Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Nutrition, Exercise, And Weight Loss

Habits are really hard to break. It doesn't matter if they are bad habits or good habits. They CAN be tough to break. This is terrible if it is a bad habit, but it can be a major asset if it is a good habit. Once something good for you becomes a habitual part of your daily existence, and you regularly and willingly do it without prompting, you may begin to recognize the value of this new habit of yours.
The good side of a GOOD habit is that it is hard to break. The bad side of a BAD habit is... well, you guessed it... it is also hard to break. The good news is that habits are pretty easy to establish... even the good ones! While a bad habit might be hard to break, it is often fairly easy to create a good habit that replaces it.
One area where a few good habits could do a lot for you is in the area or health. If we look at nutrition, exercise, and weight loss, we might be able to come up with a few good habits it would be nice to have, and we might even figure out how to build these habits into our lives.
First things first. The creation of a habit usually depends on two things, repetition and time. If you decide to make a serious lifestyle change, it may be hard to do for several different reasons. One reason is impetus vs. inertia. Often, the initial decision to make a major lifestyle change is caused by some force... a friend dies of a heart attack, the doctor gives you a stern warning, your twentieth high school reunion is coming up, a new book on weight loss comes out, or a new exciting diet plan hits the market. Maybe it's internal. You just get tired of things being the way they've always been and you decide to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!
So now you have impetus, and it is enough to carry you over the next few hours or days. After a while, however, that initial burst of motivation tends to fade, and eventually you stop showing up at the gym, you go back to eating pie ala mode, or you drop out of the local community college because all the changes you have made are just too hard to keep going.
Therefore, my initial suggestion is that you try to break your lifestyle changes (i.e. new habits) into bite-size chunks, carefully chewing, swallowing, and digesting each one before beginning the next. I suggest you pick up a book on the subject of Kaizen.
For example: Let's say you want to eat a diet which is more healthy than the diet you eat now.
NOTE: When I use the word "diet" in this article, I simply mean the things you eat. That's what a "diet" actually is. It is a list of things you eat. In the last few years, many people have forgotten that original meaning of the word, and, when they hear "diet" want to know, "Which diet?" We're just using it to refer to what you eat.
In the interest of improving your health, you have decided to make some changes to your diet. Which of these would seem to be the most effective plan? By effective, I mean the one you think you could stay with.
* Go into your cupboard, pantry, and fridge and throw out all the food you have and then go to the grocery store and stock up on tofu, bean curds, and beverages made from green persimmons, or whatever.
* Pick one thing that you know is not good for you and drop it from your diet or find a substitute for it. Let yourself get used to the change and then move on to something else.
You know, I love popcorn and ice cream. As I grew older and began to discover fat on my body in places where there hadn't even been places before, I made a momentous decision. I would have to cut out popcorn and ice cream. You know how long that lasted! In fact, literally within seconds, a part of me began to feel depressed, I felt like I was being punished for something I hadn't done, and then I began to come up with arguments that ice cream and popcorn weren't really the problem. There must be something I wasn't doing right, but it wasn't the popcorn and ice cream... Really!
Taking my own advice, I did two things:
1. I bought ice cream in the form of small ice cream sandwiches and cups of ice cream. Rather than denying myself ice cream completely, I allowed myself to have one of these servings (smaller than the bowl of ice cream I would normally have eaten) a day.
2. I also bought popcorn in single serving bags. Previously, I would have popped a regular size bag and eaten it all myself.
Not a perfect or final answer to the problem, of course, but a step towards a solution. Interestingly enough, after I had been having my popcorn and ice cream in these reduced sizes, I eventually began to feel a little put off by the thought of eating as much as I used to.
I used the same small-step process to move from sugar to artificial sweetener, and eventually to stevia. I went from several cups of coffee a day to several fewer cups of green tea.
Do you want to improve the overall quality of your health? Why not start by simply creating a habit of taking one multivitamin daily? Then, start making some other changes. Maybe you can get an idea from what I did, or come up with your own small steps. Don't try to do it all at once, and realize that small steps mean small outcomes, but a lot of small steps will mean a large result eventually.
Just like the goals in your nutrition plan were not intended to make you dread eating or make you eat foods you detested, your exercise experience should be founded on a desire to find things you like to do that also provide the benefits of a formal exercise program.
You do not want to jump in with both feet and start exercising for long periods every day until you cannot stand the thought of ever exercising again. If you have not been exercising regularly recently (high school doesn't count) you need to start ANY exercise at an easy level and very gradually ease into more difficult activities or levels.
NOTE: One reason people give up on exercise programs is because they don't seem to be seeing any results. If you have begun exercising regularly and are gradually increasing the demands of your exercise program, rest assured that things are happening. Your body is making adjustments to your circulation, respiration, heart, lungs, liver, blood vessels, hormones, glands, immune system... even the blood supply itself. Things ARE happening, even if you cannot see or measure them. Just like a steady drip of water can eventually erode a solid rock, exercise will improve your physical and mental health in a multitude of ways.
Many articles in popular magazines recommend incorporating exercise into daily activities such as taking stairs instead of using elevators, parking farther out in the parking lot, and so on. While I wouldn't recommend these as exercise programs in themselves, these might very well be ways to ease into an exercise program or begin building the basics of an exercise habit.
You might want to try out different activities to see what you really enjoy, and what will fit into your life style and schedule. Someone who travels a great deal, for example, may want to focus on yoga or walking, while someone who has more free time and access to a pool may choose swimming. In fact, doing yoga while traveling, swimming while at home, and walking while at home or away, would be a great way of incorporating a little variety into your program. You don't have to do the same exercise every day to get the health benefits.
Whatever you choose, ease into it. There's no hurry! Even with a small beginning and small incremental increases in duration or intensity, you will soon see and feel positive results. Once the activities you choose become a habit, you will hate to miss your "workout" even if it's gardening or playing with the grandkids. Then you will be on a solid pathway to health.
This final section will be the shortest and the easiest to write... and for you to read, for that matter. If you skimmed down to the bottom of the page, skipping over the sections above, go back and read them now.
Effective, permanent weight loss means changing the things that got you to where you are now. You will have to make changes to take the weight off and keep it off. There are a lot of things that can take the weight off of you, but only lifestyle changes will keep it off. There is an old saying, "If you keep doing what you have been doing, you will keep getting what you have been getting." Changing your nutritional habits for better health, and getting the exercise you also need for health, will result in genuine, permanent weight loss in addition to increased health and a greater enjoyment of life.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Tips for Increased Muscle Tone, Faster Fat Burning, and Energy

So many people are talking about how slow their metabolism is and why they need to start taking the latest diet supplement scam yet they don't even understand how the human metabolism works. So before I even go into how to speed yours up, I want to first go over some of the basics.
What is metabolism?
Although there are many scientific ways for me explain it, and I could make it seem really confusing like most of the so-called experts do, but I won't. I'm going to give you my extremely simple and easy to understand definition... metabolism is the rate at which your body burns calories to sustain life
I should also note that your body, yes yours, burns calories 24 hours a day, everyday - regardless of whether or not you workout. Remember that your body needs energy all the time, even while you're asleep and that is why skipping meals is the absolute worst thing you can do if your goal is to lose weight (body fat).
Before we go any further let's talk about what affects metabolism...
What affects metabolism?
What do you think has the biggest impact on your metabolism? Activity levels? Your Thyroid? Age?
WRONG! WRONG! and WRONG! Activity levels, Thyroid function, and age do affect metabolism but not nearly as much as...
Any idea? It's muscle tissue! The more muscle you have the more calories you burn regardless of how active you are, how old you are, etc. It's live tissue and it's there working for you and burning calories 24 hours a day - each and every day!
Here's a list of some of the factors affecting metabolism in order of greatest impact to least:
  • muscle tissue (you already know why this is on the top of the list)
  • meal frequency (the longer you go between meals the more your metabolism slows down to conserve energy)
  • activity level (important but doesn't make any difference if you don't match your eating to your expenditure)
  • food choices (ex. low-fat diets tend to result in poor hormone production which leads to a slower metabolism)
  • hydration (over 70% of bodily functions take place in water - not enough water causes all your systems to slow down and unnecessary stress)
  • genetics (some people have higher metabolisms than others - you can't change genetics but you can still win the battle!)
  • hormone production and function (think you have a slow thyroid? it's not likely - before you go blame it on the thyroid first stabilize your blood sugar and throw in some progressive exercise 2-3 times each week)
  • stress (stress also can slow metabolism by placing extra stress and strain on numerous systems. plus, many people tend to overeat when "stressed out")
Why does it slow down?
How many times have you heard someone say, "as soon as you hit 30 your metabolism slows down"? Maybe you've said it. I know I hear it all the time and I got tired of hearing it so I did a little research and found that the metabolism does NOT slow down significantly due to aging but DOES due to a lack of muscle. And, you don't lose muscle quickly due to aging either but due to a decrease or lack of physical stress.
So, the major cause of a slowing metabolism is three fold...
  1. you lose muscle due to the lack of physical stress
  2. your body cannibalizes muscle when it needs energy but you won't supply any because you are "dieting" and skipping meals
  3. your activity levels tend to decrease as you get older
So now that we know the problem... what's the solution? Address those 3 issues! I've found through years of experience helping hundreds of people, that increasing your metabolism and getting rid of that excess body fat can often times be quite easy! Yet you'll hear of all these experts telling you how hard it is and why you need to buy their new diet program, supplement, or fitness contraption.
It's not that hard, it doesn't have to be confusing, and you don't need any of that crap! All you need is an understanding of how your body works and the willingness to make some small changes.
Here's my basic formula for jump starting your metabolism:
Step 1 - Stop the storage of new fat
It doesn't make any sense to start an exercise program if you just end up adding new fat later that day. This is a problem that is very common among people who start an exercise in an attempt to lose weight.
See the problem is this...
We don't get fat due to a lack of exercise - we get fat because we supply the body with more calories than it needs at a given time. So the solution has nothing to do with exercise - it's all about your eating! And I'm not saying you have to eat low-fat, super clean and healthy diet consisting of salad and tofu only. You can still eat the foods you like IF you can give the body just the amount it needs.
The key is to give the body the energy it needs, but just that amount and not a bunch extra because extra is extra is extra, it doesn't matter what it's from. Salad can be stored as fat, celery can be stored as fat - if it results in extra it can be stored as fat. I should also note that not all extra energy is stored in the fat cells and I will touch on that later.
So forget about trying to burn off any fat unless you can first stop storing new fat! Again, you do that by matching your eating to your activity level. This means small, balanced meals or snacks every 2-3 hours and the amount of calories in each feeding should depend on how active you are at that time of day.
Step 2 - Attack the existing fat
This requires a combination approach consisting of stable blood sugar/energy levels, and progressive cardiovascular/aerobic exercise and strength training.
We already talked about how important stable blood sugar and energy levels are and how to match your eating to your activity level so now I'd like to cover the exercise part of the equation.
In order for the exercise to even be worth your time you must be sure it's progressive. Just because you run on the treadmill for 30 minutes three times a week, that doesn't mean your body has to burn off that unwanted body fat! You have to force the body to make changes and improvements and the ONLY way to do that is to consistently provide a stimulus or stress that is greater than what the body is used to.
Here are some general guidelines on how you can make your exercise progressive and productive:
Strength training
  • Change exercises frequently (every 2-4 weeks)
  • Increase resistance
  • Perform more reps
  • Slower reps
  • Advanced techniques
Cardiovascular training
  • Increase speed/resistance
  • Perform intervals
  • Increase distance traveled
  • Cross train by performing numerous activities