Weight Loss Tips & Tools

Thursday, August 31, 2006

What's Your Dietary IQ?

There are numerous misconceptions regarding dieting and exercise. After some research, I've developed a little test to see if you can spot the misconceptions. Answer true or false to the following:

Switching to low-fat and fat-free foodstuffs will help you lose weight.
False. Many low-fat and fat-free processed foods replace the fat with sugar, thus they have about the same number of calories (and sometimes even more), as the regular products. Keep in mind it's calorie count, not fat content that will ultimately determine your ability to lose weight.

Eating eggs will make you fat.
False. Eggs are a great source of protein, are low in calories and are low in saturated fat, the main culprit in heart disease. In the past, eggs have gotten a bad rap because they contain cholesterol, but recent research has shown that there is very little connection between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol. As such, an egg a day is now perfectly fine, according to the American Heart Association. Just remember that cooking eggs in a ton of fat, especially saturated fat such as bacon grease, significantly raises calories and your risk of heart problems.

You need to cut calories drastically to lose weight.
False. When you cut back too much on calories, you can actually stall weight loss because the body will slow your metabolism down to compensate for what it perceives as "starvation". One of the ways it does this is by converting protein to glycogen to use a fuel instead of using your fat stores. Thus even though you are not taking in very many calories, your body is not burning that extra fat you have, but is actually burning muscle! While this may seem counter-productive, this is actually a good method to hold off starvation because muscle tissue requires more calories to support than fat. The body is doing what it thinks is best to concerve energy by eliminating what it perceives of as unneeded muscle. The problem with this is two fold. One, this can leave you weak and flabby, and two, it makes it harder to lose in the future because the metabolism is so low.

Thus a modest reduction in calories is the best plan and in some cases, eating more will actually speed up weight loss! For more information on determining caloric need, try my caloric need calculator here.

Only drastic diets work.
False. While it's true that certain diets that severely restrict the kinds of foods you eat will work in the short-term, staying on such diets long-term is problematic. Most such diets are either not practical for long-term use, or they may prove downright dangerous. The reality is that your diet should not be seen as a temporary thing that you'll abandon once you get to a normal weight. Instead, think of dieting as training in how to eat properly. You need to eat normal foods in the proper proportions if you want to lose weight and keep it off.

You have to give up your favorite foods to lose weight.
False. In fact, most experts will tell you just the opposite. If you deprive yourself of those things you really love, you have a tendency to crave those things even more. This can lead to a vicious spiral where you give in to your cravings, overeat, and then feel so disgusted with yourself that you give up completely. Instead, it's suggested that you plan in "cheats" periodically so you can satisfy your cravings and still feel good about yourself. Just remember, a "cheat" should not be a 7,000 calorie Mexican fiesta! If Mexican food is your passion, instead, plan to have a SMALL bowl of chips and salsa once in a while. This will not appreciably alter your weight loss plan but may help you from caving in to the urge to eat that entire plate of enchiladas.

Perhaps the important thing to keep in mind here is the 3500 calorie concept. That is, you must consume 3500 calories LESS than you burn to LOSE a pound, and likewise, you must eat 3500 calories MORE than you burn to GAIN a pound. In other words, that extra 250 calories from your chips and salsa is not going to make much of a difference unless you eat it frequently or are allowing too many different "cheats".

You shouldn't snack.
False. It's not snacking that causes weight problems, it's the KINDS of snacks most people eat. For example, instead of cookies, eat an apple. Fruit makes a great snack. Craving ice cream? Instead, freeze cartons of low or no-fat yogurt and have one of those.

Keep in mind that most nutritionists recommend that you eat 6 to 8 times a day instead of the 3 times a day that is traditional in the U.S. That does not mean that you eat 6 to 8 BIG meals a day; instead, you should be eating much smaller meals and spreading your calories out throughout the day. The bottom line is that snacking is a great way to accomplish this.

You can lose weight by diet alone.
False. Most people that lose weight by dieting alone gain it all back. Now when I say "dieting", I mean temporary deprivation diets. This is different than changing your eating habits and eating healthy according to generally accepted standards. One other thing that you need to understand is that regular exercise is an important part of the lifestyle of virtually everyone that has successfully lost weight and kept it off.

Cardiovascular exercise such as walking is all you need to stay in shape.
False. This is a common misconception. While such exercise is very beneficial for making your heart and lungs healthy, it will not tone muscles. Thus it is possible to be "skinny-fat". I'm sure you've all seen people that fit into this category: they weigh very little and are downright skinny if you look at their arms and legs, but have a gut (mostly males), or big hips (mostly females).

The reality is that cardiovascular exercise alone will not shape your body. It takes dietary changes, strength training, and intense cardiovascular work to really be "in shape".

Women who lift weights will get bulky muscles.
False. I hear this one all the time and always want to laugh when I hear it. The average woman simply does not have enough testosterone to develop large, bulky muscles. While you may have seen female bodybuilders that are very muscular, these women are only able to develop such muscles by using extreme weight lifting techniques and dietary plans, and by taking steroids. The average woman will be able to develop good muscle tone and strength by lifting weights, but simply can't "bulk-up" like men can due to the low levels of the male hormones necessary for large muscle development. Keep in mind that even men often find it hard to "bulk-up" without serious weight lifting regimens and dietary changes. In most cases, the really big body builders, male or female that you may have seen, only got that way by using "gear" (an industry term for homorne inhancement).

Spot reducing does not work.
True. It is impossible to burn fat in one specific area by exercising that area. Your body simply does not have a mechanism to do this. While exercising a specific area such as the abdominals will make the muscles in that area stronger, you will simply have stronger muscles covered by fat unless you combine your exercise with a proper diet. Where and when you lose fat is primarily dependent upon genetics, biological sex, and hormone levels. As a general rule, most people will lose fat first from those areas that put it on last. For most people this means the extremities will be reduced first and the core areas (abdomen for men and hips for women), will be the last places to see the fat go away.

If you exercise, you can eat whatever you want.
False. Even if you burn thousands of calories a day in intense exercise, you can still get fat if you eat more calories than you burn off. Diet and exercise MUST be combined to lose weight.

Exercise is useless unless you spend hours and hours at it.
False. Just finding ways to add in a few steps here and there is better than no exercise, though it's true that there are certain minimum amounts that are recommended for cardiovascular health and weight maintenance. Numerous studies have shown that cardiovascular health is improved by very small changes in the amount of activity done.

That said, the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports recommends all adults should aim for 30 minutes of exercise a day to maintain an active lifestyle, and 60 minutes a day if they are trying to lose weight. They also recommend children get at least 60 minutes a day for optimum health.

Muscle weighs more than fat.
It Depends... A pound of muscle weighs the same as a pound of fat (a pound is a pound, afterall), but muscle is more dense than fat, so it takes up much less room in your body. Thus a pound of muscle and a pound of fat will obviously weigh the same, but a given volume of muscle will weigh more than the same volume of fat. The important thing to take from this is that if you are exercising (especially if you are strength training), it's possible to stay the same weight, or even gain weight, but still lose fat. See my previous article titled "What's the true measure of success?" for more on this subject.

Having more muscle causes you to burn calories faster.
True. Muscle is more metabolically active, thus the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, even at rest. This is one of the reasons men generally can lose weight faster than women, because their additional muscle mass lends itself to a faster metabolism. This is also one of the reasons that strength training is recommended for weight loss. Adding muscle will help boost the metabolism slightly.

Exercising at low intensity burns more fat.
False. This myth is so pervasive that most cardiovascular exercise equipment now has a targeted "fat burning zone" at lower intensity. This is simply crazy. The reason this myth is so pervasive is that people confuse efficiency with amount of fat burned. You see, it's true that your body is most efficient at burning fat while working at lower intensity. The problem is that the overall amount of fat burned at this lower intensity is relatively small. Thus if you want to burn fat, you can efficiently burn fat by working for hours and hours at lower intensity, or you can be slightly less efficient, but burn a bunch more calories by working at higher intensity.

Here's an example: Let's say that at a certain low intensity setting on a piece of workout equipment, you burn about 50% fat and 50% glycogen. By working out for 20 minutes at this intensity setting let's also assume you burn about 100 calories. Thus during this workout, you have burned 50 calories of fat. Now instead, let's say you step up the intensity significantly. Perhaps at this higher intensity, you are only burning 40% fat to 60% glycogen. As expected, you can see that at this higher intensity your body is less efficient at burning fat than it was at the lower setting. This might lead you to conclude that the lower intensity setting is better, but there is a big problem with that assumption. Instead of burning just 100 calories, your higher intensity workout might burn perhaps 300 calories in the same 20 minutes. This would mean that you had burned 120 calories of fat and 180 of glycogen. In reality, by working at the higher intensity, you have burned well over twice as much fat, even if your body was not quite as efficient at fat burning at the time!

You can eat as much protein and/or carbohydrates as you like and still lose weight.
False. Eating too much fat is not the only thing that will keep, or make you heavy. Excessive amounts of any of the macronutrients (protein, fat or carbohydrate), can be broken down and converted into fat in your body. If you take in more calories than you burn (regardless of the source), you'll gain weight.

If you don't exercise, your muscles will turn to fat.
False. Muscle and fat are two completely different tissues and one can never "turn into" the other. That said, lack of exercise will allow muscles to shrink and may also allow fat to be stored.

Eating at night makes you fat.
False. At one time, it was believed that your digestive system shut down while you slept and thus any food eaten before bedtime would end up being turned to fat. That's simply not true. Your digestive system does not shut down and night, so when you eat has no real effect on weight. Partly this myth is perpetuated because many people weigh themselves in the morning. If you eat something late at night and weigh yourself in the morning, you may see an increase on the scale because of the weight of the food, not because it turned to fat overnight.

Walking is the best exercise you can do for weight loss.
False. Walking is a fantastic exercise for your cardiovascular health and is not as hard on the joints as many other exercises such as running, but it is actually pretty ineffective as a weight loss exercise. This is because walking burns relatively few calories compared to most other exercises. Also, intense anerobic activity such as weight lifting and high intensity interval training (HIIT), can burn as much as 9 times the body fat for every calorie expended. Thus in my estimation, strength training and HIIT are much better exercises for fat loss. Even so, walking and other aerobic activities are important, especially for cardiovascular health.

If you workout more, you'll just end up eating more, thus negating any effect exercise has.
False. Most studies done on this actually show that moderate exercise either leads to a decrease in food intake or at the very least, a similar intake as was seen prior to undertaking the exercise.

Sauna, steam baths, or sweat suits are effective for losing weight.
False. Any weight loss occurring in this manner is simple fluid loss. These fluids will be rapidly replaced and the "weight" will come back.

Passive exercise machines can be used to reduce body weight.
False. Sorry, but you actually have to do the work yourself to burn calories. Simply stimulating muscles does nothing. This would be akin to towing a car and expecting to find the gas tank had been emptied. It isn't rolling that empties the gas tank, it's making the engine run.

Light weights on your arms or legs (e.g. ankle and wrist weights) can boost your exercise benefit.
False. Some people carry one- or two-pound handheld weights when they walk or run. Others strap Velcro-fastened weights around their ankles. According to experts, this simply slows you down, so you burn less fat in a given amount of time. Further, it's not enough weight to give you the benefits of strength training. To build muscle, you have to use sufficient resistance to stress the muscles. Light weights like this simply can't do that.

Exercise burns lots of calories.
False. Even moderately intense exercise will only burn a few hundred calories an hour. And since just sitting burns 50 to 60 calories an hour, the overall difference is even less than you might think. Plus, since you have to burn 3500 calories more than you consume to lose a pound, you'd likely have to do 10 hours or more of hard-core aerobic exercise a week to simply to lose a pound of fat. The point is that exercise is good for you and does help with weight loss, but exercise alone is not enough. You can't exercise, eat Twinkies and doughnuts all day long and still expect to lose weight. Diet and exercise are both needed to lose weight and keep it off.

Weight gain is inevitable as you age.
False. While it's true that most Americans get fatter as they get older, this is not some sort of genetic certainty. The reason most people get fatter as they age is because they become less active. A reduction in activity level has two effects. One, less calories are burned in activity, thus contributing directly to weight gain, but perhaps even more important, reduced physical exertion results in a loss of lean body mass. As explained earlier, muscle is more metabolically active than fat, thus the more muscle one has, the faster the metabolism. The good news is that regardless of age, a slowing metabolism is reversible through strength training.

If you didn't exercise when you were younger, (or are really out of shape), it is too dangerous to start now.
False. No matter how old or unfit you are, it's never too late to start exercising. Just keep in mind that it's important to check with your doctor prior to starting any exercise plan so that you can discuss any limitations you may have. Numerous studies have been done on "high risk" individuals such as the morbidly obese, those with diabetes and/or chronic heart disease, and the elderly and good gains were able to be made in all these populations. Even those with chronic arthritis (like me...), find that exercise increases range of motion, strength, and mobility.

"Fasted cardio" (i.e. exercising in the morning before you eat), is the best way to burn fat.
False. It's true that glycogen is depleted in the morning, thus it's not a ready source of fuel at that time. This has led some to speculate that you therefore must burn more stored fat as fuel if you workout on an empty stomach. There are two problems with this. First, the body can just as easily convert stored protein to glycogen as it can stored fat, thus you may be "burning" muscle instead of, or in addition to fat if you do fasted cardio. Second, many people find that if they are fasting, they often don't have the energy needed to exercise with any intensity. Thus they are unable to burn as many calories as they might have been able to if they were not fasting.

In the end, it is the long-term balance between energy intake and energy expenditure that determines whether or not you store fat or burn it. Thus with exercise, the most important factor is the total amount of calories burned, not when you do it. If it takes eating something so that you have the energy to workout longer, that would likely be a better overall plan. Plus, it does not run the same risk of depleting muscle that fasted cardio can.

If you do strength training, high repetitions burn more fat.
False. Performing strength training with a lighter weight and more repetitions does not burn more fat or tone muscle better than a heaver weight with a moderate number of repetitions (e.g. 8-12 reps). In fact, the extra reps may actually burn less fat if intensity is compromised. In other words, the thing that matters most is intensity, not the actual number of reps. Plus, a moderate number of reps with higher weight will have a more profound effect on increasing strength (which will help increase intensity in the future), and stimulating muscle growth (which increases metabolic rate).

A vegetarian diet will help you lose weight.
False. While it's true that following a vegetarian eating plan will, on average, mean that you consume fewer calories and less fat, it does not guarantee it. Vegetarians (like non-vegetarians), can also make bad food choices and eat large amounts of high-fat, high-calorie foods or foods with little or no nutritional value. Thus the decision to eat a vegetarian diet should not be made based on a desire to lose weight.

Eating breakfast is not necessary.
True. There is no requirement that you must eat as soon as you wake up. While you should eat within 2-3 hours of waking, you don't have to jump start your metabolism right away. Many people are just not hungry as soon as they wake up and hunger, not a predefined schedule should be your guide that determines when you eat. Just remember that if you wait too long to eat, you are much more likely to overeat.

Eating fat is bad for you and should be avoided.
False. Ounce for ounce, dietary fat has over twice the calories of carbohydrates or protein, but you still don't want to avoid fats completely. Aside from the fact that fat can help you feel full and thus keep you from overeating, some dietary fat is needed for proper body functioning. Ideally, no more than about 20% of your total daily calories should come from fat.

If you are dieting, don't weigh yourself more than once a week (or month, etc.).
False. Data gathered from U.S. dieters shows that those that weighed themselves daily were more successful in keeping the weight off than those that weighed themselves less. It is speculated the reason for this difference has to do with the ability of "frequent weighers" to better associate dietary changes with weight loss or gain. Further, frequent weighers know sooner when problems are encountered and can make adjustment in their diet. One caveat is in order: don't be too obsessive about weighing and be sure that you understand that body weight naturally varies from hour-to-hour and day-to-day depending on factors other than diet such as hormone fluctuations, eating patterns, bowel movements and hydration levels.

So, how did you do? Did you spot all the misconceptions?

I realize that some of these are a bit controversial and welcome any constructive comments, whether you agree or disagree with me.

Thanks!
posted by Detector at 2:17 PM | link | 0 comments

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Subtle changes.

I've had a chance to ponder a few things lately and realized I'm not the same person I was when I started this weight loss journey just a few short months ago. While there are several areas where I've noticed changes, perhaps the biggest change has been my attitude toward exercise. I once dreaded exercise in any form, and even avoided moving much at all if I could help it. The stairs in our house are a good example of that. At one time, I dreaded going up or down the stairs to the point where I would go out of my way to consolidate reasons for going from one floor to the other, and even looked for reasons not to expend the energy. "You need a glass or water dear? Sorry, I'd have to go down stairs for that. You'll just have to wait..." It's no wonder I was fat!

But this change I mentioned has been so subtle that I didn't realize just how different my attitude is until the other day. Let me explain: I'm going in for a minor surgical procedure later today and I'll be out of commission for a week or so. So what was my biggest concern? No, not the risks involved, I was dreading NOT exercising for a week! Yep me, the fat guy, was dreading not being able to go to the gym!

So how about you? Have you changed during your weight loss journey? What are the things that tell you that you will be one of the success stories?
posted by Detector at 8:50 AM | link | 0 comments

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

What's the true measure of success?

One of the biggest problems with the concept of dieting is that people tend to focus on body weight as the measure of success. After all, how many times have we looked as someone that looks thinner and thought "hmm, they've lost weight". Perhaps many of us have done the same thing with our own progress, thinking that the scale is the only thing that matters and thus we end up depressed when the scale does not move.

The problem with this approach is that body weight does not represent health or body composition (a.k.a. fat to muscle ratio or % body fat). Health and percent body fat are much better guides to dieting and exercise success than total body weight will ever be. Think about it: what matters more, my health (and how good I look nekid...), or the number on the scale? Why do we focus on weight when it only tells half the story?

Take my own case as an example. If you look at my progress chart to the left, you'll see about a month ago, I weighed in at 246 pounds and had 38% body fat. As of last week, I weighed 239 pounds and had a body fat percentage of 32%. Had I just been looking at my total weight, I would have likely concluded that I was having a decent, but not exceptional loss. But scales only tell half of the story. If you look at my percentage body fat numbers and compare those, you'll discover that I actually lost about 17 pounds of fat and gained 10 pounds of muscle! Perhaps an even more dramatic example would be comparing my April 26 numbers with those from July 26. Had I not been tracking body fat percentage, it would look like I'd only lost a single pound. And yet I can "feel" a major difference between how fat I was then and how fat I am now. Why? Because my percent body fat has dropped dramatically over that time period. I simply replaced the fat with muscle.

Thus next time the scale is not moving, remember that the scale is only a measure of total weight. It does not tell you what's going on with your body composition. And body composition, along with how you feel day to day are the true measures of success when dieting and exercising. (Along with the looking good nekid thing...)
posted by Detector at 10:52 PM | link | 1 comments

Saturday, July 08, 2006

My top ten exercise tips

(In no particular order)
  1. Accept the challenge. Sounds simple, but you can never succeed if you don't try. The difference between world class athletes and you is that they have a goal and train to reach that goal.
  2. Exercise needs to be fun. If it's not fun, you won't stay at it long, so find exercises and activities you like for the best success.
  3. You always have time for exercise! Even taking 15 minutes to walk around the block is better than no exercise.
  4. Relax when exercising! If you are tense, you can amplify that tension in your muscles and cause injury.
  5. Warmup before you stretch by exercising gently first. Stretching cold muscles can cause more harm than good.
  6. Having exercise goals is just as important as having a weight loss goal. Without specific exercise goals it's hard to keep exercising consistently.
  7. While long terms exercise goals are important, so are short term goals. Make long term goals, but develop plans on how to get there in smaller, more manageable blocks of a few weeks.
  8. Noontime exercise can give you a break from the workday, and may keep you from overeating at lunch. Also, mid-day exercise tends to keep the metabolism boosted during the afternoon and evening, the time of the day when most people tend to eat the most food.
  9. No pain, no gain is silly. If you are in pain, you may be moments away from a serious injury. You can't exercise if you overdo it and are unable to move!
  10. Along with that however, you need to find your optimum level of training. If your exercise program is not demanding enough, your progress will be slow. On the other hand, exercise that is too demanding can be dangerous and can also slow your progress.
posted by Detector at 9:28 PM | link | 0 comments

Thursday, June 29, 2006

What's the deal with protein?

Why is it that protein is so controversial nutritionally? There are high protein diets, low protein diets, and everything in between. The high protein folks espouse the benefits of protein and slam the high carbohydrate folks, and the high carbohydrate folks claim high protein diets are dangerous. So what's the real deal?

First of all, let's look at the recommended dietary guidelines for protein. According to the current Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for protein, the average adult American should consume 0.8 g per kg of body weight (0.36g per lb of body weight). For those that are not aware, DRIs are the new nutrient reference values established by leading scientists in the United States and Canada. The DRIs replace the more familiar Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDAs) previously published by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. That said, a joint position statement endorsed by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), American Dietetic Association (ADA), and Dietitians of Canada (DC) (2000) concluded that protein requirements are higher in very active individuals. They recommended that endurance athletes such as runners and cyclists should consume 1.2 to 1.4 g per kg of body weight (0.55 g to 0.64 g per lb of body weight), and resistance-trained athletes (body builders, weight lifters, etc.) may need as much as 1.6 to 1.7 g per kg of body weight(0.73 g to 0.77 g per lb of body weight).1 Note however that even this higher level of protein ingestion may still be lower than that consumed in some high protein, low carbohydrate diets.

So what's the importance of this to you and me? Well, let me back up a minute and discuss the importance of lean muscle in fat loss. First of all, I hope you agree that when we discuss weight loss, we are really hoping for fat loss. Ideally when dieting to lose fat, we want to maintain or even increase our lean muscle tissue. Aside from the asthetic appeal of muscle vs. fat, muscle tissue is more metabolically active than fat tissue. Thus the more muscle one has, the more calories are burned irrespective of activity level. Unfortunately for many people, a typical weight loss regimen dooms them to muscle loss. At first this can be deceiving because many people only look at the scale (or perhaps measurements), to determine fat loss. The problem is that they are likely also losing muscle tissue, thus their metabolism is on an ever slowing slide. At some point in time, these people are destined to find that they simply stop losing weight.

The only way to keep the metabolism high during a restricted calorie diet is to maintain or increase muscle mass. And the only way to do that is via adequate strength/resistance training and sufficient protein to feed the muscles.

Sounds easy enough, but the problem is that most calorie restricted diets also restrict protein BEYOND even the current US DRIs! Thus the level of protein ingestion in most calorie restricted diets is inadequate to maintain muscle and therefore muscle loss in inevitable. If a dieting subject is trying to actually increase muscle mass while losing fat, increased protein beyond the DRI level and possibly as high as the levels recommended for resistance-trained athletes may be in order if the subject is very active.

Because of this, I recommend that all dieters review their protein intake as closely as they review their calorie intake. If insufficient protein is being ingested based on activity level, some modifications may be in order. For example, the addition of lean meat or fish instead of dairy may help boost protein levels to adequate amounts while still keeping calories in check.

I know that some of you are skeptical of increasing your protein level because you may have heard that excessive protein can harm your kidneys, etc. Much of this is based on a position statement made by the American Heart Association (AHA) which states: "Individuals who follow these [High protein] diets are therefore at risk for compromised vitamin and mineral intake, as well as potential cardiac, renal,bone, and liver abnormalities overall."2 The problem is that this position is not backed up with any clinical studies showing that higher protein ingestion is in any way detrimental to health in persons with normal renal function. In fact, extensive searching could not produce any documented evidence that high protein intake in any way was detrimental to health.

For more on this subject, I highly recommend this article in the Sports Nutrition Review Journal: High-Protein Weight Loss Diets And The Purported Adverse Effects: Where Is The Evidence?

Also of interest is this press statement by the National Institute of Health about a recent study that found that increased protein ingestion actually increased heart health:
http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/new/press/05-11-15a.htm

References:

1American College of Sports Medicine, American Dietetic Association, and Dietitians of Canada (2000). Joint Position Statement: Nutrition and athletic performance. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 32:2130-2145.

2 Sachiko T. St. Jeor, RD PhD; Barbara V. Howard, PhD; T. Elaine Prewitt, RD DrPH; Vicki Bovee, RD MS; Terry Bazzarre, PhD; Robert H. Eckel, MD;, for the AHA Nutrition Committee. A Statement for Healthcare Professionals From the Nutrition Committee of the Council on Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Metabolism of the American Heart Association.

posted by Detector at 3:45 PM | link | 1 comments

Monday, June 05, 2006

An Exercise in Self-Esteem - Exercise Your Way to Feeling Better About Yourself

-- By Dean Anderson, Fitness & Behavior Expert

If you're like most people who want to lose weight, you probably think that shedding a few pounds will help you feel better about yourself. And chances are, you see exercise simply as something you need to do to accomplish that goal. But here's something you may not know: this "necessary evil" approach to exercise may actually be preventing you from feeling better about yourself right now - even before the number on the scale or reflection in the mirror matches up with your ideal.

A simple attitude adjustment may help you start feeling a lot more comfortable in your skin right now - and this, in turn, can make your weight loss journey a lot easier and more pleasant. Here's what you need to know to decide if you need to adjust your exercise attitude, and if so, how to do exactly that.

Making Friends with Your Body: The Roots of High Self-Esteem
There's no doubt that feeling comfortable in your own skin is an important part of that "feeling-good-about-yourself" goal (also known as high self-esteem) you're trying to achieve. But the more you learn about the roots of self-esteem, the clearer it becomes that what helps the most has very little to do with achieving some abstract ideal, like a certain weight or look. In fact, there are many, many cases where people work very hard on goals like this - and even achieve them - only to find that they're still unsatisfied and unhappy. What does seem to have major, positive effects on self-esteem is the process of moving yourself - the right way - from where you are towards where you would like to be.

The journey is more important than the destination.

To be a little more precise, the best way to increase your self-esteem is to actively and effectively engage in something that is both good for you and consistent with your expressed goals. Both of these are key elements. If your goal isn't good for you, because it's unrealistic or strongly based on what you think other people want or expect from you (like trying to look like a model when your body can't naturally achieve or maintain that), then you are going to face problems feeling good about yourself. Nothing you do will ever be good enough.

You'll have the same problem if your actions aren't consistent with your goals, like going on an unhealthy crash diet to achieve a healthy weight. To feel good about yourself, you have to treat yourself as if you are already someone worthy of respect and good treatment. If that means "faking it until you make it," then that is where you need to start.

Exercising the "Right" Way, for the "Right" Reasons
If you are carrying a lot of unhelpful baggage in the form of poor body acceptance, negative body image, or even body-rejection due to excess weight, then exercising the right way and for the right reasons may well be your shortest, fastest, and easiest path away from these problems.

But you'll need a particular kind of attitude and approach, one that will help you begin appreciating your body for what it can do right now, and allowing it to be your guide and teacher on your journey towards change - not an object of your contempt and ridicule. Here are the basic elements of such an attitude:

* Exercise for the "right" reasons. There aren't many bad reasons to exercise of course, so in a pinch you should take advantage of whatever gets you going. But certain attitudes and approaches will help you get a better self-esteem boost. It helps a lot, for example, to tell yourself that you are working out because it is good for your body and you want to take good care of your body. When you do that, you affirm that you and your body are friends - not enemies - and you open yourself up for healthy communication with your body, allowing it to tell you what you need. This will work much better than setting out to burn calories so you can get rid of all that ugly fat you can't stand.

* Don't just mark time. Make exercise a challenge and notice how you respond. The simple act of setting personal performance goals and watching yourself achieve them can work wonders. Keep a journal where you record what you do during your exercise sessions, noting the improvements in your capacities over time. Hold little competitions against yourself, trying to improve on your personal bests (not world records) a few times a month, and reward yourself when you succeed. Pay special attention to how exercise affects your mood, and let your body teach you how to use the type and intensity of the exercise you do to influence your state of mind.

* Turn some exercise time into playtime. You are, among other things, an animal with a body that needs to play. Notice how happy and excited your dog or child is when he gets to go out and play - especially when you physically play together. There is a part of you that still feels the same way. This need doesn't go away just because you get older, become more serious, or are a little out of shape. The more exercise you can do in the form of sports, games, and other activities that are fun and rewarding themselves, the better. So be creative - turn some of those daily walks into roller skating, ice skating, golfing or Frisbee, racing with your dog, or even belly dancing!

Research shows that individuals who exercise feel better about themselves and their bodies. Once you start a workout program (or begin exercising for the "right" reasons), you'll soon experience the positive changes in self-esteem and body image that regular exercisers of all shapes and sizes enjoy. It's never too late to start feeling better about yourself!
posted by Detector at 7:55 AM | link | 0 comments

Friday, June 02, 2006

Weight Loss with Flaxseed Oil

Weight Loss with Flaxseed Oil - The Non-Fat Fat By Jade Beutler, R.R.T., R.C.P.

So you want to lose weight, yet you have tried every diet in the book?

You have resigned yourself to the fact that your body is in a perpetual state of self sabotage.
I mean, why else would you weigh more now than when you began to diet in the first place?
The fact is, your body is not in a state of self sabotage, but self preservation. You see, when you begin to restrict calories your body is programed to believe that you are entering a period of famine. This instinct is ingrained in our genes dating back to distant times when our food supply wasnt as easy to catch as the corner grocery store. Metabolism, the burning of calories to create energy, is slowed with caloric restriction. When coming out of a famine, or in modern day terms, a diet - the body begins to hoard calories as body fat in anticipation of the next famine (diet).
The result? You get fatter and fatter with each attempt. It is true, diets do not work.

Worse, the fad toward no-fat, low-fat foods has resulted in Americans becoming fatter and fatter yet.
This according to a Barrons July 1, 1998 article entitled Fat and Getting Fatter, "Despite a glut of diet foods and health clubs, Americans are growing plumper."
The elimination of fat from foods creates the absolute opposite reaction in the body than what is implied or perceived. When we eat no-fat, low-fat foods we do not expect for these foods to create weight gain, but that is exactly what they do.
The majority of no-fat, low-fat foods are heavily refined, caloricly dense carbohydrates. These foods, if not used in the production of energy, such as vigorous activity or exercise, will be converted to unsightly adipose tissue.

Flax Fat Facts
An unlikely hero in the battle of the bulge is in fact classified as a fat.
Flaxseed oil is quickly gaining acclaim as a sensible approach along with a fiber-rich, whole foods diet to weight loss and vibrant optimal health. Two of Americas top nutritionists are particularly outspoken proponents of the value of flaxseed oil. One espouses flaxseed oil as an "essential element of a healthy diet," the other, "any dietary or weight loss program undertaken without the addition of the essential nutrients in flaxseed oil is destined to fail."

Flaxseed Oil - The Non-Fat Fat
What about the fat phobic in the crowd? After all, flaxseed oil is a form of fat.
While technically classified as a fat, flaxseed oil is actually an anti-fat. In fact, it is the exact antitheses to the much maligned saturated fat.
While saturated fat contributes to obesity, cardiovascular disease, stroke and other degenerative diseases, flaxseed oil prevents and may even reverse these afflictions.
For all intents and purposes we can think of flaxseed oil as the non-fat fat. Instead of trying to fool the body such as with caloric restriction or no-fat, low-fat foods, flaxseed works with the metabolic and physiologic processes of the body resulting in natural weight loss and maintenance.
The fatty acids in flaxseed oil have been identified as essential nutrients. This is to say that the body cannot convert other food sources into the essential fatty acids in flaxseed oil. As a result, your body actually craves and looks for these essential nutrients in the foods you eat. If they are not there, your body detects a nutritional deficiency and you continue to crave fatty foods and sweets. Currently, we are getting less than 0.1% of the primary fatty acid in flaxseed oil in our diet.

Adding flaxseed oil to foods, or taken with a meal, creates a feeling of satiation (feeling of fullness and satisfaction following a meal). The essential fats in flaxseed oil cause the stomach to retain food for a longer period of time as compared to no-fat or low-fat foods. The addition of flax oil to food also results in a gradual release of this combination into the small intestine. The physiological effect is a slow, sustained rise in blood sugar, then a prolonged plateau of blood sugar. Ultimately, the blood sugar undergoes a slow and gradual drop. You will experience a corresponding feeling of prolonged energy, stamina and satisfaction with no immediate hunger pangs following the meal.
The net result is that you feel fuller, longer, and actually eat fewer calories in the long run than if you would have chosen a no-fat, low-fat diet.

Furthermore, flaxseed oil is converted to compounds that stoke the metabolic processes in our cells. Much like a furnace, once stoked, the cells generate more heat and burn more fuel, in this case, calories. The essential nutrients in flaxseed oil also increase oxygen consumption at the cellular level resulting in increased energy and stamina, and feeling of well-being.

General Recommendations
The American population has been found to be deficient in a key essential nutrient critical to ideal health and optimal weight. The most common food source of these essential nutrients is fresh flaxseed oil.
Most people would benefit from consuming 1-2 tablespoons a day of flaxseed oil. The ideal method of taking flaxseed oil for purposes of weight loss or maintenance is in divided doses taken with each meal.
Consumers should only consider Fresh ExPressed™ flaxseed oil products, to ensure product freshness and nutritional potency.
What a better way than to conclude with a direct quote from a leading nutritionist,
"The right kind and the right amount of fat will allow you to lose weight effortlessly and painlessly without becoming preoccupied with dieting... essential fat is the healthiest and easiest way to attain and maintain your normal weight."

posted by Detector at 9:51 AM | link | 0 comments