It’s So Easy (to Lose Or Gain Weight)

Gym owners, personal trainers and other industry experts know the real truth about health and fitness: exercise and proper nutrition is the only path to permanent weight loss! Forget all the “get slim quick” schemes out there promising you quick results with zero effort. Reality is the same thing you heard from your doctor: Eat sensibly and exercise regularly.

However, recently there have been two breaking news stories that have an impact on health and fitness. These two news items are so noteworthy they demand our attention.

Each story is a good example of how easy it can be to improve or damage your health.

Our first item shows how easy it can be to make small, sustainable changes to your life that will help you fight fat…..not make you thin, but help you fight fat. Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent for Reuters News Service, wrote a great story on the relationship between sleep and fat. The bottom line is that people who skimp on their sleep are more likely to be overweight. We’re not going to print the entire story, but here’s one quote: “In one study, people who slept only four hours a night for two nights had an 18 percent reduction in leptin, a hormone that tells the brain there is no need for more food, and a 28 percent increase in ghrelin, which triggers hunger.”

The second news item is a good example of how easy it is to undermine our weight loss efforts with poor nutrition. Hardee’s recently introduced what they’re calling the “Monster Thickburger”. A more suitable name would be the “Monster WeightGainer”! This burger packs 1,420 calories, which is about what many women should eat in an entire day! It also has 107 grams of fat, which is way more fat than anyone should have in one day! No wonder the introduction of this new burger caused Jay Leno to joke: “The Megaburger actually comes in a little cardboard box shaped like a coffin”.

Well, there we have it. Two fairly easy ways to either improve our health or damage our health. It’s easy to sleep, and it’s easy to eat a Monster Thickburger. Let’s make the right choices.

So, right after we get some sleep, we’ll see you at the gym!

My Pyramid To Health And Fitness

Remember the old Food Pyramid that we were all taught in school? You know, the one that told us to eat more ‘grains and carbohydrates’ than anything else? Last January the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a new symbol and interactive food guidance system called “MyPyramid”. This picture, which replaces the Food Guide Pyramid introduced in 1992, is part of an overall system that emphasizes the need for a more individualized approach to improving diet and lifestyle. The system embodies the recommendations of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which advise how proper dietary habits can promote health and reduce the risk of major chronic diseases for people two years of age and older.

True health and fitness professionals are not huge fans of ‘one size fits all’ nutritional programs. As a matter of fact, the reasons most diets fail is that they try to fit you (an individual) into a program designed for everyone. Honestly, did we ever believe that one dietary recommendation (the old Food Guide Pyramid) was valid for everyone in the USA?

This strong aversion to the ‘one size fits all’ dietary guideline is exactly why we like the new MyPyramid so much. Take for example this quote copied directly from the MyPyramid website: “One size doesn’t fit all. MyPyramid Plan can help you choose the foods and amounts that are right for you. For a quick estimate of what and how much you need to eat, enter your age, sex, and activity level in the MyPyramid Plan box. For a detailed assessment of your food intake and physical activity level, click on MyPyramid Tracker.” (Source: mypyramid.gov)

What We Like About The New Guidelines:

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has done a fine job of updating the Food Guide Pyramid and adding specifics that we find helpful. For example:

1) MyPyramid make a distinction between ‘grains’ and ‘whole grains’, which is critical for life-long health and fitness.

2) Rather than just suggesting we ‘eat fruits and vegetables’ (which may prompt some to drink fruit juice and think they’re being healthy), MyPyramid encourages the consumption of a broad range of fresh fruits and vegetables while at the same time discouraging fruit juices (which are often lacking in nutrition and full of empty calories).

3) MyPyramid suggests that we consume low-fat dairy products, rather than just dairy products. Some milk, and most cheeses, are FULL of saturated fat and may be harmful. The new recommendations take this into account and prompt us to look for healthy dairy choices.

4) Just like it does with the dairy category, MyPyramid tells us to search out low-fat protein choices like fish and nuts. The new guidelines even teach us about healthy oils vs. harmful fats.

5) Finally, and most importantly, MyPyramid actually discusses exercise. Finally! The guidelines demonstrate the difference between moderate and vigorous activity, and provide broad recommendations targeted towards the average American.

What We Don’t Like About The New Guidelines:

1) The MyPyramid website (mypyramid.gov) has a section called ‘My Pyramid Plan’ that estimates BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate). In other words, this site estimates how many calories we should consume each day. The problem is that they (the USDA) use only our age, sex and physical activity level to determine our caloric goal. No mention is made of height differences or the amount of lean muscle mass we have on our frame. Lean muscle mass is a huge factor in determining caloric needs, so we were disappointed to see that it’s not included in these calculations. Broad generalizations like this fail to take into account individual differences, and thus are almost always sure to be inaccurate for many of us.

2) The ‘Physical Activity’ section of MyPyramid fails miserably in that it doesn’t provide the exercise education we need in order to be successful. No mention is made of the differences between aerobic and anaerobic exercise, or the role of resistance exercise in a healthy lifestyle.

While the new USDA guidelines are certainly much better than the old Food Guide Pyramid, we were still discouraged to see that MyPyramid does not fully address exercise. Until we as a nation understand the basic facts about exercise, we will continue to struggle with fat and weight issues.

Inspiration Or Desperation

Katherine Mansfield once said “Make it a rule of life never to regret and never to look back. Regret is an appalling waste of energy; you can’t build on it; it’s only for wallowing in.” When talking about health and fitness, this quote is especially true.

We may not be happy with the way we look, and many of us may not even be sure how we got this way! Where did this extra 40 lbs. come from? At what point did I start to sag? Didn’t I have muscle there once? Who shrunk all my clothes?

All of us have a choice. We can choose to live in regret, never taking action because we feel too sorry for ourselves. On the other hand, we also have the choice to forget about our health and fitness past (or lack of it) and focus on the future.

Regret is a tremendous waste of energy. I have yet to meet anyone who can go back in time and change the past, so what’s the point of churning it over in our mind again and again? Worrying and regretting the past only takes our focus off the one thing we can change: the future!

Once we’re over our regret and ready to focus on the NOW and the FUTURE, the question becomes “Are we willing to finally make a change?”

After all, if we don’t make a change in our health and fitness lifestyle we’re just going to get the same old results. In other words, “If you do what you did you’ll get what you got.”

So, are you ready to change?

Dr. Alan Zimmerman (drzimmerman.com), in a recent publication, said that there are two primary reasons why people will change a behavior:
1) They hurt So Much That They’re Forced To Change (Desperation).
2) People change when they realize they can change (Inspiration).

Perhaps you hurt so much that you’re willing to make some changes and adopt a healthier lifestyle. Maybe it was a rude comment from someone on the street, or perhaps your favorite clothes don’t fit anymore. Maybe your doctor said some things to you about your health and scared you. When we’re out of shape and unhappy with the way we look and feel, there can be a lot of hurt!

But listen to this, and listen carefully…..the hurt is okay if we use it to make positive changes! The hurt is even good if it prompts us to make the changes we need to make! Remember, we’re not going to wallow in regret anymore! We’re going to accept that hurt and use it to our advantage by making a positive change!

The other reason people change is inspiration. Now doesn’t that automatically sound like more fun? When we fully realize and understand that we do have the power to change ourselves, it’s a very motivating feeling! We fill up with power and energy, and success is suddenly within our reach!

Consider the way Susan Crandell, former editor of ‘More’ magazine puts it. She says, “We all should do something scary at least once a year, because when you pop out the other side, intact and invigorated, the afterglow can carry you through the other parts of your life.” (Source: drzimmerman.com)

So how do you capture the inspiration to change? Tell yourself ‘I CAN’ whenever the old doubt and regret starts to surface. Look at yourself in the mirror – right in the eyes! – and say out loud I CAN!

Do you know why you should do that? Because it’s true! You can make the change and start living a healthier lifestyle! You can start exercising regularly! You can start cutting back on the fatty and high-calorie foods! You can change the way you look and feel!

Sure, you’ll have some setbacks along the way…..but no regrets, remember? Forget about the past and focus on the future!

Obviously, inspiration is much better change trigger than desperation. But either reason to change is better than no change at all.