The Exercise Lesson
Let's talk a little about aerobic exercise vs. anaerobic exercise.
Both are healthy for the body and necessary for weight loss, but they work very differently in the way they burn calories. Aerobic exercise, also known as cardio (running on a treadmill, for example), spikes your caloric burn which returns to a resting stasis typically within 1-2 hours. Anaerobic exercise, also knows as weight training, only spikes your caloric burn about 1/3 as much as cardio, but it increases your resting metabolic rate by 20-50 calories per hour for the rest of the day. So which is better? You know what I'm going to say here... neither is better than the other. In fact, you need to do BOTH do lose weight effectively.
Why? Exercise is about oxygen. When you exercise aerobically you intake and expend tremendous amounts of oxygen through your lungs but when you return to stasis the oxygen levels return to normal, along with your breathing. In anaerobic exercise the "interior" oxygen in the physical muscles gets "squeezed out" (okay, not literally, but it's an easy way to understand the process). Throughout the day following a muscle-building workout the muscles require more oxygen as they "rebuild" themselves. It's this rebuilding that makes them harder, stronger and sexier. Your muscles require fuel to obtain the oxygen that's necessary for this process, and they get it by burning your calories. Since it takes a long time for the muscles to rebuild you continue to burn your calories throughout the day, even long-after you're done with the exercise and the heavy breathing.
It's kind of like the tortoise and the hare. The hare is aerobic, sprinting and leaping and expending great amounts of energy, but also taking complete rest stops along the way. The anaerobic is like the tortoise, slowly and steadily and sure-footedly moving along, burning those calories evenly to the end.
The BEST way to lose weight with your exercise is through INTERVAL TRAINING, also known as a Boot Camp. You need both the tortoise and the hare to fully understand the story and interval training brings the two together. Interval training combines cardio with strength, and it also requires you to TAKE FREQUENT BREAKS. The frequent breaks part is the secret key to your success. The hare doesn't lose the race because he stops, he loses because he naps. Stopping and resting is not only okay, it's encouraged. Napping is not allowed when you're exercising.
So rabbits and turtles are your new best friends. The problem is most of us prefer kids and dogs and spouses and jobs to rabbits and turtles. We don't have the time or financial resources to attend weight loss camps that specialize in interval training. Nor do we have six hours a day to train. If we did we'd already be at our goal weight, right? Our kids and dogs and spouses and jobs are very important to us. So how can we live in the real world and still find the time to be with our rabbits and turtles?
There is a way...
If you step on a stairclimber for an hour by the end of it you're sweaty, your heart is pounding, your breathing is insane and your legs hurt. You get off, proud of what you accomplished, but utterly exhausted and already dreading the next session a mere day away. You've worked out for an hour and the effect of the spike will last another 1-2 hours, max. Then you're back to normal, burning your 85 calories an hour and wishing you could take a day off.
Instead, do this:
Warm up through an 8-10 minute deep-stretching abbreviated yoga session. It's short but necessary. It will condition your body for what's to come and set up your breathing for good inflow/outflow. I'll put up a video shortly demonstrating the positions you need to know. Don't worry, you don't need to be a yogi master to do them--I'm not going to make you pull your feet over your head or do anything scary or dangerous. Promise.
For now, stretch the way your gym teacher taught you, but do take a full 8-10 minutes to be fully comfortable and relaxed and ready.
Do 25 jumping jacks.
Do 10 push-ups (on your knees is okay if you need to).
Do 15 stomach pulls (use a device, or do sit-ups)
Sit down and rest for THREE FULL MINUTES, sipping water slowly.
If you're at a gym do one full routine of a single muscle-group exercise, meaning do your arms or do your legs or do your torso. Don't do all three, just do one. Keep the weights at a moderate level--don't hurt yourself or push yourself beyond your limits. This should take about 20 minutes, tops. (I'll post a video soon about how to exercise anaerobically if you don't have access to a gym).
Sit down and rest for THREE FULL MINUTES, sipping water slowly.
Do 25 jumping jacks.
Do 10 pushups.
Do 15 lunges on each leg (30 total).
Sit down and rest for THREE FULL MINUTES, sipping water slowly.
Stairclimb or treadmill or use the elliptical s-l-o-w-l-y for three minutes, and then at the maximum speed you are comfortable with for a full 15 minutes. It's okay to really push yourself here (but don't hurt yourself). When the 15 sprint-like minutes are up, walk it down slowly for 3 minutes or until your breathing returns to a more normal state.
That's it! You've worked out, start to finish, for less than one hour and fifteen minutes and you've not only exercised your heart and lungs with terrific cardio, you've built your muscles too. You've burned the same number of calories you would have just treadmilling the whole time, but now your resting caloric burn will increase to 125 calories per hour for the rest of the day, including when you sleep. This little extra, for only fifteen minutes more than your current routine, will add up to beyond the 500 extra calories you need to burn every day to lose weight.
The psychological benefit to this form of exercise is in the variety. Walking on a treadmill for an hour can seem daunting, but sprinting for 15 minutes, well that's very doable. The weight training is fun, but it doesn't hurt because you're not overdoing it by throwing your body into every possible contortion in one session. The constant rests and sipping water will keep you hydrated and energized.
It's just like eating: A salad is not lettuce, it also needs tomatoes and cucumbers and some dressing and maybe almond halves to keep it interesting. Your proteins need a veggie on the side. Think of your exercising the same way--a routine with variety, an interval training session, will keep you motivated and excited in a way a solitary stair-climb cannot--even if you are watching a good episode of Dr. Who while you do it.
Don't make it a one shot deal.
Think of your body like a car. It needs to be turned on consistently to maintain the fluids and the systems. Rest = Rust.
Every four hours do 25 jumping jacks and 10 pushups or lunges.
This little boost will take 3 minutes out of your day, but it will keep the metabolic machine running smoothly and the fuel flowing. You take breaks to snack, why not take breaks to work them off too? Why limit your exercising to the "I gotta get to the gym" when there are things you can do in your kitchen while your waiting for the green beans to defrost? Do it with your kids: call out "Homework break!" and dance in the living room. Do it on a road trip: Call out "Firedrill!" and run around the car like maniacs three times. Do it at work: Go into the supply closet and jump, Jack, jump.
As the Brady kids sang, "We gotta keep on... keep on... keep on movin'..."
The Emotions Lesson
As a good friend recently pointed out, yes, when it comes to calories the math is the math, but knowing these mechanics is probably irrelevant. Few people walk into buildings to visit a doctor or get the dog groomed and think about the structure, the columns, the glass, the air conditioning, the acoustic tiles. And even those of us who do think about these things (we can call ourselves dorks, I suppose) don't choose not to use the building if the door opens the wrong way or the windows are too small. We just use the building the way it's meant to be used and the calories are going to burn the way they're meant to be burned. What's more important is WHY we're in the building. Is it for the doctor or the dog? Are we loitering?
This component is called The Emotion and it’s typically the emotional connection to food that keeps people from losing weight. Our identities are tied up in our self-assessment of our self-image and going from heavy to thin means change, and change is scary. Remember when you stopped sucking your thumb or finally put away your childhood teddybear or blanket? Scary. Remember when you had your first sleepover at someone’s house — perhaps your first night alone in a different bed in a different place? Scary. Remember when you lost 100 pounds and started to see a new person in the mirror smiling back at you? Equally scary. Even though these things are desired it doesn’t mean they don’t frighten us. We are creatures of habit, and change scares us because we have to take ourselves out of our comfort zones and project ourselves into the unknown. Ironically, change is also necessary. Stagnant waters fester. Stagnant foods go moldy. Stagnant people become unhappy (and even diseased).
I’m going to oversimplify here (because that’s what I do) but I’ve found in my life that when I’m miserable about something, and I mean truly miserable, whether it be about a job I hate or a relationship I can’t stand or even just a blue day with gray weather, if I take a step back and breathe I’ll discover the emotion I’m feeling is actually a fabrication. This doesn’t mean it isn’t a real emotion, or genuine, or necessary. What it means is the emotion is coming from a factory of multifarious components that conspired to put out a product that somehow I ordered — even if I didn’t know it. I saw the gray day and a difficult client and my brain processed all the gray days and difficult clients I’ve seen before and it attempted to replicate the way I deal with gray days and difficult clients because that’s what it knows how to do. That’s the factory I’ve built, and my Gray Day Difficult Client Factory puts out a product I like to call Gloom.
The nice thing is, I own the factory. I forget this, but it’s true. I own it outright and I can change the orders and the components at will! I can say, “Hey, Gray Day Division! We’re going to replace component 31B: “Sadness with not being able to play in the park” with components 31B-2: “Delight that we don’t have to mow the lawn” and 31B-3: “Joy that we have an excuse to hibernate under a blanket.” And instead of being a negative source of aggravation, my difficult client will now be perceived as an opportunity: This person’s high demands forces me to exercise my ability to say No, which is tough, but good for me. I can take pride in going the extra mile in my job. If I satisfy this client I'll know I can satisfy any client I ever meet. This type of thinking takes practice, but the emotional assembly lines are ready to do what you command. You own the factory, but you have to concentrate on what it is you really want to produce.
You have to learn how to manufacture the emotion that gives you the results you intellectually know you need.
But HOW? Here’s a technique for when you find yourself in a slump or feeling miserable about something:
Literally stand up and take three big, deliberate steps backwards. Picture yourself stepping away from your emotions. Picture yourself literally taking the contents of your state-of-mind and stepping back from them. You can see it all in front of you, but you’re not connected to it—you are now literally three steps behind your feelings. Close your eyes, knowing those feelings are still there, hovering in front of you. Breathe in deeply from the base of your abdomen, up through your lungs and fill them to maximum capacity, as slowly and as comfortably as possible. Then exhale naturally—don’t push it out forcibly. The breath will come out quickly at first and then taper off. Breathe in again, slowly, same way. Exhale again, same way. Repeat one more time. Now you’ve taken three deep, cleansing breaths. With each exhale you’ve blown away the emotions you were feeling, the ones that were three steps in front of you. Each breath broke apart those emotions and they dissipated. They still exist, of course, but now they’re all over the room, blown to the corners, trapped in the carpet, stuck on the walls. Without your direct connection, they will dissolve on their own. Open your eyes and you’ll see that they’re not there anymore, holding the space where you were. They’ve moved on. Take three big steps back into the place where you were and you’ll feel different now — it's proof that those negative emotions have been cleared. You are open now to fill yourself with the emotions you want to feel. If you want to run around the room and collect all those hard feelings, feel free, but it might be easier to fabricate some new ones in your sparkling and clean emotional factory.
The Law of Attraction, at it’s core, reminds us that You Are What You Think.
I know you know this, but it needs to be reiterated because it needs to be lived, and living is action, and all actions start with your very personal thoughts.
If you think of exercise as a struggle that you have to get through every day, it will be a struggle that you have to get through every day.
If you think of yourself as fat you will be fat.*
If you beat yourself up for not losing weight then you are focused on not losing weight and you won't lose weight.
If you are frustrated with not losing weight then you will remain frustrated and you won't lose weight.
If you hate to exercise then exercise will be a chore that you hate.
If you feel like exercise is the only way out of this but it doesn't seem to work, then it won't work as your only way out of this.
*when I say fat here I don’t mean overweight, which is a truth about one’s physicality, I mean the word fat as a description with the negative connotations that makes us feel bad about our physicality and affects our emotional well-being.
Every thought has a counter-thought. Flip the stick when you think these thoughts. Flip the stick and look at the gem at the top instead of the part that's stuck in the dirt on the bottom.
The Calorie Lesson
The Law of Thermodynamics applied: Calories-out must be higher than calories-in to lose weight.
The body cannot manufacture weight out of nothing.
All weight is imported, through food.
All weight is exported through movement.
Take ONE WEEK and actually journal your calories-in, meal by meal, snack by snack, beverage by beverage, nut by nut. Use www.caloriecount.com as a guide.
Then try to journal your expenditure calories-out as well. Add 15% to whatever the stair-climber or treadmill says to account for its effect post-workout. If it says you burned 500 calories mark it as 500 and then add 75 more to it.
Okay, now scrap that. You didn't burn 575 calories today just because you walked three miles up a hill and made new pit-stains on your favorite t-shirt. Logging your calories-out is next-to impossible because there's no way to be 100% accurate. You cannot ascertain your calories-out for the parts of the day when you’re not exercising, when you’re running around the grocery store, watching television, taking a shower, having sex in the shower, or sitting in your kid’s piano lesson.
Calories-out fluctuates constantly and there are too many variables.
To add to the problem, even the treadmill’s readout cannot be read as absolute truth because it doesn't take into account your body type, age or other factors. For example, two people can run the same distance at the same speed at the same incline on a treadmill, but if one person is 20 and weighs 150 and another is 50 and weights 220 they will burn calories at completley different rates. Plus, what did they do to warm up? What is the temperature of the room? Is one of them at sea-level and the other in the Alps? Again, too many variables to be positively accurate.
And then, if you ARE overweight, whatever the machine says you burned can likely be deducted from the total, but as a percentage. For example, if you're 30 pounds overweight, then the machine is possibly reading you as much as 30% higher than your physical, personal reality. If it says you burned 500, it may only be a true 350. The treadmill is just computing a formula for speed, incline, time and maybe your weight and age, but that's not enough information. Sorry! I'll explain why this is later on (keep reading). Of course there’s no hard-and-fast rule to this--it’s not science and, despite what’s coming in this section, please note that I wasn’t a math major.
There is another way to look at the math (of course there is) and it is more accurate, but it's also more complicated. Life is complicated. Bear with me here...
Basically, there is BMR (Base Metabolic Rate) and RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate) which correlates to the waking and sleeping burning of your calories.
This can be expressed using two different formulas:
The Harris-Benedict equation for BMR
* For men: (6.2 x w) + (12.7 x h) - (6.76 x a) + 66
* For women: (4.3 x w) + (4.7 x h) - (4.68 x a) + 655
The Mufflin equation for RMR:
* For men: (4.5 x w) + (15.9 x h) - (5 x a) + 5
* For women: (4.5 x w) + (15.9 x h) - (5 x a) - 161
w = weight in pounds, h = height in inches, a = age
For your daily calories burned, assuming you sleep 8 hours a night:
(.66 x BMR) + (.33 x RMR) = Total Calories Burned.
But then, to make it even more fun, take your Total Calories Burned and multiply it by your Activity Factor:
1.2 Sedentary Little or no exercise and desk job
1.375 Lightly Active Light exercise or sports 1-3 days a week
1.55 Moderately Active Moderate exercise or sports 3-5 days a week
1.725 Very Active Hard exercise or sports 6-7 days a week4
1.9 Extremely Active Hard daily exercise or sports and physical job
It takes a little time to plug in the numbers, but for someone like me, 172 pounds, 69 inches, 38 years old with 1.55 activity factor getting approx 8 hours of sleep a night, according to the formulas I burn approximately 2257 calories a day. Again, not 100% exact, but it’s a good guideline.
([(6.2x172) + (12.7x69) - (6.76x38) + 66] x .66) + ([(4.5x172) + (15.9-69) - (5x38) +5] x .33) x 1.55 = 2257 calories.
If I were a woman with the same height, weight, age and Activity Factor getting the same sleep I would be burning approximately 1957 calories a day. Sorry, ladies. Your love burns strong, but slower...
([(4.3x172) + (4.7x69) - (4.68x38) + 655] x .66) + ([(4.5x172) + (15.9-69) - (5x38) - 161] x .33) x 1.55 = 1957 calories.
Again, this isn’t always the hard-and-fast 100% true rules for everyone on the planet. But it's a good guideline. (Thank you, www.caloriesperhour.com for these formulas).
Now here’s where we run into trouble and here's what the number really mean:
Let’s say I ate mass quantities of Taco Bell and now I'm 50 pounds overweight. My waist has expanded, my face is broader, I might be developing some boobs... But on the inside the mathematical formula as it relates to my body changes as well. Even if I was just as active as before I would be burning more calories; my new body mass would require I consume more calories just to stay put. Totally unfair! At 222 pounds with the same exercise routine I have now I would be burning more, 2689 calories, in fact, or 432 more than I was at 172, but even that additional burn would only be enough to keep me at 222. What is means is that to lose weight I would have to burn not only what my body is already burning, but another 500 calories to start losing that weight. I would have to raise my activity level almost to the 1.9 level to achieve that. And that's a lot of work!
Still with me? I'll say it again in another way: If I weigh 172 pounds and I want to lose weight I’ll have to burn 2257 calories to stay even, and then I'll have to burn more to lose the weight. But if I weigh 222 pounds I’ll have to burn 432 more calories that that just to stay even, and then even more to lose weight. Let's say I add another twenty minutes a day to my exercising and I burn an extra 100 calories at my 172 weight. To achieve the same effect, at my 222 weight I would have to do three hours of exercise to burn 532 calories. Do you see what I’m saying? Do you see what this means? That’s why it’s so much harder to lose weight when you’re overweight. That’s why fat people hate skinny people who seem to be able to eat whatever they want and still stay thin. It’s not the same world for fat people and skinny people because they are burning calories at completely different rates. This totally sucks, doesn’t it?!
But, of course, you don’t have to exercise away that extra 500 calories a day to get rid of it.
Remember the Law of Thermodynamics?
All weight is imported, through food.
All weight is exported through movement.
Consume 500 calories less each day and you’ll achieve the same goal without the all-day workout.
Another thing you need to know is that the Activity Factor is the BIGGEST VARIABLE in the equation. If I take a day off of exercising my calories burned that day goes down to 1810. If I eat to maintain my current weight at 172 that means I’m eating 2257 calories on the days that my activity factor is 1.55. If I eat the same way on my “day off” and I’ve only burned 1810 then I’ve kept 447 calories that day. And keeping it means storing it and it gets stored in our tissues as fat. If I was 50 pounds overweight my caloric burn at Activity Factor 1.2 would go down to 2081, but I would be used to eating 2689, so now I’ve added 608 calories to my pot belly. Again, incredibly not-fair for overweight people because the days they lower their Activity Factors they put on more weight than people who aren't overweight who take a day off. Again, the math is the reason skinny people seem to be able to eat more... the reason skinny people suck...
Days-off are hugely disruptive to losing weight. The only viable solution is to eat less on the days you don't exercise because you’re burning less calories when you're sedentary. The irony is most of us enjoy our days off tremendously and it’s on those days that we typically eat even more.
This is the Doubly-Whammy that keeps us imprisoned in our over-weight bodies.
Here’s the fantastic conclusion that wraps it all up with a silver bow:
In order to lose just one pound a week
you need to reduce your caloric intake
by 500 calories PER DAY, EVERY DAY.
Whether this means exercising another 500 calories away or eating 500 calories less, or maybe splitting the difference, 500 calories seems to be the magic number for losing pounds.
If you eat more, you’ll lose slower; if you eat less you’ll lose faster.**
If you exercise more you’ll lose faster; if you exercise less you’ll lose slower.
**Maintain your nutrition! This is where making smart choices about what you eat comes into play, but we'll deal with that in future posts, I promise.
The very super-best news I have for you regarding The Calorie Lessson is that once you start losing your weight then the numbers ALWAYS work in your favor, maing it easier to do more with less. Think of all of this math and your body as a grocery cart: As you load it up it gets heavier, harder to push around, it takes longer at the check-out, you have to move more bags into the car and then the kitchen, and it takes up more space in your refrigerator and cabinets. Also, it costs more. But if you put less in your cart it’s easier to move around, you can use the fast lanes, you can throw it on the front seat and put it away in a flash--and save money. The numbers work in your favor in the very same way. You can do more, save more and have more time--with less in your cart, less on your plate....
Less junk in your trunk, as they say.
I am not overweight. I am a 38-year-old male, 5’9” and 172 pounds with a BMI of 20.
According to the US Army I should weigh 184.
Accoridng to Metropolitan Life Insurance Company I should weigh, at the very most, 167.
According to US National Center for Health Statistics I should weigh 178.
According to North American Association for the Study of Obesity I should weigh 161.
Those all average to 172.5, so I pretty much weigh what I should.
At my lightest at this height I was 155. That was 25 years ago.
At my heaviest at this height I was 190. That was six months ago. And that scared me.
My husband is overweight. Since we eat, travel, make plans and coexist with similar schedules in the same dietary house I have often wondered why he can’t seem to lose the weight that I was able to shed. He attributes it to age (he’s a little older than I am) and metabolism. While I agree those are compelling factors, he expressed his frustration to me about his weight issues and I told him I have ideas on things he can do. I wanted to help. He told me, point blank, that I’m unqualified to advise him because I Don’t Know What He’s Going Through. This is true, but he’s also wrong. I’ve been watching what he’s been going through for 16 years.
On the next few posts you’ll see lessons, tips, opinions, advice, perspectives and other things I wanted to tell him that might help with regards to the universal problem of losing weight. I don’t know if they will help him, but they helped me shed 18 pounds in six months. I haven’t been able to lose the last seven to reach my goal, no matter how much I exercise, how much or little I eat, if I eat on a schedule or sporadically, if I drink some wine or don’t drink some wine... Every time I hop on a scale it reads the same number no matter what time of day, what day of the week, before or after I walk the dog... I thought maybe the scale was broken, but it appears that 172 is just my weight. Still, I continue to persevere to reach 165, which is an arbitrary number that sounds like it would feel better than 172. Maybe when I get there I’ll think otherwise, but it’s good to have goals to strive for, even when everything seems to be working out.
Perhaps for someone who may be morbidly obese, or maybe for someone who is uncharacteristically overweight for the first time, what I’ve written so far may sound like whining. Poor me, 172, bitch bitch bitch... Well, for anyone who’s ever tried to lose that last seven pounds you know what I’m going through. For anyone who’s tried to lose 70 pounds, this stuff might fit too.
Again, my standard disclaimer applied: I am not an expert, I am not trained, I am not a doctor, I am not a specialist, I am not a therapist, I do not have a fitness device, a physical education degree, backers or credentials. But I do have a body and I do have a mouth. Always seek advice from your health care professional before embarking on anything that may affect your body and health. Don’t listen to me.
This essay was intended for my husband, but he wasn’t entirely interested.
Rather than waste the words, I decided to post them for you.
Do your best, love yourself and go for it!
Welcome to NonWisdom
I am not an expert. I am not trained. I am not a doctor. I am not a specialist. I am not a therapist. I do not have a fitness device for sale. I am not on television. I am not a movie star. I am not a guru.
I do have a brain. I do have a body. I have a dog. I have a husband and family and friends.
I travel. I eat. I watch too many movies and I read too few books. I try to remember to floss.
I have had success and I have had failure. I had over a million dollars once and I've also been through bankruptcy and foreclosure. I have been happy and I have been depressed. I have been in love (still am, actually). I have also been hurt and I have hurt others.
Through it all I've learned a few things--and these are the things I want to share with you.
Welcome to NonWisdom.