weight issues

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Oh, what a sensitive topic!  And rightly so--a sensitive topic is one that should be dealt with with a lot of sensitivity, and this is an area that affects many, many people and that must be respected.  These days, most of us face issues with our weight which are strongly tied to our self-esteem and self-image, whether we're overweight or underweight.  Very often we let our perception of our own bodies determine how we feel about ourselves, leading to many, many problems including depression and other psychological issues.

Personally, I've been significantly overweight several times in my life, though I didn't even notice it as being overweight until I suddenly forced myself to be realistic.  I weigh 168 pounds right now, which is in the "high healthy" range for a man of my height and age, but I've been over 200 twice, and I weighed over 180 for many, many years.

What happened to change that?  Simply this:  a decision, or a series of decisions.  My first decision was to admit that there was a problem--by being overweight, I was putting extra strain on my heart, my lungs, my knees, my ankles. . . on many parts of my body.  That extra strain, while not immediately obvious, could have led to pretty severe problems later in life.

My second decision was to research and find out what would be a healthy weight level for me, and then to get there and stay there.  I read up on calories--how many of them cause us to gain weight, and how many we burn off through different types of exercise.  

When I started to lose weight (I've never used the word "diet"!), I made sure that I was burning more calories than I was taking in so that my weight would regularly decrease.  I made sure that I was physically active every day (I don't use the word "exercise," either), even if it meant being on the treadmill in the winter, and I hate treadmills.  But they serve an important purpose when it's five degrees and icy and windy outside.

The third decision was to maintain the new weight.  I switched to foods that were lower in calories, such as light yogurt instead of regular (a difference of more than 100 calories a carton, or more than 10 pounds a year!).  I always check calories now, and if there are too many in a certain food, I either decrease my serving size or eat something else, instead.  As you can see, this step involves a constant series of decisions, every single day--do I eat this or not?  Do I partake in a physical activity, or do I sit on the couch and eat some potato chips?  Do I drive to the store or do I walk?  Do I take the elevator or do I take the steps.

The math is very basic, and though it varies with individuals, it's pretty standard.  3500 calories equals one pound.  If you burn 100 calories a day more than you eat, you'll lose a pound in 35 days.  If you burn 500 calories more, you'll lose a pound every seven days.

But if you walk five miles and burn five hundred calories and then come home and have a soda and a candy bar that add up to 500 calories, guess what?  All other factors being the same, you've just destroyed the effects of the walk on your weight (though your heart and lungs will appreciate it).  And if your snack equals 800 calories (after all, I deserve it after walking five miles!) and you do that every day, you'll actually gain a pound in 12 days, even though you've walked sixty miles!  So you see how the idea of rewarding ourselves can be pretty damaging and lead to a lot of frustration.

Personally, I decided to hit a certain weight and stay there because I felt that it was important to take good care of this body that has been given to me.  I wouldn't buy a car and then not maintain it well, and I wouldn't buy a house and let it fall apart.  Why, then, would I treat my body poorly by allowing it to stay in an unhealthy state?  I didn't decide to lose weight because of what other people thought of me or because I felt I was wrong to weigh what I did--I decided to lose weight because it would help my body to function well, it would improve my health, and it would help to prevent many different types of disease and sickness later in life.

For many people, weight problems are a medical issue, and any weight loss should be undertaken in consultation with a medical professional.

So what's your ideal weight?  It's easier and more effective to tell yourself "I want to weigh 155 pounds," which is a positive goal, than it is to say "I want to lose 20 pounds," which is a negative goal.  Focus on where you want to be, then make the decisions in your lifestyle and eating habits that will allow you to get there.  And be patient--sometimes I'd go six or seven days without seeing a change on the scales, or I'd even see that I gained some weight, but as long as I stuck to what I was doing, the weight did come off consistently.  Don't judge yourself, and don't be harsh with yourself--just do what you need to do to make your goals.  And if you slip and eat that bowl of ice cream tonight that will add a lot of calories that you hadn't planned on, don't beat yourself up--just walk a couple of extra miles tomorrow or over the next few days.

And if you're looking to gain weight, be patient, too.  The human body is an extraordinary machine that tries to maintain itself as it is, and it will take time for it to metabolize food differently, allowing us to gain or lose weight.  Choose a plan, know what you're doing, and stick to it.

It's not easy, but it's something that millions of people have been able to do.  Learn from them and share their success, and the benefits will be greater than you can imagine!

  

  
We all know what happened shortly after Oprah’s dramatic weight loss
with Optifast--she put all the weight back on, plus some.  Only years later
did she make the mental, physical and emotional connection that helped her
lose weight and keep it off for good.  Regardless of what you think of Oprah’s
personal and religious philosophies, she has achieved the weight loss that
eludes the other 96 percent of people who go on diets.


Oprah’s secret?  She made peace with her body.  That’s right.  A few years ago,
she made a conscious decision to accept her body--more than
that--to embrace it, flaws and all.


It’s one of those mysterious paradoxes; only when she decided to love
her body just as it was, did she at last find freedom from the fear and
shame that motivated her dieting behavior in all the years before.  Only then
was she able to start honoring her body with a healthy regimen of nutritious
eating and moderate exercise.  Losing weight was
the natural result of her newfound self-respect.

Roberta Rand
  

Your body is the baggage you must carry through life.
The more excess the baggage, the shorter the trip.

Arnold H. Glasgow

   

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More die in the United States of too much food than too little.

John Kenneth Galbraith
  

Take twice as long to eat half as much.

Anonymous

   
A few potentially valuable resources:

Fitday.com
Weightwatchers.com

Fitday helps you to monitor your levels of physical activity and calories burned, and offers a completely independent way to get in shape and stay there.

Weightwatchers offers a community of people who all are facing the same struggles and doing their best to get and stay in shape.  It has a great bulletin board with many, many entries, plus recipes, success stories, and much, much more.

Focus on the Family also has a nice site dedicated to problems we all face in our lives, called
Troubledwith.com.  This link will take you to their page on self-image.

Reader's Digest also has a comprehensive series of articles on healthy living on their website.  Click here to go to their Weight Loss page, and look to the left of the screen for more related articles.

  
There is a sad truth lurking in the back pages of scientific journals and doctor’s office brochures:  there is no magic pill for weight loss.  People everywhere, however, would love there to be one.  Countless advertisements in magazines and tabloids scream out that there are easy, scientifically proven ways to lose weight – without diet or exercise. The Food and Drug Administration knows this truth, and tries in vain to educate the public about the only proven way to lose weight and keep it off:  “Losing weight sensibly and safely requires a multifaceted approach that includes setting reasonable weight-loss goals, changing eating habits, and getting adequate exercise.”  “There are no shortcuts – no magic pills,” warns the FDA.  Nevertheless, American consumers spend more than $33 billion yearly in an attempt to lose weight (worldwide figures are unavailable).  The weight loss plans range from the draconian (only grapefruit) to the lavish (all the red meat, cheese and butter you can eat), the products from the plausible (stair-stepping machines) to the frivolous (cellulite creams).  And consumers, and particularly women, buy it all.

unattributed (an academic paper)
  
I realized that as I was losing the weight, I was finding myself.  I grew up
a lot, and my whole outlook changed.  I used to think I had to entertain
my friends and be the funny girl, but now I can just be Jill.  The biggest shift?
I broke up with a guy who put me down constantly, and now I have
a boyfriend who's compassionate and encouraging.

Jill
  
  
That’s the glamorous side of my story.  I lost forty-five pounds in about
four months.  It was so easy that I was planning on being at my goal weight
within the year.  But here we are nearing my three-year anniversary, and I’m
not at goal yet.  For awhile, that was really discouraging for me.  I felt like
I should be at my goal by now.  Even though I had lost all that weight, I felt
like I was a failure because I wasn’t at my goal yet.  Each month that went by
made that goal seem so much further away.  It wasn’t the plan’s fault.  It’s not
like I was staying within my points range and the weight wasn’t budging.
No, I couldn’t blame it on anyone but me.  My weight loss stagnated because
I wasn’t following the program.  Sure, I would follow it faithfully for a couple
of weeks, but then the binges.  I had allowed the bingeing to return to my life.
I made excuses just like everyone else does.  I could list them right now for
you, all the excuses that I made for myself.  They sounded so valid when
I made them, but now they seem empty, like an abandoned hermit crab’s shell.

Laura Moncur (from her weblog)
  

Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a
healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.

John F. Kennedy

   
There are many ways to burn extra calories, and we all have many opportunities every day to do so.  We can park far away from the store or work and walk in--even if we're just 200 yards away, that's a quarter-mile round-trip; do that five times a week, and that's an extra mile and a quarter, or an extra 65 miles a year.  We can take the stairs instead of the elevator for a similar amount.  My wife and I love to walk to the store, especially when we know that traffic will be bad.

Do you have fifteen minutes to wait for someone?  Then walk for ten minutes, and you'll go at least a half a mile, even if you stay indoors.  Whenever I'm waiting for a plane at the airport, I always walk, and I'm always one of the last to board--if I'm going to have to sit in one spot for a couple of hours anyway, I might as well spend the time before the flight stretching my legs and burning calories and watching people--there are always many cool people to watch in airport terminals.

Have you seen this episode of this television show before?  Then turn off the tube, put on some music and dance!  Or perhaps it's time for a walk.  Too cold outside for a walk?  Then visit a department store or a shopping mall and take advantage of their large enclosed space (don't use it as an excuse for shopping, though, or you might start facing other problems--leave your money and your credit cards at home!).

Taking a walk for your lunch break can help to energize you for the rest of the day, can help you digest your lunch better, and will keep you from sitting for another half-hour during your day.

Did you know that whether you walk briskly or run, covering one mile burns about the same number of calories?  So if you walk four miles in an hour, you're burning about the same number of calories that a world-class runner burns in 17 or 18 minutes of fast running.  It doesn't take him or her as long, but the benefits are about the same!
   
   

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