I’ve come to the conclusion that fitness is a journey. There always seems to be some new supplement, diet, activity, or program that will fix all your problems, as if you can undo years of bad health with a couple months of product x. Finally I’m beginning to hear small peeps of the truth.
I recently heard a presentation on a local radio show that discussed the ten biggest nutritional fallacies. Top of that list was the idea that obesity shortened your life. It seems that being overweight is linked to many health complications like diabetes, cardiovascular issues, and joint problems. So being “heavy” may degrade the quality of your life but it doesn’t shorten it. Hearing that statement made me go “hmm” for a while. We have become a culture obsessed with weight, health, and those that don’t match the ideal. The author didn’t say that it was ok to be overweight, but she did point out that our superficial obsession with the topic has inflated its importance.
A couple weeks ago I was cleaning out my old audible library. I came across a great courses presentation called the myths of nutrition and fitness. This was a very pleasant factual course that touched on a lot of subjects I care about. Things I learned:
1. The author said that it’s better to be fit and fat than a thin couch potato. Basically, an active person, even if they’re over weight, is going to be healthy on a variety of metrics. Being thin isn’t everything.
2. Weight loss is a calculation of calories in vs. calories out. You have to burn about 3800 calories to lose a pound. Considering that a strong 30 minute treadmill run burns about 700 calories, the most important factor in weight loss is the quantity and quality of the food you eat. Your body needs a balance of food; so depriving it of carbs or fat or salt entirely is actually bad for you.
3. High intensity exercise for more than 90 minutes at a time is detrimental. You are best off finding a regular exercise program of 30-60 minutes a day rather than trying to squeeze all your exercise into a couple of 2-4 hour sessions.
4. Most diets look helpful on paper because reporting only tracks within two years or less from the end date. After five years almost everyone gains more than their starting losses back.
5. Hydration is best done in sips over a long time. Drinking a lot of water at once is difficult for your body to absorb. If you don’t keep hydrated you won’t get the most out of exercise.
The big lesson I took away from this course is that I’m not going to hit my goals with exercise alone. I already knew I needed to take control of my intake. I do pretty well at work—it’s the weekends and Friday nights I need to work on. I recently read another article on the truth about guns in which one of the commentators lost 60 pounds in a couple months through what’s basically the Atkins diet. You can see his technique here:
I’m not a fan of any program that essentially puts your body into semi-permanent emergency mode. Atkins has its place as a philosophical approach to dieting, but not when used as an excuse to eat a bunch of meat and dairy to the exclusion of other nutrients. The point I took away from this article in combination with the audible course is that eating better is within my control.
First, I need to start exercising and checking weight methodically. One of my employer’s maxims is “what gets measured gets attended to.” It’s time to start checking weight regularly again. This will start tying exercise, weight, and results together in my head. I’ve bought into a 5 week class at the gym where they check weight twice a week, exercise together as a class for 30 minutes twice a week, and compare results at the end. I can’t afford $200 every 5 weeks going forward, but as a starting motivator it’s working.
I started the course the 16th. At that time I measured 37% body fat according to the little electric hand-grippy-thingy they made me use. At 298 pounds I have been holding steady this year, but it’s time to kick it up. After one week of paying attention to my intake again I’m down to 292 pounds—possibly due to variation in the scale but I’ll take it. I am determined to get that % down—I mean 37% is just terrifying. My time with the fit bit is also keeping my mind on “steps.” It isn’t a big deal; I just know I need to walk a little bit more to hit my goals. So I’m back on the measuring band wagon.
As far as workouts go, Tuesday is an hour boxing class followed by a 30 minute hard push boxing finish with the weight loss class. This is my high intensity day—where I try to push myself. Thursday is whatever time I get into the gym with light cardio on the elliptical, a half hour with the clubs, and a high intensity boxing finish with the weight loss class. Sunday is upper body lifting, light core, and extended time on the elliptical. I’m doing what I did before but with more of an eye toward quality of investment—especially in those two half hour classes. After a week, I think I might have been taking my cardio a little too easy after my knee and foot problems. It’s about balance, and I need to do a better job of balancing intensity with healing time. I’m trying to find a way to improve my cardio workouts that doesn’t risk more joint damage. Boxing is great for this since even with kicks, I’m not stressing my knees as much. I often feel stupid when I hit the bag hard enough that I have to go find it or it flies around and attacks me from the side…but I’m in this for exercise not to look smooth.
Sooooo…..eating. As above, I aint no fan of Atkins as it’s popularized in the media. I think the author has a good point when he works on cutting down on carbs and refined sugars. I’ll add to that processed foods in general. I’m skipping sandwiches and wraps for my lunch—I don’t need the carbs in the bread and tortillas. I’ve begun hard boiling eggs for us at the beginning of the week so we can have a protein blast for a couple breakfast meals. I’m looking to use more individual ingredients rather than pre-made mixes, sauces, and such. I’m looking up home-pickling, cooking chicken in different ways, and new recipes. It’s amazing what a single measurement plus the desire to get the most out of my $200 investment can do. My new rule is less carbs, as little sugar as possible, and avoid processed foods where I can. I’m trying to think of this as less of a more healthy diet and more of a way to focus my consumption around better choices—I’m not going to sweat eating out when it comes I’m just not going to go looking for trouble. Looking at that sentence I’m clearly using semantics to avoid stressing out over “diet.” Whatever, I’m ok with that if it gets results. I needed motivation and I seem to have found it.