Saturday, November 26, 2011

Feeling Guilty?

Feeling Guilty?

Picture yourself at your local gym. You’ve just allowed the over zealous, bouncy-bubbly secretary to swipe your credit card, essentially agreeing to being tortured for 90 days, 6 months, or perhaps even a year. A whole year?

Ouf, perhaps you were a little too motivated this morning following your bowl of bio-organic oatmeal sprinkled with stevia? The receptionist hands you back your credit card which seems to wear a definite frown and hands you a form to fill out and sign. Reluctantly, you bow your head and begin to read the various advisories and questions pertaining to a multitude of health problems. And, then, as you sign hurriedly it hits you… How the hell am I going to get myself to this gym three WHOLE days a week.

You pause… “I don’t even like gyms” you think to yourself.

The only thing I can really say about “getting there” is that it doesn’t become a “pleasure” overnight. I remember it feeling like it would always be a chore in the beginning. In fact, when I first started out I chose to have a personal trainer because I knew I would never do it for myself. Having the appointments once a week made working out like taking a college course. There was a plan. There were goals. There were scheduled meetings and time I set aside to “learn to be fit”. My trainer was a way to hold myself accountable both in terms of my food intake and in terms of what I did in the gym.

It all began with a consultation on Thanksgiving: October 2008. There was an assessment of where I was: 221lbs with very little ability or knowledge in the fitness department. There were, as there always are, questions about where I envisioned myself in the next few months. What was my purpose for being at the gym? Why did I want to train? This consultation gave us, my trainer and I, an objective – something he and I would work towards.

Perhaps it is a cliché but Rome was not built in a day. Working towards the ultimate goal of “fitness” is a long process. At times I feel that many who end up joining the gym in January with the resolution of losing weight don’t realize that the process requires as much planning as a road trip. It requires a starting point, a goal, a set of pit stops along the way. Furthermore, it requires knowledge: knowledge about calories, nutrients, exercises, recovery, etc.

In the beginning, the idea of moving our bodies is foreign. Our “normal” is to sit or lay motionless. The mere idea of the sweat, blood, and tears required to change our bodies is repulsive. So, again, how do we change our minds or trick ourselves into thinking that the gym is “fun”? The trick is not to focus on what is unpleasant but to focus on the goal, to focus on what is right in front of you. In my case, this meant looking at where I was: 221lbs and inactive, and determine where I wanted to be. In the fall of 2008, where I wanted to be, was at a healthy weight. To me, “healthy” meant around 150-160lbs. I had never been this weight in my adult life, so I chose a moving target. I told myself I would “stop” when I felt comfortable in my own skin.

Next, approach this goal, not by focusing on how far away it is but by looking at what steps are necessary to achieve the desired result. The desired result in this case is weight loss. Well, as many before me have stated, weight loss is merely about calories in and calories out. We must expend energy in order to rid yourself of the excess reserves of energy stored in our fat cells. In order to do so, we decrease the number of calories we intake (by a reasonable amount) and increase our activity level. Simple enough? Perhaps it merely seems simple on paper: it took me 15 years of trying before I was able to reach a healthy weight for my height and body type.

The difference this time around was that I treated my weight loss like an assignment. Again, lets work with the idea of focusing on the positives as opposed to the negatives. In following a weight loss regime: focus on what you did good today. There is no such thing as “cheating”. Breaks in time are artificial. Days, Weeks, and Months should not be used to decide whether or not the double quarter pounder with extra cheese is a good meal choice. Diet’s work mainly on the principle of guilt. We guilt ourselves into eating perfectly for a certain period of time until a certain goal weight is achieved or until we go on our vacation, get married, or go to our prom. Health and fitness should not be something that is sought on the short term. Each and every choice you make will bring you closer to your goals. See it as, I’ll have the kids meal instead, because that is healthier than what I did yesterday… Baby steps.

 In following a training program: focus on getting to the gym and completing your workouts to the best of your abilities. I began this entry thinking about guilt. What is it that “makes” me go to the gym? In the past, I often used guilt to get me by. I knew that if I over ate or didn’t complete my workout “perfectly” I would feel guilty and beat myself down for failing to “abide by the rules”. This past week I was ill with the stomach flu and was unable to complete the workouts I had initially scheduled. To anybody else, I believe, illness is a logical reason not to be at the gym. Most people would never think of trying to workout when sick. I however, measure things in terms of “how sick am I really”. I guess that these past 4 years have made me a different person when it comes to burning calories. I no longer see it as something I have to do, but rather, something I want to do.

This all being said: as I recovered from my illness and continued to regain my strength my mind began to make me feel guilty for not working out. I was not yet able physically to return yet my mind reminded me, constantly, that inactivity equals excess weight. Fear, that’s what it is. Fear is the greatest motivator. I fear gaining weight and hence I take steps to prevent weight gain.

So, are you feeling guilty? Guilt usually indicates that whomever is experiencing it perceives what they’ve done to be wrong in some way. Friday, I did not go to the gym as I was working on a little more than an hour of sleep. In many ways lack of sleep would have prevented me from completing a workout. However, the fact that I was no longer as ill as I was on Tuesday and Wednesday meant that I felt guilty and saw the day as a “loss” of sorts. The opportunity to be active had eluded me.

Guilt certainly has its place for beginners. “something” is necessary in order to motivate you to begin the process. When you first step into the gym your body and mind do not associate an active lifestyle with any “good”. As you progress your weight loss will act as a positive reinforcement for continued activity. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Training: Running Shoes

No matter if you are training indoors or outdoors one of the most important considerations is which shoes to train in. I myself have made mistakes in purchasing and training in shoes which were not adequate in providing me with the right type of support during workouts.

Fact of the matter is, the majority of weight loss training is high impact. The wrong type of shoe can not only make it more difficult to get through your workouts but can also cause injury. Here again, not everyone is built the same and the fact that your sister bought a pair of New Balance runners doesn’t mean that you should. Her feet are not yours, and vice versa.

Footwear is as important as any hockey or football equipment. If you really think about it, it takes care of your foundation. Without a solid foundation a house crumbles, does it not?

My first pair of runners (since beginning my weight loss regiment) were a pair of Nike “Shocks” purchased at Footlocker. When I first signed up at Nautilus Plus I was 220lbs and a size 10 in Women’s shoes. My feet were quite literally overweight just as the rest of my body. I was not comfortable in women’s shoes and quite often resorted to purchasing men’s sneakers. 

Although my "Shocks" were quite stylish they did very little in terms of supporting my feet. These shoes, which were all leather and cost nearly $300 after tax, were very rigid and did not allow for much in terms of movement and flexibility. It's a good thing I was a training novice at the time. I cannot imagine trying to do a deep lunge in these! 

I learned my footwear lesson following my attempt at walking 60kms for the "Walk to End Breast Cancer" in 2009. During the first 15km I began noticing that the front panel of leather built into the shoe was pressing down on my second toe on both feet. Despite this I continued walking. The ill fitting shoes caused "black toenails" 

Following the Walk and losing both toenails I went to Sports Experts and purchased my second pair of runners for training. Wanting to make an appropriate choice following a talk with a coworker who has done many marathons, I, quite literally, tried on every single pair of running shoes in the store. 

What I ended up with was a pair of Saucony Paramount 2 (size 9 this time).

The Paramount 2 was a much better choice. Although they weren't as "fancy" as my "Shocks" they allowed for much more fluidity in my movements. Oh yes, and no more clunking about the gym with a pair of heavy shoes. I found it much easier whenever I attempted to jog for a few steps on the treadmill. 

Furthermore, the Paramounts were armed with something I have only seen in Saucony brand shoes: an "archlock". This rubber piece woven into the side of each shoe is made to pull your arch into the support system within the shoe. 
A new era is about to begin. I have always wanted to purchase a pair of shoes from a "Running" store. The most common ofcourse is the "Running Room" but other such stores do exist in the Plateau and Westmount areas. The idea came about when I first spoke to Eric, one of our former MIS guys at IPEX who was is an avid runner and marathoner. The idea of having someone look at your feet and determine which type of shoe you should buy appealed to me but I had just purchased the Paramounts and would not feel the need to purchase a new pair of shoes until now.

I walked into the store as they were setting up for one of their training programs, went to the back and looked at the selection of shoes available. The shoes were categorized according to 3 categories: Cushioning, Stability, and Pronation. 

The next step was for one of the employees to have a look at my feet and determine what type of shoe I required. I have always known that I had a tendency to pronate (fall inwards when walking or running) but the key in determining which shoe you need is to know the degree to which you pronate, if at all. The Running Room employee first had me take off my shoes and walk back and forth in front of him as he squatted down to watch my movement. I then jogged back and forth. 

The verdict: I am an extreme pronator, which is probably caused by my flat arches.

Next, we needed to try on some shoes! 

Pronating basically means you have very little choice in terms of style. There were 5 models available to me (strictly speaking: for pronation), however, he had me try on 2 models from the pronation category and 2 stability runners to start. I retained only two models in what I had originally thought was my size (8.5). I asked about the Saucony "pronation" shoe and was saddened to hear that they didn't have my size. The shoes I had tried on still seemed to lack in support. 

My best bet was to try on a size 8 in the Saucony Hurricane 13 model I had tried on in an 8.5, the shoes just seemed a little loose fitting. 
These shoes, like my previous pair, featured the "arch lock" technology. They were very light weight and comfortable. However, I still felt I was "falling inwards" when attempting to test my balance (the exercise I used was a toe to knee touch).

When I asked for the 8's he went to the back and to my surprise brought me 2 boxes. It seems I was lucky, the Saucony Stabil CS2 model was available in an 8. After a few tests I decided on this model. 
This is quite literally the most supportive shoe on the market from Saucony. The shoe, from above is almost oval. 

As compare to the Hurricane 13
The shoe is outfitted with a very large insole and also includes the arch lock system. Although these shoes are a tad heavy they compensate for my tendency to fall in. The Stabil CS2 costs 149.99 at the Running Room and is made for only extreme pronators. 

The goal in any supportive shoe is to "make you" push off of the ball of your foot when running or jogging. Even prior to going to the running room I could tell that I was pronating as I would feel myself push off of my foot with my big toe (a sign I was rolling inwards with every step). A quick test to know if you are pronating is to do a quick jog back and forth in your running shoes or try rocking back and forth in bare feet. What is the last thing to touch the ground? Are you centered or can you feel your weight rolling inwards. Something I realized today is that I would tend to rock from side to side on my foot (think of a boat at sea) when testing my balance, I think this could also be a sign of pronation.

So you want to know my secret?

Weight Loss has become its own industry. In 2008, Americans spent over $40 billion dollars on the latest diet fads, workout DVDs and weight loss programs. And yet, as we all know too well, America is still the fattest nation in the world.

So then, what is the secret to weight loss? The secret is that nothing you will purchase, from supplements, to frozen dinners will make you lose weight. There is not a pill in existence that can correct the problem with the world’s obese. The problem is not with what you eat, how you combine nutrients, or how much you eat. In most cases, the problem is with your relationship with food.

We are addicts. We are addicted to pleasure, and yes, food creates pleasure. How else could a 23 year old woman who seldom ate sweets balloon to 310lbs?

It was addiction. It was being unaware of what this engine was requiring to function. It was comparing my slow metabolism to that of a cousin who has never had a weight problem. The problem with weight loss programs is that they prescribe the same formula for every individual who will buy in to this latest gimmick.
But, you see, we are not all the same. We don’t all like the same foods and we don’t have the same BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate). Cindy is not me, and I am not Cindy. Cindy may lose 3lbs a week from the time she hits the gym until she hits her desired weight of 135lbs. I, may only lose 1lb a week and then 10, and then 6. Weight loss programs need to take into account the person who is trying to lose weight.

Why do you overeat?

I overate because I was unhappy and because food provided relief from anxiety and depression in a way that no other “medicine” could. I “ate” my feelings. Bingeing on foods left me feeling numb. I didn’t have to “deal” with reality so long as I could get my “fix”.

Some people overeat out of habit or boredom. Most of us do it because we don’t know how much our bodies need to survive. Food is everywhere and we tend to assume that what is placed in front of us is “a portion” when often, it’s not.

So then, what is the secret of weight loss? The secret is to get to know yourself. Many of us think that we will “go on a diet” for a period of time and then return to our previous eating habits once we have lost the “x” amount of lbs we wish to lose. The point here, is that YOU CANNOT GO BACK TO THE WAY YOU USED TO EAT.

As mentioned earlier every person has a budget (BMR) which they have to work with. If you have a teacher’s salary, you’re not going to buy a Lamborghini now, are you? The same principle applies to calories. I, am presently sitting here, weighing 150lbs and my BMR was last measured around the 1350 calorie mark. This means that if I were to follow the Canadian Food Guide and eat roughly 2000 calories a day I would create an overage of 650 calories a day. That’s nearly 68lbs per year. The only way to reduce this overage is to be active or to decrease the amount of calories consumed daily.

As far as I know there is no such gene that controls obesity. If it were so, some babies would be born with 48% body fat while others would be born healthy.

I too fell into that trap. Blaming genes or others for my obesity. But, you see, there is nothing other than a thyroid problem or simply “eating too much and doing too little” which will create a spare tire. The first step to losing weight is a blood test. If your thyroid is healthy, than you know what to do.

Get tested and figure out what your "budget" is. The rest is really quite simple: as Jillian Michaels says, it’s all about calories in and calories out. I lost most of my weight whilst on a strict 1200-1400 calorie diet. I don't believe in cutting food groups. If you see in tracking what you eat that certain foods cause you to eat more, by all means, limit your consumption of these foods. Carbs have had a bad rap since Atkins came to fame. The problem is that carbs are your main fuel. Try driving a car without gas... it is nearly impossible. Don't buy in to plans which require you to make changes that cannot be permanent or semi-permanent. Your weight loss should be part of becoming a healthier individual and not a set diet with a beginning and end. 

I personally don’t believe in 30 minutes of moderate activity a day. I lost my weight going to the gym 4-5 times per week, and burning on average 400-600 calories per workout. Don’t be fooled, you cannot lose weight and maintain muscle tone by changing what you eat alone. Weight loss is hard work. You need to commit and push yourself. Weight loss "programs" that advertise "no activity" may work for the first few months but the risk is losing a great deal of lean body mass (muscle). You may see the numbers on the scale drop but in the end you will still be "jiggly" even if you become a size 2. 

And, that's another thing: the number on the scale should only serve as a guide at best. BMI and lbs tell us very little about health, fat%, and muscle tone. For example, a woman who is 27, 5'6, and weighs 150lbs can be (a) a cough potato, (b) someone who is active, (c) an Olympic Athlete. Visualize what each of these women look like. Can you see the difference? The lesson I want you to get from this is that you can stay at the same weight and drop 2-4 sizes and be a different person in the end. In other words, don't focus too much on the scale and measure your well being by how you feel.