes more of the starch resistant, meaning it won’t raise your blood sugar as high. A lot of starches are empty calories, and cause bouncing blood sugar that makes you hungrier sooner. Empty calories mean they don’t have any nutritional value other than calories.

If you can’t or won’t cook, read menus and labels carefully. All restaurants are supposed to have their calorie counts available. Choose carefully and stick with it. Be ready to ask for a “to-go” box early in the meal and place 1/2 in it, or split it, if the meal is over your calorie limit. Remember the 1/2 cup for starches? Most restaurant potatoes are double that, so don’t eat the whole thing. Many supermarkets have salad bars and take out items, again, choose carefully. Cheese should be a condiment. Olives are high in fat, hence calories, so go sparingly on them. Treat breaded and fried things like the plague.

Address your needs.

If you are a sweets lover, don’t sit here and say “I just won’t eat them.” You can try that, but it won’t work for long. Instead, find healthier sweets by making or baking your own, or buying less harmful ones. Portion control on sweets is hard for people. My husband and I will cut a Klondike bar in half to make it more reasonable. Make sure you are eating till full of the good food, so you aren’t eating sweets when you are hungry. Don’t keep “trigger” foods in your house. I can’t have trail mix in my house. Every time I do, I eat 2-3 portions a day. Find a sweet that satisfies you without causing binging.

I hope something I’ve said here resonates with you, and that you will feel empowered to make some constructive changes or get back on track. Eating isn’t black and white, it is a continuum. Don’t get discouraged, at any point you can improve, and that’s all you need to do.

Gallery

Let’s Talk About Your Setpoint

What is a setpoint?

I hear a lot of talk about your “setpoint”, which is the weight you gravitate towards over time. What I just said should tell you it is not one number. People started talking about it when they started to explore yo-yo dieting and people who regain weight after losing it. It also crops up when people have trouble losing weight.

Ok, but what is it?

First, let’s establish what it is not. It is not some mysterious, metabolic force that you have no control over. I cannot stress enough, our bodies are governed by physics. The laws of thermodynamics, meaning energy in = energy out, apply to us. This means you cannot be living on air and not losing weight. I guarantee if I locked you up and starved you, you would lose weight. However, we aren’t starving, and some people are more active than others. This means we tend to follow our preferences. If I eat ice cream every afternoon, followed by a nap, I will weigh more than someone who doesn’t do those things. So your set point is where you end up, following your preferences.

So what can I do about it?

This is the easiest hardest part. Just change your preferences. Or ignore them. This is where diets are made or broken. This is everything about weight loss and the weight loss industry. All that talk about “diets don’t work” comes down to this. You can’t start some kind of diet that ignores your preferences, and expect it to work. You’ll only stick to it for a short while, and when your motivation wanes, you’ll be start eating like you used to, and gain the weight back.

The prescription to change your preferences.

Now this part you’ve hopefully heard before. What counts is how you personalize it.  Stop looking at it like “I want to lose 10 lbs by Christmas”. Instead, look at it like, “what is one choice I can change today, that I can live with?” Make small permanent changes that can add up over time. You didn’t decide to gain weight by a certain date, those small choices just added up. Put that effortless power to work for you. Every meal is a new opportunity to do something right.  Reading diet tips or diets to see what changes you can incorporate is extremely helpful. I can personally recommend Sparkpeople.com or myfitnesspal.com or fooducate.com. Slow weight loss is ideal, because that is what will be permanent.

Exercise

Adding exercise makes it even easier. First, it burns more calories, second it increases your stamina so you can move more the rest of the day, third it increases your lean muscle mass. Have you seen older people who have trouble walking from the car to the house? If that’s you, you are not burning a lot of calories. There are a lot of great BMR calculators out there, so pick on if you want a ball park figure of how many calories you burn just sitting on your butt. Some people say a really rough estimate is to multiply your weight by 10 for your total calorie usage. Calorie counting is more art than science. Unless you are in a lab, or completely obsessed and weighing every mouthful, it is only an estimation. In any case, the more you move, all day long, the more calories you burn. So find exercises you can stick with. I don’t care about the intensity, or how you “feel the burn”, the crux of it is whether you will stick with it. Remember, we are in this for the long-term, which will change your setpoint. It can be walking, playing bocce, hiking, swimming, etc, etc. Now, if you say mowing the lawn is yours, and you only mow once a week, that isn’t enough. It has to be something you do at least three times a week, for half an hour, minimum. Increasing your walking is the easiest and most readily available for most of us.

Add it up for the best results.

So make those small permanent changes  in both your exercise and eating, and you should see permanent weight changes. Of course, that means your health will improve as well. Hopefully, those small changes will lead to other small changes, on and on. That is what causes continued weight loss.

Laurel’s Rules for Healthy Eating

Normally, I’m not big on “rules”.

However, people seem to like them. I have to admit, I feel so strongly about some things, I would have to almost consider them rules. Here is a list of the “rules” I eat by.

1) The #1 vegetable rule

This one is a no-brainer for me. If possible, I try to make the focus of my meals the vegetables. There is no downside to this. It keeps your weight under control, maximizes your nutrient intake and gives you lots of healthy fiber. In fact, it’s what inspired me to post tonight. I made salmon patties for dinner, and served them with a salad, as well as roasted veggies. Three quarters veggies, one quarter protein. When I successfully follow this rule, we usually have a variety of vegetable dishes at the same meal, making it feel like a feast.

2) Make in bulk to make it easy

Again, going back to tonight’s dinner, I had previously washed and torn a head of romaine lettuce, making it like the bagged stuff in the store. Yesterday, I made a variation on a Caprese salad with tomato, onion, basil and ranch dressing. I took the leftover tomato salad and put it over some of the lettuce, making the easiest salad ever. I cooked up half a head of cabbage while I was cooking the salmon patties, that we can either eat as is, or use for cabbage lasagna or stuffed cabbage. Try and make enough of anything you cook to go for the next meal(s). If you might get sick of it, freeze it.

3) Treat starch like a condiment.

I’m not anti carb, but if it isn’t a vegetable, go lightly. For example, never eat spaghetti without a big salad, and make it a small portion of pasta , same with the meatballs, compensated with lots of sauce, preferably with tomatoes added.

4) Try to make it homemade, or half the portion.

I’m specifically thinking of coleslaw, potato salad or other quasi-healthy foods. The store bought kind are generally swimming in dressing and sparing on the vegetables.

5) One starch per meal.

Many of you might consider this sacrilege, but if you are having pasta, skip the bread. Ditto a potato. In fact, I usually only eat bread if I am having a sandwich or if the bread is the focus of the meal some other way.

6) Go ahead and treat yourself, but be honest.

A treat is something out of the ordinary. It isn’t a treat if you go out to breakfast, then have a desert after lunch. Or if you go out to eat three times a week. An occasional treat won’t mess up your eating, but you have to be honest in the frequency of your treats. If you are going with frequent, they have to be small.

7) Consider the impact of what you are eating.

Sure, we all are influenced by tastes and cravings. But ask yourself, “Is this food going to benefit me, or make me sorry?” Most of us have a good idea of what’s right. Why eat something that you’ll be sorry for? This starts in the store. You can’t succumb to cravings if the junk food isn’t in your house.

I know I focus on food a lot on this blog. As soon as I tell people I’m a personal trainer, the conversation almost always veers towards weight control. The person often justifies their current eating pattern, then complains about their weight. Or, complains about their eating, but then offers reason why they can’t change. This post is incorporating facets of many of those conversations. You have to make consistent choices of what you eat if you want to be healthy. There are no other options.

Rant

Today is just a rant. I’m reading a book “The Cure for Everything” by Timothy Caulfield. He didn’t say anything I didn’t already know, but he reminded me of all my favorite hobby horses, leading to this rant.

purple and white laser blasting rings

Ouch! Don’t do this!

First of all, you can’t burn fat, melt fat, zap fat, or do anything but slowly lose it. Well, ok, you can melt or burn it, but it involves fire or lasers, not something I want to do. Fat is made up of fat cells. Cells. You know, the stuff you body makes? It isn’t some foreign substance that got laid over your hips. Your body made it to store the excess calories you ate. How do you get rid of it? Basic laws of thermodynamics – reduce the intake, increase the output. Your car can’t get fat, it only can hold whatever the tank holds. The gas nozzle shuts off when it is full. Unfortunately, we don’t have automatic shut offs.

So stop getting disgusted with yourself, going on some weird diet, taking pills, or exercising till you fall over. Instead, take an honest look at what and how much you are eating, and change it. Trade the sweet tea for unsweet. Stay OUT of the bakery department. OUT. DO NOT GO IN. Don’t buy loaves of bread, or keep them in the freezer. While bread is not evil, it is a lot of empty calories. Buy smaller plates. In fact, go in your kitchen right now and measure your plates. If they are greater than 9″, go find some 9″ diameter plates and use only those. Make half of that plate vegetables. Do all that and see where you are in three months. You didn’t get in this mess overnight, you won’t get out of it overnight. And even if you could, you’d just go back to your original size because you wouldn’t have changed anything. Eat lots and lots of veggies. Low in calories, high in everything that will make you live long and prosper.

Last, not everyone will be happy at a size 8. If you love food, and won’t give up certain things, make peace with it and be happy. It’s healthier to be a size 12 and stay there, than it is to yo-yo back and forth. Fitness and health is about a lot more than just weight. Most people will not look like swimsuit models or Brad Pitt. Get over it and get happy. Oh, and unless you are anorectic, you will probably have some cellulite.  And even if you work out, the back of your arms will jiggle a bit too. It’s not a crime and people won’t judge you for it. If they do, ask them to jiggle theirs. Join the party and jiggle with us.

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