10 (More) Things I have Learned Along the Way (Part 2)

redlion45 Posts: 155 Member
Last week I posted "10 Things I have Learned Along the Way" and got way more great comments and questions than I ever anticipated. (Thank you for the kind words!) :happy: I originally wrote these notes for myselt, then converted them into a post. If you missed the first one, you are forgiven :smile: . I have lost about 50 lbs on MFP since January, and I learned a lot about what I think are the hidden truths on a weight loss journey (for most people). It's just my opinion, but isn't that what internet boards are full of? :laugh:

DISCLAIMER - I am not a fitness expert. I am a stress eating, fundamentally lazy, middle aged guy. I have a love afair with the drive thru window just like everybody else, and the breakup gets ugly sometimes. I just got sick and tired of feeling like garbage every day, and started reading about what it would take to change that. So, I still struggle with this stuff every day.

There were a few things I left off the list last time, so here is the rest of the things I have learned or discovered on my journey. I hope they are helpful to you. It's a little long winded, but hopefully worth the read. (At least its not a "should I eat back my exercise calories?" post:laugh: )

1. Lifting Weights is Good For Everyone. I am not here to tell you what to do, but the research is pretty unanimous. Lifting (heavy) weights is tremendously effective at changing your body and your health for the better, no matter your gender or age. You don’t have to become a Mr./Mrs. Olympia to get the benefit; lifting weights will help your fitness level in every way. So lift something heavy already – ladies included. How much you focus on this is up to you, and your individual fitness goals. If you want to become a marathon runner, then you are going to have to spend lots of time running, and I can’t tell you how to do that (I am still amazed that anybody can run for 26 miles), but if you simply want to get healthy and look better, you should think about making weights part of your fitness routine. Most guys want to look like an NFL linebacker, so they don’t have to be convinced, but for some reason women are reluctant to hit the weights or only lift the smallest weight they can find. For you ladies - if you were told that lifting heavy weights would make you manly or bulky, then you were hoodwinked. Given time, it will make you stronger and leaner, period. If you think female track athletes, gymnasts, swimmers and soccer players at the Olympics ( just to name a few), don’t lift weights so they can do what they do, then you are kidding yourself. None of them are going to be confused with a man anytime soon, and I doubt very many women wouldn’t take those kinds of figures in a heartbeat if it was offered. There is literally tons of information on MFP and on the web about women and weight lifting. Google “Women of Cross Fit” sometime if you doubt me. Say it with me Ladies - - “Unless I make Olympic powerlifting my job for 6-7 hours every day for the next 5 years (and take large doses of some very questionable supplements) I will not get bulky!) Yes, the weight lifting part of any gym tends to be guy territory, but we don’t bite, and most of us are actually pleased and impressed whenever a woman makes herself at home and pumps some iron. Yes, there may be some pinheads at the gym who may snicker (and there are some pinheads who are generally intimidated by strong women), but that’s no reason to stay away. There are lots of good references available from people who know a lot more about this stuff than I do, so check them out if you want to get started. Get some training on the proper form, and get to work. There are some great ladies on MFP who have undergone tremendous transformations lifting weights, just look for them and ask them. (Disclaimer - when I say "Lift Heavy" I mean what is heavy to YOU ( i.e., he most you can lift SAFELY for the specified number reps, so your muscles will be challenged and grow stronger and bigger). It's all relative, and everybody's level of strength is different. Dropping 200 lbs on your head the first day because you can’t lift it is pretty counterproductive. Don't worry about how much you can lift vs. someone else ( That is fighting human nature, I know). Just do what you can do. Start small, and get your form down, and you will get stronger faster than you think. You also don’t need a gym; body weight exercises at home can work wonders. You will like the results if you put the effort in. I know, there is that heavy dose of reality again.

2. Your scale lies to you. People constantly say “I worked out every day this week and ate right, and I still gained 3 lbs! This fitness stuff doesn’t work, so why bother. I quit” Not true. You just haven’t given it enough time. The scale can lie to you because it doesn’t know what part of your weight is fat, what is muscle, and what is water. If you are working hard and keeping under your calories, the weight loss will come when it is ready (which sadly is probably not the same thing as when you are ready). Weight loss is a funny thing, and everybody's results are different. Women especially seem to have inconsistent results from everything I have seen and read. There can be many reasons for this - just to name a few possibilities:

a. You are new to exercise and your body is still trying to figure out what it needs to do to cope with the new demands you are putting on it. When you start working muscles that aren't used to getting worked, they pull water into themselves as they try to repair themselves from the micro tears created by exercise (that's how they grow), and that can add water weight until the body gets used to working hard day in and day out.

b. Women's monthly cycles (Disclaimer - I am a guy - I admit I only know what is in the published studies!) cause water weight loss and gain throughout the month, which really screws up the scale results. Don’t blame me, it wasn’t my idea.

c. There is also something I have read dieticians and trainers write about sometimes called the "whoosh effect" where weight stays stubbornly on for weeks in spite of lowered calories and regular exercise, and then suddenly, "whoosh" pounds come off 3 and 4 at a time for some reason. It’s crazy, but makes sense when you remember that your body wants to be fat once it has learned how to be fat, so it doesn’t give up those pounds easily. Keep at it and, sooner or later, it will have to surrender the pounds. Unfortunately we all want instant results, which doesn’t always happen. So, keep on keepin on.

d. Muscle gains also reduce the loss of pounds on the scale, but will reduce your body size in inches; muscle weighs more than fat. This takes time, but keep a lookout for this in action. Use your favorite pair of jeans as a measuring stick and ignore the scale for a couple of weeks. Or, measure yourself at the start and track how those inches disappear over time. They will.

e. When and where you weigh yourself matters. Keep it consistent in terms of time and place, and use the same scale. They don’t all read the same. Even moving the scale to another room or a different part of the room can give you a different result.

f. If you are like a lot of people, you can gain or lose a couple of pounds during the day depending on what you ate, when you last ate, when you last used the bathroom, and so on. Don't don't sweat the details if you a 1/2 lb more after lunch.

3. People will try to sabotage you. Now, there are two parts to this.

a. Part one is the “Evil Empire” - the food and diet industry. OK, maybe their aren’t “evil”, but they don’t want you to get thin and healthy; they want you fat. You are a much better customer when you are fat and addicted to their products (And you are, aren’t you? Who isn’t?). They want to sell you french fries, candy, cakes, and cookies, and then they want to sell you the diet pills that promise to undo what the food (that one of their subsidiaries probably sold you) did to your waistline. They know that once you are in the habit of eating that unhealthy food, that you will most likely come back for more, week after week. They are out for profit, pure and simple. There is nothing truly evil in that, but that isn’t good for you. It’s up to you to make good food choices, nobody is going to do it for you. Ever wonder why fast food is so plentiful and so cheap? Because cheap and profitable sells - like Chicken McNuggets. Vegetables and fruits are expensive to grow and process, spoil quickly, are hard to transport, and can’t be mass manufactured very well, which means they aren’t very profitable. Stuff you can make in a factory for pennies out of partially hydrogenated whatever, freeze it until you need it in a wharehouse, and then lasts 10 years on the shelf in a plastic package is a goldmine. So, predictably, companies spend billions (with a “B”) of dollars every year thinking of ways to make the cheapest, best tasting, longest lasting, stuff that they can possibly make, and then thinking of new ways to convince you to buy it while blasting you with ads for the stuff 24 hours per day. Healthy isn’t part of the equation. Then, to make it worse, when people started trying to make better choices, they started lying to us on the label (well it’s not exactly a lie, they just don’t tell you all the facts, which is called marketing). They sell you something that says “ALL NATURAL” (which sounds good, but is meaningless – cyanide is all natural), “LOW FAT” (which means it has tons of sugar), or “LOW SUGAR” (which means it is loaded with fat) because those things all sound good. They do this because a processed collection of chemicals that doesn’t have either lots of sugar or lots of fat, tastes like – well – cardboard. They would sell better food if we demanded it, but for the most part this hasn’t happened, so why bother? We want junk food, and these multi-national companies exist to keep us fat and addicted to it. They learned to sell it to us when we were young, so it would become a lifetime habit. They put toys in the box, so our kids will demand it (Brilliant!). These companies are made up of scientists, marketers, product-testers, chefs, and lobbyists who dedicate their existence to making unhealthy food that is more appetizing and addicting than ever before. They spend countless hours testing different ratios of sugar, fat, and sodium to find the best balance of ‘food addiction,’ applying different layers of food on top of each other to create new sensations that envelope your senses and make you feel amazing…for a little while. (I mean seriously, whoever thought up putting little colored marshmallows in Lucky Charms cereal was a genius, and don’t even get me started on chocolate covered pretzels). That potato chip in your hand isn’t just a snack, it is a marvel of modern chemistry. Here’s how it works: when you reward yourself with sugary candy, a high-calorie, sodium-filled meal, or processed junk food, your body feels all happy for a while. However, after that happiness wears off (which happens quickly), your body chemistry returns to normal, but craves that happy, salty-sugary rush again and gets grumpy when you don’t provide it. So you slowly get trained to feed that addiction. Each time you eat that particular type of food again your body better trained to chase that happy feeling. (If it sounds like a drug addiction, you aren’t far off - - for some a food addiction isn’t too different.) Like any other drug, these foods are designed to suck you in and get you hooked. If you look at a bowl of M&M’s, or see that dancing M&M’s commercial and suddenly can’t think of anything else, then you know what I’m talking about. It didn’t happen by accident, that was the whole point. Sorry to rain on your cheesecake parade, but you might as well know what you are up against. Now you know why I called it a war.

b. Part two is more personal. It involves your family and acquaintances. This part doesn’t happen to everybody, but it happens to quite of few people. Somebody, maybe your co-workers, your friends, or even your family will try to say you are being “too obsessive” about your weight loss, or they will say you are losing too much weight, or they don’t like the healthy food choices you make (“Why can’t you just eat the freakin cake like the rest of us?”). Humans are incredibly talented creatures; unfortunately, one of the things we’re most talented at is rationalizing our irrational, counterproductive, and unhealthy behavior. We seem to need to oppose anyone who challenges our illusions. I suspect that these people are reflecting their own deep seeded insecurities by criticizing someone who is making a positive change when they have been unwilling to do the same. I also know that this fitness journey is yours and yours alone. In the end, it’s really not for your family or friends, although they can be good motivators, it’s for YOU. If you know what your fitness level and weight should be, and want to reach that goal, then you are going to need to ignore the saboteurs, critics and continue to do the work every single day. You have to want it. Free your mind from their propaganda and your body will follow. Nuff said.

4. People will suddenly become weight loss experts when they notice you are losing weight. Lose some weight and get toned up and suddenly people notice. That’s the good news. The bad news is that some of these people suddenly feel like they need to tell you what you should be doing (while they, of course, do nothing). They say: “You should run 10 miles a day.” “You should try the cookie and goat urine diet.” “You shouldn’t eat carbs.” “My cousin lost 80lbs in a month doing diet XYZ, you should do that.” “Lifting weights will make you bulky, you should stop.” Those people are everywhere. Unless the person talking to you is a qualified M.D., or a far better athlete than you are, my advice is to ignore this noise and avoid getting into an argument on the subject. You won’t convince them you are right. Just say “Yeah” or “Thanks” and go on your merry way to the gym. Some people just can't stand anybody else doing anything different, or doing anything better than they are. When you are out buying new clothes, running that 5K, or just seeing your body change in a very good way after that shower, then you will have the last laugh.

5. Life is Freaking Hard. Yes, Virginia exercise is work, it’s not necessarily fun (although it can be). You will strain things you never knew you had, you will be sore at times, and occasionally you may even walk funny (start lifting weights and you will know what I mean). You may even really injure something and have to take some time off while you heal. With a few exceptions, people don't really love their hard workouts, but they do love how they feel after the workout (once you get past the initial "I am going to die right here!" stage). If you love playing a game of tennis, a long walk or a long swim or whatever you do, that's just a bonus. Keeping a clean diet in a fast food world is even harder. So, given that diet and exercise is hard, sweaty, and inconvenient; why should you do it? Good question. Your choices are: Door #1 – Exercise and a better (not perfect) diet, or Door #2 - Going Through Life Fat, Sick and Tired; They are both hard, but you have to pick one or the other. It will never be easy, and, it is always easier to find a reason to quit. The only question is - will you?

6. Slow and Steady Wins the Race. Almost any exercise will be helpful when you are starting from a very sedentary lifestyle or are very overweight. There is no sense trying some “super turbo-ninja-X” workout on day 1 and hurting yourself or getting so sore you can't move for a month. I am not knocking those plans, but they aren't for everyone. Whether that is weights, cardio or whatever you like, just get moving every day and challenge yourself a little more (if you can) each time. You can fine tune the workout as you go to get more aggressive when you feel like your body is up to the task. Just get moving doing something you can do until your body gets used to the habit. Likewise, you can’t drop 20 lbs in the week before your high school reunion (you know who you are), and expect them to stay gone afterwards. It just isn’t going to happen.

7. There really are no excuses. Getting healthy has got to be a priority for all of us. Everybody has some time somewhere in their day to do something physical, no matter how busy you are. If you have to jump rope in the living room after the kids go to bed or walk around the neighborhood at 5 AM, you can do it – if it is a priority for you. We brush our teeth, wash our clothes, get our haircut, and do a dozen other things every day as part of our “health and hygiene” routine; why doesn’t the rest of your body deserve the same investment of time and effort? I know, this is part where you say “But, you don’t understand, I have (INSERT PROBLEM HERE)!” I hear you. Everybody's got a story and life challenges, and no matter how "bad" you think your story/life/situation is, somebody, somewhere has overcome worse. Walking off a bad childhood or a bad marriage? It happens. Injured? I can sympathize, and it doesn’t really matter what I think anyway; it’s your life. The fact is that being unhealthy on top of whatever other problems you might have at the moment only makes things worse, not better. Life is stressful, and that stress makes us want to eat an entire pizza. I have done it more times than I care to admit, but we have to overcome that urge if we want to improve your health. Others have overcome worse, so why not you? I just watched a guy who lost both legs when he was one year old run in the Olympics! It makes it kind of hard to whine about my sore knee. Nobody ever said it was going to be easy. Nothing good in life ever is.

8. If it isn’t 3500 calories over, you didn’t gain a pound. This goes hand in hand with #2 above. If Monday comes around and the scale shows that you gained 4 lbs. over the weekend, stop and do a reality check before you freak out. If you didn’t eat 14,000 calories more than your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE)(Google it - I’ll wait), then you didn’t gain 4 pounds of fat, and you didn’t gain 4 lbs of muscle in a weekend no matter what the workout DVD says. If you logged your food like you should have, you will know how much you went over your planned calories, if at all. (Remember 3500 calories = 1 pound right?) I don’t care what you ate, if it wasn’t 14,000 calories over for those two days, something else is going on, so don’t panic. If you really want to get really serious you will want to start measuring body parts and body fat percentage, not simply looking at the scale, but that is another topic. The scale doens't always tell you the truth - remember?

9. Adaption Matters. Your body is remarkably efficient at adapting to whatever demands you put on it. It will do it automatically without you noticing. We got to the top of food chain by adapting, and adapting is the only way to stay ahead of the game. You got used to not sleeping enough and eating lousy food easily enough, didn’t you? You can get used to sleeping more, eating better and exercising more too. No muscles can’t be confused (apologies to Tony Horton), but I concede the point – your body will get used to your workout if it never changes. If you hop on the treadmill for the same 30 minute workout every day, it won’t be very long before your body adapts and can do that workout quite literally in its sleep. That is fine and dandy, but it means that you are no longer challenging your body with that workout, and it isn’t really burning much energy or making new muscle to complete the workout that it now expects. You are going to have to change things up periodically, either go longer, go harder or do something else – bike, run, swim, zumba, or whatever – so you can keep on getting good results. This is where the planning comes in. I know, you are thinking “I went to the gym and worked out, and now you are telling me I have to think too? It’s so unfair!” That’s true, but remember I didn’t make the rules, I am just telling you what they are. I can’t tell you when to switch, only you can know that. When the workout becomes easy, it’s time to change something. I am a pure creature of habit. I wish I could just show up sleepy eyed, do the exact same workout day after day and call it good. But, I can’t and neither can you. If you are recording your workouts, you will know that you have been doing X number of minutes, or miles, or reps for 3 months without much change, and you know it’s time to up the ante and surprise yourself (That’s why we have a plan, remember?). If you have a gym membership and you aren’t much of a planner then just attend whatever random exercise class is in session while you are there. You might actually like what you end up doing and it will be something different. Pick a different workout DVD, or find some workout online that looks interesting if you are doing it at home. Just change things up now and again.

10. A warrior headed for battle needs allies. If you read my first “10 Things” post you know that this is a battle against the bulge which will has to be waged every day. The good news is that it’s a pretty quiet war - - no rockets or bullets needed, just you and your fat - mano-a-mano. The bad news is that this fight lasts a lifetime, and as you saw in #3 above, your enemies are always looking for new and better ways to make you fat. You will need to fight every day against whatever holds you back from being the healthiest “you” that you can be. If you have gathered the tools you need to fight this war (diet and fitness information, commitment, a little equipment, and a battle plan), then the only other thing you need is a few allies in your fight. Every famous warrior in history and mythology has had a band of good friends to help him/her when he/she conquered whatever enemy/dragon/evil he/she went out to fight. You had better have some too. Find somebody who will hold you accountable to your goals (you did set goals right?). Maybe it’s your spouse, your BFF, or your Mom –pick one or all three. Find a workout partner if you want to - somebody who will miss you if you miss a workout. Find a trainer if you want one. Fine someone knowledgeable online or in real life to get advice on fitness and exercise if you need it. Facebook post your current weight and workout every day to your friends if that is what it takes. You have already gotten some friends on MFP right - -those people who will cheer you on and answer your silly questions, not just post snarky comments? Find whatever allies you need to win your fight. I don’t know you, and I probably don’t know what YOU need as support for your successful journey, but you had better figure it out. Otherwise, your fat isn’t going anywhere; it likes things just the way they are.

A better life is out there. The only question is whether you want it. I do. Do you? Lots of people are pulling for you. Get after it. :bigsmile: