Where we get fit and spin (wool)

Posts tagged ‘fitness’

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.


Where is the Line Between Acceptance and Endorsement?

There was an article recently on the “Fit Mom” getting temporarily banned from Facebook for comments she made about plus sized models. She didn’t feel good about endorsing or normalizing obesity. This led me back to a struggle I’ve had for years.

First, I don’t like to see anyone beat themselves up about anything. I don’t think we have to be happy where we are at, that discontent is a strong driver for change, and as a fitness professional, I know that change doesn ‘t happen without a strong driving force. Having said that, there is a strong and distinct line between being discontented with your behavior and hating yourself. Self loathing isn’t even a very good motivator for change. I know people who routinely beat themselves up for whatever they feel they are doing wrong, and it does not lead to change. From what I see, change only occurs in the positive. “I’m going to exercise three times a week” works better than “I’m going to lose all this ugly fat by Christmas”. The second might work, but often, since there is no positive framework to tie it into, people slide back into old behaviors soon after achieving their goal. I think people have the mistaken notion that hating themselves is a good motivator or necessary for change. “If I don’t hate myself, I’ll stay this way forever!” That’s just wrong.

On the other hand, I don’t think we are benefitting ourselves by making excuses. “I’m just big-boned.” “I have a slow metabolism.” “Some people aren’t meant to be thin.” It is true that everyone  isn’t meant to be a size 4, or even 8. That doesn’t mean that you can’t be very fit. I don’t hear people at the gym making excuses, even if they are “fluffy”. It’s the people who are reluctant to change that I see making the excuses.

So where is that line? Should people stop challenging each other, in order to not hurt anyone’s feelings? When does it stop being a challenge and start being a put down? I’d like to see everyone challenging themselves, but that isn’t the case.  No one likes to be called names, and name calling is not beneficial to anyone. However, if you don’t want to be called fat, or in any way referred to as overweight, you do have the power to change it. I’m NOT saying it is easy, but it is doable. Any time you tell someone “You need to change ‘x'”, it will hurt their feelings to some extent, since it means you are not accepting them, as they are, 100%. None of us like that. I can say I need to be more organized, but if you tell me I’m disorganized, I won’t like it. Is saying on face book, “I did it, so you should have no excuses” the same as saying “you’re bad”?

Some behaviors are counter productive. Should we never mention to anyone that maybe they should stop/start doing something? Is it bad to say “I’m doing ‘x’ and I think you should too”? If you feel bad about yourself, you’ll take everything as a put down, but has anything you’ve read motivated you to change?

I do think we should put everything in the most positive light possible. You are far more likely to exercise if I invite to come work out with me, rather than if I say “you should go work out”. Motivation is the hardest part of any endeavour. People climb mountains and run triathlon if they are motivated enough. Without motivation, there is no getting off the couch.

So what are your thoughts? Do you have a list of do’s and don’t’s for motivating others? What’s worked for you, or on you?  If you are on the road from fat to fit, what got you started, and what things would you like people to never say again? Let me know

Another Post on the Contemplation of Spirituality and the Physical

I always warn you if I’m going to talk about God and the bible, so you can tune out if you might be offended. So here is your 5 second delay to hit the back button.

Ok, the rest of you with me? All right then. “”You know the story of the talents?

Mt 25:14 ¶ “For it will be as when a man going on a journey called his servants and entrusted to them his property;
15 to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.
16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them; and he made five talents more.
17 So also, he who had the two talents made two talents more.
18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money.
19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them.
20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’
21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’
22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’
23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’
24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not winnow;
25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’
26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed, and gather where I have not winnowed?
27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.
28 So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents.
29 For to every one who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.’

Well, you know that is a spiritual allegory, and that the literal reference is to money.  But those verses keep coming into my mind when I think about physical fitness. I just spent most of the day with people over the age of 65. Those that were athletes or at least kept a higher than average level of fitness, enjoy a greater abundance of health in old age. those that didn’t apply themselves to their health when they were younger, get less able to do the things for their health when they get older. If you don’t exercise when you are younger, you can’t when you get older. If you don’t like to move when you are younger, you can’t when you get older.

Fortunately, just like the parable, it doesn’t have to be “5 talents”. Even if it is 2, or if you put any effort in, you will reap results. One lady I’ve been working with has gone from being barely able to exercise for 5 minutes, to being able to do 15 minutes. Another gentleman went from barely able to do a plank at all, to doing over a minute.  I’m watching pounds and years roll off of people. However, like the parable, if you refuse to do anything. If you say “I can’t”, and despise the body God gave you, you will reap the results.

Reason #43, Why I Like The Internet.

Last night, a friend and I were talking about the longest lived person, and when I googled it, to see what the longest verified life span was, I stumbled across a really cool site, The Blue Zones. For the uninitiated:

In 2004, Dan Buettner teamed up with National Geographic and hired the world’s best longevity researchers to identify pockets around the world where people lived measurably better.  In these Blue Zones they found that people reach age 100 at rates 10 times greater than in the United States.  They found the extra 10 years that we’re missing.

If you go to the website, you will see this has morphed into a book with plans, quizzes and advice on taking the clues we’ve gotten from these blue zones and turning them into action in your own life.

This plays into my belief (hope) that actions speak louder than genes, since I was dealt a bad deck genetically.  My obsession with fitness grew out of desires to outlive my short-lived ancestors, and to not spend the last years of my life in ill health. The more I read about fitness, the more I believe much of it is in our control, but that it takes effort and planning to achieve that control. For example, if you adore red meat, you may have to decide which you prefer, a long lifespan or lots of red meat. In other words, there is a cost to pay. In my mind, it is such a small one as to be negligible. However, seeing how people around me live and react, I can see that for many people it is far greater than I imagine.  I can’t see how desiring certain foods can outweigh the urge to have a long, healthy life, but it is so. I’ve talked to people who flat out tell me they would rather die young than give up certain foods, or eat others.

In any case, there are like minded people out there, digging deeply into the questions that interest me and, thanks to the internet, I can find out about it and read what they come up with.  I’m not saying that everything on that website is true, correlation does not equal causation, but it does seem to agree with other research out there. Check it out, decide for yourself, and share your conclusions with me.

The Home Gym

elaborate home gym

I think this is a little more than $100 dollars

I’m prompted to write this after reading this great blog article on how to have a great home gym for under $100 dollars. I got excited about it, as it is a list of items I can totally get behind. The author, Kevin Larrabee, put together the same list I would, and I have everything he lists except the iron gym, as I have a permanent bar in my basement. His premise is that even if you belong to a gym, you might not be able to get there all the time, and you should be able to get a workout in, no matter what.

I am a big believer in joining a gym for many reasons. First, you get to know people, which puts a subtle pressure of accountability on you. Second, if you are trying new things, it never hurts to have other people around to spot you, or call 911 if you do something stupid. Third, a lot of home equipment is not very safe, where commercial gym equipment is very sturdy and inspected often. Last, the gym will offer more equipment than most of us could ever afford to buy.

I use very few machines at the gym, and I’m not a big fan of machines. I think they have their place for rehab and if you  need to make one muscle big for bodybuilding competition. I can’t argue that you can target one particular muscle better with some of those machines. I use the squat rack, the pull up bar, the cables, swiss ball, bosu, the kettle bells, dumbbells, and barbels. That is still a lot of equipment, that I wouldn’t even have room for at home. The other big plus of the gym is space. I don’t have a large house, so there are many things I just don’t have room to do.

Now that this sounds like an ad for joining the gym, I’ll let you know, for general fitness, you can do everything you need to do without doing so. First, read the article I linked to, so you know what I’m talking about. The ab roller is the best ab exercise going. The sliders can be used for so many exercises, you could work your whole body with just those. If you need ideas, just check out you tube. The iron gym and stretchy band covers most of your upper body workout. the stretchy bands can also be used for myriads of exercises. They sell other types that have handles that can be used band squats, anti rotation lunges, rotation presses, etc, etc.  I would add at least some 10 lb dumbbells to this list. You can use dumbbells instead of kettlebells and medicine balls for most exercises. (Please don’t use the dumbbells to substitute in medicine ball slams!)

Real life- Being skinny won’t solve all your problems.

I haven’t blogged for a while since I haven’t had any thing to fire me up. Sure, I never shut up about health and fitness, but to take the time to write an entire article, I must have something big to say. Plus, I am REALLY busy.

After reading this article, I have something big to say. Jen Larson had weight loss surgery and wrote a book about it. It doesn’t sound like that big of a deal, except that she is very articulate about how it didn’t solve all her problems. For me, it keys into my very strong thoughts and opinions on the lookism that pervades our society. I hear really nice people talk about how ugly someone is. Fat and ugly are treated as synonymous. I can’t stand the anti fat attitude that people have.

YES! I hear heads exploding all over the place. I can hear you screaming at your computer, “You? All you ever talk about is eating right and exercising? How can you say you aren’t anti fat?!?” I am anti bad health. I am anti hurting yourself. I am anti self-destructive behavior. As a health professional, I can tell you that using looks for losing weight is the weakest, least effective motivator. A friend of mine posted an article about “fuller figured” mannequins on Face book. My husband commented that if I saw it I would want them to lose weight. NO. I don’t think everyone should be a size 4. I want everyone to be as healthy as possible. I think you have to be happy with the body you have, even before you try to change it. If you read the article that Jen wrote, she thought if she fixed the “in your face” problem, everything would be fine.

“He said that like it was a fact about all fat people. All fat people hate themselves. All fat people know that what’s good in life is really only accessible to thin people. Thin is the most important variable in of life’s equations. Thin equals happy, thin equals beautiful, thin equals a life worth living.

The most embarrassing fact of my life – and oh, how many embarrassing facts there are in my life – is that it was true. I was angry at him for saying it, for buying into the cliché of the fat person. For assuming that my life would transform immediately. Because he was saying all the things I had secretly thought. He was reinforcing all the secret fantasies I had about the way everything about me would be more amenable and lovable and acceptable to the whole rest of the world.”

Alcoholics know, just stopping drinking doesn’t solve the problem. Psychology is more complex  than that. Being obese doesn’t just happen. It is an eating disorder, just like anorexia and bulimia.

I hated my hairy legs, I learned to epilate. I hated my glasses, I got laser surgery. You know what? When I fixed those things, other than the satisfaction of not having those things annoying me, NOTHING changed. Gorgeous or ugly doesn’t change life. Gorgeous women suffer from depression, anxiety, and get in stinky relationships. Ugly women suffer from depression, anxiety, and get in stinky relationships. If you think losing weight will change anything other than your health, take some time to rethink things.


prayer and fasting

Double Minded?

I do enjoy irony, even when I am the source of it. I was just trying to convince a girl at the gym to eat more on Wednesday, and today I am making preparations to join our church on a fast. It did bring to mind that the same activity can have totally different meanings, depending on your purpose.

Fasting is one of those very complex disciplines. It is physical, but has been practiced for spiritual reasons throughout human history. Most, if not all major religions use it to allow their adherents to get their minds off of earthly things and focus on the spirit. Eating is one of our most basic needs, yet it is the one we can do without. You can’t stop breathing for more than a few seconds, and without shelter, hypothermia and exposure can kill us quickly. Fasting is a way of saying there are some things that are more important than even our physical needs.

Eating, or not eating, is the focus of much of our attention each day. We usually eat many times a day, and then there is the planing, shopping, cooking, and cleaning up after. Taking all of that time and devoting it to meditation and contemplation of the spiritual is very beneficial. The bible says:

De 8:3 And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know; that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but that man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.

By fasting, we can take God off of the “back burner” and make him the center of our lives.

Most of the time, I’m not a big fan of fasting. My mother was anorectic, which contributed to her early demise. I have seen what eating disorders do, and how they develop. I am a big fan of being as strong and healthy as possible, which requires adequate nutrition. I think people who fast to lose weight are setting themselves up for failure, since it isn’t teaching them to eat properly.

The activity of fasting can either be a tremendous spiritual journey, or a carnal nightmare, as tied up to messed up body images and earthly desires as anything you can think of. Fasting is NOT about punishing your body, or beating it into submission. It is almost impossible to separate the physical from the spiritual, since weight loss is a result of fasting, so even if you are fasting for right reason, you will have physical result that you may desire. I suppose it isn’t a bad thing to have a physical benefit to a spiritual practice. I just think if those two motivations are too closely linked, it can blur your focus, or twist a positive into a negative. I think the biggest deliminator is prayer. Prayer takes fasting out of the physical and moves it to the spiritual. It allows you to pay attention to your motivation and stay on track.

My final statement on this is that I am only doing a complete fast one day a week. During the week I will be fasting certain items, to pare my eating down to what is essential, but I am extremely active, and a complete fast could be detrimental to my health. I have enough trouble holding weight. You can fast in all kinds of ways, by denying yourself earthly pleasures.  Whatever you fast, sweets, meat, or favorite activities, it is prayer that takes it from simple self denial to a spiritual discipline.

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