January 2013

Get Fit 2013: Healthy Beginnings

Author: Linda S. Hopkins

The Truth About Weight Loss

It’s resolution time again! If this is the year you have vowed to get serious about your health, getting your weight under control is one of the best ways to begin.
It’s no secret that America is fast becoming the fattest nation on earth, and most people agree that there’s nothing healthy or beautiful about excess blubber. If you are overweight or obese, even a modest weight loss, such as 5 to 10 percent of your total body weight, is likely to produce health benefits, such as improvements in blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugars. In addition to improving your health, maintaining a weight loss is likely to improve your life in other ways. For example, a study of participants in the National Weight Control Registry found that those who had maintained a significant weight loss reported improvements in not only their physical health, but also their energy levels, physical mobility, general mood, and self-confidence.

In an era of instant gratification, it may come as a surprise that there really is no quick fix. Be wary of any weight-loss program that sounds too good to be true, and be particularly skeptical of claims containing words like easy, effortless, guaranteed, miraculous, magical, breakthrough, new discovery, mysterious, exotic, secret, exclusive, and ancient. The real solution lies in the old-fashioned, tried and true formula, which includes a combination of proper nutrition and consistent exercise.

You gotta eat

If you’ve been on the fast food super-size meal plan and your idea of a snack is a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, some changes are in order. Obviously, the food you eat affects your weight, but did you know that it also affects your skin, hair, nails and eyes? Studies have also proven that packing on extra pounds puts you at greater risk for cancer, heart disease and other life-threatening illnesses.

A healthy diet doesn’t mean starvation or total deprivation. Instead of focusing on what to take away, consider what healthy foods you might add in place of the junk. If you decide to go on a formal diet, choose a plan that is reputable and realistic. Many healthy programs exist, but the best one for you is the one that you can stick with—for life.

Avoid fad diets and extreme regimens. Such restrictive diets are not particularly healthy and are doomed to fail when they come to an end. Unless you have changed the way you think about or relate to food within the context of your daily life, you are likely to go back to the habits that caused the problem in the first place. So why bother?

Instead, choose a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, lean protein and healthy fats, with foods from all main food groups. Then pay attention to how your body responds to various foods. We’re not all the same, so be your own detective. Notice which foods energize and satisfy you, and reduce or eliminate those that leave you feeling sluggish or bloated or those that create cravings.

A little portion control goes a long way, too. Try serving yourself on a smaller plate. Resist the urge for seconds by putting leftovers away before you begin eating. Eat slowly so that you are aware when you are comfortably satisfied instead of gorging until you’re stuffed. Be sure to drink plenty of water (eight 8-ounce glasses per day is the recommended average), which can help reduce food cravings.

You gotta move

While you’re taking charge of your eating, one of the best ways to improve your overall health is by adding more motion to your daily routine. If you are out of shape, ease into exercise and build up strength and endurance. Believe it or not, even small changes such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking your car a bit further from your destination or a going for a ten-minute walk after a meal can make a difference over time.

To achieve your long-term weight-loss and fitness goals, consider working with a certified trainer to plan your program. Increase the odds of sticking with it by finding fitness activities you enjoy. Take advantage of local amenities: the beach, bike paths, tennis courts and golf courses. Join a gym or check out the Island Rec Center offerings. Enlist a friend or family member to be your fitness buddy.

Ideally, your fitness activities should include a combination of 1) cardiovascular and weight-bearing exercises to strengthen the heart and increase bone density; 2) resistance training to strengthen the musculoskeletal system and improve muscle tone and endurance; and 3) flexibility training to reduce the risk of injury, to keep muscles balanced and improve overall performance.

Instructors and trainers are constantly seeking new and exciting workouts to challenge group fitness participants. Examples include dance classes, boot camp, CrossFit, martial arts, body pump, water fitness, yoga, Pilates and more.
To avoid boredom and overuse injuries, cross train by participating in a variety of activities. Ramp up results with interval training, i.e. alternating high-intensity moves with lower intensity relief periods.

Bodies are made to move, and what matters most is that you make exercise a habit and a priority. Block out time on your calendar and keep the appointment as if you have a date with the most important person in the world—because you do. By taking the time to take care of yourself, you will have more energy for all of your other activities and responsibilities.

You gotta think

Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight requires commitment to the habits that get results. Lasting change begins in your mind—by recognizing and challenging the thoughts, attitudes and beliefs that led you to gain weight in the first place. What’s keeping you stuck in an unhealthy pattern? It’s not just about food and exercise. It’s about how you handle emotions, manage time, cope with stress and relate to people. Heighten your chance for long-term success by learning to care for your body, mind and spirit. A great way to do this is with a coach to guide your goal-setting process, help map out your plan and provide encouragement and accountability along the way. The rest is up to you!

Linda Hopkins is a professional life coach, specializing in women’s weight loss, body image and self-esteem. For a complimentary consultation, call (843) 686-5958 or visit lifescapescoaching.com for more information.

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