Health fitness and weight loss. why are they so hard to achieve?
We all know the drill eat less, exercise more and you lose weight. Except you don't. And while you are starving yourself and running yourself ragged and feeling the pain and exhaustion All you get for all that effort is hunger and fatigue. You may lose a few pounds for a short time, mainly you lose health, energy and the will to keep on. So why is weight loss so hard? There are six reasons that I know of for this. Today we are talking about the 3 main ones and the first one is:
1. Over emphasis on the least important goals.
Health is more than just not being sick. Fitness is more than being able to do a step class without collapsing. Both health and fitness are more than just tools used to spur on weight loss.
Energy, vibrancy, loving life, strength, flexibility and stamina are more important than a number on the scale. We are told to exercise in order to lost weight, and occasionally to look better but not because it is essential to vibrant health.
You are told to exercise to lose more weight. Not to be stronger, Not for more energy, not to increase mobility, not for flexibility not for any of those life enhancing, longevity increasing benefits. Just to help you to lose weight. The goal of exercise is usually just weight loss, not fitness. There is a logic to this. Muscles burn more fat, so if you build muscles so you can burn more fat, and lose more weight. Losing weight on its own is not very compelling. You need a benefit that is worth all that effort. How about, you will feel better, have fun, be able to do things again. The exercises you are told to do are long, tedious and boring, and tiring. No wonder we have trouble exercising regularly. If you are going to succeed at something at anything, your reason for doing it has to provide more pleasure and less pain than not doing it. A step class may do it for some, especially if you have an entertaining instructor. But for most people, the gym is not as appealing as the neighbourhood bakery.
You are told to eat salads because they are low calorie and will help you lose weight. Seldom are you told to eat them because they add nutrition, because they boost the immune system, because they clear out toxins, or even that the right foods can increase your energy. No. You are told to eat foods that will help you lose weight. This is the same problem. There is no pleasure in feeling hungry all the time. So do you really think you will be able to push aside the pleasure of food and starve yourself for days, weeks even months at a time, just so those numbers on the scale will go down.
Don't get me wrong. I am all for losing excess weight. It is a real health issue. I am currently overweight. And I am trying to lose 15 pounds (was 18, making progress)-- But it is not the only issue. It is not even the most important issue.
One of my personal goals, as I just said is to lose 15 pounds. It's a number on a scale. But that is not the main goal. It is not compelling enough. Not even close.
I want to be able to climb stairs without being short of breath,carrying in the groceries 4 bags at a time instead of just 2, to be able to bend over and look under the counter if I drop something and not having to ask a younger member of the household to do it for me. To take the dogs for a run. Push the grandkids on the swing, catch them on the slide and race them to the merry-go-round without feeling like a wrung out dishrag. When weight loss becomes the main issue, you don't solve these problems. In fact you make them worse.
How can weight loss make things worse? I have seen them all over. In the grocery store, on the street, at the mall. The thin fatties. They are not big. They are not obese. What they are, is visibly weak, and fragile. Their skin is not filled out with healthy toned muscle. It is loose and sagging. Their bodies are limp, almost shapeless. How does this happen? They have lost weight by way of whatever trick worked for them (starvation diets, fad diets, even over exercise) without any thought to their overall health and well being. Doing whatever it takes to lose the weight. That is the mantra: lose the weight lose the weight. Health strength and vibrancy need to be the main goals. If I can achieve that then weight loss will happen as a bi-product.
Being Fat is a common result of being unhealthy. The result, not the cause. Those thin fatties are noticeably unhealthy because of their fat. If you could round them up and measure their body fat percentage you may be surprised. In their efforts to lose weight at any cost have they lost muscle? Yes! You can see it. Bone? Have they lost bone? Most likely. Osteoporosis rates are rising too, not just obesity rates. Have they lost water? Absolutely. Have they lost fat? again absolutely, BUT in terms of percentages, probably less of a percentage of fat than the water, muscle and bone. Make health and fitness the number 1 goal, and you can lose fat without these problems.
2. We are given the wrong information. Have you ever heard that you need to eat low fat, low calorie foods. Have 5 to 10 servings of fruit and veggies and 5 servings of grain. This is about half right.
I remember my friends at work acting like martyrs while eating their rice cakes. Rice cakes, tasteless pieces of eatable cardboard. It gave them no pleasure, no nutrients, did not satisfy their hunger but they ate them because they were low calorie. They may have been low calorie, but they were equally as low in nutrition. And because they were high on the glycemic index, most likely they caused a spike in blood sugar followed by the crash and they were hungrier than they were before they had that snack. All that sacrifice for nothing
Calories are important, but not important enough to bother counting. If you have to count something. Count nutrients. Eat more nutritious food today than you did yesterday. You can find high nutrition foods that taste good. Experiment. Broccoli is a great food from a nutritional stand point. My husband loves steamed broccoli. I do not like it. but I have discovered that I do like it raw. I have tried cauliflower half a dozen different ways. I did not like any of them. So I don't eat it. There are so many good foods in the world there is no reason to eat anything that does not give you pleasure. Don't be afraid to experiment. Try them raw, steamed, stir fired, or roasted or in a soup or in a smoothie. Try them with spices, without spices. Keep trying new things until you find a dozen veggies you like. Then always have them on hand. Fruits make a great snack, much better than rice cakes. Now here is the biggest thing. Grains.
4 to 5 servings of whole grains will keep you fat. Many people cannot tolerate grain especially wheat, rye and barley. That is why you see so many products labeled "gluten free". Even if you do not have a sensitivity to gluten (the protein in wheat, rye and barley) grains put on the weight. This was really brought home to me when, at a restaurant, they had a little sign explaining how the cows they used were organically raised, hormone free and finished with grain for a full 2 weeks before slaughter. Those 2 weeks is what gave their meat a nice fat marbling. It was a great sales pitch for their steaks but I was struck by the time line. 2 weeks of grain, just 2 weeks made their cattle fat. It makes you and I fat too. This is more true for some people than for others and may change within an individual as they age. There was a time when bread did not make me fat. That changed in my mid thirties. I didn't figure it out until recently. If you have trouble with weight gain, stop eating grains. while you are at it cut out sugars too. Now just so we are clear, by 'grains' I do not just mean your morning oatmeal. It is anything made with or from wheat, oats, rice, corn, barley and rye. Quinoa is okay, it is not really a grain, it is more like a grain substitute. Lots of nutrition, but fewer of the problems.
Flour can be ground from any of these grains but wheat is what most flour is made from. So that means cut back on bread, cakes, cookies, breaded meats (no chicken nuggets). and Stop worrying about fat in your food. Yes a gram of fat has more calories than a gram or anything else. but it also does not cause a spike in your insulin, so it is less likely to be stored as fat and it triggers that part of the brain that controls hunger. You will eat less of everything if you include natural-not man made-fats in your meal. So the fat has more calories per ounce, but you will have less calories per meal once you body adapts to your new eating pattern. Fats are not the bad guy. I am amazed at how many people, trying to lose weight will have dry toast for breakfast, even though they don't like it, because they think it will help them lose weight. It is the bread that they are still eating that puts the weight on, not the butter that they have given up. Oh, and I have to say if you are going to throw away part of your egg, stop with the shell. Egg yolks are truly a super food. An entire chick can be grown from the nutrition in just one yolk. It has to have just about everything a body can need.
We are also given wrong information about exercise. Hours of aerobics just make you tired. Yes you need to add movement and exercise to your day. It just doesn't have to be long hours in a gym, Walk to the store, or to work if you can. If that is not possible, park as far from the door as you feel you can comfortably manage. Take the stairs instead of the elevator if you can. Learn some stretches. Take a walk. Breathe. How many people went to the gym a hundred years ago. There were a few. But not many. They moved more all throughout the day. We need to add movement to our day. Most important short sprints do as much, maybe more for you than long duration exercises.
Sprints build you up, are easier to do, less abusive to your joints. Long duration exercises wear you down.
3. We may fear being thin. I am talking about a deep down feeling. One you may not be aware of. It's hard to fight something you don't even know is there. So take a moment and think. Is there some way being fat serves you? Maybe you need some examples. There are many reasons why you may want to stay fat. Eating comfort food can be a stress reliever, enough so that deep down you do not want to give it up. It is too big a price to pay for the benefits you believe you will gain. Fat can be a wall of protection. If you are feeling vulnerable could this be true for you. Fat can make you feel safe. I had, actually still have, this problem. When my first husband became ill, the first and only obvious symptom was weight loss. As he lost, I gained. You don't need to be a therapist to figure that one out. Being thin feels dangerous. Even though I am now aware of this irrational feeling it is still there. When I get on the scale and see it has moved down a little I am happy of course; but happy is the 2nd feeling. Even now the first reaction is of unease, fear. If the way you think about yourself, and/or your weight is only a minor obstacle, and if you are able to identify it, you can deal with it. If it is more major, or if you suspect there is something but are not quite sure, you may need help. The way I am dealing with it is through visualization. I am visualizing myself thinner but in a context where I am also strong, healthy, happy, and active. I am also trying out a technique called EFT or tapping. (that may be the subject of another blog post). Thinner has to start to feel safe. Notice, thinner, not thin. I will be happy at just not being obese. Maybe when I get there, I will be able to go a little further. I don't know. I have picked a goal, a goal that should be a healthy weight, not a thin weight. It is a weight that is right for me. I am trying to be healthy. It is not necessary to fit into anyone else's image of who I should be or what I should look like.
I am working on this. Wish me luck. If you working on improving your health too, I also wish you luck. I would like to hear about your challenges, successes and failures. Please visit my website and leave a comment. http://www.InShapeAfter50.com