I have a client, "Mary", who is a very hard working lady. She is successful in every area of her life but losing weight. We also live in the land of make- believe. If you have cellulite, saddle bags or a tummy roll you are considered an ‘outsider' in our town. To make matters worse, Mary watches shows like "Biggest Loser" and "Extreme Makeover". Her neighbor just lost 10 lbs. from taking some ‘natural supplement' and her co worker eats junk food all day and doesn't gain a pound. Mary works very hard when we are together, never slacking or giving less than 100% but the rest of the week, she does nothing in the terms of exercise. She just doesn't understand how she can be working out with a trainer and not losing weight when ‘Amber' on ‘Biggest Loser' lost 7 lbs. in one week. Well, we did our own ‘reality' check and thank goodness I have good old math to back me up.
You see, when you get down to it, losing weight really is calories in vs. calories burned - let's take a closer look.
Mary works out with me twice a week. We exercise at a moderate - high intensity level that burns about 500-600 calories per hour. That's about 1,200 calories for the week - that's it. Not very much considering 2 smoothies from Jamba Juice could set you back 1000 calories.
What people fail to realize is that ‘reality' people on t.v. are making it their ‘job' to lose weight. They spend hours at the gym everyday and severely limit their caloric intake to shed pounds and guess what? Most of them will gain it back. Not because they are ‘weak' or ‘lazy' but because their bodies never learned to gradually release the weight. According to Jody Wilkinson, MD, director of the Cooper Institute Center for Weight Management "The human body is really not designed to lose weight. Storing energy, gaining weight, is the body's survival mechanism. In primitive times, people who could do that were the ones who survived. Anytime the body senses it's losing weight -- regardless of how overweight you are -- it doesn't want to lose weight and triggers all sorts of responses that resist weight loss."
Let's take another scenario. "Jane" takes Pilates class 3 times per week. Pilates and Yoga both burn about 300-350 calories per hour. So for the week, Jane is burning roughly 1000 calories. It will take her about 3 weeks to lose one pound. That's it. One pound in 3 weeks. Now, I should also mention that exercise alone will not do the trick, ( I'll save that for another article! )
I know- I know, I'm getting depressed too - but my point is not to make losing weight seem unattainable - but to bring some light to the realities of losing it. I believe the answer is not losing 20 lbs. for a class reunion or to look good standing next to your neighbor. The answer is building a foundation for lifelong fitness. Dr. Wilkinson goes on to say " Weight loss is a three- to five-year process. For lifestyle to change and physiology of the body to change, it truly is a long-term process. We recommend losing 1% of current body weight every week. Otherwise, body chemistry gets out of disturbance, and you lose only water weight and lean [muscle] tissue, which causes your metabolism to drop, making it even harder to lose weight."
Some is better than none- but be realistic!
Sometimes we people fall into the ‘I don't have any time so I won't do anything' trap. That kind of thinking is a recipe for disaster. Something is better than nothing even if it's just doing 10 push ups and some lunges. But, here is where we get into trouble. The American College of Sports Medicine says "Thirty minutes a day of moderate activity has a very significant health benefit," and that's when we stop listening. We fail to realize that 30 minutes is for maintaining current health and weight. If anything changes in your diet ( i.e holiday season or vacation) you will gain weight. If you want to lose weight, working out 3-5 times per week for at least an hour is recommended. That being said, all studies agree that any exercise is better than none.
So, what are your goals? ( realistically)
If you want to maintain your current weight then 30 minutes a day is fine.
If you want to lose weight, you will need 3-5 moderate to high intensity workouts a week.
If you want to be a fitness model you are looking at several hours a day every day. Period.
Which bring me to another point. . . .
Most models in the magazines are airbrushed and retouched. People we see in movies and on t.v make it their ‘job' to be thin. If this is you goal, your ambition - fine. If not, lighten up on yourself and enjoy life.
If you can only manage 20 minutes to start out- fine- do what you can and build from there. Not many people can start out at 60 minutes a day 5 days a week and keep it up. If you can -if you are a type "A" personality- then good for you- if not then build gradually for lifelong change.
I believe the key to long term weight loss and healthy lifestyle is in the little things you do every day. It's learning to take the time, whether it's a half hour or an hour every day to do something for yourself so you can stick around to see grandkids grow up and live unassisted in retirement years. It's learning to accept where you are right now and be willing to change - relishing in the little things like skipping popcorn at the movies or going to the gym when you could be going to cocktails.
So, Gather members- are you working out ‘enough' or ‘not enough' ? Do reality shows make it harder or do you find them inspiring? How do you feel about your fitness goals?