Presto! (Or Not?)

November 18, 2011

There are a million advertisements claiming that this diet or that piece of exercise equipment will shed pounds and give you the body of a lifetime. You’ll have the fab abs, the muscle tone, the life that you’ve dreamed about. People will accept you because you’re beautiful, hot…fill in the blank.


It all sounds so good–too good to be true.


For the most part, it is. Most people do not have the type of body that naturally gravitated toward thinness. We battle the bulge from the time we are teens till the time we die, or till we give up (which is far more often the case). When we see these ads claiming great things, we’re torn between the feelings of cynical laughter and desperation. Please, please, please work this time, we think when we (finally) take the plunge. Then we start out, we feel great, and we see results. The problem is, we don’t seen enough results and we don’t know enough to continue on our success.


But wait? Those people on TV did it.


Here’s the reality about TV fitness and diet ads. Many of those shown in them fall into three categories: fitness models, newly post-natal women, or test subjects. Fitness models are a given; it is their job to look show muscle and look perfect. They are there as motivators, often times negative motivators. We see them and think the wrong things. I should look that way or I won’t have the life I want. Sound familiar? I know it does to me. I’ve spent several years in the fitness industry busting my butt and I still don’t have fab abs. Doesn’t mean I cannot get them but the amount of discipline you have to possess to accomplish the task is beyond the self-control limitations most people beginning/restarting a healthy lifestyle can muster. (Still interested? See Tom Venuto’s blog link on the wall.)


Tom also points out in his newsletter that many women who claim to have shed 30+ pounds did so because they had begun the regiment after just having a baby. Anyone who knows anything about pregnancy knows that breastfeeding already causes weight loss. Add exercise on top of it and watch the pounds fall off.


The third group, whom I call “test subjects”, may or may not be actual testers of the program. However, I call them this because they have access to a team of people who help them with their weight loss. A team is usually comprised of one or more doctors, a nutritionist, and a personal trainer. Needless to say, it’s expensive (another reason why I call them “test subjects”; I don’t have that kind of money) but it does give you results.


Well, gee, you think, so what am I supposed to do?


Weight loss and weight maintenance is a lifestyle. It is not a quick fix. There is no quick fix to weight loss. You can keep looking if you want, but you’ll never find it. Why? Merely because weight loss requires behavioral changes, not external environment changes. You (and I) have to want to change something about the way you do things (habits) in order to see results.


It is a time-consuming process. Remember, any desire for a lifestyle change takes more time, energy, and resources than you originally planned. Don’t be discouraged by this, and don’t give up. The sooner you make a behavioral change and turn it into a habit, the better off you’ll be. Here are a couple ways to do this:


1. Exercise in the morning. Self-control is strongest in the morning. (It also rejuvenates daily, so if you miss one day, just start back the next. Don’t beat yourself up!) By doing what is hardest for you early in the day, you can feel good about the accomplishment and move on with the rest of your business.


2. Monitor external influences. Say you like to snack on salty or sweet foods while watching TV but you’re trying to eat healthier foods and consume fewer calories. There are a couple things you can do: try to measure out a portion size prior to sitting down for your show, or try drinking some water instead when you feel the snack cravings come on. Reducing the amount of time you watch TV might also help as this will probably make you more active.


3. Increase daily living activities. Normal, mundane work around the house has been proven to increase caloric consumption. Gardening, house cleaning, and mowing the lawn are great ways to get in some activity without feeling the (sometimes) uncomfortable atmosphere of a gym. Also, while at work, try taking the stairs when you need to run an errand, or go for a walk during your lunch break.


4. Accept yourself. We are not perfect. No one is. We all have flaws and imperfections, and things we struggle with. That’s okay. Find something great about yourself. Be happy because of it. It belongs to you. No one can take it from you.


Pick a goal. Aim for it. Really, really reach. Some days, you’ll hit the mark. Others, you’ll miss. That’s okay. Remember, failure is not the end all, be all. It is an opportunity to do better tomorrow. The key is not to give up on yourself. You are worth it!


Want an idea of what a fitness model is?


Here’s something on YouTube. (Ignore the comments. I know fitness models. They work hard.)

Mind Exercise

November 4, 2011

When we think of exercise, we think of it as it pertains to the body. With neurological diseases on the rise, and becoming more prevalent in younger generations, it is important to incorporate some sort of mental fitness into your lifestyle as well, preferably most days of the week. Our brain is the most active organ in the body. Even while you sleep, it never stops working, regulating, firing off its little synapses to keep you alive. It is our storage facility. It is where we first calculate and contemplate every action milliseconds, or hours, before we perform it.


There are a lot of people out there suggest that one form of mental exercise is better than another. They may be right. I’m no neurosurgeon. I am, however, participating in National Novel Writing Month this November. 30 days to write 50,000 words requires me to stretch my mind. It is fascinating what the human mind can do when it gets tired. In my opinion, when you begin to let the brain have control, things get better. (I learned this in dance choreography class my senior year. It’s pretty neat what your body can do when you let it move and your focus relax.)


There are a lot of ways to exercise your brain. Many of them don’t require gobs of time. I also study language regularly. The great thing about language is that you’re learning something about your own in the process. (I believe that it doesn’t matter what language you study. If you grasp its basics, you begin to see the basics of your native tongue too.) I spend anywhere from 15-45 minutes most days a week studying. Another great thing: you don’t have to do that all at once.


Not interested in language? How about taking up a creative art? Doing a puzzle? Solving a crossword? Have a smart phone? Download some mind games. I have one called Unblock Me (free version). Words with Friends, Scrabble for your phone, is another great one as it gets you and a friend involved in a battle of brains (if you don’t cheat, that is).


Maybe you’re not word-inclined. Take up a mechanical project. My husband spends hours perusing the web to learn what he needs to do for his next truck project, and hours more tinkering with his favorite toy until he gets it right. (It can be a bit annoying, really, but it’s a great way for him to stay occupied.) He also likes to build computers, and even designed a program once, so maybe that is your cup of tea.


Whatever it is, get the juices flowing. I remarked the other day we are at a great disadvantage in the technological age because we cannot seem to recall anything without the aid of a smart phone, electric schedule, or what not. How different this is from centuries past when the illiterate had nothing but their memory to recall things–whole speeches, even! It is great to be able to tickle some keys and find out what we need on the World Wide Web. However, the more we do this, the less we actually work our gray matter. To me, recollection has become second place to technology, and that is sad. Our brain is the first computer. Use it.


PS: if you want to boost your brain power, try less sugar and more turmeric. While sugar has been proven to inhibit normal brain function, turmeric has been proven to prevent/reduce the effects of brain degeneration. Alzheimer’s is almost non-existent in India and places where people consume large quantities of the spice.


Here is a link to Wikipedia and what it has to say on brain exercises: