“Weight Control During the Holidays”
Weight: 174. The 2009 holiday season is upon us. This time of year is a wonderful time to renew ties with family and friends. There are many opportunities to get together, enjoy a meal together, or gather for drinks and good conversation. These social opportunities also represent a challenge to those who are weight conscious: how to live life to the fullest without sacrificing health and fitness goals. It isn't easy to withstand the temptations of the time, but with a little discipline and some common sense, it can be done.
I entered this year's Thanksgiving holiday just a few pounds higher than I like, but nothing disastrous. Another hard part for me is the fact that for five days I am not at work, which for me is school, so basketball is out of session for those days. Getting good cardio to replace the one-hour full-court basketball games I play five times a week would be hard. My sister invited me and the kids over for a great Thanksgiving Day spread. I knew smart decisions and a little self-discipline would have to get me through the event without tipping the scales too greatly.
Over the time off from school, I set a goal of three weight lifting sessions. I was able to get to two sessions, one on Wednesday and the other today (Saturday). Lifting weights burns calories by itself, but it also add or maintains muscle mass, needed to keep the metabolism burning at a high rate. I focused on strengthening my core muscles by lifting on the BOSU ball, which forces you to maintain balance while lifting. I also used weighted crunches to strengthen abdominal muscles.
The BOSU Ball
Men's Health Magazine is a staple for me as I work to be successful in all areas of fitness. Since 2002, it has been a helpful guide in establishing healthy approaches to eating, working out, managing stress, and personal relationships. I was interested to see how my methods were stacking up to their weight control approaches, especially during the critical holiday weeks where it is so easy to let partying pack on the pounds. I found one of their "lists" online in an article entitled "Ten Strategies for Successful Weight Loss." (http://www.menshealth.com/mhlists/motivation_to_lose_weight/index.php)
Let's see how I am doing when assessing my progress for each of their recommendations. I pledge to provide an honest evaluation of their outline. If I disagree with their recommendation, I'll say so and explain why. Each strategy is linked to the Men's Health article. Clicking on it will open a new window, so watch your taskbar or tab listing on your browser.
Position: agree. I religiously weigh myself before I start my day in the morning. After that, I forget about it. There too many variables in food consumption and energy expenditure to worry about weight throughout the day. I don't want to obsess about my weight but I do want to monitor it. That allows me to know if I need to add exercise or reduce calorie consumption.
2. Turn off the TV.
Position: agree. But I wish I were better at this one. It's easier to do when the weather is sunny and warm. I also get my cardio before work starting at 6:30 in the morning, so I enjoy my TV time after dinner up to the time to hit the sack. I am also guilty of eating in front of the TV when the kids are not with me for a meal. But I have given up "Jeopardy" or the NBA basketball game from time to time in order to hit the gym and put in some weight lifting time. When exercising, I usually listen to music rather than watch sports or other TV shows. The music tends to keep me moving. TV causes me to take breaks which can extend into long periods of inactivity.
Position: Agree. Any form of spirituality will act as a balance to the physical and mental efforts at remaining healthy. Placing weight loss and physical health into the hands of God is an act of faith, but these cannot be achieved by faith alone. I ask for the strength and ability to make the right choices. A spiritual outlook will also provide an standard or ideal to which one can strive, but it is part of a constellation of positive beliefs any health-conscious individual might maintain.
Position: agree. Level of success: partial. My workplace is notorious for having donuts and cookies on the staff lounge table, and I tend to give in to these as the day progresses. If I could avoid hunger but consume healthy-choice items (fruits, nuts, protein bars), I would be reducing calories while maintaining a fast metabolism.
Position: agree. This is addressed in the paragraph above, but almonds are an excellent snack that deals with hunger in a successful way. It is a great alternative to sweet snacks or other carb-laden responses to mouth-hunger. Problem: the smoked kind tend to have high amounts of sodium, and the unsmoked can be bland. Alternative: pistachios are also good for your heart, lower cholesterol, and are filling. They are high in calories, so keep portions small.
6. Grab the Day
Position: agree. This is a play on words of the phrase "seize the day" or carpe diem. It is important to take advantage of the moment of motivation and act on the impulse to be successful in your activities. The article is recommending that summer is better when being motivated to get out of doors because the days are longer. If you can find a good gym or recreation league that is open in the evening hours, you can still seize the day, even at night. My problem is that fatigue can easily overpower even the best intentioned weight watchers. In that event, just keep calories to a minimum after 8 PM.
Position: Partially agree, But it may not be practical. Most of us work, so we either pack our lunch or go out with the office crowd. You can see the level of disagreement and debate on the Men's Health website in the discussion section of this webpage. For the most part, even healthy cereal is high in carbs, so you'll be hungry well before dinner. The idea is that cereal alone will present fewer calories than a full lunch. I have even heard that cereal for dinner is a good strategy as long as you don't overcompensate with other food items as the evening progresses.
We're talking about acupuncture here. I've never had it, and I know only one person who has, and it wasn't for weight control. So I can't attest to its effectiveness. We'll have to see how the anecdotal and empirical evidence supports the hypothesis.
9. Eat a cow's worth (of calcium)
Position: agree. I follow their recommendation of 1,200 mg of calcium by way of dairy and a multivitamin every day. I like to use soy milk for my protein smoothies after lifting weights.
Position: disagree. The recommendation is to bet someone to see who can lose the most weight. While the intent is commendable, you've got to find the motivation within yourself to make the right choices and make them part of your lifestyle. Dieting doesn't just happen for a period of time. It becomes an approach to living, a healthy lifestyle that allows for moments of pleasure and deviation from discipline, but for the most part, you've got to follow a plan that works best for you.
Until next time,