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For those of us in the fitness business, January is “tax time.” Gym memberships increase and fitness trainers fill up their schedules with new clients—all full of hope and resolve. My response to this influx of enthusiasm in January is the same as it is at any other time of the year—any day is a good day to start taking better care of yourself.
The difference between those who stick to their weight loss and/or fitness resolutions (at any time during the year) and those who are back to their old habits within days, weeks or months is the nature of the resolution itself. From my perspective, the focus needs to be on the process rather than the product or result. Vague notions about “losing 30 pounds” or “getting fit” in the New Year do not result in immediate reward or success and quickly become frustrating or overwhelming. I prefer what I call “roadmap” goals. These are process-oriented goals, which evolve over the course of the year.
For instance, if you can count how many times you exercised in 2017 on one hand, a practical and attainable fitness goal could be to do at least 8 minutes of deliberate exercise every day (or every Monday, Wednesday and Friday) for one month—January. You can enter this exercise goal into your phone and check it off every day for the month of January. If you miss a day, you do 16 minutes the next day. What would 8 short minutes of exercise entail? Here are some ideas:
When February comes, you can revisit and adjust your goal. At that point, the goal may be 30 minutes of exercise on Saturday and Sunday and 8 minutes each day during the work week. By the end of the year, as you keep adjusting your roadmap, you will be more fit—even if you do not actually measure it (although better if you do).
For those of you who already exercise and want to become stronger or more consistent, the plan may be to find a program that motivates you to work harder and/or show up more. Perhaps, you hire a trainer. Perhaps, you purchase a class pass and set a goal to try a new class each week for a month. Along the way, you may find something that inspires you at a new level. There is no perfect exercise program, except the one you show up and do consistently. Drag a friend along on the journey while you are at it. Connection with other humans is also good for your health.
Weight loss goals should similarly be focussed on process. While there are an infinite number of weight loss books on the market and eating protocols (e.g., Paleo, Keto, Whole 30), virtually all have one thing in common—sugar and other refined carbohydrates (the “white foods,” I call them) should be eliminated from our diets to the greatest extent possible. I like to start the weight loss process by working towards reducing the taste/craving for these sugar/white flour based foods. So, a starting goal might be to only eat breads, cereals or other processed carbohydrates that have 5 or more grams of fiber per serving. Very few refined carbohydrates will contain fiber at those levels (except for certain of those “diet” high fiber bars, which I do not recommend).
As an alternative, if chocolate (not the 80% real cacao sort) is something you tend to overindulge in, you might set a goal of giving up chocolate for the month of January. If that feels good and your scale or waistline moves, you may want to extend that goal another month and/or add all cakes and cookies to the list of foods you generally avoid going forward.
As an alternative to avoiding certain foods, another goal might be to ensure you eat some form of lean protein and a fruit and/or vegetable every time you have a meal or snack. This will ensure you are filled up with quality food and less likely to reach for the refined carbohydrates—which, frankly, you should eliminate from your cupboards and refrigerator to the greatest extent possible and as soon as possible. Even if your scale does not move as quickly as you would like, eliminating these foods from your diet will have plenty of other health benefits.
No matter what your roadmap is, you should keep track of your plans and progress in writing. I advise all of my weight loss clients to log their food daily—every bite, every sip. The research shows that food logging alone can be an effective way to be accountable for your food choices and can provide vital information to your doctors and/or other fitness and wellness advisors, should you seek professional input along the way. Photo logging works well too, as it can provide information on portion size, which we tend to underestimate. Logging your workouts will similarly keep you accountable and, hopefully, motivated. If you do not log directly into your computer, phone, or one of the many logging apps, logging both food and workouts on a calendar will allow you to adjust your goals and track your successes (adherence) monthly.
Finally, no matter what goals or roadmap you set, please be kind to yourself. Don’t call yourself names or obsess over any particular goal, resolution, or set back. Just keep moving forward and finding balanced and moderate steps to take care of yourself both physically and emotionally.
With wishes of wellness to you all for the New Year,
Today is International Women’s Day—a good day to write. I am a woman. I have a voice.
After working many years as a lawyer in large corporate environments, I am now the owner of a small boutique fitness company. We specialize in weight loss and obesity. My job is to support my clients on their journey to better health—to reduce the inflammation and numerous health risks associated with carrying significantly extra weight and with a lack of physical activity. To me, my work is more about empowerment, less about aesthetics.
Coinciding with International Women’s Day is “A Day Without Women--“ a protest to call attention to the economic injustices facing women and to highlight our value to the economy. As I headed out to work today, in my red solidarity puffer vest, I considered the notion of our impact/power on the economy and on governance in general. In this country, I suspect women make the majority of the home-related, day-to day purchasing decisions. It seems to me, we demonstrate our power not only by skipping work today (for those in a position to do so) but also by showing up not only at work but in every other sense.
As a woman business owner, I have the power to hire other women. I have the power to shop at stores and restaurants and other businesses owned by women. I can attempt to find women doctors (assuming they are covered by my health plan and that I have a health plan) and lawyers and accountants. Most of us also have at least some power to avoid doing business with establishments that do not support women.
In order to ensure that more women can find their way to pay equity, owning businesses and financial independence, we need to show up. We need to learn as much as we can from every job and academic opportunity we get. We need to be the best employees we can be. We need to show up to work on time, do our homework, study hard, pay attention, and watch and read the news. We need to get involved politically. We need to run for office. We need to vote. We need to encourage and support other women—to hire them, to mentor them, to pay them well, to speak up for injustices against them, and, sometimes, even to simply help them with childcare when we have the capacity to do so. We also need to ask other women for help when we cannot handle something all alone.
This may sound strange coming from someone in the fitness business, but we also need to focus less on whether our thighs look fat or our hair is frizzy or we have a blemish. When I was a lawyer, I was struck by how hard it was to keep up (physically) with my male boss, while walking to court, when I was wearing a skirt, heels and stockings and carrying a weighty brief bag. He was wearing trousers and flat shoes, of course. While it may sound trite, to have power, we also need to be comfortable in our clothing and in our skin. We need to take care of our health so we can continue to show up, but we do not need to waste time trying to live up to some man-made standard of beauty. We also have to work hard not to judge each other so harshly and tear each other down. Those distractions slow our progress (like those heels, skirts and hose) and diminish our fortitude. That "stronger together" slogan was not inaccurate.
In an effort to do my part, I did some quick research on women-owned businesses and found the following information that others may find helpful. These lists provide just a sampling of women-owned businesses (Java Fitness, for instance, cannot be found on any lists I have seen), but perhaps they will inspire all of us to look for others. Happy International Women’s Day!
With wishes of wellness,
I am so excited to be working with Kari Traa as a brand ambassador in DC. I discovered the brand, and they discovered our special company, while I was shopping with a client at another woman-owned business in town--Core 72. Kari Traa is herself a champion freestyle skier from Norway. Her clothing line has expanded well beyond skiing and well beyond Norway. If you train in tights, you will adore their colors and the fit. I can't wait to wear the winter base layers--and not just because it is 90 degrees in Washington at the moment. I hope to be sporting more of their clothes around town soon. In the meantime, please let me know if you have any questions!
Over the course of the last several years working with clients struggling with weight loss and obesity, I have observed what seems to be a connection between alcohol and obesity. In one case, a client who was obese when she started working with me had several years prior realized she had a drinking problem and had given up alcohol entirely. She applied the same strength she had exhibited in becoming sober to her weight loss and is now a sober and healthy-weighted person. In numerous other cases, I have worked with clients who are able, with my support, to change their eating habits but have almost greater resistance to giving up their nightly glass/es of wine or cocktails. In some of these cases, I believed strongly that the alcohol was itself a problem that would need to be addressed separately. In other cases, however, the alcohol seemed to be the single hold out in what would otherwise be viewed as a complete change in lifestyle. This, of course, brought me to some research I thought I would share.
As it turns out, researchers have found a growing link between alcoholism and obesity. People, and women in particular, seem to be more prone to obesity if there a family history of alcoholism. What struck me the most about the research is the finding that "both obesity and alcohol addiction have been linked to the brain's reward system." See Alcoholism & Obesity. "Because the same brain structures are being stimulated, overconsumption of unhealthy foods might be greater in people with a predisposition to addiction." See Craving for Alcohol May be Linked to Obesity; see also, Risk for Alcoholism Linked to Risk for Obesity. The research did not find that people with alcohol addiction are more likely to be obese, but rather, that those with a family history of addiction may be more drawn to the types of foods that appeal to the same reward centers as alcohol, e.g., fats, sugars, and salt.
The takeaway for me as a trainer and for those struggling with these major lifestyle changes is that the craving or perceived need for that glass or two of wine may have roots deeper than once thought. Perhaps a look back in familial history would be worthwhile and motivating. Even if there is no family history of addiction, it is reasonable to conclude that alcohol and junk food still process through the same brain reward system. As the consumption of alcohol, for women in particular, is increasingly associated with other health concerns, equal emphasis should be placed on its moderation or cessation as part of an overall wellness plan. Not easy changes but possible ones!