Mid-life Without the Crisis

It really isn't the destination, but the journey. May be cliche, but it's true.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The "Richter Scale" of Weight...and Other Impediments to Weight Loss

Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it. ~ Plato

It's not easy to lose weight.  I don't care what any celebrity says about any diet plan, exercise regimen, or diet supplement, unless you only have 5 pounds to lose, it will not be easy.  There are so many things that make it difficult, some of them not even cropping up until after you've made significant, positive changes.  Today I'm going to talk about some of the ones I've encountered, and what can be done about each.

The first is what I like to call the Richter Scale of weight loss.  Sure, the Richter Scale is used to measure earthquakes, but did you know that each individual number is 10 times more than the previous one?  That means that a 5 on the scale is 10 times more powerful than a 4.  In the world of weight loss, it seems to me that needing to lose 10 pounds is not 5 more pounds than losing 5 pounds, but is actually 5x10, or 50 times harder.  Okay, not exactly, but it feels that way, doesn't it?  What can you do about it?
  • Step it up a notch.  Maybe to lose weight in the past all you did was change a few eating habits, but if you've got more to lose now, you'll have to add in some exercise.  Maybe a lot.  Maybe as much as 7 hours or more per week.  That's an hour an day.  Every day!  (But you can always break it up.)
  • Be realistic.  You will probably not lose 10 pounds as quickly as you did 5, unless you go for maximum effort.  But we can't all go to exercise boot camp, and many of us have no desire to do so.  So be kind to yourself and do the best you can.
Another thing that gets in the way of weight loss is not being cued in to what you're really consuming and expending.  We often think that the occasional splurge on a burger or ice cream is not that big a deal, and it may not be if you make good choices, but if you look here and here, you'll see that there are some common, popular fast food items that contain more calories and fat than you need in an entire day, leaving nothing on the menu for the rest of the day but celery sticks, which is not going to happen, right?  So what can you do?

  • Keep track.  Write down everything you eat and all the exercise you do so you'll have a good sense of what you're taking in and burning.  You may only need to do this for awhile until you are aware enough of your habits that you can make changes without logging it.  I still write down all my exercise, though.
  • Pay attention to the little things.  Take the stairs, park further from the store, walk to the corner for milk, switch to low-calorie creamer for your coffee, give up sodas altogether.  There are lots of things that you can do that when added together equal big change.
The final thing I wanted to mention is a strange and seemingly oxymoronic response to increasing your exercise that could get in the way of progress if you're not careful, and that is you get really hungry.  After I've worked out for an hour, I am ravenous!  How am I supposed to lose weight if exercising only makes me want more food?
  • Listen to your body.  Realize first of all that this is a sign that your metabolism is working.  Yay!  That's what we want.  So do what your body says and eat something.  Eating within 1/2 an hour of exercising will catch your body at its metabolic peak and you'll get the full benefit of the nutrients without fat gain.
  • Make sure you are eating the right food.  I can't emphasize enough that food is fuel.  But just as if I tried to put diesel into my unleaded-only car, putting junk food into my body is going to yield a very bad result.  I need to be eating whole grains, complex carbs, lean protein, fruits and vegetables, mono- and polyunsaturated fats, and drinking water.  Anything that does not fall into one of those categories is suspect and should either be avoided altogether or indulged in only rarely (and by rarely I mean no more than once a month.  The idea that you can splurge every weekend is a fallacy!).
Trying to get in shape is not easy, and frankly, it's not always fun.  But you know what is fun?  Buying a pair of jeans a size smaller than last time you shopped.  Being able to walk up a set of stairs without huffing and puffing at the top.  Running around the back yard with a child and not feeling like you're going to have a coronary.  The looks on the faces of your friends when they see how great you look.  Avoiding a hospital stay due to a heart attack.  Living long enough to see your children grow up and perhaps have children of their own.  It is worth it.  No matter how hard getting in shape is for you now, or is going to be when you read this and then start a new exercise regimen, it is going to be worth it in the end.

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