Sorry, folks. There is no quick fix to battling the bulge. You know, that thing around your middle that seems to grow and grow the longer you stare at it. The cold, hard reality is that “weight loss” is a multi-billion dollar industry. All those programs want you to stare at your gut helplessly. All those supplement advertisements want you to feel out of control. All those who taut exercise-less regimens want you to indulge in that late-night snack. The bloodhounds smell your helplessness, your fear, and your money.
There’s more bad news. A new study published by the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, states that U.S. adults are eating more…and more frequently. Contributing factors include super-sized portions, food energy density, and the frequency of eating. (For the entire article, click the link here: http://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/us-adults-eating-moremdash-more-often?utm_source=Fit+Tips+August&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=E1) Hm…Little wonder the average American is having no success shrinking that growing waistline.
Oh, and did I mention that all those “metabolism-boosting” claims are, for the large part, malarkey? Check out Tom Venuto’s blog (see to the side) for some great mythbusting information. It’s sad to say it but he’s right. What those fab abs you see on TV forget to mention is that you really cannot beef up your metabolism to extraordinary heights.
What you can do is increase the amount of energy you expend. I know, I know. I just heard some of you shout, “Oh, no!” She just said “exercise” in a sneaky way.
Yup. I did. It’s high time Americans stop thinking they can quick fix their way to image perfection. (Sorry, again. There really is no such thing as a perfect body anyway.) We need to start thinking about TDEE: Total Daily Energy Expenditure. Simply stated, the more you input, the more you must output. This is the key to weight loss.
I know that some of you also just said, “Well, that’s easy. I’ll just diet.” The truth of the matter is that diet alone will not make you healthy. You can be as skinny as a string bean and still store an unhealthy amount of fat that possibly will lead to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, etc. You have to exercise. Why? Well, first, if you haven’t noticed (on yourself or from others), our bodies were designed to move. Sitting does not sit well with our biology (no pun intended). We were built biomechanically to walk and shift and lift and lower and twist and pretty much do everything we can think of, and to sit for brief periods of time. Movement makes our bodies happy.
Second, muscle is important. Muscle keeps us from falling into pieces. Literally. Think about it. Muscle stabilizes joint and protects our bones and organs. It makes up our organs. It comprises our hearts. It also stores energy because movement requires muscles to use energy. Without movement, muscles atrophy or grow smaller and weaker, and when they are small and weak, we are more prone to injury and debilitation.
Finally, think about yourself. Are you really that happy to sit on your couch and munch down a bag of potato chips (or even a serving)? Sure, sitting is nice when you’re tired but most likely you’ve been sitting all day. The majority of jobs now are not movement-oriented. They are sedentary-oriented. Hence, there is no outlet for stress, no enjoyment of sunshine, no relief for sore backs or aching joints, no enjoyment of meals eaten. People suffer from all sorts of ailments, and not just those pertaining to physicality. Prescriptions for depression and other mental illnesses are sky high and on the rise.
So, what to do. Exercise is the proven way to combat imbalances in the body; improve strength, speed, flexibility and coordination; decrease the effects of depression and disease as well as stress-related anxiety and mood; increase self-esteem, physique, and mental awareness; and even improve personal relationships. It makes you feel just plain great. And, better yet, you don’t have to spend hours in the gym to see results. If you’re you’re thinking you need to do something about that bulge, or you’re just starting out, or even if you’ve fallen off the wagon and don’t know how to get back on, here is some simple advice to get you going in the right direction.
Cardiovascular exercise: the U.S. Surgeon General recommends that adults get at least 30 minutes of cardio in most days of the week, and more so for weight loss. Other fitness experts say that we need 200-300 minutes, weekly. However, don’t get down about the numbers. You can get in 30 minutes easy if you alter your lifestyle choices slightly. Say, ride a bike to work instead of drive (if it’s close) or take a fifteen-minute walk at lunch and another fifteen-minute walk before dinner is served. Or, climb the stairs to and from your office instead of taking the elevator. If you’re the type that needs a friend to keep yourself going, hook up with someone or hit a gym and look at their class schedules. I’ve met some of the best ladies in the world while in class.
Strength training: those all-important muscles need focus too. Most experts say 8-20 reps on every large muscle group 3-4 times, weekly, will cover your needs. Men tend to train hard and do fewer repetitions. Ladies tend to use lighter weights but increase their reps. Pick and choose, depending on what you want. And, ladies, don’t be scared of those burly men grunting away at your local gym. They’re more than likely too involved in their own workout to take too much notice of you (we’re the one’s who multitask, remember?). Also, if you have questions about the machines, schedule an appointment with a trainer or ask one of the staff present how to use them. That is their job, after all.
Flexibility: those worked muscles also need a good stretch. Stretching prevents injury and maximizes the efficiency of the muscles you use. Particularly, stretching the muscles of the lower back, gluts, hamstrings, quads, and hips are helpful for daily movement. Depending on how hard you work, spend 5-15 minutes stretching at the end of your workout.
Mind-body exercise: as a fitness professional who teaches Pilates, I truly believe in the healing power of mind-body exercise. With the heavy workloads and high stress environments people work in today, it is no wonder why yoga and Pilates classes are bursting at the seams. People need to move but they also need to reconnect with themselves. Such classes are also a great way to minimize the adverse affect of sedentary lifestyles.
Most importantly, think TDEE. If you’re looking to lose weight and aren’t sure how to do it, begin by increasing your energy expenditure (i.e. calories used) by 250-300 calories/day and decrease your energy intake by 200-250 calories/day. That equals one pound of weight lost each week. That may not seem like much but don’t overdo things. Slow, consistent weight loss is much better than huge losses and the beginning, followed by frustration and relapse when nothing further happens. And don’t be surprised if your weight doesn’t change for a few weeks at a time as you see progress. Your body needs that time to adjust to its new self.
Good luck and happy moving!