Friday, August 08, 2014

14 Simple Rules For Staying On Track With Your Healthier Lifestyle (OK, it's kind of too many rules to be considered "simple")

So, a couple months ago I wrote what was my supposed last post on the whole Rich 2.0 thing and at the time I meant it. I still do. However I've had a lot of friends and acquaintances approach me asking for advice. If you've been following along for a while you know my standard answer is "here's what worked for me but I can't guarantee it will work for you". I have 3 friends who have had similar weight loss success following my exact method of using MyFitnessPal to track calories versus exercise (some with and some without utilizing Fitbit as well). That's so awesome it makes me smile. So I thought I'd take a minute and write some thoughts on what's worked for me and some general observations about weight loss/fitness/healthier living. This is less about me (for once) and more for folks looking for some good rules of thumb

1) One change in lifestyle is a good start but multiple changes will lead to success- You have to crawl before you walk and walk before you run so starting by adding or subtracting something right off the bat is a step in the right direction...but it can't be the only thing. I can't tell you the number of people I see training harder then me (running, biking, at the gym) or eating better then me (portion control, counting carbs and calories) still having minimal success. It's a combination of proper diet and exercise that will lead to continued success.

2) There is no singular, simple solution- Despite the ads, claims, and infomercials there is no simple method to healthier living. By drinking one juice/smoothie a day, by taking one supplement a day, by sending away for pre-purposed food every day won't get you to where you want to be without other changes along the way (see above). There is a kernel of truth in each claim but you have to read the fine print (not typical results, based on a 2000 calorie a day diet, along with regular exercise, etc)

3) Don't drink your calories- It sounds elementary but I think a lot of people don't pay attention to this. A small frozen Coffee Coolatta with cream is 460 calories and a Caramel Frappachino is 410 calories. A typical frozen mudslide is 460 calories and a frozen margarita can have upwards of 500 calories. A typical craft beer has 150 calories and even a "healthier" smoothie can reach 300-500 calories very quickly. Hell even a medium coffee with cream and sugar has about 160 calories. Not saying avoid but just be aware

4) Set yourself up to succeed by setting attainable goals- Have a goal! Goals are good! BUT make your goal realistic. Success breeds success whereas failure breeds failure. My initial goal was 30 lbs in a year and I got there in 6 months. This was because I got into good habits. Trying to lose 30 lbs in say 3 months likely means your crash dieting and that's not good in the long run. My mindset was a lb a week initially then 1/2 pound a week. I think both of these are safe, healthy benchmarks

5) It's a marathon, not a sprint- Be in it for the long haul, not short term. Make it lifestyle, not diet.

6) Don't get discouraged- This one is huge. Most people stumble and fall when they finally don't lose weight or put weight back on. It's NOT the end of the world!! Refocus, regroup, and keep on keeping on. I think this one makes me shake my head more then most. I've put 5 lbs back on since my lightest weight last summer but it hasn't changed how I approach the whole thing. I know I'm doing it the right way and am happy with that

7) No Days Off!- This goes back to the lifestyle thing. I have cheat days (and nights), trust me. Maybe more like cheat meals. Or cheat beer blasts. But when I know about these before hand I make sure to get more exercise in that day and that my non-cheat meals are far more in line with normal eating. Don't just say "well if its gonna be a bad food day lets go all in". Live the life and even if a you have bad day record it all and use it as motivation

8) Dress for success- If you have a lot to lose chances are you'll eventually need new clothes. Unless its necessary for work temper your buying binges until you've settled in on your end weight. I finally had to get all new jeans, shorts etc last year and now those are also too big. That kills the cheapskate in me! Get by as long as you can until you've plateaued. Oh, and dress appropriately. We all want to show off our slimmer bodies but odds are if you had a lot to lose you're still not supermodel material so don't wear anything you'd cringe at looking at a picture 5 years from now

9) Don't skip breakfast- Honestly, don't skip breakfast. It is indeed the most important meal of the day bar none. It's been proven that a healthy breakfast is important to a healthy metabolism. It sets your food tone for the day. It's the meal that will sustain you through the first half of the typical work day. I'll take it a step further. Breakfast should be your largest meal of the day. Because of my diabetes my nurse recommended a "reverse pyramid" diet with meals decreasing in size as the day progresses (big breakfast, smaller lunch, even smaller dinner). This way you're not sleeping on your largest calorie intake of the day

10) Drink Lots Of Water- I mean LOTS! Like an inordinate amount. It' keeps you hydrated, it keeps you full.The body craves hydration and water is still the best way to do this. It helps, trust me

11) Record Everything But Be Consistent- Tracking food, exercise and progress are important. That said, for progress it's important to do so in regular intervals in similar conditions. For example if you own a scale then that becomes your scale of record. If you weigh yourself in you underwear, always weigh yourself in your underwear. If you start the process by weighing yourself in the got it, always weigh yourself in the morning. Most importantly stick to some kind of regular interval and don't stray from it. Randomly weighing yourself with a different scale in different conditions can be a major blow to your psyche. Also, scale aside, the mirror doesn't lie so "look" for progress in areas other then just weight drop

12) Find The Time- You do need to work in the time to eat healthier and exercise more. There's no way around it. For me it meant getting up 3 hours before work to get my exercise and food prep in. It's meant living on 5-6 hours sleep. It's meant working more time into plans so I can walk somewhere versus driving.  It's meant dragging my ass out of bed even on vacation to get the work in. Time is one of the hardest things to find especially for those with kids but you owe it to yourself and your kids to be healthier so you need to make it work (I've devised some simple 15-20 minute "total body" workouts all using body weight resistance (some using simple apparatus, some without) that get you a great, quick workout and burns about 100-120 calories to boot. I'll post them sometime)

13) Healthier snacks yes, daily desserts, no- Despite what you may or may not have grown up with desserts should not be an every day thing. They should be a luxury to be enjoyed occasionally not after every meal. Healthier snacks to hold off hunger between meals are a definite but large, sugary desserts full of empty calories should be something to look forward to, not something expected every day

14) Set a good example- By taking better care of yourself you're setting a good example for your kids, younger siblings, etc. America is in crisis with more cases of obesity (and severe obesity) in young children then any time in history. By setting the example it's much easier to be able to say "hey, if I can do it you can do it"

If you have health or dietary restrictions you really should consult your physician before embarking on any kind of diet and exercise regime. There are probably more diets and lifestyles out there now then ever (vegetarian, vegan, Palleo, clean eating, South Beach, fasting diet, etc, etc). However you need to find what works for you initially and more importantly what you can stick with over time. It's not easy. Never has been, never will be. But, if you're like me, in the end you'll find it worthwhile. Success breeds success and is contagious. Anyhow, that's how I see it.