1. Move Your Body
Remember our discussion earlier about hunter-gatherers and how this biological legacy sets us up to store fat? This biological legacy also sets up to gain weight if we do not move our bodies. Without physical activity our muscles strength begins to diminish.
Less muscle means less efficient burning of calories. Less efficient burning of calories means we are prone, once again, to storing fat. We put energy in our bodies in the form of calories, and we expend it through activity.
Many people believe they understand the relationship between activity and weight, but in fact, there are quite a few common misconceptions. People believe it takes a lot of exercise to burn calories, but even moderate exercise on a daily basis burns calories.
At Academy of the Sierras, the first residential treatment program for obese teens, students wear a pedometer and have a goal of at least 10,000 steps a day. Many of the students feel overwhelmed by the goal at first, but within time many are finding they can easily reach 15,000 steps and even much more throughout the day.
Small changes in your activity can add to your fat-burning ability, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or parking a little farther away at the mall can add to your fat-burning potential throughout the day. You burn approximate the same number of calories walking three miles as you do running three miles, so you don’t have to become a marathon runner to see results through activity.
Many people believe exercise increases their appetite. While this might be true if you are exercising at the level of an athlete, moderate exercise can actually decrease appetite. One of the great benefits of daily exercise is that your metabolic rate remains high and your body expends more energy all day. The benefits of exercise are not limited to the time when you are actually walking, swimming, or playing tennis.
Exercise helps weight controllers stay on track not only by increasing weight loss, but also by improving stress management, quality of sleep, digestion, self-esteem, resistance to illness, agility, appetite control, and muscle tone. Exercise really is the only miracle pill for weight loss!
Weight controllers will achieve the best overall results if they integrate some form of exercise into their daily schedule. It is also easier to stick with an exercise plan if you make it a natural part of every day.
To help you stick to a daily exercise plan, choose something that is convenient, appealing, and has some social aspects.
For many people, walking is the most convenient way to get in daily activity. If you have nice parks or interesting neighborhood streets nearby the only thing you have to do is put on your sneakers and open the front door to get to your workout.
If you can find a walking partner who will commit to joining you every day, you will find you don’t want to let this person down, and will have fewer excuses for not showing up. If you decide to walk alone, listen to music. Research has shown that people walk more vigorously when listening to music.
If you find walking boring, but love dance, consider joining a dance aerobics class. If you enjoy swimming, find a local YMCA as prices are generally reasonable. If you do decide to join a gym, it is a good idea to join one as close to home as possible. Long commutes to the gym may means lots of excuses about actually going.
You don’t need to wear yourself exercising. Your intensity level should allow you to complete a full 30 minutes of the activity. However, if you find that you have difficultly sustaining any sort of activity for 30 minutes, divide your exercise into two 15-minute sessions. You have probably heard that you need to maintain your target heart rate for at least 20 minutes to burn calories.
However, once you begin exercising, you begin using calories. The difference is that at the beginning of exercise your body burns glucose, but after an extended time, you begin burning fat. However, as your body works to replenish glucose, it will always need to dip into the energy reserves of fat. This means you can burn fat whether you exercise for one 30-minute session or two 15-minutes sessions.
It is important when you begin an exercise regimen that you not overdo it at first and risk injuring yourself. Start at a pace you can handle, then add a few minutes each day. Always stretch and warm up before you begin exercising, and be sure to stretch during the cool down period as well.
2. Plan and Self-Monitor Daily
We’ve all heard the rule about never grocery shopping while you are hungry. Unplanned things seem to pop into the shopping cart. Not planning what you will eat throughout the day or week is like going grocery shopping when you are hungry.
Planning in advance your meals and snacks will help you avoid situations where you are very hungry and unprepared – sudden hunger ‘emergencies’ can result in impulsive drive-through visits or eating whatever is available so quickly you forget to count it as part of your daily intake.
Planning is the first step in the most important part of any successful weight control plan: self-monitoring. Study after study has shown it: weight controllers who write down what they eat and when they exercise are the most successful in losing and maintaining weight.
Those who self-monitor generally lose more weight, have fewer set backs, maintain weight for longer periods of time, and maintain weight during highly stressful periods when food temptations abound, such as holiday gatherings.
Weight controllers who keep a written record of their daily eating & exercise tend to feel more committed to real changes in their lifestyle. The written record allows you to understand where you might need to improve your diet. It also allows you to set goals and meet them, which promotes self-esteem as you celebrate successful milestones.
Imagine watching your exercise record go from 5000 steps a day to 15000 steps a day! When you look back at how tough those 5000 steps used to be, you will feel a great sense of accomplishment that you are now easily doing three times as many steps.
By keeping a food journal, you will have something to refer to should your weight loss efforts seem to be slowing down. Maybe you added a bread serving more days than you realized? Maybe you ate fewer vegetables one week, which might explain why you felt hungrier than usual all week and ended up eating a few things that were not part of your healthy weight control plan.
When you record your food choices, be sure to indicate portion size. Creeping portion growth can be the downfall of any weight control plan. If you don’t have a scale or measuring utensil available remember there are some easy “visual clues” to determine the size of a serving. For example:
- Medium Orange = Tennis Ball
- 3 oz of Meat = Deck of Cards
- 1 oz Cheese = A 3.5” Computer Disk (thin-sliced cheese)
It will be even more helpful if you purchase a pocket-sized calorie counter than includes information on fat grams per serving. By recording this information in your food journal, you will be aware of the times of day when you seem to need the most calories, and you can plan your daily meals accordingly.
Self-monitoring keeps you focused on your goals and makes you acutely aware of your eating and exercise habits – the healthy ones and the ones that tend to sabotage your progress. The longer you self-monitor, the more “history” you will have that can help you in the future should you become frustrated or get off track. You can refer back to a time when you felt successful and satisfied and re-trace your steps through your food and exercise journal.
There are times when self-monitoring will mean the difference between successful weight control and self-sabotage. Any time food temptations abound, such as at office parties, birthdays, holidays, or in restaurants, self-monitoring can help you stay on track and stay aware of the choices you are making. By accurately recording what you eat – even when you really don’t want to admit you ate it – you are avoid the self-deception and denial that can spell the end of successful weight control.
3.Understand and Manage Stress
Most people who struggle with their weight certainly understand the role that stress plays in their patterns of eating.
The goal of any serious weight controller is to learn how to deal with stress in new ways and to make sure that if you do overeat when under stress you do not choose foods that will put you back in a weight-gain spiral.
Dr. Dan Kirschenbaum, Clinical Director of Health Living Academies, suggests that if you do deviate from your food plan, you deviate QUANTITATIVELY, not QUALITATIVELY This means you continue to choose healthy, nutritious foods rather than start going “back” to high-fat, calorie-dense foods such as pizza, cookies, and other foods that tend to lead to long-term binges.
One of the main reasons it is important not to start eating high-fat, sugary foods during these high-stress periods is that it gives you a taste for those foods again. When you have avoided pizza and ice cream for many months, you will find them too rich and fatty. However, if you start to re-introduce them into your eating plan, you will begin to crave them on a regular basis.
As a committed weight controller, you will want to focus on “safe foods” that will not undermine your long-term goals. Part of the process of losing weight is developing strategies in advance that will help you get through challenging events and periods of your life. How you view your weight control commitment will have a great amount of influence on how you deal with stress.
If you view weight control in a negative light, it will be much easier to convince yourself that you “deserve treats.” If you view weight control in a positive light, it will be much easier to convince yourself that you “deserve health.”