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It’s that time of year again, when we look back at all the crap we ate over the holidays and decide it’s time to lose weight. You’ll eat less, switch to diet soft drinks, and yes, some of you nerds will actually join a gym, go three times and never come back. You’ll start eating normally, and instead of losing a few pounds you will gain the average 5-10 pounds that we Americans gain every year. Well, in an attempt to actually contribute something worthwhile, I’d like to share with all of you some very real and practical ways that you can drop a pound or two. Some of you will be asking, “Hey why should we listen to you Ryker?” Normally that is a very valid question, and one that even top scholars have failed to come up with an answer for. But in this case, you will want to listen because in the last year and a half I have managed to drop over 70 pounds, and it’s still coming off. The advice I will give you is free and easy and you won’t have to spend a ton of money, unless of course you want to send me some.
Tip #1 – Eat Frequently: I am unsure how the tradition of eating three times a day got started, but I can guarantee you that it’s not healthy for you. I used to be like most of you, eat three times a day with the largest meal being dinner. If you sit down and think about how we live, that kind of eating is disasterous. We spend all day running around needing calories and then right before we go to sleep we give our body food when it doesn’t need it. This can really mess up your metabolism and make it more difficult to lose weight. Your body is like a fire, and as such you should stoke that fire every few hours whether you are hungry or not. But don’t go overboard; a granola bar or yogurt will do just fine. But give your body something to eat. This will also make you less hungry when dinner time rolls around. I eat when I get up, after I workout, 10:00, noon, 2:30, and then again at 5:00. You should plan on at least five meals a day; just doing this will make a huge difference.
Tip #2 – Track What You Eat: I know what you are saying: “You can’t be serious. I ain’t doing that crap.” I too strayed from calorie counting for most of my life and thought hose people were nuts. But if you are serious about weight loss, you have to do it. It’s like not keeping score at a football game. Who wins? I can tell you that before I started calorie counting I believed I didn’t eat that much. Then when my wellness coach made me start journaling my food I was shocked; I was easily putting close to 3,000 calories in without even trying. Sure, smaller portions of junk food are still a ton of calories. For most of us we should strive to eat no more than 2,000 calories a day or 1,800 if you want to start losing weight.
This isn’t as hard as you might think. There are several FREE programs that allow you to track your food. The best one out there is MyPlate from Livestrong. Not only will it help you set caloric goals, but it will search for foods and let you know how much you are taking in before you eat them. Think you want to have a Big Mac? No problem. Just look it up and it will tell you what you are about to eat. MyPlate is a smart program as well. It learns what you like to eat and grabs your most common foods first. MyPlate also tracks what you do for exercise. So as you work out the more you can eat in a day, or the more beers you can drink! Best of all, MyPlate is available in an application form for almost everything. I have it on my BlackBerry and use it all the time to not only plan my day for eating, but for making better choices when I am at a restaurant.
Tip #3 – Get Moving: If anybody tries to sell you a weight loss product that works without exercise, run fast in the opposite direction. The bottom line is your body needs to burn more calories than it takes in order to lose weight. Now you could starve yourself and do a 1,200 calorie or less diet for awhile; but not only is this no fun, but it’s counter productive. When you reduce your caloric intake to very low levels your body’s metabolism adjusts downward and in many cases it will realize something is wrong and start storing fat. Yep, your body becomes a feisty chipmunk storing nuts for the winter. So, you have to eat if you want to lose weight. This is why exercise is so important. In order to get the caloric delta, you need to get moving more. Now this doesn’t mean you have to join a gym or start taking Zumba (although that does kick ass). Simple things that you do every day can make a huge difference. Taking your dog for a half hour walk instead of the five minute one can burn over 200 calories. Playing a pick up game of basketball with your friends is well over 300. It doesn’t matter what you do. What matters is you get your ass off the couch and do something. Heck playing Dance Central for an hour can burn between 600-1,000 calories and is a ton of fun too!
Tip #4 – Don’t Stalk the Scale: You know, your body is a funny thing, and often times when you do the right things it doesn’t give you the results you were lookiung for. That’s why many people who start weighing themselves on a daily basis get frustrated. “I’m doing the work, but I’m not seeing the results.” We need to remember that the weight is only part of the results and that inches can be a better indicator of success than the scale ever could be. I’ll be honest, I weigh myself once a week and for the past month I have pretty much stayed in the same spot. These plateaus come and go and they can be hard to deal with. My clothes felt great and I even had to get smaller Jeans. Then I saw my doctor and we did a Body Mass Index reading. My BMI went down 10% in the last 12 months and that is a huge accomplishment. The truth is I had been gaining muscle mass, which weighs more than fat. My weight was then a wash, but I was overall much healthier. So try and weigh yourself once every week or two and don’t run out to McDonalds when you don’t see the results you want right away.
Tip #5 – Drink Water, not Soda: Did you know that 75% of all Americans are dehydrated? Having the correct amount of water in our system is crucial for the body to operate effectively. So keep a water bottle by your desk and try and drink at least two a day. Experts will tell you that eight glasses is what you want, but depending on what you are doing you may need more or less. One might argue that beer and soda have water in them. This is true, but if you aren’t drinking diet soda, you are taking in 200 empty calories with each can. Diet soda isn’t any better as it contains high amounts of sodium and it messes with the PH balance in your bloodstream. (The PH levels of a diet soda are one step below battery acid. Think about that: you are drinking battery acid and that can’t be good for you). Try giving up soda for two weeks and see how many pounds you drop by just doing that.
Tip #6 – Be Patient: We live in an “I want it now” society and we want diet programs that give us instant results. The truth is these programs can sometimes provide us with the a short term weight loss. But oftentimes when we go back to a regular routine, we gain all the weight back; and then some. Healthy weight loss is around one to two pounds per week. If you keep this perspective and don’t expect instant results, you will be better able to stick with the program. If you are successful and these tips become habits, life gets even better. For me, planning what I am going to eat and how I will exercise is a way of life for me; I can’t imagine living any other way. This didn’t happen overnight, and neither did becoming the extra large person I once was either. Set goals, but be realistic about them. Slow and steady will win the race each and every time.
Finally, find supportive people who can help hold you accountable. I didn’t do all this by myself. I had help from a wellness program and other positive people. If anyone else is struggling and they want support, just send me an email and I’ll be glad to help. Life was never meant to be done solo, and that applies here as well. Here’s wishing you all great success on your New Years resolutions, whatever they may be.