The most popular resolution for a new year is to lose weight. Having worked at a gym, I can tell you firsthand about the marketing ploys and monetary windfalls that come courtesy of a caloric binge starting from Hallow's Eve and lasting right through to the kiss following the ball drop.
Photo Credit: DeviantArt User Swisst
My struggle with weight has been pretty simple. I wasn't blessed with a metabolism with rocket speeds, nor have I nurtured my body with the best eating habits or stuck to plans long enough. Nature and nurture were both slowly standing by as the arrow on the scale crept higher and higher. Sure, I'd learned the correct habits, yes, my fitness DVD and VHS collection was competition only to the plethora of shoes (who also don't get enough action, funny enough).
Before I tell a short tale of what has changed for the better, I need to mention some things that will always sabotage your health and resolution.
Expect too much too soon. Let's be realistic y'all. If it took me three years to gain thirty unnecessary pounds to my frame, it's imaginative at best to think it can melt off in a month or two. I don't have the luxury of going on a The Biggest Loser experiment - my schedule doesn't allow for six hours of pumping iron and getting my cardio on, and neither should you. The regime gives great results but is very hard to maintain. Another no no in this category is wanting results to be instant. A single ab workout will never give you six pack abs if you didn't have them before the workout started. Thinking it will may deter you from your path.
Take on too much (too soon) It's easy to confuse the above with this one. You can expect to be 50 pounds lighter in two weeks, and you can also expect to run a marathon every day to achieve it. The strain is a lot to take both mentally and physically, not to mention carving out time and fighting off the urge to be a couch potato instead. The same applies to diets - try to cut out anything with sugar from your diet (fruits etc. included) and see how long you last.
Do it for the wrong reason(s) You heard Drake say it: don't do it for the man. Don't do it for anyone. Not even yourself (... kinda). Happiness will not come from 2 inches less around your waist. Self confidence doesn't arrive with a size 2 pair of jeans. It may come from being healthy and active, though. Staying active and responsible for your body should always be the ultimate goal (and will thus always reveal the best results).
Any of the above sound familiar? I have a couple hundred stories about each (none have a happy ending). My epiphany came on vacation in Mexico. I had already started doing little workouts last December after my largest size pants felt snug. Something about continually buying a larger size drives me mad. My trip to Mexico gave me an overhaul in three areas I had failed in miserably for the past three years: sleep, diet, activity. Losing three pounds on a ten day vacation while eating to my content gave me the biggest boost of confidence. I have added an additional 5 pounds to the 3 lost. Here's what worked for me:
1. Sleep - I was notorious for mixing up my sleep patterns - going to sleep at 4am, waking up at 2pm, sleeping for 2 hours one day, 14 the next. The body needs to unwind and reboot on a regular basis, and not being able to do so creates panic and confusion.
2. More activity - A workout means diddley squat if I take every chance to move and turn it right around. I started walking to work and school, and using stairs instead of elevators.
3. Regular workouts - I used to do a one hour intense workout and then be unable to muster up the willpower to do it again the next day. Solution? I do regular 20 and 30 minute workouts (and by regular I mean 4-6 days a week). It's doable - switch out half of a prime-time show for some flab removal. My favorite has been no nonsense Jillian Michaels of Biggest Loser fame. I download episodes on Amazon ($2 each) and bust my gut! (My top 3 faves: 30 Day Shred, 6 Week Six-Pack, and Shred-It With Weights. The lady sure knows how to make you break a sweat.
4. Food - I'm not a fan of cutting things out of a diet. You do have to be realistic at some point and admit that a McDonald's breakfast, paired with a KFC lunch, followed by a deep dish dinner from Uno's, though yummy, is a recipe for disaster. It's also important to snack and add fresh foods into your diet. I started alternating cereal and oatmeal for breakfast (as opposed to egg and cheese bagels), some fruits or yogurt as a midmorning snack, a smaller portion lunch (I exchange the size for the calorie count) with some fresh veggies (I cut up cucumbers, sweet peppers, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, etc.). Dinner is the same as lunch. Add lots of water in between and an extra walk if your midday or midmorning snack was a bag of chips or something.
The balance of the above four has great benefits. I rarely find myself yawning throughout the day, and I feel like my skin has gotten a bit clearer. My trouble zones are also looking like they're starting to become 'pride' areas. I'm far from a six pack, but my rolls are starting to look less fluffy, and my double chin is a half size smaller or so :). I've also saved a ton of money walking places. I'm also aware that the beginning weight disappears fast because it's clearly unnecessary, and gets harder the closer you get to your goal weight. I'd like to lose 30-40 pounds, and I'm 8 in. Now it's 22-32, but more than that, it's nothing that I will ever get tired of, or feel restricted. Even if I feel a burger and fries is necessary, I just make my workout more difficult or walk some more.
How do you get healthy?