Things I have learned about diet and exercise

For the first time ever here I’m not posting a recipe.  I’ve said many times I could write a book on weight loss/fitness/good eating strategies.  But really… most of us could right?  I mean, not at the age of 18.  Maybe not even at 29.  But, seeing as I just turned 30 last week I’m feeling very wisdom-y and thought I could do no better deed today than share all those tidbits I’ve gleaned over the years with you all.  That or I could clean up our front yard so our neighbors aren’t annoyed with us, the yardworkaphobes, anymore.  But I digress.

The thing about all the weight loss/fitness books on the market is that not one of them is going to work for everyone.  Because everyone is different.  Not just how our bodies metabolize food but how our brains work, how we think, what we are motivated by.

So…recognizing that this little bulleted list might apply to no one in particular besides myself, here goes nothin’.

On exercise…

  • Everyone has time to exercise.  Not everyone considers it a priority.  If you want your health to improve and lose excess weight it’s not about finding time, it’s about making time.  Ideally about an hour a day at least three to four days a week.  Five to six if you’re trying to get in shape.
  • Start slowly.  Work your way up to longer, more frequent workouts.  You’re not going to go from couch potato to fitness star in a week.
  • People who exercise in the morning are, on average,  the most regular exercisers.  Why?  I think this one’s obvious.  By the time you get out of work you’re more often than not either tired, cranky, or have a million other things to do.  It’s easy to blow off your workout if you put it at the end of your day.
  • When you love your workout, it makes being committed to a fitness plan so much easier to stick to.  I’m a big fan of group exercise classes for a lot of reasons.  Being around other people makes you more aware of how intensely you’re working and makes it less likely you’re going to slack off in the middle when you start to fatigue.  It can also be a lot of fun if the environment is right.  (Insert plug for jazzercise here)
  • Have an exercise buddy.  Because exercise is more fun when you have a friend to sweat it out with.
  • On the topic of finding something you love – if what you love about your fitness activity of choice is that it’s not that hard (I’m going to use the example of going for a walk, the classic “it’s better than nothing” exercise in my book), find another workout.  You get out what you put in.
  • Don’t be an “all or nothing” person.  This strategy generally doesn’t jive with real life.  This mindset also sets you up for failure and possible injury if you have unrealistically high expectations starting out.  Set realistic expectations and stick with it.

On eating…

  • Getting overeating/bad eating habits under control is not so much about doing something different as it is about being someone different.  If you change your habits you will probably see good results.  But unless you have also changed the way you think about food, habits can easily revert.
  • You have to emotionally distance yourself from food.  This is probably the hardest thing to do but the most important.  If your sanity rests on whether or not you get to have a brownie after dinner that should send up a red flag.
  • On that note – don’t use food as a reward.  Find something else you love to reward yourself/console yourself with.
  • Try not to get overwhelmed with advice.  (Irony, check.)  We’ve all heard those “easy little tips” to help you lose weight, right?  (Put your fork down in between bites.  Drink a glass of water before your meals.  Use a smaller plate to trick your brain into thinking you’re eating more.  Etc.)  They’re great, most of them.  But just pick, like, one to focus on, okay?  Once that’s second nature to you, maybe try another one.
  • DO track your calories.  It’s a real eye opener.  Even if you eat very healthy foods you can still be eating too much.  Possibly WAY too much as I found out after gaining 60 lbs during my last pregnancy.  Tracking forces you to be aware of all the little bites here and there and how they add up.  There are many free websites and apps that you can use to do this.
  • Tracking calories also helps you see trends in your consumption so that you can plan ahead for parties and going out.  Being healthy and trim does NOT mean you can’t enjoy life and the food that goes with it!  If you know one thing about me it’s that I love food and recognize it as one of the primary ways that we celebrate life.  I would never recommend someone forgo all that joy.  Just be cognizant of what you’re putting in your body and plan on how you’re going to balance it all out.
  • Plan what and how much you’re going to eat before the food is in front of your face.  And then stick to it.  That’s a lot better than getting to the end of the meal and going, “Whoa.  I ate five pieces of pizza?”
  • Say it out loud.  Or post it on your facebook.  Whatever.  Make your intentions real and you will be less likely to try and rationalize your way out of doing what you had planned for yourself later.  (Does five pieces of pizza sound like a reasonable amount to you?)
  • Variety is the spice of life – unless you’re trying to curb how much you eat.  The more choices you have, the more you are likely to consume.  I’ve read of studies that confirm this and I can tell you from personal experience this is true for me.  Every meal can’t be a buffet.  Have a main and a veggie or fruit, a small dessert, and call it quits.
  • Don’t eat foods you hate just because someone tells you they should be part of your diet plan.  That doesn’t work.  If your body and your life are going to change you have to be truly satisfied with your meals or you’ll set yourself up for mental/emotional torment.
  • Eat until you are 80% full.  So Confucius say.  Good one to live by.
  • Moms – don’t eat off your kids’ plates after you’re done with your meal.  Easy way to rack up several hundred extra calories mindlessly.  And for what?  So you don’t have to put it in the fridge?  Surely there are more satisfying ways to consume calories.
  • Also moms – when you go to a restaurant you’re not fooling anyone by ordering a salad.  You know you’re just waiting to pick fries and the ends of grilled cheese sandwiches off the kids’ plates.  Do yourself a favor and order something you actually want – something so yummy it makes the kids’ food look undesirable – and box up half immediately for tomorrow.
  • Have dessert.  Just keep it small.  My rule is 150 calories for an “everyday” dessert.  Feeling like you’re depriving yourself is a one-way ticket to emotional overeating.
  • And lastly – don’t weigh yourself.  At least not often.  I think once a week is overkill.  The number does not mean ANYTHING.  And it has the power to wreck your day if you let it.  What matters is how you look, how you feel, how your clothes fit.  Those are the things that matter and you don’t need a bathroom scale to tell you those things.  We all know how to manipulate the bathroom scale.  Why bother?  It’s nonsense.  Even BMI is a terrible way of determining your fitness level and overall health.  It only takes into account weight and height with no regard for muscle mass.  You can be the same height and weight (and therefore have the same BMI) as the gal next to you but look completely different because of muscle mass.  (I’m not making this up, this exact situation happened to me once.)

That’s it.  Thanks for indulging me!  See you in a few days with more food!



Filed under Miscellaneous

2 responses to “Things I have learned about diet and exercise

  1. First of all, happy belated birthday! And second, I agree with you entirely on this post. I just began the process of getting back in shape. And being such foodies, I think I speak for both of us when I say all I can depend on is my willpower in portion control. Three things I swear by: Your Shape game on the Kinect (just bought the kinect for $40 off Craigslist…YAY), the Lose It app for calorie counting on my iPhone, and diet tonic because my vodka needs a low calorie friend.


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