Tag Archives: health

How to Make This One Your LAST New Year’s Resolution – Guest Blogger Colin DeWaay

I think Colin’s tips below are targeted to that person who is highly motivated to make this the last time they need to start over.  Share this one to save it.  It could be a great reference for when the motivation wanes and grind begins. ~ Tammy

Well it’s that time of year again. Gyms are being flooded with people vowing to make a change. I actually LOVE this time of year, despite it making my own workouts a bit hectic. Seeing so many people trying to change for the better is awesome. There is only one problem though…. VERY few will succeed. So what I want to do today is go over why I think the majority of people fail and talk about ways you can make sure this year is the last year you EVER make a New Year’s Resolution to get in shape.

At the very top of the list of importance is sustainability. Cliché or not fitness is in fact a lifestyle and if you’re not in it for the long haul no matter what you do you’ll eventually fail. What that means is you have to find something you enjoy and you can see yourself doing long-term. If you hate every second of what you’re doing, how long do you really expect to keep it up? Even if you manage to lose the weight, how will you keep it off when you stop?

It also means you need to focus your attention on the process and not any quick fixes. I promise you no pill, “detox” (don’t even get me started,) green sludge or plastic wraps are going to do the trick. It comes down to diet, exercise, and consistency. But once again, this is where most people go about things completely wrong. They think to see results they have to eat nothing but cardboard and rabbit food and they must suffer endlessly. In fact most people seem to seek out the most difficult “hardcore” plans they can find hoping this might be the answer. They’re doing it wrong….

So with that said, let’s go over 5 tips to help you finally get where you’ve always wanted to be…. And STAY there.

Tip #1

Don’t try to “kickstart” your weight loss

Of course you want great results and you want them now, who can blame you? We ALL want fast results. So naturally you should do something dramatic to get things going right? Couldn’t be more wrong. In fact that’s the exact opposite of what you should do. You see when you lose weight your metabolism slows, there’s no way around this. So sure if you dramatically cut your calories and/or do a lot of cardio you’ll drop weight fast. Everyone loves that! Well, at least until you get stuck. Which if you take this approach I promise you will.

Think of it this way. Your body cares about one thing above anything else. Survival. It could care less if you have a six pack or “toned” arms. It’s job is to keep you alive. So when you cut calories low it’s going to do everything it can to hang onto what you give it. Basically your body gets really efficient at utilizing the food you eat, which in theory sounds good, but it’s not. You begin to burn less calories from the exercise you perform, the thermic effect of food decreases, you burn less calories at rest and what’s arguably worse is you get a shift in hormones that not only makes you feel hungrier but also prevents you from feeling full. (1) Yep, your body gets more efficient at making sure you don’t starve yourself to death by making it easier to store fat and overeat. Recipe for disaster if you ask me. Make sure you eat as many calories as possible while still losing so you can keep making adjustments. Plus who doesn’t want more food???

 Tip #2

Don’t deprive yourself

Remember that thing I said about sustainability? You’re not going your whole life without eating the foods you love. And the big problem is when you tell yourself foods are off limits a few problems arise. 1) When you tell yourself you can’t have something what’s the thing you automatically want? (Forbidden fruit.) 2) You’re relying on willpower which is not infinite. Eventually you WILL run out of willpower and you’ll be caught in a bad situation which is what leads to binge eating. 3) You’re going to be miserable, and if you’re miserable do you really think it’s going to last? There is no happy ending to an unhappy journey. If what you’re doing now to lose the weight isn’t something you can keep doing after the weight is gone you’re doomed to fail. 4) You form a bad relationship with food. You find yourself feeling guilty just cause you ate some cheesecake. You find yourself avoiding social situations or if not you’re stressed out about all the “temptations.” Guilt should never be associated with food… Ever.

I’m not saying your diet should be nothing but pizza and ice cream, but they certainly shouldn’t be completely off limits either. You have to learn moderation and this will never happen with a restrictive diet. Despite what most “gurus” will tell you there are no magic foods and there are no foods that inherently make you fat either. Yes certain foods have a more nutrient dense profile and help you feel fuller, but it’s all about context of an overall diet. Is eating broccoli better for you than a scoop of ice cream? Sure. But if that scoop of ice cream helps you stay on track, avoid binges, enjoy your diet and stick to your diet than I’d actually argue the scoop of ice cream is BETTER. Everything in context. Besides, believe it or not there is actually data to support whether a diet had mostly simple carbs or complex carbs it made no difference in body composition OR health markers when calories are equated. (2,3,4)

Tip #3

Focus your exercise around strength training

I’m kind of known for bagging on cardio and I’m often asked why I think cardio is “bad.” I don’t think cardio is bad by any means, it just needs to be utilized wisely and it shouldn’t be your primary source of exercise if you want to do things optimally, especially if your goal is body composition. New research even supports the use of strength training for reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease even independent of aerobic exercise. (5)

While cardio does tend to burn more calories during the actual exercise itself it’s nothing compared to the fat burning machine your body becomes with strength training. When you’re done with cardio and your heartrate returns back to normal you’re done burning calories. With strength training you get what’s called EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) which means your body continues to burn additional calories even while at rest as it recovers and repairs from the stress you gave it. This effect can happen for a few hours or even up to almost two days depending on several factors. (6) Not only do you burn more calories recovering, but the more muscle you have on your frame the more calories your body burns naturally. (7) And no ladies, it won’t make you bulky or look like a man… Pinky swear.

So how should cardio be treated? Like calories only in reverse. You want to do as little cardio as possible while still losing fat so you have more options when things stall out. If you’re now eating high calories and doing low cardio you have plenty of options moving forward to bust through those pesky plateaus. Guess what happens if you’re already eating hardly anything and doing cardio every day?

resolution

Tip #4

What you did before DIDN’T work

I can’t lie, this one drives me nuts. So many people will go back to old plans they did before because they lost a bunch of weight. But if you did this and gained all the weight back, did it really work? Of course not! It only works if you can sustain it. “Well that’s just because I stopped doing it, this time I won’t quit.” Sure you won’t, best of luck… Sorry but chances are the reason you stopped was because you were doing many if not all the things I’m telling you not to. You quit because you couldn’t rely on willpower anymore. You couldn’t eat the same 7 foods the rest of your life. You couldn’t run on a treadmill for hours on end anymore. You hated what you were doing and you stopped. So why would it be different this time? Yeah you want it bad now, but motivation doesn’t last forever.

Tip #5

No more “all or nothing”

This one absolutely kills progress. People think they need to be perfect and if they can’t be there’s no point in even trying. The truth is chasing perfection is a losing proposition. In the battle of all or nothing, nothing will win 100 times out of 100. There will be times in your life you need to be more strict and there will be times to be more flexible. You must learn to be okay with not being perfect. You’re better off being 80% “on” all the time then being 100% “on” half the time. There will be times you have to back off more and there will be times you kill it and that’s totally fine.

So bottom line, what should you do? Take things slow and don’t rush the process! Eat as many calories as possible while losing weight and focus your training on resistance training. Losing between .5%-1.5% of your body weight on average weekly is a pretty good pace for most people but understand that scale weight is far from the only story and the leaner you are the less it means. Focus more on how you look, how your clothes fit, how strong you’re getting and possibly most importantly how you FEEL. These things mean way more than any number on the scale.

Do this and you can continue to make adjustments when you hit plateaus. Remember that your metabolic rate is a moving target and adapts to what you do, so if you make huge drops right away you’ll lose plenty of weight fast but it will stall quick and then what will you do? You can only drop calories so low. Take it slow and make adjustments when necessary and you keep the good times rollin’! Remember, you didn’t put the weight on in 2 months, so don’t expect it to come off in 2 months either.

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If you’re looking for more information from me you can follow me on Facebook and you can also download this free guide to help give you some direction. This will also put you on my email newsletter where you’ll get daily emails for a little motivation, guidance, and possibly a small kick in the rear from time to time…  Warning – I tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. So if you’re sensitive you may want to pass. But if you’re serious about changing your life and taking ACTION, you should love it.

Lastly if you’re ready to take that next step and want to make sure you do things right this time just head here and I’d be honored to help you reach your goals. But only if you’re serious! The program only works if you do.

 

 

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Filed under Guest Blog, Guest Blogs

Getting Started with Weight Training – Guest Blogger Colin DeWaay

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If you read my last blog you understand the importance of a good strength training routine when it comes to losing weight and that building muscle can be your best friend. However, if you’re new to training you might be wondering where exactly you should start. So that, my friend, is exactly what we’re going to talk about today.

The first myth I want to dispel right away is that in order to see progress you have to beat your body to a bloody pulp and leave the gym crawling out on your hands and knees leaving a trail of your own filth along the way. It’s just not true, and likely counterproductive. Especially as a true beginner, the truth is you can actually do very little (and should) to see results. If you’ve never lifted before, to start out you can just show up to the gym, do a set or two of a handful of exercises a few days per week and you’ll be surprised just how well it will work. Those of us in the business call that “newbie gains” and trust me, anyone who’s lifted a long time is jealous of how easy you can see progress!

As you get more experienced it takes more complex and systematic approaches to training but as a beginner the training response is so powerful that literally all you have to do is show up, do some work, be consistent and you’ll see progress. This is not the time to look for complex or extreme programs, you don’t need it. As a beginner the emphasis should be on building good habits and work ethics, learning proper form/technique and finding something you enjoy. It’s later on down the road you’ll need to worry about things like periodization and progressive overload (which you probably have no clue what they mean nor do you need to at this point, but I will explain in the future.)

If you are totally new to training, start small. Do something manageable that you KNOW you can do each and every week. If that means lifting two days per week, doing 4 exercises and just a couple of sets of each one, do that. You want to gain confidence and momentum and if you start off with a program that requires a lot more work than you’re used to chances are you’ll become discouraged and you’ll be much more likely to quit. Get in there and get some wins, show yourself that you can do it, then start adding more work after you’ve done it consistently for a while.

Keep it simple, make it enjoyable and don’t get caught up on picking the “perfect” exercises. Also don’t worry about performing the movements perfect either. Don’t get me wrong you’ll want to learn proper technique for sure, but you’ll never master it before ever starting. So get in there, do the work and learn as you go. People who wait to have all the knowledge (no such thing as knowing everything) before they start will struggle. In fact doing too much research ahead of time will likely overwhelm you and keep you from even attempting to start. Step one is just showing up and starting, doing ANYTHING.

Where exactly you should start and what you should do unfortunately is not something I can tell you with generic advice in a blog. That is highly dependent on each individual and their training history amongst other things. But what you can do is use the above advice to try and set a starting point for yourself and just make sure you keep working. While there are certainly more optimal ways to do things there is NOTHING more important than consistency and adherence to your plan. You can do a lot of things “wrong” and still get great results, as long as you don’t keep quitting. Maybe it’s possible but I’ve yet to see anyone who worked hard for multiple years at something without quitting that didn’t get some pretty darn good results. There is a time and place to try and be as “perfect” as possible, but most of the time the most important part is just showing up. Oversimplification? Possibly, but I dare you to try it and prove me wrong…

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If you are looking for more information from me you can follow me on Facebook and you can also download this free guide to help give you some direction. This will also put you on my email newsletter where you will get daily emails for a little motivation, guidance, and possibly a small kick in the rear from time to time…  Warning – I tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. So if you are sensitive you may want to pass. But if you’re serious about changing your life and taking ACTION, you should love it.

 

Lastly if you’re ready for change RIGHT NOW and want to take the guess work out of it, I am accepting clients for both training and/or nutrition help. If you’re looking for coaching just head here and choose the option you would like. I’d love to help you reach your goals!

 

 

 

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Filed under Guest Blog, Guest Blogs

Have There Been Improvements During My “Improvement” Season?

I still haven’t picked a specific show, but the plan is to compete somewhere in mid July 2015.  There have been so many changes in my life this year (Hubby’s accident, new job) that I cannot assume everything will go as planned for the rest of 2014.  I’m taking each day as it comes, but I need a goal.  So  “July 2015” is the target and I will begin the first cutting phase in August or September. (Coach calls it “the cut before the cut”.   I’ll tell you about it when I know more.)  I have about a month or two left before I have to switch gears.

Am I making any progress???

Body Composition

I’m feel like a marshmallow covered rock.  Very solid on the inside, more so than I’ve ever felt.  But I’m a tad fluffy on the outside.  I haven’t been “bulking”.  I watch my burn and eat as much as I’m using, plus an extra 100 calories  most days.  My current weight has been fluctuating between 151 and 155 pounds for the last two months.  My body weight at the end of last November was 153.  The last time I was on stage was a year ago, June.  It was around 135 then, but it wasn’t what I would call a ‘healthy’ 135.  I did a traditional water depletion for that show, so once I was rehydrated, my weight jumped up to 140.  I don’t ever want to do a water depletion again, so 140 should be considered my last ‘stage weight’, in my opinion, when considering how much over ‘stage weight’ I am right now.  (I wasn’t lean enough at that show.  To avoid water depletion, I need to be leaner. )

I kept my weight under 145 from June until the Strongman competition last September so I could compete in the smaller weight class.  After that competition, I let it creep up to the low 150’s.  Last winter, I did a very gradual cut and dropped as low as 149, but gained a couple pounds back when the cut was over at the end of February.   I’ve maintained in the low 150’s since then.  I feel good in the low 150’s.  I had a DEXA scan done last October and my bodyfat percentage was 26%.  I bought one of those handheld impedence monitors a few days later so I could check it at home.  It’s reading was 27%.  Close enough for me to keep an eye on it.  That number hasn’t changed, so it’s hard to tell from the scale and that device if I’ve improved my body composition much.  I feel like there is more muscle.  But I know from years of DEXA scans that when I’m anabolic, I gain everything – muscle, fat, and bone density.  My bodyfat will always be calculated higher than it appears because I’m older and have more visceral fat around my organs.  Mirror is more important than the number, but I care about the percentage.  If I’m gaining fat, I better be gaining muscle, too.  I am pleased that I’ve been able to keep things fairly consistent.  But is that an “improvement”?

So I looked at other data.

Food

I use a Bodybugg and the website has the capability to generate reports.  This is interesting data.  I compared the month of December 2013 to June 2014.   The reports I ran calculate averages for 28 days.  Remember, my body weight has stayed within a couple pounds of 153 for the last seven months…

Average Daily Calorie Burn Average Daily Calorie Intake Average Daily Carb Intake
Dec 2013 2147 1864 156 g
June 2014 2254 2391 249 g

 

I’m encouraged by these numbers.  I haven’t been cycling carbs according to a plan, but rather I cycle them up and down depending on my calorie burn for the day.  My hope is that I’m setting myself up for an effective contest prep.

Lifting

The programming I’ve been given has been solid, but I haven’t done the big three lifts (bench press, squat, deadlift) consistently.  One of those lifts has always been there, but not all three at the same time.  I’ve been doing a LOT of rowing to bring up my mid back.  I’ve been doing occlusion training to bring up my quads and glutes without having to do heavy squats because I suck at squats.  I use my back too much on deadlifts, so I’ve been doing partial deadlifts since May.  To be honest, I’m not really in love with the current program, but  I’m going to stick it out until August.  I’ve been doing a lot of stuff to address weaknesses, which is why I’m not loving it.  It’s frustrating and I feel like I suck at it.  I record my form all the time and look for problems.  I find plenty.  Good stuff to do.  Just not fun.

Again I ask…how do I know if I’m making progress?

I use an app on my iPad called Gym Buddy to record my workouts.  Not a lot of bells and whistles in this app, but there is some good data.  Check out these screen shots about how my lifts have changed…

 

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Since I’m not doing the big three lifts consistently, I picked few things that I’ve been doing and looked at that data…

Some Upper Body Lift Stats

  • Hammer Smith Row: up 115%
  • Seal Row: up 19.1%
  • One Arm Dumbell Row: up 58.5%
  • Bench Press: up 22%
  • Kettlebell Overhead Press: up 5.7%
  • DB Curls: up 25%
  • Tricep Rope Pushdowns: down 19.4%

Some Lower Body Lift Stats 

  • DB Split Squats: up 29.9%
  • Partial Deadlifts: down 4.1%
  • Hex Bar Deadlift: up 45.8%
  • Calf Raise: up 101.1%

These stats are a tiny bit misleading.  The program uses all the data, no matter how long I’ve been doing the exercise.   Some of these are new to my program.  You can see how many times I’ve done that exercise on the screenshots.  (I may not have included all the screenshots – just wanted to give you an idea of where the data comes from.)  I don’t think my triceps have become weaker – it’s just that I do that exercise at the end of a workout that starts with bench presses.  They are toasted!  I am having a hard time with partial deadlifts.  I don’t like them.  Decided to bring the weight down and work on technique.

Seal Rows

 

Mental Game

Overall, I should be pleased with how things are going with the lifts, but I’m not.  Nothing exciting, just putting in work.  I might just be a frustrated powerlifter-wanna-be.  I want to deadlift 250 pounds!  I know it’s there, but when I tried a couple weeks ago, the bar didn’t budge.  Squats were removed from this phase of my program, so I have no idea what I can do with that lift.  Bench is coming up very slowly.  I’m at the point where I’m not adding weight, but trying to add reps.  Heck, I feel like a wanna-be all the time.  Too old.  Too weak for my size.  Maybe this is just “off season blues” of an intermediate lifter?

So I’m struggling.  Like I said at the beginning, I’m just focused on what I have to do each day.  Small, daily goals to keep progressing.  I feel like I’m just crawling.   After my husband’s accident in February, a lot of things changed.  I’m a little overwhelmed dealing with insurance companies, medical bills, processing the crazy crap at work, the decision to transfer schools, and adjusting to the reality of all these changes.  The thought of competing seems frivolous today.  There is a show next weekend a couple hours from home.  It is one that I might do next year.  I’m going to make the drive to watch and hope it snaps me out of this funk.

And while I’m going through what is the most challenging period of my training life do date, I feel pressure to continue to be ‘inspirational’.  I’m sure anyone who has been following can tell I’ve been off my game.  I haven’t been able to write as much as I used to.  I haven’t been posting as many little pep-talks as I used to.  I’m stalled out.  It hasn’t been easy to be transparent with my program .  I post something meaningful to me on the page, or a current picture, and the ‘likes’ drop.  I am not looking for approval and I’m not interested in being a fitness personality.  I’m awkward and fluffy and OK with that.  I’m an introvert and my inclination is to NOT post.  I’d like to hide, do my thing, and post pictures from my next show.  But that’s not an honest way to document the process, which I want people to see.  I do it because I’m a teacher.  Health is more important than bodybuilding.  And by ‘health’ I also mean self-acceptance.  I like my fluffy self – she’s big and strong and healthy.  I’m not concerned at all about not being stage lean.  It’s not time for that.

I’ve got my daily routines and I love to lift.  No matter what else is going on, I’m grateful to be able to do this.  I know many of my peers cannot.

This is the grind.  I’ve been here before.  It will pay off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Bodybuilding Journal, Competing, Life, My Lifting Log, Nutrition

64 Weeks Out – A Good Week for a Deload

It was a deload week in the gym, so nothing exciting happened there.  But life continued to be stressful.

The transfer period for current teachers to move between schools opened on Monday.  This was a really hard decision for me.  It took a lot of soul searching to make it.  I love my current school.  I love my students.  I have worked very, very hard to empower kids to do pretty hard math.  But there is a downside.  I transferred to this school nine years ago to do work a certain way.  It was an innovative and ambitious initiative.  It was working.  And then politics… and, POOF, we got restructured and stopped doing that work.  It’s been three years since we de-evolved and each year I’ve become more restless, feeling more isolated, and becoming more disengaged with what’s going on around me.  I’ve been keeping to myself in my room, teaching my kids, and continuing my personal journey in fitness.  But I’m not happy at work.  It’s like buying a ticket on a big cruise ship that changed direction and is heading somewhere I don’t want to go.  2014 is apparently a year of change for me.  Time to explore other opportunities.  I may not leave my school.  It’s possible that after looking around, I will want to stay, and if that happens, I’ll be committed to going where the boat is going.

On Monday, I visited the middle school close to my home.   A friend is an assistant principal there.  He showed me around and told me a little about the work they do.  He was so proud of his staff and excited about their work.  He also explained to me how moving from a high school to a middle school was a great decision for him.  This wasn’t an interview, but it reminded me of the interview I had to come to my current school.  It was upbeat and positive.  There were people there who were clearly passionate about the school and cared about kids.  By the end of that interview, I was in tears and practically begged them to hire me.  On Monday, I left that middle school thinking that the interview for this one might just go the same way.  Will this be my next and last school of my career?  I don’t know.  I don’t have the interview set yet, but I’ve been notified that they want to do it.  Hopefully it will be next week.  I think changing levels might be a good decision for me, too.   I read through some 8th grade math standards today and got pretty excited because I imagined the lessons I would use.  There are so many tools in my toolbox that I haven’t used since I taught geometry.  Just need to dust them off.

Fast forward to yesterday, Friday.  I had an interview at another high school.  I didn’t prepare for the interview.  I was curious and wanted to learn more, but I went into it suspecting that I wouldn’t want to work there.  They wanted to observe me teaching and set a time for Thursday during the last 20 minutes before lunch.  And then they were 10 minutes late!  I had to keep adjusting the lesson so they would get to see something useful.   They only saw the last 5 minutes of my lesson and then got to watch me hand out report cards and excuse kids to lunch.  Only one of the four would talk to me and the rest just stared at me when I spoke to them.  It seemed like a chore for them.  That was a big red flag, so the only thing I did for this interview was change into a dress.  At the interview, I was asked six questions.  Of the six, only one was about instruction and working with kids.  Everything else was either about Common Core and how I would work with the adults.  Collaboration and compliance seemed to have a higher value than effective instruction.   I looked at the people interviewing me – really looked at them.  They were tired.  They were dispassionate.  No one talked about how cool their school is and how excited they are about what they are doing.   I knew when I left that I didn’t want that job and that they weren’t going to offer it to me.

Even though things are pretty nuts right now, I haven’t missed workouts and I’m seeing progress.  Doing a pretty good job with food.  Stress isn’t good for my body composition at all.  Stress raises cortisol and elevated cortisol means abdominal fat.  Saw this coming.  Looking at the calendar, I think I will be through the worst of my stressors in a couple of weeks.  Still over a year out from competition, so I’m not too concerned.  I used to live under this kind of stress for years, and we know how that turned out.  I won’t go back to that.  It’s possible that I may not be able to continue to be a teacher if the expectation is that I will put myself back into that unhealthy place to do the job.  People at work talk the talk – “balance is important”, “take care of yourself”, “what you’ve done is amazing”, yada, yada, yada – but when push comes to shove, the expectation is still to kill yourself slowly to do the job.  I found out that one of the tired teachers on my interview panel is teaching four different classes, collaborating with other teachers for all of them, coaches a sport, and has a new baby.  I see younger teachers do this all the time.  I see administrators do the same.  It was an administrator that called me today – on a Saturday.  Working long hours and putting teaching ahead of life has been expected, encouraged, and rewarded by colleagues, administrators, and society.  Remember the film “Stand and Deliver”?   He had a heart attack.  I have colleagues with serious health issues right now.  Stress compromises health.  Period.   But until there is some standardized test with data to collect about the health of teachers, kids will likely have a tired and stressed out adult in the room teaching “objectives” instead of teaching kids.  Rant. Over.

Apparently, I still have to protect my boundaries and keep my focus.  I also need to keep reminding myself that all of these events are guiding me to the place I’m supposed to be.

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Filed under Cortisol, Life, Teaching

Hunger Hormones and Sleep

The more I learn, the more I know that I don’t know.  And the more I learn, the more I realize how I screwed up this miraculously engineered body God gave me to live in.  I learned a little about leptin and ghrelin last year when I was studying for my Fitness Nutrition certification.  These two hormones regulate hunger.  Leptin is released by fat cells and some other places.  It decreases hunger.  Ghrelin is released from the stomach lining and it’s job is to increase hunger.

And when we do not live optimally, the we may alter how things work.

A simple description of how leptin and ghrelin work and may not work…  

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/leptin-ghrelin-weight-loss

Like almost everyone, I don’t get enough sleep.  My biggest issue is that it takes me a several hours to unwind from my day.  I really need to sit and do something to numb my brain for a couple hours.  Teaching is a very high energy job.  It doesn’t look that way, but imagine this…

You are at home and the door bell rings.  You open the front door and 30 teenagers come into your living room and sit down.  You’re expected to direct their activity for the next hour.  (The phrase “herding cats” comes to mind.)  You watch to make sure they are paying attention, redirecting them back when they lose attention, make sure they are writing notes, or doing the thing you need them to do.  And while you’re explaining something mathematical, watch all the facial expressions looking for clues as to whether they understand.  Some won’t be able to articulate what they do not understand.  Or they will think they understand, so you have to ask questions to see if they really do.  After about 55 minutes, the door bells rings again.  Those 30 kids leave and 30 more come in and sit down.  This happens every hour for the next six hours.

That’s my day.  When I get home, I don’t want to talk.  I don’t want to think.  I want to eat and sit and watch Netflix for a couple hours.  Pretty sure your job is similarly taxing.

So I started reading more about these hormones and sleep.  Some things I found were general studies.  Others did try to narrow a focus to my sub group – post menopausal overweight.  Yes, I know I’m at a healthy weight now, but I was at an unhealthy weight for a lot longer, and while I know I’ve fixed a lot of things, I suspect that my endocrine system might still be ‘in repair’.  Also, my clients tend to be busy middle aged women like me.  I know that when I don’t get enough sleep, I feel hungrier.  I’m sure we’ve all had that happen.

I’ve read conflicting things, which is to be expected.  But overall, researchers are usually finding a connection.

“Furthermore, in this sample of overweight and obese post-menopausal women,sleep improvements did not cause greater weight loss in exercisers, nor did they moderate exercise-induced increases in ghrelin or decreases in leptin. Although our findings with baseline sleep are far from definitive, they are intriguing, and beg the question of whether exercise can ameliorate weight gain in women with sleep problems.”  http://portalsaudebrasil.com/artigospsb/obes208.pdf

OK, that was from 2007.  They couldn’t really find a predictable relationship between sleep, leptin, and ghrelin, but they suspect that regular exercise might reduce the negative effects of sleep deprivation with respect to the hormone fluctuations.  That’s good news, I guess.

This one was published online just a few weeks ago.  Didn’t read the whole article because I’d have to pay for it.

“…sleep duration is inversely associated with serum leptin and dietary energy intake in postmenopausal women.”   Which basically means that we eat more when we don’t get enough sleep.  http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/oby.20683/abstract

From 2004, a study of 12 men with only two days of reduced sleep.  That’s kind of a major limitation of the study in my opinion, but this is more representative of what’s out there as a whole…

“Short sleep duration in young, healthy men is associated with decreased leptin levels, increased ghrelin levels,
and increased hunger and appetite.”  http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/docs/icb.topic197607.files/Due_Wk_11_Nov_28/SPIEGEL_2004.pdf

What they did mention in this study was that while the leptin levels of these men stayed level during the day, they fluctuated more at night.  I read something – forgot where – that said our bodies regulate these hormones while we sleep.  Maybe it’s more like ‘recalibrating’ than ‘regulation’.  If we tinker with the way things are supposed to work, we may recalibrate incorrectly.  I think as I get older, my body is more sensitive to things that aren’t calibrated correctly.

Sleep is so important for so many other things besides hunger that getting enough will always be a top priority for me now.  It wasn’t a priority for too many years.

sleep deprivation

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Filed under Life, Teaching

I Chose the Foggy Path

It’s so weird what triggers these blog posts.  Just watched a video of a young competitor who had a bad rebound after her last competition.  Read a bunch of comments that just reminded me that sometimes people get hyperfocused on things that don’t matter in the big picture – or at least they don’t matter to me as much.  Maybe it’s because I’ve got more miles on me.

I started this life-transformation thing because I knew, really deep down KNEW, that I was on a fast train to an early death.  I had to slow that train the heck down!  There is no stopping it – death is inevitable.  But I love this life and want to be here as long as possible.  Posted a link on the LMS Facebook page to a life expectancy calculator.  I would never have done it before because I knew the news wouldn’t be good.  But now, it’s kind of fun.  I’m starting to plan my 103rd birthday party.  

When I was in high school, I lived on a farm.  I used to go for walks by myself on sunny days.  On those walks I distinctly remember being frustrated that I only had two small eyes and couldn’t take in everything around me at the same time.  I resented that I had to turn my head to see things and lose sight of the other things.  Especially the sky.  I wanted to have one giant eyeball on top of my head.  I wanted to see everything at the same time.

I still feel like that.  Especially when I’m driving home.  We live in the foothills of a mountain, and there is a spot 0n my drive home where I come into a valley where the mountain is on my left, sunset behind it (if I’m lucky enough to be driving home that early), and on the right is a wide open expanse with beautiful high dessert landscape and more mountains in the distance.  If there are clouds, they are almost always doing something breathtaking because they are coming over the mountain on the left.  At sunset, it looks like paint stokes of oranges, pinks, on the blue sky canvas.  Sorry – no picture because I’m driving on a freeway when I experience this.  Sunrise going in the opposite direction is equally impressive.  That sunrise always fills me with hope and gratitude.

I understand that this is primarily a fitness blog.  So what’s with all of this sunrise/sunset stuff?  This is why I value my health so much.  This is why I lift.  This is why I eat how I eat now.  I feel connected to my life now.  I hated feeling depressed and anxious almost 24/7.  These days, I have my moments when I’m wound up about something, but they are moments.  OK, maybe an hour or two.  But hardly ever are entire days/weeks/months lost to feeling hopeless.  I used to lay down at night, feel the weight of me on my heart, and feel afraid to fall asleep because I might not wake up.  Looking back and comparing how felt and what I thought about then, to how I feel and what I think about now, I know that my state of mind is dictated by my state of health.  Because I didn’t feel good, I used to work to attach outside reasons to that feeling and I would react to any stressor.  I looked for those stressors to explain how I felt.  Now, I feel good.  So when I’m anxious about something now, there is probably a real situation that needs my attention.  (Assuming I’m not having a cortisol response.  An update on that – I quit doing cardio.  Boom.  Fixed.  I will do HIIT – eventually.  Been dealing with the same flu bug everyone else on the planet seems to have caught.)

Rambling – sorry.  It happens.  But I will try to get to the point…

I’ve lost and gained weight several times in my life, starting when I was in high school.  I didn’t gain weight back this time because something fundamental changed when I was hooked up to machines in an emergency room in March 2009.  I suppose that was my personal “It’s a Wonderful Life” moment.  I was shown what was coming.  It was a fork in the road with two paths to choose.  One was familiar and I could see the whole path.  I knew where that one would end.  The other was foggy.  I didn’t know what would happen if I chose that path.  I didn’t know where I would go.

It was fear that made me choose the foggy path.  That path has become clearer because I invested, researched, and did the work.  I watched the scale and I watched the mirror.  I hit walls.  I screwed up.  But I didn’t quit.  Quitting would be like walking back to the fork in the road and taking the clear path, the shorter path, the easier path.

Found this image on a great blog called the Internet Monk. Please click and visit.

Oooo – let’s do something scary.  I’ve never thought about where I would be now had I not changed everything.  In 2009, I was gaining weight at a rate of about 15-20 pounds a year and was already on high blood pressure meds.   My heaviest weight was 198 pounds and it was climbing.  I had one ER visit for a possible cardiac event, that they diagnosed an anxiety attack, but they kept me there for four hours.    The nice female doctor was very direct about how it was an anxiety issue this time.   Had I taken the shorter path, today I would probably weigh well into the 200’s and have a body run down and at risk for a major cardiac event, if I hadn’t already had one.  That path is always there waiting for me.

The foggy path led to a magical place for me.  The gym.  The iron.  I was so intimidated by that place, but I just pushed forward.  I’ve been discouraged or disappointed with something every single week since June 2009.  But I’ve also done something new every single week that I couldn’t do the week before.

The path is still a little foggy.  The next few months are going to be extremely challenging.  I have a a demanding teaching schedule this semester.  I am working with clients.  But my own training and nutrition will not be compromised.  Period.  I’ll keep pushing.  Doing anything else is walking back to the fork and choosing the short path.

Did you notice that I never once mentioned being preoccupied with what I look like or my size?  If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, I would hope my motivations are clear.  I want to enjoy good health and I want to lift.   I want to compete as a bodybuilder.  I have been fascinated with bodybuilding for decades.  When I compete, I am concerned with appearance, but it’s bodybuilding.  That’s the sculpture, artistic part.  It’s fun for me.  But my point is that if there is anyone following my journey who is concerned about being a specific size or weight, and that is a priority before your long term health, please consider this – if focusing on your appearance hasn’t worked for you to make a permanent change in your lifestyle in the past, it’s not your motivator.  Change your focus.  Look for your own fork in the road and chose your foggy path.

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Filed under Competing, Cortisol, Faith, Life, Motivation, Opinions, Venting, Ranting, Weight Loss

My 10 Tips for Fat Loss

Any one of these tips could be another post, but I wanted to put together a list for how to start a program with a little bit of explanation.

1)      Collect current data about your food intake.  You need an honest appraisal of what is happening now.   Eat normally, but log it for a full week, at least. (I’ve been logging for most of the last 4 ½  years.)  You will need to measure and weigh some things.  Get a digital scale to make this chore easier.  I’ve used a digital scale every day since I started and I’ve never used an expensive one.  Use an online food log to have access to extensive data base. It takes a few weeks to get things set up, but if you eat the same foods over the week, it becomes a matter of clicking frequent foods instead of searching.

2)      Come up with a good estimate of how many calories you burn in a 24 hour period.  I remember that “ah-ha” moment when I realized that I’m burning calories all the time, not just when I exercise.  The cardio machines at a gym will give an estimated burn, but in my experience, they can overestimate quite a bit.  There are calculators online, too.    If you can make an investment, there are gadgets that you wear that will give better estimates based on your personal activity over the entire day.  I use a Bodybugg.  I have friends who use a Fitbit.  I rationalized the purchase by comparing it to the medical costs I had at the time for my high blood pressure meds and an ER visit to rule out a heart attack.

3)      Make a food plan based on what you do now.  For safe fat loss and a sustainable, lifestyle change, keep the calorie deficit between 300 and 1000 calories.  In other words, it is my recommendation that you burn no more than 1000 calories than you intake each day.  But there is a minimum number of calories you need to eat for a healthy metabolism.  The USDA’s recommendations for minimum calorie intake levels are 1600 calories for women and 2000 calories for men.  If your intake is already at a minimum and you still need to increase a deficit, do it with moderate exercise.  The metabolism is not a linear equation where the bigger the deficit, the more fat you lose.  To over simplify a complicated process, your body will adapt so when it is not getting enough calories, it will use as few calories as possible to maintain functions and store what little is left over as body fat.  It may even breakdown muscle for additional energy.   This is why people who don’t eat a lot can maintain their scale weight, or even gain scale weight. Over time, body composition changes so that there is more fat and less muscle at the same weight.  This is what is meant by “skinny fat”.  Metabolism is not designed for looks – it’s about staying alive.  Through repeated attempts at weight loss by calorie restriction, many people have trained their bodies to maintain their weight eating less.  It’s really important to get that baseline intake information I discussed in Tip #1 so you can determine if you have slowed your metabolism a little bit.  If you are a woman maintaining your weight at 1000 calories, jumping right up to the recommended minimum of 1600 would cause fat gain.

4)      Make food substitutions gradually.  It is not practical for most people to completely overhaul everything in the kitchen.  Food prep becomes a new routine that will change how you spend your time – and that means “life” will need to be adjusted.  That takes time.  It took me months to figure out a system that worked for me.  If there are other people in the house, their favorite foods may be trigger foods for you.  I’ve been there.  I practiced telling myself repeatedly that “I control what I eat.”  Self-discipline really is an emotional muscle that needs to be strengthened.  And it is hard.  That’s OK.  Hard doesn’t mean impossible.  Each time you don’t cave to a temptation, it gets easier.  Especially when you focus more on how you “feel” instead of how you “look”.

5)      Train with weights.  There are several reasons why resistance training needs to be part of the program for fat loss.  Resistance training preserves muscle and builds bone mass.   To change the appearance of the body, the muscles need to be developed.  One of the most common questions I get is about how I dealt with loose skin.  First, I lost my weight very slowly and that helped minimize it.  But I also filled spaces with muscle – especially in my arms.  A full body program done twice a week, that uses multi-joint exercises, like body weight squats, is a good way to start.

6)      Don’t overdo cardio.  There is an abundance of research out there about cardio.  Personally, long sessions of cardio elevate my cortisol levels.  Cortisol is a hormone similar to adrenaline.  I believe I’ve had a cortisol problem for a long time and it contributed to my weight gain and health decline that led up to that “before” picture.  When my cortisol levels are up, I feel very anxious without a reason and I have trouble falling asleep.  My body stores fat quickly during those times.  Cardio is one of those variables that will start a lot of discussion.  I know what the research says, what works for me, what doesn’t, and that is exactly what I believe everyone needs to know for themselves.  But when I started, I knew nothing.  I had no idea that the cardio I was doing contributed to the anxiety I felt about the process.

7)      Sleep.    The body needs to rest to recover from the stress of the day.  Add in exercise and a moderate calorie restriction and there is more stress on the body.  Lack of sleep will elevate cortisol levels, too. Drink water!  I instruct my clients to drink a gallon a day, knowing that’s a goal, not necessarily a reality.  The body uses water to process nutrients, lubricate joints, maintain healthy blood pressure – well, just about everything.

8)      Drink water.  I instruct my clients to drink a gallon a day, knowing that’s a goal, not necessarily a reality.  The body uses water to process nutrients, lubricate joints, maintain healthy blood pressure – well, just about everything.  I know some say it helps them feel full, but that’s not my experience.  When I’m hungry, I’m HUNGRY.  For food.

9)      Keep it simple.  Avoid the urge to over-plan and under-do, despite all the information I’ve just thrown at you.  Your program does not have to be perfect.  As you learn more, you’ll adjust things.  You have to have movement.  You need more food your body recognizes (whole foods) and less food designed to make you want to buy more of it (processed foods).  When asked, I tell people that most of my food is grown by God – a very simple description of vegetables, fruit, lean meats, fish, nuts, olive oil, and limited grains for personal digestive reasons.

10)   Be patient.  Permanent changes happen slowly.  You are changing your life one cell at a time.  A scale measures total body weight – that is mostly water, by the way.  It’s easy to feel impatient when looking at a transformation picture because the eye just goes back forth between the two versions of that person.  But note the dates.  Took me three years to get from “before” to the first “after”.  It helped me psychologically to accept that this was the LAST time I was going to lose most of these fat pounds and my life was going to be different from that point on.  I know I’m happier, excited to get up every day, and my life is likely to be longer because I decided to finally do this thing and not quit.

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References & Resources

http://www.theiflife.com/is-your-exercise-keeping-you-fat/

http://www.freedieting.com/tools/calorie_calculator.htm

http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/DietaryGuidelines/2010/PolicyDoc/Chapter2.pdf

© Tammy White and Lifting My Spirits, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Tammy White and Lifting My Spirits with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Filed under Cortisol, Life, Weight Loss