Our Secrets for Staying in Shape
(Or Getting There!)
“How do you guys stay in shape? What is your secret to stay thin? Is there something special you both do to keep the weight off? You guys are lucky that you don’t have to worry about your weight.”
Paul and I hear these questions every day. Our patients and other people we see always want to know our secret to staying in shape. The secret is it is not a secret. A simple formula exists to guide us on how to stay in shape: Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits. Drink plenty of water. Take in only as many calories as you need (or when you are trying to reduce your weight, eat less calories than you burn). Exercise consistently. Get enough sleep. In that simplicity is where we find the difficulty. Something is always pulling us off track. You must be committed to the formula to be successful.
When it comes to eating, there is a constant search for the magical diet that causes weight loss, tastes terrific, and satisfies hunger. Let’s emphatically state “There is NO super food or vitamin.” While television, magazines and countless internet sites relentlessly attempt to sell us the latest super foods and vitamins, they simply don’t exist. The formula for healthy eating: Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, proteins and lean meats. Avoid processed foods. Don’t over eat.
The plan may be simple but it takes will power to maintain a healthy diet. There are many chances to be pulled off target during the day: Co-workers who bring in cake and baked goods, the candy bars by the cash register, the ice cream shop on the way home, the cookies we have at home. These temptations are always with us. It takes commitment to say no.
We all get cravings - even Paul and Barry!
If you think some people have it easy because they don’t have the same cravings or temptations and they just naturally eat healthy, you are incorrect. I work with athletes and others who maintain a healthy diet and weight and every single one of them tells me of certain bad foods they absolutely crave. They all struggle to limit eating those high calorie foods. I personally have battles every day. The other night I actually dreamt of doughnuts! Huge, delicious, frosted doughnuts. I woke up thinking about doughnuts and frankly could not get the thought out of my head for days. But I resisted the thoughts. I did not go out and buy doughnuts. I stayed committed to eating healthy.
Would you like water with that?
A major dietary challenge we all face is what we drink. Drinking beverages with calories is one of the quickest ways to gain weight. And of course most of what we drink these days is loaded with calories: Coffee with cream and sugar, iced teas, fruit drinks, sodas, sports drinks. In one 20 ounce soda there are 240 calories, no vitamins and no other beneficial nutrients. Fruit drinks are often no better as there is generally precious little actual juice in it. While a 100% natural juice is far healthier due to the vitamins and nutrients, there are still calories involved. Drink mostly water. Enjoy other beverages in very limited amounts.
The best exercise is….
Exercise is a key to good health and staying in shape. We must move and use our body to keep it going. What is the best exercise? Is it walking, cycling, aerobics classes, weight lifting, yoga? The best exercise is the one you enjoy doing. The secret to exercise is you must do it consistently. Get into an exercise routine that you do several times each week and stay with it. If you have not been exercising, start off small to get the routine going then build up. Commit to going to the gym to work out for 20 minutes 4 times this week. Once you get that habit, you will find that you can easily increase your workout time and soon enough you will see and feel a difference in your body.
When you exercise consistently you will find some common challenges that test your commitment. Some days you will feel tired and not want to work out. On those days start your workout anyway. Give yourself 10 minutes and generally you will feel energized and want to complete the workout. But if you are still tired, call it a day and go home. Often times the tiredness we feel is mental fatigue and a good workout is the cure to relieve that mental stress.
When you need to cut back, schedule your comeback
There will come times during the year when your schedule is overloaded and it is hard to make the time to exercise. At those points, take a break from exercise and focus on the work you need to get done. The challenge is not in taking a break from exercise for a week or two, but in forgetting to get back into your workout routine. Too often a short break from our routine turns into a long time away from exercise. When you decide to take a break, make a commitment on the date you will start again. Another option to stay on target during hectic times is to shorten and simplify your routine but keep doing something until you have time to get back into your full regimen.
Time issues and busy schedules are a constant challenge for me. Over the past 6 months I struggled to stay consistent in my training because my work and travel schedule was very busy. To stay on target I supplemented my normal cycling training with running. On days I was busy, instead of skipping a workout altogether, I would shorten it to 30 minutes. By doing these things I maintained my fitness and did not have to fight to get back into shape again.
And now for the fun part…
We think we’re being efficient and productive when we cut back on sleep. In our Type A culture, we get a merit badge for being too busy to take care of ourselves by sleeping. But wait! Research shows that lack of sleep contributes to higher stress levels, weight gain, lack of focus, loss of energy and a weaker immune system. We created poor sleep habits in our adult years. We go to bed too late, we leave the television on, we have our cell phones near us all night with their ring tones, alarms and message chimes frequently going off. Here is a simple idea: Practice the same rules we gave our children. Start to “settle down” before going to bed. Go to bed early. Read instead of having a television on. Keep the room quiet and peaceful. As for cell phones and other technology, simply turn them off or silence them. Enjoy the luxury of sleeping!
Simple, yes. Easy, not so much
Staying in shape and keeping your weight down is a commitment. The rules are simple; following them is the difficult part. Don’t feel alone in your challenge as even the best athletes and healthiest people you know all struggle to stay on target.