The Ugly Truth About Fat

So as I pondered the blog I’m about to write it crossed my mind that it could fall into that realm of ” not politically correct” that seems to permeate our world today. You know, that place where you can’t or aren’t supposed to say anything or have an opinion on anything for fear of “offending” someone ? That if you speak out, someone might feel that you are bashing or tearing them down ?

Hear me… there’s a huge difference in speaking out in love/concern over being mean spirited and hateful.

Well! Now that I have your attention…. ūüėČ ( you’re pondering…where the heck is she going with this?)

I’m fixing to speak truth.

I’ll tell you…. I’m gonna talk about….. fat…. and the fact our country has an epidemic of it…. including our children… childhood obesity will have to hold for another post…

It’s not cool to mention fat. We live in this current world of not “shaming” and trying to make everyone feel ok and comfy when the reality is this…

Obesity increases the risk of many health conditions, including the following:

  • Coronary heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure.
  • Type 2 diabetes.
  • Cancers, such as endometrial, breast, and colon cancer.
  • High total cholesterol or high levels of triglycerides.
  • Liver and gallbladder disease.
  • Sleep apnea and respiratory problems.
  • Degeneration of cartilage and underlying bone within a joint (osteoarthritis).
  • Reproductive health complications such as infertility.
  • The high cost of healthcare for these diseases.

Hear me on this, fat isn’t bad. Our bodies need fat to protect our organs and give us energy as well as help with proper functioning of our nerves and brain, it helps to maintain healthy skin and other tissues.

Excess fat is what becomes bad. It puts extra stress and strain on our knees, hips and other joints. Internally, our heart and lungs have to work harder to carry the extra weight. On a practical level…. daily tasks can be harder and take more energy and that can leave you tired.

I feel I have¬†a platform to speak on this. I’ve not always been athletic, had muscles or worried overly about what food I ate. If you’ve known me for awhile, then you’ve seen me at varying sizes, however, so many of you are new to following me you might assume I’ve always been into running/fitness. Not true.

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April 2007, Senior pics with my first born who was getting ready to graduate. This was a rather unplanned pic that the photographer took of us. I love it ’cause I’m with him. I was not “unhappy” with myself? But It was one of those moments where I once again was reminded…. “you could drop a few pounds”. 7 months later I began my journey and never looked back.

My grandmother and mom were considered morbidly obese… not a pretty term….but sadly true. I’m the age my grandmother was when she had her first heart attack. She had not only heart issues but diabetes and other health related problems. She eventually died of congestive heart failure.

My mom nearly died one Easter of undiagnosed diabetes. Her blood sugar level was something like 960.¬† If you know your numbers then you know… that is out of the world high. Somehow though, she pulled through that. She also had high blood pressure and dealt with many other issues including loss of both kidneys,¬† 2 transplants, and later in the past few years, life of dialysis and never ending doctor appointments.¬†Because of diabetes complications, she eventually had toes and parts of her foot removed. All of these things directly related to her being so overweight. Oh, she did have surgery a number of years ago and lost a lot of weight and was quite small when she passed away…. but all the damage had been done.

I lost her a year ago tomorrow.

My grief is neatly packed away on some levels and there is a blog waiting to come out…. someday…..¬†but I digress….

It’s an ugly truth we don’t want to confront in ourselves or in this world today. Fat can be deadly and take a huge toll on our health and quality of life. But we don’t want anyone to feel bad so we act like it’s all ok…. again…¬† this isn’t about treating anyone poorly…. it’s about offering love and support.

7 years ago I started my journey after kindly being confronted by my doctor… or perhaps challenged is a better word… to consider losing some weight. Pointing out basically, I was healthy, but could stand to lose a few pounds. Well, honestly, I went on to lose more than a few, about 55 actually. Not to mention who knows how many inches, and about 6 pant sizes.

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At one point, I couldn’t wear these pants. I guess I still can’t wear them ūüėȬ†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†

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I remember the first night I went out for a walk ( begrudgingly I might add) I had to deal head on and face to face with the reality. I was 43 at the time…. did I want my life potentially to be like my mom and grandmother? Was I going to let food dictate and control my life? Or was I going to make changes?

That…. was when my fitness journey began.

I will always remember taking in the December 2012 edition of Runners World to show my doctor. I had been one of 22 selected out of over 400 submissions to be¬†shown in their “Runners Body”¬† feature. I asked him if a few years ago when I first came in would he have thought I’d have been in such a magazine ?

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My feature page from Runners World Body Edition

He was in tears…..his words….. “I tell people all the time, they usually don’t¬† listen. I’m proud of you”

So yeah, I feel like I can speak to this topic on too many personal levels.

Yet, losing even 10lbs can lower blood pressure, help reduce knee and hip pain and help to lower blood sugars. Not to mention, it can make you feel awesome for doing it =) Oh yeah, what about increased energy as you lose weight ?

The most important thing ? Get started.

‚Üí Set small realistic goals

‚Üí Include daily purposeful exercise

‚Üí Remember even when you don’t see big “losses” that things are happening inside you too.

‚Üí Enlist help or a support team

‚Üí Aim to eat healthy nutritious food 95% of the time.

‚Üí Allow for an occasional treat but don’t reward yourself with food.

‚Üí Don’t quit. Slow and steady wins the race.

‚ÜíProgress pics aren’t vain…. they can remind you how far you’ve come….. take them¬†=)

You ultimately are the only one who can take control of your health and wellness. If you are in a good place perhaps you need to be encouragement to someone on their journey…support goes a long way! Most of all, consider what you do an investment in your quality of life… you’re more than worth it!

Another Drink Bartender

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I know with my title I just picked up some¬†new readers ūüėČ

Let me make my usual disclaimer that the thoughts and opinions contained within are merely, my thoughts and opinions, and you my lovely reader, are entitled to yours as well.

I thought I’d¬†chat a bit on alcohol. Alcohol, a substance loved and used by many, a¬†substance that I personally don’t¬† use or care for.

Now please¬†stick with me, this does have a health/fitness bend to it and¬†I want¬†you to know I¬†don’t come at this topic from an overly zealous religious stand point, or any other wild angle.

I simply don’t like the stuff.

(Yeah, I heard some of you gasp)¬†primarily, I don’t like what it would do to my body physically…¬†nor do I¬†consider it to be¬†something that supports my health and fitness goals. I used to feel kinda awkward saying that to someone ( I don’t drink) ¬†especially in this day in age where it’s so common. I totally got over that ūüėČ

Oh don’t get me wrong, years ago, a lifetime ago, I tried to be a cool kid.

I mean, isn’t that what you do? I tried to like it, I did.

But then, without ingesting to much of the stuff I’d get all warm, and fuzzy, and wanna lean into something…or take a nap… I didn’t find that fun at all. And perhaps you’re saying….but that’s the good part! Ah, maybe so, but I didn’t like it.

The biggest thing I didn’t like ?¬† The idea of giving up control of myself to a substance.¬† No thank you.

Control freak? Perhaps, but that is definitely something I can call the um…shots… on… ūüėČ

Not just that, but within personal circles, I’ve never, ever seen anything good come from it. I have seen it damage relationships, and health, and turn otherwise pleasant events, unattractive. Again, that’s not a selling point for me.

No judgment here… if you choose to… that is your choice….. just like choosing not to is mine.

Now from a health and weight loss perspective.

If you are on a quest to drop some weight and adult beverages are a key part of your life, you might examine more closely the calories that it contributes to your day.

Consider this : Alcohol has a relatively high caloric content (7 kcal/g) only fat has more calories per gram ( 9)¬† if you’re watching your weight you might want to know that a serving of wine is about 100 calories, beer about 150 and a typical Margarita is over 300 calories!

Also, unlike solid foods, alcoholic beverages fail to trigger the “fullness” response. It’s not surprising that regular consumption does make it difficult to avoid weight gain. Alcohol might also reduce inhibitions leading you to over eat.

You could see that daily consumption of alcohol, with more than a drink , can add unwanted calories, which can lead to extra weight gain.

On a health perspective :¬†the Dietary Guidelines for Americans advises… “those who choose to drink alcoholic beverages should do so sensibly and in moderation- defined as consumption of up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.”

Also important to note, on average, a healthy adult metabolizes the equivalent of one drink per hour. If someone drinks more than that, such as two or three alcoholic drinks in an hour, the liver is unable to “keep up”. The excess alcohol is released back into the bloodstream, through which it’s distributed to all body fluids and tissues, including the brain. Anytime you consume more than one alcoholic beverage per hour, you are exposing every tissue in your body to the toxic effects of alcohol.

Again, that sort of thing doesn’t support my health or fitness goals…. and if you’re looking to get on a healthier lifestyle, it won’t support your goals either.

Obviously, the more alcohol consumed can also contribute to other health related problems, or more serious alcohol issues. If you choose to drink, be educated and wise about the effects it can have on your health, and if you are focused on serious weight loss consider how alcohol might be slowing your efforts to success.

Crossing the (Diet) Bridge

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I have two special friends, male and female, who have been extremely successful in their quest to lose weight and get into living a healthy lifestyle.  Like myself, they have done it the plain old fashioned way of taking it slow and steady, losing weight and allowing their minds to be transformed along with their shrinking bodies. They have had good days and bad on their journeys to get where they are now. Nothing happened over night, but it did happen.

Now a much, much slimmer version of their former selves they have learned skills along their journey to stay successful. Eating better, eating less, building in their favorite “treats”, exercise and a positive attitude. These things all contribute to¬† permanent success.

As things go in life, all of our paths have intersected and I now have enjoyable relationships with each of these people.

I found it interesting that in totally separate conversations, they voiced to me what I’ve often pondered myself on this journey.

“Why do some people get started and quit? Why do some start, re-start and start again and then something happens and it “takes”?”

All three of us have used the illustration of crossing over the bridge. Funny, because we each had this same thought and shared it within our conversations.

Maybe, perhaps, because we get it.

I think most people would agree, it’s fairly easy to put weight on, but requires a lot more from us to remove it.

Discipline to say “no” to things we want to eat. Discipline to pass on seconds, or foods we¬†know won’t best support our health and wellness goals. Sacrifice to make room in our schedules for exercise or to get up earlier. Dedication to a new way of living that at first feels unfamiliar, foreign, and down right uncomfortable.¬† Willingness to finally get real with who we are, where we are and how we got there. Not to mention a certain amount of tenaciousness to hold onto wanting to be successful like a bulldog with a favorite toy.

You see that ? All those things, they start in your head.

Discipline.

Sacrifice.

Dedication.

Willingness.

We tend to think of weight loss as just a body thing….” I’ll just stop eating to much and lose weight and it will all be fine”¬† without realizing the huge part our minds play in the process of truly becoming successful.

Why do you think people who are going to undergo major weight loss¬†surgeries are encouraged to go to counseling classes to help them process not just weight loss but what will be required of them from a nutritional stand point? Sadly, so many of these will go back to gaining all that weight again because even though their bodies¬† are changing, their minds haven’t made a connection to a new way of living, they are still thinking about all the food that got them to that point in the first place and wanting to eat in the same ways.

Like many others, they will not have “crossed over the bridge”.

It’s that place where it all connects together and you understand exactly what has to be done, that it will be a process, and you simply settle in for the journey. You take a single day at a time. You strive to make the best choices (nutritionally) you can. You stop viewing¬†eating good foods as a form of punishment. Exercise becomes just as valuable as brushing your teeth each day. You allow your body to slowly and steadily go through the losing part just like it did the gaining part. You get that there will be days that will bomb and you dust off and keep going.

You love yourself on the journey.

The journey, that crosses you over the bridge into freedom and into a new way of living.

A permanent lifestyle change. Welcome to the other side.

Cookie Cutter Diets Part 3

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Diet, diet, diet.

That’s all that can often consume our minds when we’ve got some weight to lose, isn’t it ? Which one to do ? Which might offer the biggest bang for our time and investment of energies and most of all¬†yield the biggest rewards?

As you read in part two of my series, sometimes the idea of starting a diet was a better idea than well, actually DOING the diet. And the best part was when I painfully struggled to the end and cried “Uncle” when¬†I¬† finished… or when the diet finished me…. whichever came first.

Losing weight isn’t easy. It requires work and sacrifice and determination to make it happen.

Often though we go about it by trying to fit into a plan that isn’t made or designed for us. We try to adapt and follow a set of rules someone else has made with food choices they have selected and we try and be good and make it work…. we do. Some of us might be successful, but for the most, it’s a reverting back to our old ways of what we know, and what we eat.

What if perhaps, there was something that was more made for us as … gasp… individuals ? Something that took in to account our unique likes and food preferences ? Could we, maybe then, have success ?

When I started on my health and fitness journey, there was one thing I determined early on.¬† I was not going to make any food “off limits”. I understood that I was an adult and quiet capable of controlling myself and not splurging on the whole carton of ice cream.¬† Somehow doing that took the power out of those foods. Knowing they were still there IF I wanted them seemed to put them in a proper place. No one was taking anything away from me. I could completely have that chocolate shake….. if I wanted it.

Now I was in control. Those foods were there but I didn’t have to eat them.

Imagine my delight years later finding out that even high level fitness trainers didn’t restrict themselves from occasional treats.¬† If I had a moment I wanted something, I allowed myself a little, and moved on. Doing that didn’t cause binging or make me feel deprived or majorly crater my day….¬†and I moved along like that every single day.

Along the way I’ve learned that my body has specific caloric needs to sustain life AND specific needs for my athletic life. Every single day can be different depending on what I’m doing.

You, my faithful reader, are no different. If you’ve done your homework from the past two parts of my series, you’ve assessed the WHY of wanting to lose weight, and you were also to consider your daily life and activities as well as foods you enjoy eating. You will have set out some short and long term goals for your journey.

Because now you’ll need to figure the calories YOU personally need on a daily basis to do the things you’ve listed.

How? You might ask ? We’re gonna use a calculator to help determine your needs for daily living and any purposeful exercise. Be honest with yourself. If you don’t do any¬†physical activity (yet) don’t plug in that you are moderately active. I’ve found the link below very helpful for figuring my daily caloric needs

http://www.bmi-calculator.net/bmr-calculator/harris-benedict-equation/

Calculating your caloric requirement will then allow you to build your own nutrition plan based on your daily needs.

To lose weight, take your total daily number and reduce by 20%.

Keeping a food log for a few weeks will help you assess where your strengths and weaknesses are. What nutritional dense foods do you eat ?  What is more empty calories? What do you need to let go of ? Where can you make improvements ?

I think it’s also important to think about that “thing” or two that you absolutely love and build a small portion of that into your weekly plan. If you don’t want it, fine. But if you have a craving, allow yourself and move on.

With practice you will begin to figure out what foods you can eat and stay within your daily calorie intake. Don’t get all crazy and think you have to keep it an exact science.

The goal is to build a sustainable plan you can keep at day in and day out and steadily, consistently lose weight. Enjoy foods you like while making intentional changes to remove or reduce foods that are not as nutritionally beneficial.

In time you will train your body to want healthier foods making it easier to maintain your new lifestyle =)

Cookie Cutter Diets Part 2

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Hey! welcome back to¬†the next part of my little series¬† =) I thought this would work better than writing a novel you’d be reading for days…. if you missed part 1…. scamper over and check it out first.

I wanna set the stage here for you… since we’re talking about diets….¬†maybe you’ll relate. This was my strategy for success years ago.

* determine I was tired of being fat ¬†(yes, I’m using that word)

* decide that,¬† “Monday was gonna be it…time to start”

* proceed to eat all random, crappy, junk type food I could shovel in to “get rid of it”¬† over¬†the weekend¬†( because all that food would never, ever be available to me again. Ever.

* decide which seriously calorie deficient diet I was gonna do, and there were LOTS to choose from.

* start on Monday with lofty expectations of being slimmer by the next weekend. Engage some furious exercise. Think of all the foods I was gonna miss.

*¬†Tuesday… hunger is my new best friend. Food is always on my mind and I¬† have fantasies about my next meal more than a teenage girl does Justin Bieber. Get on scale and check for weight loss. Get mad when it hasn’t changed.

*Wednesday hop onto scale… first thing early… naked… carefully balancing and holding my breath. Yay…¬† a pound or two gone. It’s gonna be a good day. I can do this. When do we eat again ?? Weigh again later in day hoping for more good news…think about when it’s over…

* Thursday no new change in the weight. I’m getting kinda sick of a piece of fruit, an egg and water for breakfast and similar things rest of day. Hunger sticks closer than a bee on honey. I think about…cake… and cheeseburgers… and all things fat.

*Friday almost have a week down. I’m getting used to the light headedness from not enough food… besides the scale told me another pound was gone… I can handle being hungry…. I’ve been thinking about “when this is over” and getting back to normal.

* Saturday… I’ve been good! I deserve a treat, or two, or three… right ?? And the whole day turns into a happy eating feast of all things that have been banished in the past¬†week. OMG… it all tastes sooo good.

*Sunday… I’m not realllyyyy needing to lose weight,¬†am I? I mean, I never will be able to anyway…so… I might as well just do what I’ve been doing…. maybe I’m supposed to just be like this. I¬† just don’t have the will power or strength to be successful.

* Monday…. resume my old ways. Resolve to try again another day.

Do you relate ? Have you done things like this ? You can tell me in the comments section.

I’ve since learned a lot. There were several flaws with my plan¬†for weight loss.

‚Üí Not understanding my needs or exactly how many calories my body required to just be alive on a daily basis. At the time 1200 calories was standard diet fare ( sadly it still is today)¬†If you were living large, 1500. Imagine my shock when not to long ago I learned that my daily BMR (basal metabolic rate which we’ll talk about later)¬†was actually 1500 calories. This is if I were to sit on sofa doing nothing and to support the normal functioning of my body. No wonder I was hungry all the time! There were no extra calories for my daily living or exercise built in.

‚Üí Removing, depriving and taking away everything I perceived as “bad” Giving power to foods and not keeping them in a proper¬† perspective. We¬† are living life and have to allow for it even as we pursue our weight loss goals. Occasional treats keep us on target and cut off binging. Putting foods on a banished list only made me think of them more.

→ Not treating my body with respect by giving it adequate food for health and living. Being hungry is a God given signal to feed our body.

‚Üí Not having realistic goals for myself. I would not reach a slim status in one week. That set me up for failure…. as if¬† not enough food wouldn’t.

‚Üí Not setting long term, permanent, life goals instead of just weeks out goals.

‚Üí Trying to fit my body into that standard diet and not knowing my own needs.

When you and I began to grasp and understand that we should be focused on all of our lives and not just a few weeks or months, we’ve made huge progress. Eating well and movement¬† are, or should be, what we do all our life.

Now, remember your homework you had from last post ? You were supposed to set a goal and determine what your weight loss fitness goals are

Now along side that I want you to consider what your needs are. Could you relate on any level to my story above ?  What mental changes do you need to make for success ?

Finally, think about your life. Your work , activities, hobbies, exercise etc. and consider what kinds of food will give you energy and help you on your weight loss journey.

In our next post we will look at how to figure how many calories you personally need to reach your goals and most importantly how to make it your plan for success.

Cookie Cutter Diets Part 1

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As I shared with you in another post, one of the questions I get from seeking people is :

What do you eat?

They know I’ve been on this journey for a few years now and they are wondering what “formula” I use and would that be successful to help them achieve their fitness/health goals.

Overall, I think I eat fairly well,¬†but will freely admit I haven’t “arrived” in a perfect nutritional way ( I still like my¬†occasional treats ūüėČ

I don’ t micro manage macros and micros and obsess over every single calorie. Personally, I find that really freeing, but it is a process I’ve learned for myself these past few years.

Now keep in mind, I certainly wouldn’t be offering them a horrible food plan. In fact, it would (overall) ¬†probably be very beneficial to them. I have enough knowledge to help them figure out basic daily calorie needs and how to operate within that structure.

But here’s the deal. Just because what I’m doing works for me…. doesn’t mean it will work for every person who approaches me. I’ve really developed my own thing over time that allows me to live my life, and do my athletic(y) stuff too. I’ve gotten a pretty good balance of how much food I need to lose or maintain my weight and operate in those boundaries.

You know what that’s called? Sustainable.

I’ve worked out a healthier way of eating and living that is easy enough for me to keep at day in and day out. It allows me to eat overall healthy 90-95% of the time and still lets me have some of my fav treats when I want them ( like those Peanut M&M’s ūüėČ and I’ll tell you, the less you eat it, the less you want it. Your tastes really do start changing with a healthier diet.

As far as nutritionally from an athletic stand point, I’ve really had to teach/train myself more to take in adequate food for training because¬†my needs really can vary day to day. Obviously, doing a 20+ mile run will require more than a 4 mile run. It really becomes a matter of learning to fine¬†tune what each days needs are. And I’m pretty sure, you, my lovely reader, are no different.

So what would tips/suggestions or helpful advice would I offer up to someone asking ?

First, let’s start with this.¬†¬†It’s important to really know and understand your goals. What are you wanting to achieve ? Have something clearly defined… write it down or post it where you can see it.

Is it primarily¬†weight loss with the goal to improve your lab results? to lose fat, lower blood pressure, prevent disease, to have more energy, less aches and pains, and better quality of life ? To just… move better ?

Do you have a specific athletic goal in mind ? Training for a 5k, or maybe¬†a longer race? Maybe you want to learn to run. It could be cycling or maybe a triathlon. It could be you’re wanting to get stronger, build some muscles. ¬†Perhaps it’s just to get out and walk for a couple miles and not be out of breath doing it… or hurting and exhausted.

You might be at a place where your weight is managed but maybe you’re wanting to focus more on building and defining what you currently have. More aesthetics. You could be highly motivated and want to do figure competition.

Defining your goals are very¬†important¬†to help identify where you want to go before you just jump into a standard 1200 calorie per day diet ( please, please don’t do that.. we’ll talk more on that later)

There’s a reason I titled this¬† Cookie Cutter Diets our nutritional needs are not all alike! And depending on what our lives involve, those needs can change day to day.

I believe one of the keys to success is not just jumping into a horribly restrictive food plan, cutting out all things you love, and hoping to grind it out for maybe 2 weeks, getting frustrated you don’t see instant results, and then **with a sigh of relief** at the end of those weeks, you go back to what you know and what you’ve been comfortable in.

Once again you…. abandon your weight loss attempts and determine it’s to hard and you’ll never accomplish it.

BUT, if you make small gradual changes, and add slow and steady exercise that doesn’t kill you on day one, your chances of success greatly increase.

Now, you’re job is to determine what you want and how to go after it.

That’s your homework.

Think on it, and come back for the next part where we figure out what kind of calories you really DO need each day to reach your goals, and sustain them.