“The first wealth is health.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
One of the assured ways of living a richer and more enjoyable life is to take staying healthy seriously. While our modern day culture provides an array of conveniences enticing us to move as little as possible and eat in abundance, the fact remains, our body is a machine and must be paid attention to regularly.
There are many benefits to staying in shape. Here are just a few: strengthens our immune systems making it better able to adapt to new environments, safeguards our bodies from diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease and many other preventable diseases and ailments, increases energy levels, strengthens the mind and acts as an outlet for stress.
Being a woman who has always been active for quite some time, I was under the impression in my teens and my early twenties that I had to endure exhaustive and agonizing amounts of aerobic exercise to whittle my waist down. Being very active in high school sports and being fortunate enough to achieve great success due to lengthy practices, I was nervous about how to maintain my weight on my own upon going to college without hours spent dripping sweat.
Despite being a member of my college’s track team, I put on the clichéd 15 pounds, but mine was more like 20 or 25. I was furious with myself. Deciding to take it off, I stuck to a balanced diet and walked – a lot. Now I know that sounds crazy, especially since I was on the track team, but what walking did for me was burn the calories, but not increase my appetite because I wasn’t famished. Did the weight fall off quickly? No, but it did fall off, permanently.
I want to share my stories with you today because while I am slender, I’ve had experiences with weight gain, as I know many of you have as well. It is a daily decision to treat our bodies as the temples that they are instead of the garbage disposable that our junk-food advertisers want us to believe.
Currently, I am at the best weight (not ideal, but best) I’ve ever been at since high school, and what have I realized is that through consistent effort and moderate, consistent exercise and a respect for our bodies, we can all reach our goals. Here is what has worked and the lessons I’ve learned along the path to this realization.
The “Get” Part
1. Forget Diets First of all, diet by definition is simply what we eat and drink, but America has turned it into the bad word that it is – deprivation. In the American sense of the word, any diet that asks you to change your way of eating and moving temporary to create a permanent situation is not going to work in the long run. Ultimately, it comes down to permanently changing the way we eat. We can taste just about everything we want, but in moderation and fitting into the guidelines of a balanced meal.
2. Change Your Lifestyle Clean out the cupboards. Toss the easy to eat snacks (unless they are fruits and vegetables). Throw out the pop.
3. Challenge, Yet Enjoy Yourself For me, I tried just about every exercise before discovering that simple and less jarring is the best way to go. From running, kick-boxing, step-aerobics, swimming, pilates, tennis, volleyball and basketball, I have done them all, whether I was teaching the class, part of the team, or on my own. And what I have discovered is walking and yoga has left me fitter and leaner than I ever thought I could be. Yes, yoga can be tough, but for me the benefits are seen not only in my fitness, but in my mental calmness. Find an exercise that can strike that balance – challenging, yet rewarding and somewhat enjoyable so that you will want to stick with it.
4. Eliminate processed foods
5. Water, Water, Water
6. Think health, not looks The beauty of this is that the looks part is going to be the cherry on the top. It will come, but it will take time. So in the meantime and for all time, focus on improving your body for your health.
7. Respect yourself, but be honest Always respect and listen to you body. As my yoga instructor repeatedly reminds us, push until you are uncomfortable, but not until pain. In order to improve we must do something more, yet gradually while paying attention to what our bodies are telling us. The more in tune we are with it, the best we will be able to take care of it and thus, ourselves.
“Staying” in Fabulous Shape
1. 3 meals & a snack is enough If the right healthy and balanced meals are chosen, this is very possible. It is all about training your mind and your body.
2. Don’t waste calories Try eliminating those moments when you continue to eat even when the food doesn’t taste very good or when you’re in the car – can you really savor what you’re eating? Another way to stop losing calories is to watch what liquids you drink, and when in doubt, drink water.
3. Just walk Whether it is a vigorous multi-mile walk, working in the yard, cleaning the house or walking to town to do some errands, try to incorporate it somehow into your day. Once you become in the habit of doing this, you will get to a point where you will crave this time to be with yourself.
4. Avoid the sugary treats in the AM Yes, the beautifully decorated and tasty temptations are everywhere when you’re stopping to get your morning caffeine, but try to pass them up as they will not carry you through until lunch.
5. Green tea in the morning
Known to suppress appetite and ever so slightly, speed up the metabolism.
6. Fiber to fill you up for breakfast (oatmeal or steel oats)
7. Eat your veggies and don’t worry how many. Minus the dip.
8. Almonds – a simple snack One of my favorite afternoon snacks is a handful of almonds, a half of an apple and a few slices of parmesan cheese – oh, and a cup of tea if I can find hot water at work.
9. Eat at a table, enjoy the conversation or something engaging to read
10. Your body has all the resistance you need (yoga anyone?) Try to include one or two sessions of strength training each week, and if you’re worried about bulking up, smaller weights – more reps, or yoga and pilates which require you to use your own body weight – lengthening, not bulking up, your muscles.
11. Find something else to focus on besides food
12. Immerse yourself in your passion and get happy I can look back on the times in my life when I gained a few pounds and those other times when I magically lost a few, and for me both correlated perfectly with my state of happiness and contentedness (happy – weight loss, doubtful – weight gain). Instead of trying to find happiness outside of yourself, seek it from within and discover your passion. Once you find out what that is, find a way to enjoy it as much as possible.
13. Read French Women Don’t Get Fat
In my mid-twenties, I finally realized it was okay, just to walk and I’ve never looked back. Thank you Mireille!
14. Eat in season as best you can
15. Walk your dog(s)
16. Talk positively about yourself You can reach the goals you have set for yourself. Be patience, be determined, but be gentle – not too gentle though. :)
17. Accept compliments As Oprah reminds us, we are enough just as we are, so it is imperative to filter any negative or hurtful comments and to not brush aside genuine compliments.
18. Surround yourself with people who enjoy an active, yet balanced and healthy lifestyle
19. Stay out of the kitchen until meal time. Eliminate grazing.
20. Give your body time to settle into the new habits It will take time. Once your body becomes accustomed to eating at a certain time and a certain amount, it will think it needs it and remind you. You must be patient, but resolute. In time, your body’s habits will change and you will wonder how you ever did what you used to do.
21. Enjoy your food, savor it and in small portions By savoring your food, you are allowing yourself to slow down and when you do this, you are decreasing the amount of calories you are consuming. It takes approximately 20 minutes for your mind to get the message that you are full, so take your time until the message arrives and enjoy your company and the individual flavors that the chef took such loving care to incorporate.
22. Get 6-8 hours of sleep each night.
23. Make a healthy life, your life. Your body and mind will thank you.