Tips on exercise and diet. Ways to keep the pounds off.
Exercise--a dirty word
By T. L. Gray
Letís face it, as we get older exercise becomes more important in the scheme of daily living. Not only does it make you look better, but you feel better, both physically and mentally. As kids, we burned endless calories playing hide-and-seek, frozen catchers, biking, swimming, and a variety of school sports without a thought to fitness for fitness sake. As adults, weíre often
too busy or too. . .ahem, lazy, to fit a proper amount of exercise into our daily routine.
But wait, thereís yet another reason some of us have found for tuning out the experts. Metabolism. Weíve all heard a friend or relative say, "I donít have to eat it, all I have to do is look at it and the calories jump onto my hips." Not so for those who possess a high rate of metabolism. Theyíve been known to suck down a Big Mac, fries, and a shake, then cheerfully announce theyíre trying to have that first heart attack early and get it over with. Believe it or not, as a teenager and young adult these metabolic overachievers are accused of being anorexic, because no matter they eat, or how much, the calories simply disappeared into thin air. Any type of focused exercise compounds the problem. "Oh poor little things," you grumble, while covertly searching for rotten veggies in your fridge to use as missiles. But this can actually turn into a serious problem over the years.
People who inherit high metabolic rates often brush off the idea of needing physical activity or eating right to keep fit. Then they reach that magic number where all the ice cream, salt, and fatty foods theyíve always enjoyed combine to attack their hearts and bang--they fall over dead. On, they may look like the picture of health on the outside, but inside. . .chaos. The trick is to look closely at your predecessors. Grandparents, parents. Because itís a good bet that, like tendencies to inherit high-blood pressure or cancer, you may well have inherited a silent time bomb. And though you may not notice the gradual change early on, your metabolic rate will slow with age. This means your eating habits must also change. And yes, you poor little thing, you will be forced to look at exercise in a whole different light.
Youíve surely guessed by now that the MTB (Metabolic time bombers) abhor even the thought of that dirty word--exercise--simply because theyíve never had to face themselves in the mirror and say, "Yikes!" After all, why waste valuable time exercising when you can be doing something more important, like examining your scalp for gray hair. Fortunately, for you, thereís help. Good sense can prevail over stubbornness, assuming you inherited more of the former and less of the latter. It comes down to two choices; moderation in the foods you eat combined with an exercise routine, or the only heart you have turning on you like a vicious dog.
Moderation--now thereís a word.
No matter how pretty you package it up dieting is just another form of torture. Do you know what a "serving amount" actually consists of? For those of us who like to eat, itís a pathetically small amount. However, training ourselves in moderation allows us to eat the things we enjoy without having to don the hair shirt of guilt later. Yeah, easier said than done. But which would you rather do--starve yourself or enjoy a wide range of foods as opposed to eating bean sprouts and tofu? So you forgo that second helping of potatoes. Eat one roll instead of sucking down the whole basket before dinner arrives at the table. Better yet, tell the waiter not to bring the damn bread until your food is ready. Drink water with your meal instead of a soft drink. Stop eating when youíre pleasantly full.
Caution: pleasantly full does not mean youíve just unzipped or unbuttoned your pants to accommodate the flow of food.
Which brings us back to that dirty word again. Exercise. Dieting is squat without the benefit of burning off excess calories. So you ate a little less than usual. Big deal. Your bodyís metabolism is still going to burn the same amount of fat unless you teach it to do differently. Exercise increases metabolism, allowing you to eat foods that are strictly off limits to the dieter-only. Besides, what good is losing the weight if youíre left with sagging muscle and skin? This is not a pretty sight. Without exercise even the MTBís who donít have to fight the weight battle start to look rode hard and put up wet.
[Insert Cinderella theme here.] You can do it, you can do it, you can look like Cinderellee. Youíll make yourself so pretty. Thereís nothing to it really. Throw out the ice cream carton. Substitute with jogging. And dancing at the ball youíll be the fairest of them all. You can do it. You can look like Cinderellee.
Okay, you hate jogging. Your arthritic knees are screaming at you to get a life. You smoke and your lungs simply refuse to accommodate this latest undertaking of insanity. (You smoke? Jeez, donít you read the papers?) Your heart fell out a half-mile back. Putting too much strain on your body all at once can do more harm that good. Itís better to start with an easy workout and work your way up. You donít have to belong to a gym to attain that body beautiful. Have stairs in your house? Then you have a stair-stepper. Use them. Have a radio? Turn it on and dance for thirty minutes. Thereís no better aerobic exercise. Youíll definitely feel it the next day. Buy hand weights and work out your arms while watching Ally McBeal. Itíll be over with before you know it. Got a pool? Swim laps. Donít have one? Visit your local YMCA. Own a bike? Ride it. Live in a fairly safe neighborhood? Walk it and get to know your neighbors. And while youíre at it, take along those hand weights. Secretly, your overweight neighbor down the street wants to walk too, but she doesnít want to do it alone. While the two of you are power walking you can gossip about all the other neighbors. She might even be able to give you a few tips to liven up your sex life.
Hereís the good news. Exercising on a regular basis allows you to eat more. You can have that occasional candy bar without agonizing over whether it will show up on your hips tomorrow.
I need inspiration! you say. Motivation. Try this on for size: looming ever closer on the horizon (though God knows youíve done your best to turn back time) is, yep, you guessed it, the ever famous twentieth high school reunion. Need more? Picture this: You, dressed to kill in a tight-fitting gown, walk into a room filled with former cheerleaders, beauty queens, and high school jocks. Not to mention potential dates who didnít know a good thing when they saw it twenty years ago. An overwhelming surge of power explodes through your cholesterol free veins as you listen to comments like, "You look terrific!" In other words--you rock.
But thatís so vain, so shallow, you say. Looks arenít everything, yadda yadda. Self worth should be measured in terms of inner contentment rather than body image. Get real. Your attitude toward life in general is much more positive and productive when you feel good about yourself physically.
Thatís not to say you have to be slim and trim to be healthy or happy. Study your body. What is the ideal weight for your height and build? Target problem areas such as hips and thighs. Give these areas a bit more attention exercise wise without neglecting the overall tone of your body. If youíre tall and big-boned, you can hold more weight on your frame, and should, than the shorter, smaller-boned person, without compromising proportionality. In fact, striving to lose more weight than your frame commands can cause you to appear undernourished and bony. The most important thing is to be true to yourself. Set realistic goals that are right for you. Get to know your body metabolism--make it your friend instead of your enemy. Itís a proven fact diet and exercise work better in conjunction than separately. Itís a matter of finding the combination that works for you. Exercise alone is merely a vain attempt to shed the unwanted calories you inhaled at mealtime. Youíre not getting ahead of the game, just running to keep up. Likewise, dieting by itself is an exercise in self-flagellation. Your body needs certain vitamins and minerals contained in natural foods. Taking supplements as a replacement will only further confuse your system. A supplement is great, so long as youíre eating properly. But dieting alone wonít help transform your body into a healthy machine. Youíll simply lose energy and feel dragged out.
Speaking of supplements--dieting programs that supply you with THEIR food. Please. What good is this when you go off the diet and have to return to the world of real food? If you have enough self-control to eat what comes in these packets, you have enough control to eat smaller portions of foods you like. What? You plan on eating from a packet for the rest of your life? Likewise, for diet pills. Your body, and mind, will eventually become dependent on these substitutes. Look around you. How many people do you know, currently taking diet pills or participating in Packet-food programs, who are actually successful in the long term? The goal is not to torture yourself, but to get healthy and fit and stay that way.
Did Cinderella take diet pills? No, but she had a wicked stepmother who fed her meagerly and worked her twice as hard as a field servant. And letís not forget the two lazy stepsisters, neither of whom was asked to dance by the Prince. Itís doubtful Cinderella won out because she wore a perfect size six. But by golly a few smaller portions at mealtime and little hard work sure didnít hurt her chances.
Ultimately, to be completely happy with your body image, you must learn to depend on your own self-control and inner determination instead of outside forces. Support from friends and loved ones is always helpful, but you shouldnít count on their reminders to keep you on track. If youíre already completely miserable with your diet choices, comments like, "Putting on a few pounds there, arenĎt you, hon?" or "Do you really need that second helping?" can turn a sane, albeit struggling, dieter into a serial killer. Not to mention you become extremely resentful. At one time or another weíve all experienced that perversely overwhelming urge to spite the helpful SOB whose support we counted on. Címon, admit it. Youíve ordered that piece of chocolate fudge cake for dessert just to piss off your ignorant partner, who made the mistake of informing everyone at the table, in a joking way, of course, that you didnít need it. Later, while sweating off those extra calories and cursing your loved one, you hated yourself for giving in.
The first time your partner informed you that you were putting on a few pounds, didnít you secretly want to flip him the bird? Thatís not to say you canít still flip him the bird occasionally, but with a sensible diet and exercise routine in place it wonít have to be because he feels the need to remind you of those extra pounds. Why give Mr. Lovehandles the satisfaction?
Finally, one other subject that can cause seemingly uncontrollable weight gain. Birth control pills. Thereís no getting around it; these little babies will cause you to carry extra water weight. Usually around ten pounds, less for some, more for others. Add to this certain drugs--such as various forms of anti-depressants--used for the control of severe PMS and anxiety disorders, and whoa, baby! Now even the perfect size six Cinderella possessing a naturally high metabolic rate has to worry about weight gain. It comes out of nowhere. One day your scales read 120, the next itís 125. Then 130.
Before taking any medication, check with your doctor about side effects. For instance, some anti-depressants will significantly increase appetite. Just ask Cinderellaís hips. And thighs. Just ask the Prince, who was recently treated to the revolting display of watching her wolf down two plates of food while he ate only one. What? She was starving.