In the last couple of weeks, I’ve read several articles on the best, most effective ways to lose weight, burn fat, and get healthy. After reading all of these articles – I’m not going to lie – I’m more confused than ever! None of the “experts” can agree on dieting programs, caloric intake, nor how much exercise is actually beneficial to shed pounds or maintain a weight loss. The truth obviously lies somewhere in the middle of these many conflicting programs.
One program recommended 45-60 minutes of cardio, four to six days per week. Another program advised 30 minute cardio workouts, because anything more than that forces your body to burn muscle rather than fat – or so they believed. Several experts actually agreed that a HIIT workout (High Intensity Interval Training) offered maximum benefit with a minimal time commitment.
One program encouraged intermittent fasting, another one said fasting sends your body into starvation mode. One “expert” suggested eating lots of protein and no carbs, while another thought carbs were fine in moderation when balanced with protein and high fiber foods. While yet another article recommended loading up on natural fruits – another proposed cutting out all fruits as they were loaded with too many natural sugars.
Just yesterday, I read two different blogs with completely opposite viewpoints regarding how many calories we need to ingest everyday if we are working out and trying to lose weight. One “expert” said the more you exercise, the more you need to eat, while the other proposed working out a lot and eating less and practically starving yourself. Some “experts” firmly believe that 70-80% of weight loss is based on what you eat – and only 20-30% of weight loss is a result of exercise. So — is punishing ourselves in the gym a total waste of time? Who knows?
Two other “experts” agreed that in order to be successful in the long run with weight loss – you should allow yourself one “cheat day” each week. And you guessed it – yet another “expert” discouraged against any sort of “cheat day.” Many years ago, Weight Watchers introduced a program allowing members to “take the weekends off” from the program. It doesn’t take a genius to see the flaws in such a program. Members had a difficult time getting back on track and staying “legal” while taking every weekend off for a major food fest.
Why can’t all of these experts get on board to make weight loss universally balanced and easy so we all can be winners?
The reasons should be obvious – the “experts” are as unique and individual as we are. We have different bodies that react according to our own specialized DNA and genetic makeup. What may work for your identical twin, your spouse or best friend – probably won’t work for YOU.
This was never more evident to me than during my stint as a Weight Watchers employee. Week after week, I encountered husband and wife couples who battled the inequality of weight loss challenges. In most instances, the wife was the primary cook in the household. The wives prepared identical meals for themselves and their mates. Men generally are allowed more calories (or WW points) because of body composition of men versus women. When the couples ate the same exact foods for an entire week – more often than not – the husband frequently lost twice as much weight as their wives. This of course, created a lot of relational dissension. The wife’s complaints, not surprisingly mirrored one another with the standard issue: “It’s just not fair!”
The cold hard fact is, it really ISN’T fair! Especially when factoring in that men are more prone to weigh with their shoes on, and oftentimes without removing their wallets, phones and change-filled pockets. Women on the other hand, remove everything – sometimes down to their jewelry. (And once, even – a set of false teeth!)
The bitter pill of reality that we women are forced to choke down with much anger and chagrin – is that when it comes to the battle of the sexes and weight loss – LIFE IS NOT FAIR! It’s for this reason, that I always seem to sabotage myself if I give in to a cheat day. If I succumb to my primal urges to cheat with high caloric debauchery and gluttony, eating what I want – be it a single snack or Lord forbid, one entire pig-out day – the climb back up the Weight Watcher wagon feels as though I’m scaling Mt. Everest.
If I’m going to cheat, my brain and the ruling factions of my common sense alter ego rarely agree on how much is too much when eating non-sanctioned foods. Keep in mind, once you decide to open that Pandora’s Box and cheat on your eating program – it takes your body and your brain a nanosecond to remember how easy it is to eat all of the wrong foods.
Once the palate is teased with a sugary and/or salty, crunchy snack – it can be hard to keep the junk food hounds at bay. What the flesh wants, the flesh wants – especially if its been denied tasty treats for long periods of time. (Oh wait – maybe that’s just ME!) It’s risky to reintroduce forbidden foods to our bodies – even in small amounts. It quickly becomes a race to see what will transpire first? Will it be the common sense, career dieter’s flood of guilt that alerts our hungry brain and quickly halts the cheat before too much damage has been done? OR will the stomach stage an intervention by vomming up all that justifiable cheat day junk food? If our body has adjusted to less food or healthier food choices for a significant amount of time – we may not be able to tolerate an over-indulgence of junk food the way we once did.
Sometimes I think the Barftown Express makes more sense. Once you get that nasty taste of regurgitated snacks in your mouth – the last thing you want to do is eat anything, anytime soon. Let’s face it, a major puke-fest can be a blessing in disguise if it will keep us from further cheating. When we cheat without restrictions, it quickly becomes so much easier to wash down guilt with a sleeve of cookies with an ice cream chaser. I’m a seasoned “expert” at washing down guilt – which is at the very core of most of my food addictions.
I admit, I am definitely no “diet expert.” I do have, however, an extensive resume that includes decades as an exercise junkie. I’m also a card-carrying member of the Clean Your Plate Club and I’m the unofficial self-proclaimed Queen of the Yo-yo dieting parade. During my tenure, I’ve learned a thing or two about food, exercise, balance and creative caloric juggling. I’ve learned what works for me and what most definitely DOES NOT work for me. The most important of which is, listen to your body! BUT remember – your body is not the boss of YOU! You and only you, have total control of what goes into your mouth, and how much to push yourself when it comes to exercise.
Do not try to duplicate the program of someone who has experienced a recent weight loss. Your body is unique to you. Weight loss is one of those things that we can’t catch like an air-borne virus. Keep some sort of a food diary so you can figure out what works for you and how your body reacts to certain foods.
Learn your cheating triggers and have some sort of counter-measures in place to stop the cheater in its tracks. No foods need to be completely off limits, unless you are one of those people who has zero self-control over your appetite. If one chocolate chip cookie will satisfy your craving – then eat one. Savor it. Enjoy it! BUT you don’t have to eat the entire plate of cookies. If you know yourself well enough to know that you have limits and can’t be trusted with any type of food cheats – then DON’T CHEAT! Know your limits. Set some boundaries.
Find an exercise routine that doesn’t bore you to tears. Join a sport team or walk with co-workers on your lunch break. Make exercise fun. Burning calories shouldn’t be another chore you hate. Engage your body several times a week in something physical. You don’t need to join a gym if that’s not your thing. Just get moving!
The most important aspect of getting healthy is to invite God into your life to walk beside you when you feel like giving up and chucking the whole healthy lifestyle thing. Find strength in the Lord when you are tempted to fall face first into a vat of ice cream or when your body rebels and refuses to get on board with your exercise routine.
You get to tell your body who is boss! If you need a cheat day – then do it and proceed with caution. Remember though, long-term cheating won’t do you any favors. Long-term cheating is definitely not a cheat to win situation.
I’m tempted to say, “life is short, so do what makes you happy.” In the long run though, being overweight and out of shape makes few people happy. We always have free-will and the choice of … Don’t worry – be happy! Or Stay strong and committed and BE HEALTHY!
QUOTE OF THE DAY: