Here is the follow up to last week’s post, strong mama. It’s a deeper glimpse into my “diet” — by which I mean lifestyle change — and exercise plan. It is written by Dr. Jason, who you’ve seen mentioned in this blog before as “Jay,” because Dr. Jason is my husband. He’s a pediatric hospitalist, and while he focuses his practice on the under-18 set, his practical advice for general health and fitness can apply to anyone. You can read more of his doctor advice here: Doc Down the Street.
And now, without further ado: the magic solution to all of your weight and body problems! (Or something like that.)
If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, this message is for you.
Stop trying to lose weight! Losing weight is a terrible goal. It’s a natural consequence of being healthy, but it’s a terrible goal. If you starve yourself for two weeks, dehydrate yourself and take a laxative every day, you will lose a few pounds. Your scale will tell you that you did a great job. Your scale is lying, you will not be any healthier! If you can throw away your scale or have someone hide it somewhere in the house, you will be banishing a source of constant negativity in your pursuit of being healthier.
If you make goals to live a healthier, stronger life, the weight will follow.
What it comes down to is that everyone has different barriers and weaknesses in their life. One of the biggest barriers is this message that in order to lose weight you need to cut calories and do lots of cardio. Have you ever tried something along these lines, spending 45 minutes on a treadmill and going home to have a healthy shake? How did that turn out for you? This is not a sustainable lifestyle. If you’ve done this, there’s a good chance you’ve burned out, had a bad week or two, and gained all that weight back.
So if weight isn’t the goal, what is?
Here are 5 tips/guidelines to get you started.
1) Most importantly, one step at a time! Don’t start your “new lifestyle” on Monday and go work out for two hours and eat a salad for lunch and throw out every piece of junk food in the house. By Friday you’re going to hate your lifestyle, and you will give up on it. Maybe if you are very strong-willed you might make it a month before you give up. Instead, pick one goal, such as doing some strength training for 30 minutes 3 times a week. Focus on that goal. If you don’t make it that first week, keep that same goal for the next week. When that goal becomes part of your routine, add in a new goal. Expect to struggle some weeks more than others. If you get on the scale 3 times a week, you will only see failure after failure. If you pay attention to your goals, you will succeed!
Here’s the big decision you have to make: are you investing in the “you” 5 weeks from now, or the “you” 5 years from now?
2) Recognize what you’re up against. In your brain is an area called the hypothalamus. This is what is responsible for what we call “homeostasis,” basically maintaining the status quo in your body. If you are out in the winter, your hypothalamus makes you shiver to keep your temperature around 98.6. Your hypothalamus is also trying to maintain your weight. Losing weight should be about as difficult as standing outside in the winter and trying not to shiver. If you have two great weeks of working out making healthy choices, your body will crave calories. Your body will be very sneaky in making you feel tired, famished, unmotivated. Recognize it for what it is and tell your body to shut up!
3) Get strong! We aren’t talking about having ripped biceps here. Build up your core strength by focusing on your chest, back, abdomen, thighs and shoulders. If you have access to some weights, ask someone to show you some basic exercises such as squats, curls, dead lifts, etc. If you don’t, Google “core exercises” and find what works for you, such as planks, push ups, leg lifts, etc. If you haven’t done much strength training before, realize that it’s supposed to hurt a little, it’s what they call “the burn.” Finishing the exercises, pushing through the burn, is when the real strength training happens. This is basically you damaging your muscles a little bit, and when they heal they will be stronger.
4) Feed the body you’re building! Restricting calories can come a little later. Focus on making generally healthy choices (you already know that pizza doesn’t fall in this category). Don’t try to count every little calorie, but try to get a good amount of water, lean protein, fiber and whole grains balanced throughout the day.
5) Be intentional about eating! Again, this is not about restricting calories, it’s about keeping yourself accountable for what you’re eating. Need a little bit of chocolate? Don’t stand by the cupboard eating 1, 2, 3 brownies. Get out a plate, put a serving on it, and sit down at the dinner table to eat it. If you’re craving pizza, make yourself sit and drink some water and have fiber (carrots, broccoli, whatever). If 30 minutes later you’re still craving pizza then go for it.
These are some beginner’s guidelines, they aren’t necessarily tailored to your individual needs.When I started giving my wife fitness advice (only when asked, I’m not an idiot), I started by reviewing her current daily habits and schedule and finding ways to make it work for her. If you can afford an insurance copay once a month to visit with your doctor, review your goals and look for the best ways to improve, it will be worth it! If you’re not quite ready for that yet, start with these tips and see how you feel.
And stop checking your weight!