Sunday, September 27, 2009

It's Not Easy Losing Weight...Or Climbing a Mountain

This weekend, for the first time, I had the experience of climbing one of Colorado’s famous “Fourteeners.” I ended up tagging along with a friend and a couple of people I didn’t know prior to the hike. While it was one of the “easier” mountains on the list, it sure wasn’t easy to finish. There was knee deep snow most of the way, and the trail was covered on the upper half of the mountain. The wind was blowing harder than I imagined it could, and I kept stepping on unstable rocks. Despite all the struggles during the hike, I was glad to get back to the car and know I had accomplished something I wanted to do that wasn’t easy.

It occurred to me this hike has many similarities to losing weight. The weight loss journey isn’t easy, although parts of it may be. The first difficult moment is making the commitment to yourself to set the goal. So you set out on your way, watching your diet and exercising and doing all the things you are supposed to. Things start off pretty simple and then you might hit a roadblock. It might be boredom, it might be a weight plateau, it might be winter, it might be your very favorite food in a very large quantity. Somehow, you need to get past that. It’s not the end of the world, if you keep going and not let the setback derail you from your goal. This is where other people are useful. These other people are your supporters, cheerleaders and teammates, if you will. They know you want to accomplish your goal, and can help you up that steep hill. They might be people that have similar goals to yours, so you push each other to the next level. They could be people you don’t know all that well, but provide the motivation you need at that point and time.

It’s not without some pain either. Forces around you will try to get you off track. The wind will blow, the snow will fall, but it’s up to you to keep moving forward.
The top of the mountain, or reaching your goal, is only a landmark in the journey. Once you have experienced your desired weight loss, it’s important to maintain it so you don’t end up where you started. If you are at the top of the mountain, you still have to get down. The good thing is that momentum is in your favor, helping you to be successful going forward. You have already been up, so you know where the pitfalls are and how to deal with them.

Yep, weight loss and Fourteener climbing aren’t all that different. Set a goal, make a path, deal with obstacles, stay on track, have a support system and enjoy the scenery.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

In Weight Loss, Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

I know many of you, like myself, have been looking at where the money goes and where a few dollars might be saved here and there. Little changes, like one less lottery ticket, buying generic cereal instead of brand name can make a huge difference in the bottom line.

The same principle applies to weight loss and living a healthy lifestyle. I recently read that people underestimate their caloric intake by 30%, and overestimate their exercise expenditure by 30%. What this tells me is that we don’t take into account the little things and how much they can make a difference. We forget to make time to go to the gym and make a plan to exercise tomorrow, or forget that piece of cake for someone’s birthday when the calories are being counted. It’s easy to do.

In order to burn a pound of fat, the caloric deficit required is 3,500 calories. Wow, that’s a big number! Just as it’s easy to forget everything we’ve eaten (or underestimate portion size) or how much exercise we get, it’s also easy to make little changes that can add up to be a big difference.

First, let’s take a quick look at food. A small but easy change is to drink skim milk instead of 2%. It’s not really THAT different. Instead of that prepackaged apple pie, try applesauce or even an apple. Eat a good breakfast, including some protein – it will help you keep going rather than the doughnut mid-morning. Swap your soda for some tea or juice.

The exercise component is really the simpler of the two. It’s especially easy in the Denver Metro area, including all those suburbs such as Highlands Ranch, Littleton, Centennial, etc. Life can get in the way of getting a good workout everyday. The ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) recommends at least 30 minutes of activity each day for an active lifestyle. Piece of cake, so to speak. Park your car 10 spaces further from the building. When you need a break at work, don’t run to the vending machine and vent, take a walk around the building or the block. It will help to clear your head, and get some steps in too. I bet your dog would love a trip to the park. Again, these don’t have to be a long process. Ten minutes here, ten minutes there all add up in the long haul.

I challenge each of you reading this to try one little thing with diet and with exercise to change for just a week. Write it down in a place that will motivate you. Tell someone, and challenge them to do the same.

Until next time…