Sweet Sleep

sleep

Sleep. Sometimes we get more of it. Sometimes we get less. Often there are things that distract us from resting peacefully. Sometimes we sleep like the dead.

We know we need it, yet we tend to burn the candle at both ends. I am more of a night owl than anything. Yet my alarm and rise time is 6’ish each morning and I know that. I’ve disciplined myself whether it’s a weekend, school is off or on, or whatever, to get up at the same time.

So when I make choices to stay up late, I understand I am eating into my rest time.

Sometimes, I don’t care 😛

Another way to understand your need for rest? Turn into an endurance athlete and you will welcome pillow time 😛  I have my deepest sleeps after long training days.

This is how I’ve learned to consider “rest and sleep” as valuable as how I eat or train. Sleep is crucial for our bodies, athlete or not. I’ve learned if I’m going to train well, I need to make sure my body has proper rest to heal and recover from what it goes through. Sleep is as important to health as eating well and getting exercise.

First of all, what IS sleep?

Sleep is a naturally recurring state of mind and body characterized by altered consciousness, relatively inhibited sensory activity, inhibition of nearly all voluntary muscles, and reduced interactions with surroundings.

Sleep is an important part of your daily routine—you spend about one-third of your time doing it.  Quality sleep – and getting enough of it at the right times — is as essential to survival as food and water.  Without sleep you can’t form or maintain the pathways in your brain that let you learn and create new memories, and it’s harder to concentrate and respond quickly.

Stages of sleep.

There are actually two basic stages of sleep.

REM (rapid eye movement) and non-rem which has 3 stages. You cycle through all stages in a night with increasingly longer REM periods closer to morning.

Stage 1 rem sleep is the change over from wakefulness to sleep.  It is a short period of relatively light sleep.

Stage 2 non-rem sleep is a period of light sleep before entering deeper sleep. You spend more of your repeated sleep cycles in stage 2 sleep than in other sleep stages.

Stage 3 non-rem sleep is the deep sleep you need to feel refreshed in the morning.  It occurs in longer periods during the first part of the night. You are so relaxed this is when it would be very difficult to wake you.

REM sleep occurs about 90 minutes after falling asleep.

Your eyes move rapidly from side to side behind closed eyelids.  Mixed frequency brain wave activity becomes closer to that seen in wakefulness.  Your breathing becomes faster and irregular, and your heart rate and blood pressure increase to near waking levels.  Most of your dreaming occurs during REM sleep, although some can also occur in non-REM sleep.  Your arm and leg muscles become temporarily paralyzed, which prevents you from acting out your dreams. ( Isn’t that freaky?! I always just thought it was a weird feeling I had)  As you age, you sleep less of your time in REM sleep.  Memory consolidation most likely requires both non-REM and REM sleep.

How much sleep do you need?

Sleep and sleep patterns change and vary as we age and there is no “magic number” of sleep that works for everyone. We are all different and have different needs and requirements. Most adults need 7-9 hours a night. A few may get by on less and do fine. Others require more.

Cutting your hours during the week thinking you can “make it up on the weekend”? No… there is no making up sleep. Try to get adequate rest during week so you don’t feel a need to make it up.

Getting good rest is vital for your overall health and wellness.

Below are a few suggestions for a good nights rest:

Set a schedule – go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.

Exercise 20 to 30 minutes a day but no later than a few hours before going to bed.

Avoid caffeine and nicotine late in the day and alcoholic drinks before bed.

Avoid eating big meals.

Relax before bed – try a warm bath, reading, or another relaxing routine.

Create a room for sleep – avoid bright lights and loud sounds, keep the room at a comfortable temperature, and don’t watch TV or have a computer in your bedroom.

Don’t lie in bed awake.  If you can’t get to sleep, do something else, like reading or listening to music, until you feel tired.

See a doctor if you have a problem sleeping or if you feel unusually tired during the day.  Most sleep disorders can be treated effectively.

Of course there are lots of “smart” ways people are tracking their rest time now days.  Smart phone apps, bedside monitors, and wearable devices ( like smart watches, fit bits etc)  all give us a look at how our rest time goes. I have a Garmin Vivoactive HR and for almost a year now I’ve been able to track my sleep patterns ( among a lot of other things!)  seeing my data can convict me if I feel I need more rest, or confirm that yes, I did indeed rest well last night.

Sleep is one of the essentials we all require for a healthy productive life. Make sure you are taking steps to get adequate amounts to have strong, alert, energetic days, every day.

 

 

Menopause, Muscles And Middle Age

As a writer I often have multiple ideas bouncing through my head at any given time. I have random papers with ideas, thoughts, or titles scratched out on them. I do have a writing…uh “journal”.  Journal might be the wrong word… it’s like my writing BRAIN.

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Don’t judge me.  A writers brain can kinda look like this at any given time 😉

 

It has research notes, future blog ideas, and tons of random, misplaced words all over pages that no one would get but me.

Uh…hey… sometimes I don’t even remember what they’re either 😛

The bad thing is when I’m out on the road…bike or running… which can be some of my most creative thinking times… and an idea comes to me. I have nothing to write it on so it kinda becomes my mantra till I finish so I don’t forget it.

If I’m fortunate enough to have a title come first, that gets written down to be saved for the body to come and fill it out.

Todays topic has been a slow work in process. I’ve read and scratched out research notes and tried to compare the best sensible ideas and now… hopefully… put it into a readable format.

Todays topic is one that still mystifies me as to why, in this day and age, with the “anything goes” attitude, why it’s still so “hush hush”.

Oh the topic for today? Menopause.

menopause

**Gasp**    I know. I’m going there.

I am a pretty open straight forward person and am not put off by much. To me, it’s simply one more natural part of life.

Well, for women that is. Yet even in todays “whatever goes” world this is still treated in hushed silence with an overarching attitude that says this topic should only be quietly discussed behind closed doors… and certainly not around… men.

Guys, you can bow out now if you want. Or read. I’m pretty sure you have some woman in your life that will experience this.  Maybe you’ll glean something useful.

How did I get started on this topic ? It’s certainly something I personally haven’t given much thought too. I mean, I know at some point it will happen. I’m just to busy living life to think much about it.

However, I’ve had a few women reach out to me asking for help/ideas… how did I deal with it etc. etc.

I’d also see posts or hear conversations with women who were quite a bit younger than me complaining of “the change” and complaining of symptoms ( peri menopause, the years preceeding menopause.)

The thing is I had nothing to offer.  I haven’t gone through it and I seemingly haven’t struggled with horrible symptoms leading up TO the big event.

Based on some things I’d read, and things my doctor had said, I was curious if my lifestyle had an impact on this.

Did a healthy diet, an appropriate weight, and regular vigorous exercise contribute to not dealing with so many of these issues that bothered women?

Obviously, I was curious and began to read and explore this thought. Perhaps, if there was truth to this, women weren’t helpless victims to symptoms but would actually have some measure of possible control over them.

Ok but first.

There’s a lot out there on this topic. I’ve tried to wade through hocus pocus stuff, weird fixes, overall “off beat” ideas, and just bring something simple and easy to digest for the average woman reading.

This is about managing symptoms women deal with, not stopping or preventing menopause.

As stated earlier, this is a natural part of life. It’s largely genetic as to when it occurs in every woman. Other factors can come into play as well as to when it occurs.  The median range in the U.S. for women to experience menopause is 51.  Although there is also an age range of 48-55.  A woman is considered menopausal when she has gone a full 12 months with no periods.

It turns out doing research, and weighing that against my own experiences, that there are things we can do to help with those annoying and sometimes, difficult symptoms.

First, a quick biology lesson.  Menopause is when a woman’s body stops producing female hormones, estrogen and progesterone and monthly cycles cease.

Peri menopause refers to the years leading up to menopause. It is during this time that women can have symptoms or problems associated with declining hormones.

When you have low estrogen ( because it’s not adequately produced) it can lead to symptoms such as hot flashes, rare periods, anxiety, bone loss, insulin resistance, and elevation of bad cholesterol.  Moodiness, low sex drive, changes in skin and hair are also other things that are reported.

Women also complain of weight gain and a slowing metabolism but that can possibly be connected to a lifestyle of inactivity.

So are there ways to keep our super power longer? Estrogen IS our super power. Are there ways to help our bodies produce it longer? Ways to supplement it naturally?

There are definitely things that a woman can be proactive in doing that can possibly help her during this time. It just requires some adjustments to her lifestyle and choices she makes.

What have I learned ?

Exercise IS important!

in fact I believe hugely important. Aside from the obvious benefits of helping maintain weight or losing it there are a plethora of other things to consider.

Exercise helps reduce stress, anxiety and depression. It can help with moods and aches and pains, all common complaints of post menopausal women.

Exercise also contributes to good blood flow through the body. Regular exercise keeps blood flowing and the immune system normal. Proper body function through exercise increases the bodies hormone production naturally.   Estrogen production levels are kept normal for longer than usual.

This is important as imbalanced hormones are behind most symptoms.

Physically active women experience less stress, anxiety, and depression during this time.

Due to a decrease in estrogen women can also lose muscle mass, which can also mean a loss of strength.

Post menopausal women are also at an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.

This is believed to be due to the loss of estradiol during perimenopause and at the onset of menopause. Estradiol may have antioxidant properties, and the loss of this can be why oxidative stress levels rise in postmenopausal women and can ultimately lead to cardiovascular disease.

Women who are more active experience a decrease in oxidative stress due to increase in enzymatic antioxidant levels. While this might be true, it is still important to remember that problems with heart health could also be tied to the stress that many women experience around menopause due to lack of sleep, lack of understanding, and a lack of a solid support system. Regardless, training for a healthy heart is so important.

The recommended amount of cardio exercise each week is at least 150 minutes.

Action plan:

If you don’t currently exercise consider what you might enjoy doing and begin to pursue it. If anything, start getting out for daily vigorous walks. And I don’t mean walking like you’re with grandma on a Sunday afternoon. Move quickly. Move your arms. You should really be putting some effort into it.

Add some type of strength training/weight bearing exercise to strengthen and build bones and prevent muscle loss. Women post menopause can expect to lose 2-3% of bone density in a year and physically inactive people can expect to lose 3-5% of their muscle mass after 30.  A healthy diet and exercise can help the slowing of bone mineral density. Running, walking, jumping rope, lifting weights etc are all good examples to strengthen bones and muscles.

older woman muscles

Engage a friend to get on board with you for accountability and encouragement.

Strive for 5-6 days a week of at least 30 minutes. This would easily meet the recommended 150 minutes.  Ideally, in time, you will want to increase your activity level.

Maintain a healthy weight.

All of us have a weight range that is healthy for us. Know what yours is. Being overweight or obese can not only lead to irregular ovulation but it also greatly contributes to hot flashes, the main complaint for many women.

And of course the obvious. Being over weight can lead to a host of health problems you’d rather not deal with.

Action plan:

take a critical look at how you eat and what you eat. Be aware of what your portions are. Most people greatly over estimate portion sizes of food. Aim for healthy foods as the maintain stay of your diet. Don’t be overly restrictive or it could lead to binging.

It might be helpful to record every single thing you eat for a week to see what your daily nutrition looks like. Be honest. This isn’t to beat yourself up over, rather to have as an honest tool to help you.   Use that as a guide to make improvements.

A weight loss of 1-2 pounds a week is reasonable and sustainable. Just approach it in a slow and steady manner. It’s not a track and field event to knock weight off fast.

A before picture will give you a good visual months down the road to compare your efforts to as well as taking your measurements.

Don’t smoke or drink.

ok well in general it’s just my thought that you shouldn’t do these things.  I view neither as a positive or healthy thing for the body.

However, we’re all different.

If you do drink be aware that alcohol can be a major trigger for hot flashes and can increase symptoms as the body is less tolerant to it.  Not only that, alcohol is often high in sugar and calorie content contributing to weight gain.

Smoking. Not only is it horrible for your heart and lungs and contributes to aging, consider these other things:

Women who smoke have signifigantly higher levels of infertility, difficult cycles, and early menopause.

Smoking can also increase natural menopause by 1-2 years regardless of genetics or race.

Heavy or habitual smokers may hit menopause before they are 50.

Smokers may also have more hot flashes as they transition.

Action Plan:

Smoking and drinking can not only cause adverse health effects, but it can also wreak havoc on you during peri and menopause years. Consider reducing or limiting your intake of both, or quitting all together.

Nutrition:

I could camp for awhile on this topic and just tell you how important I think it is.  Not only to your health overall but in these years of transition for your body.

A good daily “diet” not only makes you feel better, it helps with how you look, helps you to lose or maintain weight, and can help with symptoms of peri menopause.

Do you know there are foods called photo estrogens? Photo estrogen foods can stimulate natural hormone production.

Phytoestrogens are created by plants. They are not the same estrogen created by humans. Rather they are a form of xenoestrogens, which means even though they are different, they do have the ability to imitate some effects of human estrogen when in our body.

During peri-menopause some doctors recommend an increase in photo estrogen foods to counteract hormonal imbalances women begin to experience.

Antioxidant foods prevent  premature aging . Since menopause is a sign of overall aging consuming antioxidant foods can delay menopause too.

Eating a diet rich in antioxidants and photo estrogens can contribute to overall better health and help stimulate natural hormone production.

Some foods to consider are:

Soy, celery, parsley, beets, apples, mushrooms, brussel sprouts,  seaweed, squash, olives, pears, plums, tomatoes, barley, wheat germ,  yams, and  black eyed peas.

Soy can also help with the reduction of bone loss during peri menopause.

Vitamin D (sunlight exposure) mimics properties of estrogen. Also, make sure you get plenty of calcium as well to help your bones 🙂

Antioxidant foods to consider are:

Red, purple and blue grapes, blueberries, red berries, nuts, dark green veggies, sweet potatoes and orange vegetables, tea, whole grains and fish.

Adequate protein is also extremely important to build and repair muscles. Make sure each meal contains at least 30% to combat hunger, prevent blood sugar spikes, and contribute to muscle growth.

Eating a healthy diet,  and eating minimal junk/sugar/high fat/sugar drinks/fast foods can go a long way to helping you feel and look good and contribute to your overall health.

Finally, it is important that you have open communication with your doctor to discuss issues or difficulties you may be having.  Some women with severe symptoms will do HRT ( Hormone Replacement Therapy) there has been much said about this in recent years so do your homework and decide if you can ride through some things or if it’s something critical to your living well that you do HRT.

Be proactive :

Lose weight. Make exercise a daily part of your life. Reduce or quit smoking. Reduce or quit drinking alcohol. Make an effort to eat healthy, nutritionally balanced foods, incorporating plenty of antioxidants and photo estrogen foods in what you eat.

In summary…  menopause is a part of life.  Women need to be prepared and not just wait for symptoms to occur. Taking care of yourself now will have long term benefits, before and after menopause, allowing you to live strong and healthy in the last third of your life.

 

 

 

The Modern Day Snake Oil

snake
This weirdly sounds like the sales pitch for products today.

 

Oh boy. I’m getting on my soap box again so buckle up boys and girls.  I try and stay off of it, but with this particular topic it’s such a rich sea of constant writing opportunities it’s just hard to not capitalize on them.

What you may be wondering is it that keeps my creative writing pot over flowing?

The world of “health” and wellness companies.  I’ve had a thing or two to say about them before. I’m sure it won’t be the last time either.

The products are sold by your next door neighbor,  the friend you do yoga with or the sweet grandmother down the street.

Once they sign up they become health and wellness experts overnight.

Actually, they just regurgitate what the company spoon feeds them in propaganda.

Listen, I’m not knocking someone who’s trying to make a few extra bucks. Their intentions are well meaning.  I know lots of people who do. I’m just suggesting you might not turn your health care over to someone who doesn’t know squat about most of the things the company tells them to promote or say.

Maybe your blood sugar is just fine and if it isn’t your neighbor isn’t the one to consult.

If you need energy maybe, perhaps, your nutrition needs adjusting and you don’t need supplements of some kind to give you “energy” ( which can translate to nothing more than “natural” speed in some products) maybe you need to lose weight to feel more energetic.

One company vendor posted a screen shot a customer had sent. The customer was proclaiming “how much energy he/she had and they hadn’t even taken their Adderol!” ( Adderol if you don’t know is a legal, controlled substance taken by many people but it’s a legal “speed”) Whatever natural thing was in the product made them feel like they had taken their meds.

That made me raise my eyebrows…a lot….well… there’s LOTS that make my eyebrows shoot off my face sometimes.

Ok well I’m getting to my main point for today. One company is huge on talking up “gut health” and telling you that you need all these products cause you’re more sickly than you realize without them. This company’s literature is loaded with all kinds of “issues” or “problems” you can have in regards to  gut health. But I must say, what’s set me off on todays tangent is something I read earlier and it was a meme that said…

“Anxiety is not all in your head. It’s actually in your gut.”

WHAT?! WHAT?!

I desperately wanted to ask if it was a “for real” post ’cause it just was so… shocking to me… disturbing.. that someone would believe that or say it. Like.. do you know anyone who has anxiety issues?  I couldn’t imagine telling the person I know who deals with  it that it was only “in their gut”.

And I guess I was disturbed that someone would be so casual about a mental condition to use it in a meme that was designed to get you to respond so they could say… “well hey! I have all these products to fix your awful gut and it will fix up your anxiety too!”

Are. You. Kidding.

It honestly bothered me all day on lots of levels.

I have done a bit of my own research on this topic… and let’s just say in a huge way the jury is still out on the topic of “gut health”.  There are lots of opinions and thoughts and there is still a lot of discussion on it.  You can find various writings and articles but like anything out there, you’ve gotta consider the sources.

Ok but first, simplified, what on God’s green earth does that REALLY mean?? Here’s my definition for you so we have something to work with here.

“Gut health is anything pertaining to your digestive working system.”

Everything we eat passes through the GI tract. The tract is lined with a thin, sticky mucous and it’s lined with millions of bacteria that live, grow and metabolize ( digesting and absorbing) in what’s considered a complex ecosystem comprised of both beneficial and harmful bacteria.

So ideally, we eat foods good for us, it processes through our amazing organized system and in the GI tract the food is broken down and nutrients are delivered via the small intestine into the blood stream.

When we feed our body good foods it operates in optimal form.

However, let’s face it. Many don’t.  Sometimes life is going on and we don’t eat as well as we should. So yes, you can have issues or problems with your “gut” ( and I really hate that word, just throwing that out there)

If eating poorly is a lifestyle then there can be many common problems that you may deal with:

Gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, inflammation, cramping, indigestion etc.

Wow, that all sounds fun, right? Some people might just come to assume it’s what they have to live with, that it’s normal for them.

You really don’t have to feel that way.  And you really can keep your money and not buy the snake oil to “heal” you.

Our bodies were made to function on foods and not man made supplements. Healing your gut, for the most part, can be helped with improved nutrition and better eating habits.

Here’s a fun fact for you….within 20 minutes of eating whole healthy foods you can begin “healing your gut”  as the bacteria in your bowels divide every 20 minutes on average. Meaning what you eat either feeds your body health promoting bacteria or non healthy bacteria.

The type of food you eat is a powerful weapon for health.

And a few other tips/suggestions to get and stay healthy:

Probiotics. The natural way to get them would be through foods. Yogurt is a wonderful source, make sure to choose ones that say active or live cultures.

Fermented foods like sauerkraut also have a high level of probiotics.

Avoid use of antibiotics unless necessary. These destroy your “good” bacteria.

Eat less refined sugars.

Lower stress levels.

Exercise.

Eat a healthy daily diet.

So here’s the thing that these companies leave out. There is a small nod to diet or exercise with them.  but it’s more about “buy and use our stuff to be healthy and feel awesome.”

The list of problems their products promise to help and fix is staggering. I’m waiting to hear it cures cancer next.

Let’s keep in mind, at the end of the day, they are a marketing company and everyone is out to make money.

They aren’t telling you that good nutrition should be your goal.  They aren’t telling you exercise will help you have energy, change your lab results, or help with your moods.

They are saying… hey, eat what you want and use our products to help you….why should you have to change?

If you don’t change your behaviors and your eating habits there is no product that is going to fix those problems and the only thing you’ll lose is your money to the snake oil salesman.

Rant now over.

Carbs Are Not The Enemy

Say that with me boys and girls…. “carbs are not the enemy”.

Ah, you don’t have to look to far now days to find some diet hype, “health” company or  other nonsense touting the evilness of carbs and some diet dogma that says they should be avoided like the plaque.

“Cut carbs!”  “Low carbs!”  “No carbs!”

Listen up. Carbs don’t make you fat. Eating to much makes you fat. You can gain weight with to much protein and healthy fats.

Bottom line, take in to many calories from anything and at the end of the day if you’ve taken in more than you use, you won’t lose and will eventually gain if it’s a consistent thing.

Carbohydrates provide our body with energy.  Glucose is the form of sugar our brain uses. We need a certain amount of it to fuel all of our metabolic processes so we have energy to do everything from breathe to run.

Pretty much anything we do in our day.

Cut out enough of carbs in your day and you’ll be the lucky recipient of brain fog and feeling off and lethargic.

I’ve pushed myself that hard before ( not on purpose) but yikes, it’s amazing how awesome I feel when I get some good carbs on board!

But first…before we go any further… a brief science explanation on carbs. You see not all carbs are created equal, by any means.

There are two types actually.  Are you ready to learn ?

cake pastries in bakery typical from Spain

Simple Carbs. These really are the ones you should strive to “cut out” or at least really minimize them in your daily nutrition plan.  Simple carbs are found in things like cookies, pastries, candies, breads, muffins, sweet drinks, white bread, sugary cereals, chips, sodas, donuts, etc

Simple carbohydrates are made up of a short chain of molecules that require little breakdown and go directly into the blood stream ( this will cause a blood sugar spike)

This is why you can feel that slump or let down after having that afternoon snack from a vending machine.

Any simple carb/ sugar has no redeeming quality or nutritional value. If you’re going to “cut carbs” these are the ones you should be chopping away at.

 

complex pic

Complex Carbs.

Complex carbs have a longer chains of carbon molecules so it takes longer for your body to break them down.  This means sugar isn’t dumped into our blood steam keeping us from having those “crashing” moments we get from simple carbs. This means we get a steady state of sugar into our blood stream for more longer lasting ( steady) energy.

Complex carbs are found in tons of foods we need and that are GOOD for us.

complex carbs
This isn’t a complete list but it gives you some good ideas!

 

Remember simple carbs wont fill you up and are easy to over eat on.

Complex carbs fill you up and hang out in your body longer.  With your good carbs you should also make sure you have protein and healthy fats alongside it for a solid meal so your body can function at a high level.

“Cutting carbs” can be a good thing if it means you’re not drinking soda or snacking on cookies and donuts.

Many forget that food items like milk, dairy, fruits, veggies, whole grains,  all have carbs and are loaded with vitamins, minerals and nutrients we need for good health.

For a reference point, over half your daily calories should come from good quality complex carbs. This will ensure your brain and body have the good energy they need to get you through the day 🙂

Why Do You Want To Lose Weight ?

why 2

 

Your Monday morning thought provoking question :

No… it’s not “should you get another cup of coffee” that… is never a question 😉

It’s this…

Why… do you want to lose weight?

Seriously, I want you to stop and think about it. Assuming, you, like many of my readers have a goal to do so. It could be as little as 5 lbs. or as much as 50.

If you are one of the rare, and few readers who doesn’t need to/want to/ or has hit their goal… you might want to just go grab more coffee and head into your day…

Or read along with us.. choice is yours… 😉

But why? Why do you want to? I don’t mean it in a flippant way, but more of a thought provoking way.

I recently overheard someone saying she wanted to lose weight for her boyfriend and it was all I could do to keep my big mouth shut and tell her she was doing it for the wrong reason then.

At the starting point of thought… weight should never be about someone else. And by that I mean, that you are doing it to please them.

So.. the question.

Why?  It’s important that you really understand that because the idea will be what helps motivate you, keeps you going, gives you something to center your goals around.

If you just have a blind thought like this… “I need to lose weight! I need to lose 30 lbs!”

It’s just vague. There is nothing connected to it to help you get to the goal of losing 30 lbs… or 5… or 10.

It’s abstract with no solid plan to get there.

So may I suggest if that idea has been rolling through your head, you take steps to make it more of a concrete thought with reasons why you need to?

I’ll give you an example.

8 years ago when I was at my yearly appointment with my doctor he simply told me.. hey… you look good.. your labs look good… but you could lose some weight.. it will help you in the long run..

When I left his office that day I had to think about some things and make a decision for myself. I certainly knew what my family history was ( Grandmother and Mom both in the obese categories. grandmother had heart attack at 50 and a dad who had health issues and chronic diseases who died of heart disease)

That should be enough to make anyone sit up and take notice with their own health, right? So roughly at the age of 44, I needed to make some choices. I needed to examine how I was living and did I want to follow the paths I’d seen in my family already?

I had to ask myself… why do I want to lose weight?  What was going to motivate me to get the job done? How would I do it?

I didn’t want to live like my family. I didn’t want health issues. I wanted to be strong and healthy for my husband, kids and ( now) grandchildren.

Please note.. I wasn’t losing weight to please them… or make them happy…

it was about wanting to continue to have a good quality of life and take care of the body I had that was still free of any chronic diseases I could prevent.

You understand don’t you, that most chronic diseases, we have the ability to prevent in ourselves?

I’ve seen the ugly toll they take on people you love. I wanted no part of that… I want it even less at this point in my life.

For me, that was the “why” question answered.

From there, I had to be proactive about making things happen. No one was going to do it for me. I had to have a plan and goals and day by day make them happen.

The goals were small and attainable. In the beginning I set out to walk, every, single day.

2 miles. No matter what. I did it.

I also began slowly adjusting my eating… day by day… choosing better foods and learning portion and moderation sizes.

I didn’t beat myself up if I had a day I felt wasn’t “spectacular” I just kept going.

I made weight loss goals small too. I focused on 5 lbs at a time. I celebrated when I’d hit the next “5” or “0” number on the scale.

Pretty much it’s what I did for awhile as the scale slowly crept backwards and my clothes started getting to big.

As time went on, I kept readjusting my goals and ideas of what I wanted for myself.

I eventually lost the weight I wanted and my goals continued to shift.

A stronger, leaner body led to me running more which led me into running big events like marathons and a 50K to celebrate my 50th birthday ( yes, crazy I know)

My goals and desires are still flexible and changing. I run and cycle now. I love spending a couple days inside lifting heavy stuff and doing strength training.

My “why’s” have changed a lot.

Yes, I wanted to lose weight for a healthy life. Yes, I wanted to lose weight to not have health issues. And honestly, yes, I wanted smaller jeans 😛

But the other things that came along with it were just as valuable.

Losing weight and gaining confidence in what I can do athletically is empowering!  Learning about myself and taking on new challenges showed me  what I’m made of.  The mental muscle and internal strength I’ve gained can’t be measured. Being strong in my daily life is another huge payoff. I love having lots of energy for all I do in my day!

As time has moved on, I’ve also been able to teach, encourage, and mentor others on the same road. Nothing is more rewarding than seeing others be successful at the same thing.

Now, I don’t feel a need to focus on weight or losing it. I did however, have that starting point.

I had the “why” question.  I then took steps to live it out.

You… ask yourself the question… then make a concrete plan to see it through.

You’ve got all you need in you to be successful and accomplish it 🙂

 

Reasons Why You Aren’t Losing Weight

weight loss

 

Weight loss. The thing that one person or the other is pursuing at any given time. Some are easily successful at it while maybe you, are over there struggling and wondering why it’s not working and what you might need to do differently.

There are a few things that you might be missing so let me offer up some ideas. Hopefully, you will find them helpful.

Ready? Here we go.

You aren’t eating enough. Ah boy am I pointing the fork at myself when I mention this one! And women are far more guilty of this. If you’re actively working out and burning off some serious calories and only eating say, the normal “prescribed” caloric content for women ( 1200) then your body will hoard and hold onto fat like a bear going into winter hibernation. Even if you’re workouts aren’t arduous, know what you’re caloric needs are for the day and eat them! It is most likely more than 1200 calories. You should strive to eat plenty of fruits, veggies, lots of greens, lean meats, eggs, nuts and whole foods which will fill you up. Eating adequate and healthy foods will keep you full and you’ll be less likely to binge on junk food.

You’re doing all cardio and no strength training. ok I’m a self professed cardio junkie. I love running. And cycling. And the crazy rowing machine.  And all of them together. I love the physical outpouring that goes along with it. I love moving my body. But I’ve also learned the value of building some muscle. Cardio does burn fat but muscle mass burns calories, even when you rest. Lifting weights keeps your metabolism revved. Your plan should be to add some weight work to your cardio activities.  You can use machines if you have access or free weights. I always prefer free weights over a machine. Use weights heavy enough you have to work at it.

You play the diet game and don’t do make it a lifestyle change. No one wants to think they need to always be on a diet. Or that they must live on one. What a total drag.  When you’re on a diet you mentally view it as you are “on it” or when you’ll “be off it”. Adapting to the thought of a lifestyle change means you live each day making intentional choices to feed and nourish your body in good ways.  This slow, steady process will lead to weight loss that will stay off.  Your new focus should be to get the word “diet” permanently out of your vocab and just focus on making good nutrition and exercise choices. The thing that works will be what’s sustainable for you… not what your neighbor does…or what you read in the magazine. What works for you and your body.  It will be sustainable allowing you to make it a permanent lifestyle change.

You don’t have a good support system. I’ve been a social media fiend for a long time now posting my athletic shenanigans, my goals, my foods, my struggles. Throwing it out there has not only been something that makes me accountable, it also lets people stop me in the store and ask about how it’s going.  To be successful, I believe you need to have a few friends, family or shamelessly use social media to hold you accountable and offer support and encouragement. Find what works for you. Have someone you can call, ask questions of, or who will overall be your cheerleader and hold you accountable.

You don’t have specific goals.  One thing that keeps me SO focused in my training is knowing I have an event coming. It puts an element of intensity to it and it keeps me focused on what I’m chasing. When I was losing weight I had specific short term target goals… 5 pounds at a time. 5 pounds was short, doable and easily attainable. it didn’t leave me feeling overwhelmed saying I needed to lose… “30” pounds…in that vague kinda way.  You can make specific food or drink goals. Maybe cutting down on sugary drinks or increasing your green veggies.  Perhaps it’s just getting off couch each night for an evening walk. Make each thing you strive for specific and take steps to go there.  Small steps over times, lead to bigger victories.

You think your morning workout sesh burned a ton of calories. I’ve always been cautious about how I eat after a workout. I know it doesn’t give me open season to eat whatever ( ok maybe after a 20 miler 😉  For instance, doing a 3 mile run, burns a loose average of 300 calories. That can vary depending on size and speed of runner…but close estimating. You can see it wouldn’t take long to easily negate that 300 calories with a “treat” drink at the local coffee shop. Don’t over estimate what you do. It’s important you keep your nutrition on point as you increase your physical activities and monitor your portions.

You aren’t consistent. Personally, I think this is one of the biggest things I’ve seen working with people. They start off motivated, propelled with the excitement of starting, yet as weeks move on I see them slipping back and not doing what they need to do for success.  In the beginning it is hard to keep pushing forward because you aren’t seeing results yet and you think that what you’re doing isn’t changing anything. It is crucial you stay committed to your exercise and nutrition.  It is consistency that will yield those long term results you want.  It’s important to keep moving, every day.  There will be times or days that it can’t happen. It’s like that for all of us. You just get back at it the next day. If you make excuses, it becomes easier to fall into that trap. Treat your workouts like any other important meeting you have in your day.

With a careful examination of what you are doing ( or not doing) how you are eating, and what your purposeful exercise looks like, you’ll be moving closer to your goals of weight loss.  And one final thought, don’t give up. Just because you don’t “see” results right away doesn’t mean things aren’t happening. Change takes time. Let the process happen 🙂

 

Why I’ve Given Up On The Scale

scale

The scale. I’ve written about this little tool before.  I talk about it ’cause it makes me sad and crazy to see people under some burden of feeling their worth and value is somehow connected to what those numbers say.

Those numbers don’t make you a better or worse person… say that to yourself if you fall in that grouping.

I’ve come a long way in my relationship with it. From a love/hate to…  ” I don’t need you anymore scale… I can ignore you and life is splendid without you”

Our relationship went to another level this week as I again reminded myself, in the overall context of my health, lean muscle mass, how I look, how I feel, and my athletic abilities, it’s irrelevant.

Like…totally…irrelevant.

I don’t use it often… sometimes it’s a few times a year…

then there are just those times that I’m thinking I feel leaner and look it and there’s better definition to my muscles and so I hop on to just check it out…

that’s where I was this week… and that’s when it told me… nope… you’re still rocking along right where you’ve been almost forever….

What. Ever.

Now that’s not a bad thing. Not a bad thing at all. What I constantly drill through my head is the fact if I’m putting on muscle the scale might not change at all, even though my body does. ( note…you really have to workout  for a while before you start claiming muscle weight. This won’t happen in 6-8 weeks) Compared to fat, muscle is much more compact and dense and contrary to things I hear people say, muscle does not weigh more than fat. A pound is a pound.

fat

But geeez…. you’d think with all I put myself through it would offer up something different.

Like hey here’s a consolation prize for busting your butt all the time!

I joke… but I don’t care anymore…

well.. I do…. but I don’t…

I’m smart enough to know and understand  a healthy perameter I need to stay in. Beyond that… yeah.. I don’t care.

And I’ll speak this disclaimer here as well: we ALL have a healthy weight zone we need to be in for good health and an energetic lifestyle.   You know if you have extra fat. You know it needs to go. In your journey to lose it, the scale is a tool, to show progress of less fat.  Record your numbers and move on. Use it wisely then leave it alone.

I guess I can say that now 8 years into my health and fitness journey. I’ve learned a lot in these past few years about weight, the scale, my body, and the fact it’s an ongoing science experiment.

I’ve gone from having weight to lose, which I did in a slow, steady manner, almost 50 pounds to be exact. At that time, the scale definitely helped keep me moving towards my goals.

Fat had to go. I weighed in once a week. I accepted the results and didn’t let it define me or make me feel like a loser who needed to give up and quit. I didn’t expect instant results.

The fat did go. The goal had been to get “thin” (whatever that means )

I started running.. it was easy to keep pretty lean logging miles. Add to that training for marathons and logging 50-60 miles a week… I had the lowest body fat percentage I’d ever had in my life.

The scale tipped to a low point that was easy to maintain based on all those miles.

I just accepted those numbers for where I was at athletically.

I guess the thing I learned being new to athletic life is that when you train hard all the time, and come off  it, your body adapts and settles back to a weight I believe, everyone has “pre-programmed” in them. It’s the place you can stay and not have to obsessively diet or watch every crumb that goes in your mouth.

You can easily maintain where you are.

I’ve learned that when I’m not in heavy training, I’ll carry about 5- 10 more pounds on me.

It’s been a revelation that I’m ok with…. mostly.  I understand athletically there are seasons and my body will change based on what I’m doing.

Not burning up the road with so many miles has allowed my muscles to grow more and so there are parts of me that are more developed now and take up space…my body has responded to weight training by building muscle.

Other reasons why I’ve given up on the scale:

it doesn’t tell me I’m getting stronger.

it doesn’t reflect the creativity or thought processes that come from miles on the road.

it doesn’t reflect my overall health and well being.

It doesn’t define me as a person by whatever numbers roll up for that day.

it doesn’t take into account I’m a woman or where I’m at in my cycle.

it won’t reflect how well I perform on the bike or running.

it’s not going to applaud my good lab reports

it doesn’t define my worth or value.

The total number certainly doesn’t reflect I’m more lean muscle now than fat.

And finally, it definitely won’t tell me my jeans look good  or offer me coffee 😉

What can you do or focus on besides the scale?  Try some of these things:

How do you look in mirror?
Are your clothes fitting better?

How do you feel? Strong, confident, healthy? Do you have more energy?  Can you move through your day strong and able to do daily tasks with ease?

Focus on action. Are you eating well? Do you have a consistent exercise or training program?

Do you have more self confidence and an  overall better body image?

These are all good things to focus on other than the fickle and always changing numbers of a scale. Learning to do these things will give you a new mindset on viewing yourself and your relationship with the scale.

Ok, well this probably won’t be my last rant on the scale.  If this made you laugh or smile a bit, good.

If you want to read more, check out my post, The Scale Experiment, where I literally charted my weight at various times through an entire 12 hours to show how much it fluctuates and changes in the day.

On your own journey of health and wellness I want you to embrace and love who you are…all along the journey. Yes, you might be on a course to lose some weight or you might be at your goal weight now and working on getting stronger and more fit. No matter where you are..love and embrace yourself on the journey… because that is where we really get to know ourselves… and don’t forget to celebrate all your victories along the way that have nothing to do with the scale.