Thursday, September 27, 2012
This is a story about portion control. An important weight loss and proper nutrition factor which can easily turn itself into a boomerang side-effect if you lose balance and moderation while applying its rules. If you’re one of those persons who measure everything they put in their mouth by the decimal figures of an ounce, read on.
Back in my first dieting years, I would often browse through diets I came across in magazines or meal plans that a friend would follow. I had stumbled upon a snack option many times. “Half a normal-sized banana”. I would always wonder: Why half?
When I decided to follow a specialist’s advice to help me lose weight, I visited my endocrinologist who was also an obesity expert in order to make my first meal plan. I started reading it and soon realized that it had one fruit serving for every snack. “Great!” thought the fruit-lover inside me. At the end of the weekly meal plan there was a detailed description of what one fruit serving meant: One medium apple, two large tangerines, half a normal-sized banana…!!!
The question just asked itself using my voice!
“Excuse me, why do I have to eat half the banana? Can’t I eat all of it?”
She explained to me that a whole banana counts for two servings of fruit and it would double the calories of my snack.
“Ok,” I replied, “what if I eat both my snacks in the morning and not have an evening snack? This way I could eat a whole banana!”
She answered that the calories and the fruit fiber should be equally divided between meals and that the afternoon snack is really important.
“All right then, could you please tell me what I’m supposed to do with the other half?” – I know it sounds like a stupid question but I was really wondering at the moment of what her answer would be.
- You can put it in the fridge and eat it in the afternoon.
- I hate chilled bananas which have started going black!
- You can share it with someone else in the family.
- They want to eat a whole banana, too, and they have every right to. They’re not trying to lose weight!
- Well, throw it away then!
(Oops! Anger alarm triggered! Is she really telling me to throw away half the quantity of bananas I buy?)
I wanted to start telling her about the increasing rates of hunger and famine over the world but I thought “She’s a nutrition expert, she knows about those things.” And I just ended the discussion. Already determined to break this one rule.
Don’t get me wrong, I bear no grudge against her. She’s an excellent doctor who has kept my thyroid at rest for the past decade and that was one of the two arguments we’ve ever had.
I managed to lose 17 kilos back then – which I gained back, you know the story – and I lost 19 again with Sparkpeople. Always eating a whole banana for a snack.
The moral of the story? Moderation has to be applied everywhere, even on portion control. You must be aware of how much you’re eating but one more fruit or salad serving won’t make you fat! How bad can it be compared to the cookies you used to snack on until yesterday? Food tracking is a valuable and helpful tool that will help you discover your bad eating habits but you mustn’t get obsessed with it. You don’t have to count the lettuce leaves that you’ll put into your salad! You won’t be able to do that for the rest of your life! Because if you do, you risk crossing the line. And on the other side, food obsession awaits. And it’s a very good friend with eating disorders.
Change your bad eating habits one at a time, one step at a time. I’ll never get tired of repeating it. Healthy, life-long habits that are far from tiring, compulsive obsessions can really put you among the small, successful percentage of people who lost the weight and never “found” it again. Isn’t that what we’re all trying to accomplish?
Monday, September 24, 2012
September, 22nd, 2009.
Another terrifying reading on the scale had triggered feelings of guilt, self-hatred and panic. Getting too close to the dreaded 90's again. I had gained back all the weight I had lost using huge amounts of patience, self-discipline and money. I was back to square one again. And in serious danger of getting even further behind it. I would soon need one-digit weight gain to enter the three-digits weight numbers. 100 kilograms looked so close! I had to do something.
I thought I’d try the internet. Keywords like “weight loss” and “diet” flooded the result screen with millions of sites. I found a BMI calculator in the first one I entered. The categorization only made me feel even worse.
“A BMI over 30 puts you in the “Obese” category for adults of your height.” Obesity??? The word echoed in my head, destroying my already vulnerable self-esteem.
I was ready to try the first fad diet I could find that would promise me the fastest results. But then I came across Sparkpeople. What caught my attention at first was the word “free” - I had already paid once to get rid of the weight, I refused to do it again. At first, it looked complicated. And I was skeptical. But I chose to stay. A choice that would prove to be wise.
I found a lot on Sparkpeople.
- Information. Hundreds of articles and feedback on nutrition, exercise and healthy living.
- Tools. Trackers, videos and healthy recipes.
- Inspiration. People who had succeeded in their journeys, no matter how difficult it seemed.
- Support. People who fought the same battle I was fighting. Who were there to cheer me on when I progressed. Who would gladly offer their hugs when I fell. (Who would have thought that virtual hugs could ever mean so much?) And people who would encourage me to get back up and fight again.
- Wisdom. Life wisdom. The kind that is not written in books. The kind that is sculpted on people’s hearts according to their experiences. And I found lots of those people here who were willing to share their priceless knowledge.
3 years later, 19 kilograms lighter, 24,000 fitness minutes fitter and a lot wiser by hundreds of Sparkpeople’s stories kept securely in my heart and mind, I can reassure you that Sparkpeople changed me in so many ways. Ways that I could never imagine when I joined in 2009. Back then the name of the site sounded motivating. For some reason, it seemed like a community of people who "sparkle" with the glow of change.
Now, I know that it’s all about the spark within us. A spark that can only be lit by us. No matter how many tools and how much support this wonderful community gives you, if you don’t light the spark yourself, nothing will ever happen. It’s like trying to educate a reluctant student. Even if you bring him the world’s finest tutors, no one will manage to put the knowledge in his head.
The spark is somewhere there inside you. You are the one who will light it. When it starts fading, your supportive friends will help you rekindle it. If you really want to change, no failure is strong enough to stop you. It can only serve as a learning tool for your changing process. Your spark doesn’t know quitting.
Thank you Sparkpeople for helping me light my spark.
I wish I’ll always be strong enough to stay here and help others do the same.
Monday, September 17, 2012
The importance of goal-setting!
It’s in almost every weight loss article I have read in the last couple of years. Advice on this subject is given in abundance by every fitness and nutrition expert.
“Set your goals today.”
“Keep your goals small and realistic.”
“Write down your goals.”
“Share your goals with friends or family so that they can keep you accountable.”
“Make a vision collage of your goals.”
“Be flexible with your goals.”
Advice, which, in most cases, is valuable and foolproof. But what about the nature of the goals? When it comes to weight loss what kind of goals should we set?
Most of us have started our journeys using the scale as a starting point for our goal-setting technique. “I want to lose 10 pounds/5 kg/10% of my body weight by Christmas/my birthday/summer vacation.” Or we make it even shorter: 2 pounds this week. And I can’t help but wonder: Even if we do everything right, how sure are we to reach this goal? There are hundreds of times that I’ve come across blogs from frustrated people wondering “Why didn’t the scale move? I didn’t do anything wrong!” Simply because our bodies’ chemistry is much more complicated than “calories in-calories out”. There is no diet and no program in the world that can guarantee a specific weight loss for every person that tries it. So, are we setting ourselves up for disappointment when our goals revolve around the scale?
During my journey I set a lot of fitness goals. I entered the world of fitness being utterly unfit! I could only dream of being able to do jumping jacks for two minutes. But I did. I couldn’t picture myself doing ten real push-ups. But I did. I finished three three-month DVD bootcamps. I never imagined myself running on the treadmill. And now I’m training for a 5K.
I would be a liar if I told you that I had no scale goals during this time. The number on the scale and its fluctuations were always at the back of my mind. But that’s where I kept them. I would put fitness goals in front, make them “louder” in my mind and focus on them. They were always there to help me get over the scale disappointment. They were something I was fully responsible for. My physical abilities – which could only get better – and my commitment to exercise. No metabolism rates, unwanted water retention or any other complex body chemistry mechanisms included.
As I slowly enter maintenance period – aka the rest of my life – goal-setting with no scale numbers involved becomes even more important. We can’t keep losing weight forever! But if you’ve had the gain-it-all-back experience at least once in your life, you know how important it is to stay fitness and health motivated. And the scale can’t help you here. There’s not much fun in seeing it stuck to a number, nothing to work towards. Fitness possibilities, on the other hand, seem endless. There’s always something new to try.
But the scale-free goal-setting technique doesn’t have to be about exercise only. There are many nutritional goals you can start with or try to adopt even if you have reached your weight goal. Eat a certain amount of fruit or vegetables a day for a week, try a new healthy recipe each weekend, eat a healthy breakfast every morning and make a big streak out of it, you name the change in your nutritional habits. And set a goal or more out of it. And while you focus on succeeding with your goals, a lot of other changes will be taking place within you. Changes that will get you closer to a healthy and balanced lifestyle that we’re all here for.
And the scale? Believe me, eventually it will have no other option but to follow!!!
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
As I was writing this, an old song came to mind: “There is something strange, in the neighborhood…” But don’t rush to call the Ghostbusters! The change isn’t frightening at all. On the contrary, it’s quite promising!
Our neighborhood is a typical city one. The apartment building we live in is situated right next to a busy street, so our life has a constant soundtrack of various traffic noises. A few evenings ago, the sanity-threatening symphony of car honks, roaring engines and sirens suddenly stopped. And I don’t mean it stopped for a minute or two which would be normal but it had stopped for quite a while, so that the silence could reach not only our ears but our brains, as well. We rushed to the balcony to discover the source of this newly-acquired and so ear-and-mind-soothing silence. And we stared in amazement! The cars had vanished! The road was full of bicycles!
We had seen them before. People who like bikes, get organized through Facebook and go on evening rides around the city, while having fun and motivating others to use bikes at the same time. We used to see groups of 20 or 30 people. But this time, there were hundreds of them! People of all ages, mothers with toddlers in separate seats, couples, families with children, teenagers. All those people getting fitness-conscious and environment-conscious at the same time! What a nice surprise!
My girls were thrilled! They stared with eyes wide-open to the sparkling bicycle lights and the illuminating wheels in the darkness. And when my elder daughter spoke, I couldn’t believe my ears: “Mom, I know what I want for my birthday: I want you and dad to buy bicycles, so we can do this together!...!!!
(Mom’s ear-to-ear smile glittering with pride: My children are fitness-motivated!)
Unfortunately, bikes are expensive and not affordable at the moment. But that’s probably the only bad thing I can think of. Let’s see the facts on cycling:
- On a bicycle you can have your cake and eat it. Simply because a moderate half-hour commute will burn eight calories a minute, equivalent to 11kg of fat in a year! So, cycling burns an average of 480 calories per hour! Not bad for a seated activity, is it?
- An adult cyclist typically has a level of fitness equivalent to someone 10 years younger and a life expectancy two years above the average. No wonder countries with the highest levels of cycling and walking generally have the lowest obesity rates. Feel younger, look younger and actually live longer!
- On a bicycle you use a motor and you can improve its strength and efficiency - and even its working life - the more you cycle! Which motor? Your heart, of course!
- Using a bicycle means caring for our big home, the planet! Bicycle traffic in Copenhagen prevents 90,000 tons of CO2 from being emitted annually!
- You can park about 15 bicycles in the same space that one car takes. No more parking tickets!
- A bicycle can really shrink your car vehicle maintenance expenses. Maintaining a bike annually costs twenty times less than maintaining and riding a car. Oh, and rising gas prices? On a bicycle you can travel up to 1037 km on the energy equivalent to a single liter of petrol! Because you simply use up fewer watts of energy than a car consumes just to power its lighting system for the same distance.
-The bicycle is the most efficient vehicle ever devised; a human on a bicycle is more efficient (in calories expended per kilo and per kilometer) than a train, truck, airplane, boat, car, motorcycle or jet pack. In simple words, it can - theoretically, of course - take you further than any other vehicle without pit-stops!
To sum up all benefits:
Unfortunately, not all cities are cyclist-friendly, and as a result, many accidents – some serious ones – increase the risks of riding a bicycle in a city. If we add the drivers’ carelessness to the lack of cycling lanes – many drivers are not properly educated on how a cyclist should be treated on the road – the dangers involved rise significantly. And that’s the second bad thing I can think of, but that’s as far as it gets.
But things are changing and that’s such a promising fact. I really hope I managed to make you think about it. Even for seconds. Toy with the idea of a change in your means of transportation. Become a kid again. And enjoy the best of both worlds at the same time. If not, if you really can’t imagine yourself without a car, it’s ok. Just think twice the next time you’ll find yourself next to a cyclist on the road. They’re going somewhere – like you do – but in a way which protects our planet, the home we all live in. They deserve their safety. And we all deserve chances to live better in a healthier planet, don’t you think so?
For more interesting facts on bicycles, check out these sites:
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