Monday, July 28, 2008

17People Get Healthy!: General Tips

After a long weekend and a distraction from Michael Savage, 17People’s series on health and wellness continues today with big picture goals and tips for getting healthy and in shape.

In my personal turnaround, I read and tried a whole slew of training and eating methods. There is not a single plan that will work for every person and such it is up to the individual to tailor their plan to fit to them.

If you are just a few pounds overweight, you don’t need to train like someone who is 30-40 pounds overweight to get your desired results.

Readers of this blog know how much I love The Biggest Loser and that show was a great reference and tool where to get some strategies and tips. I also can not talk enough about my favorite magazine Men’s Health which has complete workouts, exercises, diets, and tips to borrow and incorporate into your life.

One lesson that we Americans have learned from the Iraq War is that proper planning and strategy is key. Getting yourself healthier from whatever stage you are at requires strategic and effective planning.

What I am saying is don’t let a Donald Rumsfeld plan your personal wellness plan. You can’t assume anything and have to realize that to get yourself into better shape, or to drop pounds it’s going to be hard work. There’s no easy way to get in shape and you have to commit to take care of yourself.

Personal well being is NOT ‘one size fits all’.

Despite what you see on TV there is no meal plan, pill, or operation that guarantees you will lose weight or improve your wellness. Even the much publicized ‘gastric bypass surgery’ has mediocre results if you ask me.

First of all it has some dangers and failures that result in real problems, like death. Second, you only have to look at Notre Dame Football Coach Charlie Weis, a famous gastric bypass patient who has put much of the weight back on.

Below are my general thoughts and tips as to how to change up your life and get healthier. It’s a long piece broken down into many subsections which hopefully makes it easier to get through.

If your goal is to lose weight, find a partner or group to do it with. As just written last week, my recent 37 pound weight loss came as the result of a ‘Biggest Loser’-like contest amongst my friends. Without this I don’t think the results would have been as profound.

Why? I feel to have ‘accountability’ to someone other than yourself, is an incredible motivator. Getting on the scale in front of another person or two, is accountability that stuck with me throughout the entire week between weigh-ins.

We both would say that we were nervous every Monday we got on the scale. There was no elimination, fine, penalty associated with a bad weigh in. Success both felt good personally and served as encouragement and a motivator to the other person.

In addition to the accountability of being on a scale each week, to simultaneously lose weight with others gives you a sounding board and built in support group. It’s not like you need a ‘sponsor’ like exist in AA, but it’s nice to share successes, struggles, and tips with someone who is doing the same thing you are.

Let others involved in your daily life know what you are doing. Accountability and support exist if you lose weight with friends, loved ones, or maybe with your personal trainer. To increase the pressure and accountability let other people that see you regularly know what you are doing. The more people that know what you are trying to do is added motivation to not fail and stick to your plan.

Don’t obsess about pounds. This was probably my biggest failure of the contest. So much is made of weight and pounds lost, but the final goal is to be healthy. If you are eating right, and exercising, the pounds are going to come off.

If you get on the scale one week where you worked hard and ate well, yet only lost a half pound. Don’t freak out, it doesn’t mean you haven’t made yourself healthier.

I once had a personal trainer for a couple sessions. He gave me a very good tip that I should follow better. He said to ‘judge your success on how your clothes fit’. If your shirts are hanging on you better or your pants go on easier, that’s a great sign.

Remember, unless you are way overweight, pounds lost is just part of what you are trying to do. Also a very key distinction is for those who are exercising and lifting weights. Lifting weights builds muscle and muscle is heavier than fat, yet having more muscle means you are going to be healthier.

Don’t let a week or two of slow weight loss weeks change your eating to a less balanced diet to drop weight.

Don’t use Body Mass Index (BMI) as the soul barometer of success. One measurement of weight is BMI. You can calculate your own by clicking on the following link. Yet BMI is a flawed system to me and many others. It is based strictly on height and weight. It doesn’t take other factors into account like muscle mass or body type. There are people who have wide shoulders, muscular big bases (legs, hips), which means their weight is gonna be heavier than a naturally thin person.

Yet BMI gives everyone of a certain height the same ‘ideal weight’ range. I still have 4-5 pounds to get myself to that ‘ideal weight’ number. Use BMI to track your progress, but don’t feel as though you are a failure if your BMI is not under 25. Especially if it means you reduce your muscle gain or start eating like a bird.

Don’t be afraid of food. The biggest mistake made in dropping weight is to essentially starve yourself into a lower weight. I like to refer to it as the Survivor diet from the TV show. People who watch that show see contestants lose tons of weight from the very slight diets they eat on the abandoned islands they live on.

One of the reasons we made the contest four months long was that it meant we had to really change our habits, diet in particular, to promote actual change instead of a quick fix.

You can’t be afraid of food and expect that you will be healthy. It’s more about eating the right foods, and drinking the right fluids to get yourself healthy.

My friend I lost the weight with has said throughout the process, ‘A weight problem isn’t like alcoholism or a drug problem, you have to eat’. While this sounds obvious the reality is to get yourself healthy, there is no ‘cold turkey’ when it comes to food like there is with tobacco, booze, or drugs.

The Survivor Diet or the Cast Away diet is not a ‘sustainable’ method for weight loss. Finding a way to eat right, and still enjoy eating will allow you to remain healthy for the long term.

Balance in life is the key to long term success. Other than the competition the biggest reason for my ability to transform myself, was my current job. I work for a company now that is challenging and demanding, but also affords an actual balance in my life. My campaign work weeks of 100+ hours and my advertising work weeks of 80+ hours are a thing of the past. I know longer get home after 8 or 9PM anymore meaning I can eat and workout earlier.

It has become a macho thing to work and work and work in the US to the point that we don’t take vacations or that our desks become the place we spend more time than anywhere else. It is too often a test of wills where people try and stay longer at their job in order to impress their bosses or co-workers. Yet, in the end it means you are more likely to grab fast food on the way home and less likely to go to the gym.

Success at work is important and you should work hard, but if the cost of that is your own health, what is the real long term benefit?

It doesn’t end when you hit your target weight. I have been asked quite often recently what my target weight is or what I am going to do when I get to that point.

Here’s the reality, many people that lose weight gain it back and then some. I should know, I have done it before.

My plan this time around was to find every which way possible to not just lose weight and exercise, but to truly change my metabolism so I can not just maintain my current weight but continually improve my health. Many of these plans are coming in future blogs.

In the business world ‘continual improvement’ is often talked about and companies strive for ISO ratings to show off to customers and clients. Yet as athletes or people we often get to a weight goal, or run a marathon, and act as though that’s the end of the game.

A better analogy would be an election or a campaign, when you win the election that is just part of the equation. Governing and implementing your plans is what you worked so hard to win the election for.

So when you lose weight or train to get in better shape why should it end at that point.

Having screwed up and ballooned back up in weight before, I am more focused than ever to continue my physical improvement. I may be allow myself a couple more pieces of bread, but my training will continue to be intense and my eating will continue to be responsible.

It’s a fact that as we age, we are predisposed to lose muscle and break down. We can either let this happen or slow it down or reverse it by making a commitment to both exercise and eat healthy.

How many people in their 30’s and 40’s do you see on various medications for their health problems like blood pressure, cholesterol, pain, or whatever ailment or affliction they heard on some awful ad on TV.

If you could avoid popping pills and subsequent side effects to keep you healthy wouldn’t you?

A healthy weight a lifestyle does not guarantee you’ll be healthy but it improves your odds.

That’s my goal and I hope that readers of this have the same goal.

No comments: