So I got through another chapter in my Essentials of Exercise Science book this weekend, this one devoted to nutrition. I vividly remember the first time I noticed nutritional labeling. Such a sad day. I had been telling myself that my daily Otis Spunkmeyer Blueberry Muffin was a fairly healthy snack choice. I mean, come on, it had blueberries in it for God’s sake, right?
Then they labeled the damn thing and I had to face the facts – 400 calories and 16 grams of fat in one 4 oz muffin. What the what?!!! I’m fairly certain I haven’t had an Otis Spunkmeyer muffin since then. They don’t last long enough to justify the calories.
My eating choices, especially for “treats” largely revolve around what takes the longest time to eat. I love popcorn, because if you eat it a kernel at a time it lasts for hours. I suck on pretzel rods – they last longer that way. If I eat M&M’s, I nibble away at the candy coating then let the chocolate melt – a small package can last an entire movie when consumed this way.
Now and Later’s, Sugar Daddy’s, Jujubes. Okay, so basically I’m admitting I’m a bit of a weirdo – I don’t choose my favorite snacks, I choose the ones that require the most time and effort to eat. (And for the record, I don’t consume them often. Just when the “need” arises, as it occasionally does.)
This is the kind of information they don’t share with you at the National Weight Control Registry, discussed in my nutrition chapter. The National Weight Control Registry was established in 1994 by Rena Wing, Ph.D from Brown Medical School, and James O. Hill Ph.D from the University of Colorado. It was developed to identify and investigate the characteristics of individuals who have succeeded at long-term weight loss. The Registry is currently tracking 10,000 people who have lost at least 30 pounds and have kept it off for at least a year. I registered a long time ago, but I have not been tracked. I suspect I was lost from the data base in one of my many moves. I just re-registered so I can share my food longevity tips with the researchers. Because long term weight loss requires a few tricks.
So on to the tried and true weight loss tips that real scientists at the NWCR have determined have worked best for most people.
1. Control Portions- Standard portions have gotten larger…and so have we!
Think there might be a correlation? Be aware of portion size. Eat one serving. Read nutritional labeling. Eat with a teeny-tiny spoon off a teeny-tiny plate. (Okay, I’m embellishing, but you get the gist.)
2. Be Mindful- Ask yourself “Why am I eating this?” before consuming it. If the answer is because you’re hungry and it’s part of your plan for the day, go for it. But if the answer is along the lines of, your boss is a jerk, your husband forgot your birthday, the dog pissed on your new rug, then you might want to take a moment and step away from the food. Because eating the entire pound bag of Doritos never fixed anything. Seriously.
3. Exercise – More than 94% of participants in the National Weight Control Registry increased physical activity in order to loss weight, and exercise has been proven to be essential in maintaining weight loss as well. My tip here is you need to find something you love to do, because this is a lifelong thing. Go for a walk. Dust off your bike. Try a class. Swim at the Y. Dance. Just keep trying new things until you find something that you enjoy and look forward to doing. Also try and work in some resistance training to maintain lean body mass and maintain your metabolic rate.
4. Weigh yourself once a week- Don’t become an obsessive nutcase (my words not theirs) but keep an eye on things. That way you can easily adjust your food intake and exercise habits before things get out of hand.
5. Eat breakfast- 78% of people on the Registry eat breakfast daily, and only 4% never do. Fuel your body. Additional research suggests that people who eat breakfast not only weigh less, but also suffer from fewer chronic diseases than non-breakfast eaters.
6. Turn off the TV – Successful NCWR participants watch fewer than 10 hours of TV a week. (Full disclosure. If they start tracking me I will be a curve breaker on that one.) The reasoning here is that often people eat mindlessly while watching TV, and they are completely sedentary. But I can be completely sedentary and eat mindlessly while I read, too. So the real lesson is don’t be a lazy ass and don’t eat garbage. If you follow that guideline you can watch as much TV as you want. (Downton Abby anyone?)
7. Start today – You can’t wait until the fun ends, because if you’re living right, that will never happen. Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler! (Let The Good Times Roll!) You can’t wait for the “perfect” time to start your program. You will never be able to find a six month window when there won’t be distractions and tests of will. Commit to change and power through anyway. Because you are worth it. A healthy lifestyle will benefit you more than that second piece of German chocolate cake your Gramma made, just for you. Eat a sliver and then do a Self Righteous Dance of Joy (in your mind, or out there for all to see, if the spirit moves you) because you are an amazingly strong person! You are a sliver eater! The power you possess is mind boggling, I tell you!
8. Know your friends- Obesity spreads like a fungus. (Again, my words, not theirs) Two researchers (Christakis and Fowler, 2007) studied 12,000 people over 30 years, and they concluded that obese people tend to have obese friends. The authors suspect that it has a lot to do with an individual’s perception of the social norms regarding the acceptability of obesity. I think my grandmother would use the phrase, “Birds of a feather flock together.”
This is a tough one. Sometimes when you make a healthy lifestyle change you hear things like, “Gosh, you used to be fun,” when you drank like a fish and ate like a truck driver, and didn’t make me take an introspective look at my own lifestyle choices. Something along those lines. Invite your friends to join you in healthier activities. The rest is up to them. Not going to lie, sometimes these relationships suffer. But a true friend wants you to be happy and healthy. Hang in there. Be the change. Inspire others. Hope for the best.
9. Monitor intake- Keeping a food log is a proven strategy. Boring, but it works.
10. Be optimistic- I LOVE THIS ONE! They saved my personal favorite for last. People who are optimistic, who believe they are in control, who have positive expectations, and who have a Rocky-climbing- the-steps- in-Philadelphia kind of fighting spirit are most likely to succeed in losing weight. You’ve got to believe to achieve!!! (OMG, sometimes I scare myself.) But it’s true! You’ve got to have that I CAN DO IT attitude. And if you don’t have it naturally then fake it ’til you make it. Look at yourself in the mirror and focus on all that is right about you. Ignore the jiggly bits and wonky pieces. (We ALL have them, except for models, and their DNA will no doubt someday prove that their ancestors hailed from some alien land.) You look in that mirror and proclaim yourself amazing, a person capable of doing hard things, a person who perseveres, someone who makes the time to exercise, someone who chooses to eat healthfully, a goal setter and achiever of great things!!! That’s right! You!!! Because it’s all true. You can do it! Channel this little guy!
On to my next chapter, Physiology of Training! I can do it! Thumbs up to Rock ‘n Roll!
So how has your week been going? Any thumbs up moments?