Let me tell you a little story.
There are some weight-loss & weight-maintenance behaviours that are proven, study after study, to be very effective:
and, last but definitely not least:
I generally recommend to clients that they weigh themselves first thing in the morning, during the brush-your-teeth, have-a-pee, hop-in-the-shower morning routine. In my opinion there are 3 ways to track your weight:
Many people find regular weigh-ins keep them motivated and provide a daily or weekly check-in to assess how their behaviours are helping or sidelining their weight goals. That's what the research shows and that's the truth for most people I encounter, as well. But some people—women in particular, I believe—are simply never satisfied with the number they see on the scale. Some women stand on the scale every morning, stark naked and nervous, awaiting the day's fate.
Will I be lower than I was yesterday and feel successful and confident? Or will I be higher than I was yesterday and feel I am worthless, incapable of sticking to my goals and destined for failure?
Is this ringing any bells for you? If so, keep reading. If not, keep reading and keep this in mind when you teach your sons and daughters about weight maintenance.
There are plenty of ways to evaluate your fitness level. How many push-ups can you do in a minute? How quickly can you run or walk a mile? How do your clothes fit compared to a year ago? How do you feel in your body? How is your energy level?
Weight is just one indicator of fitness and it is by no means the most important indicator of fitness. I was reminded of this by my lovely client, S, yesterday at our weekly session.
S has been hovering around a strong, lean and healthy weight that she is mostly accepting of...but let's just say she has probably never wanted to scream it out loud in a public place. Her weight matters to her, like it does to a lot of women. She has been menopausal for several years now, as long as we've been training together, basically. Her weight has climbed about 5 pounds higher than her pre-menopausal weight, though she is more toned and fit than ever.
We have kept food journals. We have changed protein-to-carbohydrate ratios. We have eliminated alcohol and sugar. We have increased strength training, decreased cardio, changed cardio, changed strength training, increased rest, recovered from injuries. S has even had non-surgical fat removal by a plastic surgeon (Don't even get me started on this... know only that I cannot have the final say in someone else's treatment of her body.). Still, she remains around that new, 5-pounds heavier weight.
After returning from a month of holiday, resting, working out and even actually abstaining from alcohol after the wine-soaked holiday season we all just enjoyed, S was still around the 5-pounds heavier weight. I braced myself to once again tackle her diet, rearrange her exercise program as much as she would allow me, and try to talk to her as a friend and coach about what she might be able to do to change it and...mostly...why she really should not be so stressed out about it. Our usual conversation ends with me saying something like this:
"You are fit. You are lean. You are healthy and vital and active, and many women your age would be overjoyed to have your figure and your fitness level. Is it really worthwhile for you to never have a glass of wine again just in order to see that certain number on the scale?"
I braced myself for this same conversation and felt a sinking feeling. I don't believe S needs to lose weight. The truth is, one of the hardest parts of my job is trying to convince women who have been brainwashed by media that quantifying their fitness level and their self-worth into a number on an electronic device is just. not. worth. it. It can feel a little like banging my head against a wall. A giant, slick, glossy, celebrity-covered wall.
But lo and behold! After 5 years of training together I felt the most immense sense of pride when S pre-empted me and proclaimed:
"And I am NOT keeping a food journal! I am going to start drinking wine again and I am going to have a handful of peanuts or a square of chocolate once in a while. I am done with it."
I asked her if she had weighed herself. She hadn't weighed herself in days. She was still around the same mark, not gaining, not going hog-wild, not headed to a future of obesity and adult-onset diabetes. She decided she would evaluate whether her size was okay based on how well she could fit into her wardrobe—if her clothes got too tight, she would rein in her diet for a while. As long as she was active and not feeding her body junk food, and her clothes were fitting, she would be satisfied.
It took S a long 56 years to get to this level of self-acceptance. She is a beautiful, popular, intelligent, wealthy and fit woman with a family, lots of interests and a million reasons to be proud of herself. I'm so glad she finally realized it.
We high fived. I beamed. She shook her head and I saw tears behind her eyes.
A couple of weeks ago, Sweaty Hubby started having some upper back and neck pain. Turns out he has a nerve impingement in his neck, meaning his nerve has unhealthy pressure on a nerve, which is causing pain and numbness in his neck, back and arm. Yikes!
My first reaction: you don't exercise enough, dude. But no man wants to hear that from his wife while he's dealing with a humbling injury. Especially when said wife is a fitness professional and could maybe bench press him.
Maybe. If I ever try it I'll let you know.
Good thing I didn't make a fuss about his lack of fitness because just a week or so ago, MY upper back and neck started to get sore as well! For me there are various potential causes—past injury, driving, nursing for 5 years straight, repetitive strain from teaching and demonstrating certain exercises over. and over. and over. and over again, 6 days out of every 7. While my pain hasn't become a full-fledged injury, we are both suffering at the same time, in the same area of the body. Weird.
Why both of us?
Maybe it was our pillows, we thought. We hadn't replaced them in a couple of years. We're both side sleepers so we need big, fluffy pillows to support our heads and necks.
Maybe it was watching TV in bed, lying down with our heads propped up at strange angles on our pillows. This could not just end our marriage but be a contributor to our tight, sore backs.
Maybe it was working on laptops, where the computer surface and screen are often both smaller and lower, causing us to hunch slightly down and forward. Plus, part of the joy of a laptop is you can use it on the couch, in bed, at the kitchen table, and various other spots where you are most definitely NOT ergonomically positioned to avoid injury and strain.
BUT maybe, just maybe, it was our iPhones! Do you have a Blackberry or iPhone? When you got it, how much did your phone time go up? Did you spend hours hunched over it, like we do, typing, texting, facebooking, reading, posting and surfing? Um, Angry Birds, anyone?
If you answered 'YES" to any of the above, I'd be willing to bet you spend too much time on your smart phone. Just like us. Maybe texting while driving is not the only health hazard to come from these magical little devices.
Take a break. Stand up. Walk around.
I can't believe I'm going to say this, but watch some TV. Staring at a larger screen, several feet away from you, will be easier on your back and shoulders than looking down at a tiny box for hours on end.
When you can, answer emails and do social networking sitting at your desk, on a proper chair and with your computer at a comfortable height, where your shoulders are low and relaxed and your gaze falls straight ahead. Prop up your laptop if needed.
This is one time I'll say, Don't be like me. Stop BlackBerry Back before it starts.
Hey! You there. How long have you been sitting at that computer? And how many hours have you spent this week running from bed to drop-off to work to pick-up to dinner to housework to computer to bed? Whatever happened to taking time for yourself?
It’s probably true for most mummies that the days of 2-hour gym sessions are behind us. It’s hard enough to squeeze in that old Tae-Bo video your gorgeous cousin gave you now that her kids are off to university and she is not
enslaved busy sustaining several human beings.
What if you decided to view exercise for its immediate effects instead of what it can do in the 6-8 week range or by the time bathing suit season rolls around? The truth is that exercise can provide a much-needed break in the day for brain and body, as well as satisfying that instant-gratification craving for results. As in now. As in I want to exercise and feel better right now.
Well, you can!
Here is a 20-minute workout designed to awaken brain and body, with 5 carefully-chosen exercises to address common concerns rising from the mummy’s daily grind. Each exercise is designed to be done for 1 minute at whatever pace you desire—slower with fewer reps will provide that calm, zen break and faster with more reps (my personal favourite) will clear your mind and leave you with a bit of post-exercise euphoria. Who doesn’t need a little euphoria? Perform once through for a quick bit of relief and 3 times through for a full, 20-minute workout and reap great core training & posture benefits, immediately and with each workout!
Birth Squat (opens hips, strengthens core & legs, improves flexibility & blood flow)
Stand with feet hip-width apart, toes turned out. Raise arms in front of you as you squat, keeping heels down and lowering bum below knees, as close to floor as possible. (Note: if you suffer from knee pain, stop when thighs are parallel with ground instead; if no knee injury is present, this squat is perfectly safe.) Keep chest lifted and eyes raised. Hold for 1 count, then press hard into your heels and push knees out as you stand up. Repeat at desired pace for 1 minute.
Hover to Downward Dog (strengthens core, stretches legs to prevent/ease back pain)
Begin on hands & knees in “box” position. To increase difficulty, back knees up a few inches so they are slightly behind hips. Lift knees off floor 1-2 inches and keep shoulders aligned over wrists. Exhale as you lower to tap knees on floor gently 10 times, then press back into downward dog and aim to lower heels to floor. Hold downward dog for 10 counts. Repeat at desired pace for 1 minute.
Single Leg Deadlift (strengthens & stretches legs & back, improves balance & focus)
Begin standing with feet together and raise right leg a few inches off floor. Tip forward slowly and bend supporting left leg slightly as you reach toward floor. Tap floor with fingers and press up through left heel, squeezing your bum as you come back to standing with proper posture. To increase difficulty, place an item on the floor (dumbbell, book, etc.) to pick up & place down with each rep. Repeat at desired pace for 1 minute on each leg.
Prone TYI (corrects posture & strengthens back & shoulders, plus it’s nice to lie down...)
Lie on tummy with feet together and squeeze your bum slightly as you perform 15 reps of each of the following. First, arms extended out to sides in a “T” shape with your torso; raise head and arms off floor and pulse upward, squeezing shoulderblades together, 15 times. Repeat with arms extended slightly forward but wide, in a “Y” shape with your torso. Finally, repeat with arms extended straight forward and thumbs up, palms facing in. Repeat sequence at desired pace for 1 minute total.
Windmill (improves flexibility in core and spine, improves blood flow & posture)
Begin standing with feet wide and arms extended out to sides. Exhale and scoop belly up as you bend and lower left arm to outside of right leg. Brace left arm on right leg and apply pressure slightly to help you twist your spine and open chest and right arm up to right side. Hold for 3 counts, then rise slowly to starting position. Alternate sides and repeat for 1 minute.
Well, what are you waiting for? Get moving!