Tuesday, January 15, 2013

If You Don't Go Big, Don't Go Home

STEP TWO:  Choose an exercise and an eating plan that works for you.

No matter what goal you have set, this thing is likely going to boil down to exercise and eating differently.  Read any health book and you will find that just about everything from muscle aches to allergies to aging to depression to Alzheimer's can be positively affected by exercise and better eating.

Before you really get into getting started, I highly recommend reading the following two books...or at least "20 Years Younger."  They are a great guideline to help you with what you should be eating and doing to reach your specific goals (i.e. reducing cholesterol, preventing diabetes, preventing Alzheimer's, etc).

You are the one who has to do this and stick with it.  You know what motivates and demotivates you.  You know your aches and pains.  You know your limits - the real ones...not the perceived ones.  This is a permanent lifestyle change.  It is not a New Year's resolution or something you do for a few months to fit into a bridesmaid's dress.  The end goal is the change your life for good and possibly prevent some of the nasty diseases that people unfortunately think are "just part of old age."

If a commercial plan works for you to start - say Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers - great!  The only issue is you may not be targeting your specific goal that you have set.  I watched one of the commercials the other day and noticed the parade of wheat products across the screen.  I'll talk about wheat another time but just know that it may cause or contribute to a multitude of health issues and it may actually make you gain weight.  Based on the book, "Wheat Belly" by William Davis, diabetics may want to reduce wheat if they are looking to help control their diabetes.

Once again, I am going to mention to not let the exercise gurus intimidate and demotivate you.  Allow yourself time if you need it but get started.  If you can't go big for some reason, don't go home.

When I decided a change needed to happen, I was constantly fatigued, asthma ridden, allergy ridden, had hip pain, had muscle pain, stomach issues, lacked muscle strength...I felt horrible.  If I was miserable then, what would I be like in 20 years?  I knew it would take a while to make changes because of my personal barriers - lack of energy, lack of time, pain, and inability to do certain things.  That is called facing reality and finding a way to overcome it.  I realize now that lack of time is never an excuse.  A one mile walk used to take me only about 18 minutes.  Now it takes between 14 and 16 minutes depending on the day.  I used to struggle walking up the curbs that were more like ramps.  True story.  Now I attack those curbs with an "I got this" attitude!  And I LOVE to walk.  If I don't get my walk, I'm like a cranky kid.

Here is how I started.  In March/April of 2012, I bought a pair of walking shoes (make sure you do this or you'll have pain if you're not used to exercise) and I started walking a half mile a day.  Some people found my half mile comical and not worth it.  Within one month, I could feel changes in my body and my mindset.  Within a couple months, my asthma improved....a lot.  I went off my asthma medicine as a result and my breathing improved even more and the "moods" lessened - side effects that are sometimes noted for this drug.  I bumped up the walk to a mile a day.  The fatigue started to wane.  The muscle pain started to lessen and then went away.  Some of that I'm sure was due to going off of cholesterol medicine in June 2012 which I never could have done without the exercise and change in eating habits.  I noticed the stomach issues would go away and there was a remarkable difference after my walk.  Come to find out, walking helps the digestive system!  Has your doctor told you that before putting you on medicine?  Of course not.  In late summer, I started taking longer walks, whether they be on the boardwalk (a great motivator) or in my neighborhood.  With the advice of my new doctor, I bought a bike and started riding that to the Farmer's Market and around the neighborhood too to help strengthen additional muscle groups.  Today, in the winter, I walk outside when I can - about 1.25 to 1.45 miles daily.  On bad weather days, I have a manual treadmill I use.  One important thing I've learned along the way...muscle burns fat.  The more muscle you create, the more fat you are going to burn.

Now about my diet.  I don't like vegetables and I'm not a huge fan of cooking.  I'm also well aware that foods that require a lot of prep probably aren't real healthy anyway.  I've always been a big water drinker and I can't emphasize enough how important water is for the body.  You need that water to flush out the fat...there's your motivator if for no other reason.  I drink about 8 big glasses a day at least.  In regard to food, I started by limiting portions and slowly cutting out my daily big bowl of ice cream.  I do make sure I'm not eating foods with a ton of fat or carbs.  I also added in some healthier choices like my daily Chobani yogurt, raspberries, mangos, nuts, and other items noted in the books that would help.  I substituted other things to lessen the ice cream cravings - anything from Skinny Cow to a small amount of chocolate chips.   I now eat mostly chicken and only have beef here and there.  It's not good for cholesterol or my digestive system...period.  Easy change.  Come to find out, not having so much ice cream also reduced water retention and the jelly belly!   Knowing that, I'm not wanting it every day any more.  Another easy change.  I also limit the fattening sauces, bread, wheat products, pasta, etc.

You can find a multitude of recipes that taste great for whatever your goals are.  There are tasty light and wheat free products galore available now!  For me, the only way I could succeed was to "cheat" on occasion and I do.  Typically, I will have a "normal" naughty meal at least once a week and I do have ice cream once or twice...just not the mother-load like I used to eat.  I have no desire to go back on cholesterol medicine nor back to my old weight and that's all of the motivation I need.  If your family doesn't support your efforts, have them cook their own meals or cook them something different.  You are important and this change means they will have you around longer and healthier.  Realize that no one needs those heaping platefuls of food to survive and the change will do them some good too.  After a while, you get used to the lesser portions.

Here's another tip.  When they tell you to eat several smaller meals a day, it works!  I eat my yogurt in the early morning, a "second breakfast" mid-morning, lunch, a mid-afternoon snack, and dinner.

I've been doing this for 10 months now and I've gone off of two medications as a result.  My cholesterol is just a few points higher than it was while on medicine.  I have lost 23 pounds so far.  I feel much better mentally and physically.

I cannot emphasize how minimal you need to start to see results.  If you are going to start minimal, you must mentally allow yourself the time.  Start with something that you will keep up and build on.  If a half mile is all you can do right now, that's fine.  If you can only change three meals a week, fine.  Keep building on it.  Need to cheat a little to stay motivated?  Fine but only a little.  Try not to make your goal the weight loss.  If you do, remember that muscle does indeed weigh more than fat so don't get discouraged by the scale.  And again, muscle burns fat.  Note that I had only lost 13 pounds by September and I reached 23 pounds lost in December.

Remember, I'm going on 10 months or so which some would consider a long time for my results.  Here's the thing.  I was able to stay motivated for many reasons.  I can find 20 - 30 minutes a day for non-sweaty, enjoyable exercise.  I eat just fine and I eat all day long and if I want a Frosty once a week, I will get one and it will be the medium or large.  I can feel my hip bones!  I don't feel the jiggle when I walk.  I can breathe without wheezing.  I can wear cute clothing - all of the XLs are going to Goodwill.  I can have a bad day, go for a walk, and feel better within minutes.  I can almost...almost see abs!  I'm saving about $200 per month on prescriptions (cha-ching$$).  I just flat out feel better.  I am just now adding the strength training portion to my lifestyle change...after all of these months.  I joke and say I want the top to match the bottom.  The reality is I want to keep all of my muscles strong as I get older so that I age slower and prevent as many health issues as possible.

You can do this.  You just have to know yourself and do what's comfortable -- not do what the hardcore abs guy tells you to do :).  If you don't go big, don't let anyone tell you to go home.  Celebrate your accomplishments no matter how small someone else may think they are.


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