Sunday, January 06, 2013
Before all the Biggest Loser fans start hitting me over the head let me say this is not about Biggest Loser bashing at all, although sometimes this would be tempting.
As I have learned in the last year, many practices that people hear about on the Biggest Loser when it comes to diet I would seriously question, but it is hard to tell what is part of the ad for a diet food and what the contestants actually eat.
The show has appeal to a lot of people, and I have to admit that I still enjoy watching it, in particular now, that Jillian Michaels is back. We can legitimately question her kick-a$$ approach but I still get the sense that she cares about the contestants and will take care of them far better than some of the coaches in the last two seasons.
This is also not about the fact that many Biggest Loser contestants gain a lot of the weight back, this happens for the majority of people on most weight loss programs so this one is no exception but actually has better success rates than many.
Now to the real issue:
Is the Biggest Loser really mostly about losing weight? I am talking, just for the purpose of this blog post, about the results the contestants are getting, not the lifestyle changes they are making which are of course more important.
The weight loss numbers are often very large but what strikes me as just as important is the obvious huge gains in lean muscle mass. So while the numbers on the scales are advertised every week on the program, the gain in muscle mass is largely ignored until closer to the end of the season, when the increased muscle mass is becoming very obvious even to the casual observer. Even then it is not quantified on the show.
We all know, of course, that people on The Biggest Loser spend a lot of time exercising, probably at least 4-6 hours of some kind of physical activity on most days. This is the way to run a reality TV show and get results from one week to the next that will keep viewers entertained. And this is where the problem lies.
Many people now conclude that the weight loss goals on the show are attainable only for everyone who is willing to spend that much time exercising. THAT IS SOOO NOT TRUE. It only takes much more moderate exercise during the weight loss process, maximum of 1-2 hours of low-level cardio and some strength training with a little bit of sprinting thrown in for many, to get all the same benefits. Some people will even have to do a lot less when they first start out to prevent damage to their spine and joints.
But exercise is important. It is not just about burning calories but about all the other positive changes that occur in the body, most of them related to hormones that regulate sleep, energy levels, appetite and stress. Jillian Michaels herself made an effort to explain the basics of this in her book: "Master Your Metabolism". While some of what is in the book is now outdated by newer research the basics are still true: Exercise helps a lot to help our whole body function better. Building muscle, incl. healthy heart muscle, even at the level that is not visible for a long time under a lot of body fat, is a huge contributor to overall health, including both physical, emotional and mental health.
Therefore I want to argue that there is indeed a reason to watch very overweight people exercise. If all of the Biggest Loser viewers get out of their chairs even during the commercial breaks and move around a bit and do some exercise this can start good habits that continue on the other days of the week. We don't have to go for big numbers on the scale but be satisfied with the knowledge that our bodies are healing whenever we move.
So please join me tonight in checking out the show and seeing what they have changed. If they can make exercise fun for kids, then I'm excited about it, because this has the potential to change many lives for many years to come, if not then I may try to think of something more motivating to help the youngest of us who need positive examples.
Saturday, January 05, 2013
I've been running three times this week and done strength training 3 times. I was able to avoid Xylitol and have stayed around 20-30 grams of carbs/day.
No significant weight loss yet but I think my strength training is starting to pay off and my running feels better then a week ago.
Tomorrow is my day off from exercise. I'll go and watch the highschool swim team competition and maybe walk the dogs if the weather is decent.
We watched the movie "Shadowlands" tonight. I had forgotten how good it is, although it has a sad ending.
Monday, December 31, 2012
Most people join Spark to lose weight and/or get healthy. Most people assume that being overweight has to do with eating too much or the wrong food and/or not exercising enough. This may be true, but I think these are only the symptoms.
Disordered eating (in the widest sense of the word) can take many forms and has many contributing factors.
Some of this becomes evident when looking at all the different Spark teams there are.
Some diseases and/or disabilities make it hard to eat or properly digest certain foods that may be healthy for some people. Examples of this are insulin-resistance and diabetes, hypothyroidism, gluten-intolerance or food allergies and sensitivities. These health problems may require special, therapeutic diets to allow the body to function well.
Another, very common cause for disordered eating is sleep disturbances or lack of sleep. The problems can be as varied as chronic pain, acid reflux disease, sleep apnea, hormone imbalances, too much computer time or any number of causes.
Too much chronic stress is another factor that may affect our eating through overproduction of some hormones and underproduction of others. The cause of stress can be physical or mental/emotional. Sometimes the biggest difference lies in how we choose to respond to stressful events and how we cut out space in our lives to counteract stress.
Habits that we have had for a long time are sometimes the cause of disordered eating. It takes a lot of effort to change habits and sometimes support from others will help a lot.
More and more often financial constraints limit our ability to eat healthy food. Having to get groceries at the local food bank severely limits one's choices.
There are many other factors that may come into play, including job, children, living situation, personal issues etc.
Just like our food choices our exercise choices may be determined by many other factors, some of which we can control and some we can't.
Life is complicated and sometimes the best we can do to is take a step back and look at it all from a distance. I like to make a large poster with many of the areas in my life that are important and then draw lines between them to explore the relationships between different areas in my life. This helps me to make plans for the New Year that are realistic and puts my weight loss goals in perspective. I like to then color-code my poster to mark areas where I'm doing well, areas where I need improvement and areas where I need to ask for outside help to be successful.
There are two ways to visualize balance: The one is the idea of balancing too many things at random on one plate and the whole thing being in real danger of crashing.
The other idea of balance is to put the heaviest (most important) items in the center of the plate and then decorate all the smaller things around it.
What is it in your life that centers you?
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