I took the challenges out-of-order. Today, I am writing on Challenge 8 instead of 7, because it’s my blog and I can do that if I want. And, because it has been on my heart and mind this past week.
I lost my sister to cancer this past Wednesday. She turned 50 last month. Life sucks hard. Five years ago I watched my mother die from diabetes related illness (secondary infections caused from ports for kidney dialysis, massive amounts of antibiotics, and congestive heart failure). My husband and I were her caretakers. Life sucks hard.
Watching those you care about suffer physically is so incredibly difficult. Knowing these ailments can, for the most part, be prevented, didn’t help me any. It did, however, put me on a mission a few years ago to help spread awareness. After being inundated with commercial messages, I decided to see what academia had to say about health and fitness. I became a certified nutrition consultant and personal trainer. In my world if you’re going to learn something, learn it well enough to teach it or don’t bother. I’m an all or nothing kind of person. I don’t half-*ss anything and I don’t like it when others do it either.
What I uncovered during this educational journey is that most of us are very much aware of what we should be doing in the optimal health category. We know what we “should” do, we just simply don’t do it, for whatever reason. Today, my challenge to you is to be more committed to the solution than you are to the problem. Like most of my writings, this article is blunt and direct (Caution: I might hurt your feelings. Once you’re done being mad at me you will remember my words, albeit with contempt, but remember nonetheless). I make no apologies. I need you to work hard to eliminate the excuses as to why you can’t and start committing yourself to all the reasons why you can.
My friend asked me to provide 12 steps to get healthy quick. Quick is a relative term. When I want something I want it yesterday. Others have a wee bit more patience than I do. Others may allow more time to pass and still feel as if it is quick. The safest approach to weight loss is 1 pound per week. You can lose an abundance of weight in four months if you put action behind the desire. I personally think four months is relatively quick, others however, may disagree.
Please note: I am a doctor but I am not a medical doctor. Before undertaking any type of physical regimen you should consult with your medical physician. Disclosure over! Let’s get started.
Below, I have outlined my 12 hard truths to a healthy lifestyle:
- You must first wrap your head around the idea that being healthy doesn’t happen by accident. Sedentary lifestyles and jobs do not set you up for success in this area, in fact, just the opposite is true. You must commit to living a healthy lifestyle for the rest of your life. Yes, that’s right. I said; “FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.” (OMG, shoot me now!). F-O-R-E-V-E-R. It is a lifetime commitment.
- Stop wasting your time looking for quick fixes. And, for goodness sakes, stop wasting your money buying crap products promising quick weight loss and health benefits in a pill, powder, or liquid form. BOGUS! BOGUS!! BOGUS!!! These are multi-million dollar companies feeding on your desire to see immediate results without putting in any effort. The “Give it to me now, I deserve it now” mentality. Listen, I understand people are trying to supplement their incomes with these multi-level marketing programs, and it is not my intent to take anything away from them and their entrepreneurial spirit and desire to chase the American Dream. But seriously, folks, a lot of these products are harmful. The “real” solution itself is actually very simple. But, you already know this. You’ve heard it many, many times. You just are not ready to embrace it as truth. The fact is and will always be: You are a living organism. You function on energy in, energy out. Food is energy. Movement utilizes energy. To lose weight you must do less of one thing and more of another. Yep, you must burn more energy than you consume. Your body is an efficient machine. What you don’t use it will save (store=fat cells) for later.
- Take responsibility for the things you do and the things you don’t do. That means what you put in your mouth and the amount of activity in your life. (Dang, Carol! Why do you have to be so blunt?! Because hints don’t work. I don’t encourage victim mentality. This is important. Your life literally depends on it, so listen up! Please. I SAID PLEASE).
- Exercise alone will not get you there. You will make a greater impact on your weight loss when you focus on eating healthier and combine that with exercise. It must be attacked from both sides. You’ve heard the statement; “You can’t out exercise a bad diet,” well… it’s true. Very true. Sorry. I don’t like it either.
- So, what am I supposed to do exactly, little Miss Smarty Pants? Let’s start with a simple question…. How many servings of vegetables did you eat today? What about yesterday? Yeah, that’s a problem. You MUST eat vegetables. Four to five servings per day. Variety is key. The Choose My Plate guidelines are really good guidelines. I would make a few minor adjusts to them though. Visit the website. It is a great place to start.
- Eliminating fat, protein, or carbohydrates completely from your diet is insane. Your body needs all three. Your body needs the right ones and in healthy portion sizes. (Healthy fats = avocado, olive oil, nuts. Clean proteins: beans, soy, nuts, low-fat meats. Healthy carbs = veggies, fruits, whole wheat, beans…).
- When choosing foods to consume stay as close to nature as possible. Pick products with the least amount of ingredients. Fresh is best, then frozen, then canned. Rinse anything coming from a can. Grains should be whole. Nothing bleached or enriched. We consume too much processed and pre-packaged foods. These are loaded with salt, sugar, refined flour, and preservatives (a/k/a chemicals. Hello free radicals).
- Stop eating meat every day. I’m a meat and potatoes girl. I get it. This is a tough one. The problem in the U.S. is we eat a lot of meat and usually high fat concentrated meats. We over consume. We are spoiled. Limit your meat intake to just twice a week and this includes beef, chicken, luncheon meats, eggs… Replace with beans, lentils, nuts and seeds.
- When you eat meat or dairy opt for low-fat or no-fat versions. Use less meat in stews, chili’s etc. If you always used a pound of 80/20 beef, instead try using a 1/2 pound of 96/4 beef. You won’t notice the difference.
- Preparation and serving sizes are important. We underestimate portion sizes. Supersize is not one serving! One meal served at a restaurant is usually enough for two people. Share (they’ll think you’re being nice *wink*wink*). The size of our dinner plates have grown from 7 inches to 12 inches. What??? That is just crazy. Bake instead of frying foods. Charcoaling and cured meats (luncheon meats, salami, ham, sausages, bacon, meats not sold as fresh) are linked to cancer.
- Indulge every once in a while. Not daily and not weekly. Yes, you heard that right. You can eat the good, fun stuff. Save the fun eating for special occasions. The key to staying on track with a healthy lifestyle is what you do, whatever program you pick, it must be sustainable. If you try to eliminate everything you love or enjoy eating you won’t stick to it. I follow an 80/20 program. I function from knowledge. If I make a choice to eat something I know is not healthy for me, I do it with full knowledge of the potential risks and consequences. My goal is to stick to my program at least 80% of the time. That’s doable. And, if I eat something I shouldn’t I try to limit it to 20%. Have a bite of that cake, donut, bread, and then throw the rest of it away.
- Exercise. Yes, you do have the time. Yes, you do have the energy. It’s about priorities. Personally, I have to get up at 5:00 a.m. every day to make time for exercise. It’s the only way I can be sure it happens. My evenings are filled with other people, activities, and events. I don’t leave it to chance or convenience and neither should you. When I first had to come to terms with the fact that I would have to get up at 5:00 a.m. in order to manage my physical fitness program I was mad (beyond mad, down right pisssssssssed, even). I finally had to admit I can make it happen or I can make an excuse. The choice was mine. I don’t give myself a choice. 5:00 a.m. works for me, so 5:00 a.m. it is. Another time might work better for you. Adjust and until you find the right time. Fight for it. Protect it. I also have asthma and permanent lung damage. When you sleep your body makes more mucus. My lungs don’t always want to cooperate with me. It is not uncommon for me to have a coughing fit, be hunched over the trash can, and spitting out a terrible amount of thick mucus (I know, attractive, right? It is what it is) in the middle of a workout. Again, I can make it happen or I can make excuses. I take advantage of the good days and I push through the bad ones. Yet, never, never push through an injury. Listen to the cues of your body. I personally enjoy exercising. I enjoy the quiet time. I enjoy feeling strong. I enjoy the small victories when I can increase the weights. I like seeing what else my body has to give. It’s not always fun. Some days I want to push the snooze button… just one.more.time. It’s not glamorous (cue image of spitting girl over the trash can). The one thing that is, though, is necessary. There are dozens of types of exercises. I do weightlifting and cross-training. Others may enjoy biking, walking, hiking, dancing, skating, swimming… pick something you enjoy and do it a minimum of 3 times per week. For health benefits you should exercise at a moderate rate of intensity for 2 1/2 hours per week (this is the minimum amount).
- Rest and drink plenty of water. Your mental health and physical health are in close alignment. You need to rest, both, mentally and physically. Your body will need time to heal and restore. Muscle fibers strengthen during the repair process. When life feels overwhelming, take a break. Your brain and emotions need a time out as well. Water is a necessary ingredient of life. Remember science class? You must have water. Shoot for a 100 ounces per day (just don’t drink it all at the same time, because that will kill you…literally). Say bye-bye to the sodas and juices and drink your water. Your body will thank you for it.
Dang it! I’m an overachiever. As hard a I tried I just couldn’t provide all that sage advice in just 12 Steps, so you got the baker’s dozen instead (13). Lucky? Hmmm…. maybe.
*Cue Military Voice Here* Cut the crap and get your butt in gear. Have I said; Life is too short? No? Well, it is. Life is too short and if you don’t get a handle on this soon yours will be even shorter. It’s your health… own it! Let’s go Princess (Princess is not gender specific by the way. I use it freely to describe men and women. Adjust the tiara Mister and get going!).