Get excited about fitness

Get excited about fitness. Try new things.
Get excited about fitness!

You’re probably thinking to yourself, “She’s nuts. Excited about fitness? That’s the most boring thing ever.”

But you should be excited about fitness. You’re doing something for you when you actively work to improve your fitness. While eating right can be less than exciting, it can be the greatest opportunity to explore the world and try new things. 

Get out of your eating rut

We get in a rut with our eating. Same old proteins, veggies and flavorings. But thinking about eating healthier can be an introduction to new herbs and spices that we have never tried before. I don’t really know a lot about Indian (from India) food – or Native American food for that matter. It’s easy to do a search for nutritious ethnic foods, and experiment in the kitchen. Print out a couple of recipes you’d like to try and make your shopping list from those recipes. 

The produce store I go to frequently has many vegetables that I’ve never tried and don’t know how to prepare. Things with exotic names, from exotic countries. The next time I go there I’ll take a picture of some of these and explore preparation tips and recipes for them.

Class trip to Spain not for the food

I took a class trip to Spain when I was in high school (a very long time ago). The meals were definitely Americanized for us – high school kids were not adventurous eaters. Some of my classmates even searched out McDonalds for some meals. Others refused to eat anything but the bread served at mealtime. (It was good bread, but not that good!)

Explore new cuisines

I will do more research on Spanish dishes but in the meantime I found this recipe for Pisto (Spanish version of Ratatouille) which I might make sometime soon! If you ever took a trip and perhaps were not as courageous as you might have been with your meals, now might be a great time to take a look back and discover some new taste sensations.

Maintaining your motivation when you embark on a healthy eating program can be tough. I talked about this before when I gave 5 tips for sticking to your plan. But exploring new cuisines is another way to make it easy to stick to your plan.

Even if you’ve decided to eat healthier, be bold. Search out new tastes and flavors. Travel the world from your kitchen. Get excited about fitness – at least the eating part for now.

When you really, really want something

When you really, really want something - like the stuffing - don't deprive yourself.
When you really, really want something – like the stuffing (or dressing) – don’t deprive yourself.

Yesterday was Thanksgiving Day here in the US. Happy Thanksgiving to my readers! I am truly thankful for you! Traditionally it’s a day of football, eating until you’re too stuffed to eat any more, and then collapsing in a turkey coma on the couch. As I wrote last week, Thanksgiving for me is truly a day of gratitude for family and friends, and food. Ours was a very small celebration yesterday – just two of us. But we had all of our Thanksgiving favorites – turkey, dressing (it’s dressing not stuffing because we don’t stuff the bird!), cranberry relish and brussels sprouts (yes, we love our sprouts!). And dessert. And I had everything. Because when you really, really want something, it’s perfectly OK to have it.

Everything in moderation

I’ve written about my “everything in moderation” philosophy. I never deprive myself. If I really, really want something, I have it. Perhaps just a little bit of it, but enough to satisfy the craving.

I love our stuffing – or dressing. It’s really a savory bread pudding with minimal herbs and spices. We salt and saute a few pounds of onions and a whole head of celery in vegetable oil until they’re nicely browned and caramelized (this takes a while). We mash a loaf of stale (or lightly toasted) egg bread with a few eggs and a quart of warm milk. Add a little more salt, mix everything together, turn it into a casserole sprayed generously with cooking spray and bake it for a few hours, stirring to get the maximum amount of crustiness every half hour or so. I’m making myself hungry writing about it.

I don’t skimp

When dinner time comes around, I give myself a regular sized portion. When I finish that, if I really, really want more, I give myself another spoon. It’s Thanksgiving, after all. 

I don’t feel guilty about it. I don’t second guess myself. I know there are lots of calories in it. But it’s worth it to me to work out extra the next few days.

Because if I didn’t have exactly what I wanted, I’d think about it. I’d mope about it. I’d overeat in another way. I’m doing myself a favor in eating exactly what I want.

Focus on yourself – for your health

Be mindful when you start to focus on yourself. Start slow so you can continue.
Focus on yourself – so you’re healthy for the long haul!

I can picture it… There you are, living your life. Seemingly happy with your family, your job, your home, your friends. It’s been a while since you actually focused on yourself, so one day you may realize that there could be so much more to your life. If you could move better. Zip your pants. Not feel so bloated in the evening. And all those prescriptions. Taking a good, hard look at your daily life you may come to the conclusion that, “Yeah, it’s good, but it could be better. I need to get fit.” You need to focus on yourself!

What a reckoning moment! When we decide that our own fitness is a way to be happier and be more for our loved ones, it’s an earth-shattering decision.

There’s no easy fix, though. If it’s been a while since you made yourself a priority, it’s going to take a while to reap the benefits of that major decision. Make sure you start right and focus on yourself so that you can achieve the results you want.

The food

We all need to eat to survive. Chances are, if it really has been a while since you focused on your fitness, the foods you eat may not be the healthiest. I’m not a nutritionist, but I do know that what we eat is reflected in our body. When we eat right – watching the calories, reducing the fat, added sugar and salt, and eating more vegetables – our health improves and we lose weight.

The exercise

Exercise can help you “burn” more calories, so it does help us to lose weight. But, I think, more importantly, exercise is a mood-lifter. We feel happier when those endorphins post-exercise kick in. Exercise boosts energy and also helps to combat some diseases.

But start small

If it’s been a while since you focused on yourself, start with the little things. If you usually enjoy a scoop of ice cream for dessert, don’t cut it out entirely. Or if your servings of potatoes take up most of your plate, don’t eliminate your mash. Just reduce the serving. Maybe go for half of what you’ve been used to. 

I’ve always been a firm believer of “Everything in Moderation.” If you cut all the good stuff out, you’re much less likely to stick with a plan. Perhaps, if you’re feeling it, enjoy your mashed potatoes, but cut out the cake and have fruit for dessert. I enjoy a couple of spoonsful (teaspoons – don’t get crazy!) of super-rich chocolate ice cream most nights.

Well-known fitness trainer Sohee Lee even advises the moderation approach. Especially at first, moderation is the key. More than that is unsustainable. Cutting all indulgences will just make you want them more. But if you have a tiny bit of whatever you’re craving, you’ll most likely be satisfied.

Start small with exercise too. I wrote about starting to exercise a little while ago. If you haven’t exercised in a while, start with a short walk after dinner a couple of days a week. Gradually extend the time and add another day or two in a few weeks. If you’re wanting more, search out a fitness class you think you can stick with. Be honest with yourself. Don’t attempt too much because that, too, is unsustainable. The last thing you want when you’re just beginning your fitness journey is an injury or pain. Now, a little bit of muscle soreness is to be expected if you’re using muscles you haven’t used in a while. But if you can’t walk for days after a workout, that’s not a good thing. Starting slow means that you’ll maintain your healthy progress. 

Fitness is a journey. No one ever says, “I’m fit. Now I can quit.” There’s no quitting. Eating right, exercising and attending to your mental health is something you do for life.

I feel like an elephant today

I feel bloated like an elephant today. If you do too, stick to your fitness plan.

Did you ever wake up and, after you do your usual morning stuff, say to yourself, “I feel like an elephant today?” Everything feels fat and bloated, even more than usual. Even my hands and feet feel bloated. Don’t get me wrong – I love elephants. I think elephants are among the cutest beings on the planet.

I don’t want to feel like an elephant

But I don’t want to feel like one. Elephants usually move slowly and deliberately. (Except for when your safari jeep gets between a mama and her calf. But that’s a story for another day.) That is not how I want to move. I want to feel light and energetic. I want to feel like I can move effortlessly. 

I’m pretty sure that you have this feeling sometimes too. I may have eaten too much salty food yesterday and I’m retaining water. Or I just plain ate too much. Or I didn’t get enough sleep. Any of these could lead to feelings of heaviness.

Stick to your fitness plan

First thing to do is not obsess about it. Feeling like you have to wear a giant muumuu to cover everything up can lead to feelings of depression. Don’t let it. Everyone feels this way at some point. And even if you feel it, it’s not visible. This article describes how I pull myself out of the dumps.

Next – drink more water. It may seem counter-intuitive to drink water if you’re retaining water, but it’s one step in the right direction. If you like to drink carbonated beverages, try to replace them with water. That carbonation can lead to excess gas not only in the beverage, but in your system.

It’s important to move!

Take a walk. This can diminish that bloated feeling right away. And over time, if you move more, you won’t feel bloated so frequently. Yes, this is another reason to exercise regularly!

Gradually add more fiber and probiotics to your diet. This tip is not an instant cure. Adding additional fiber to your diet is a long-term improvement and will improve your digestion over time.

But right now?

No matter how you feel, you don’t look different. You’re still the same person inside and out. So if you’re self-conscious and want to wear baggy shirts and pants for a couple of days, that’s OK. When I’m feeling bloated, I have to remind myself that no one is looking at how tight (or not) my pants are. I’m still me – tight waistband or not.

If you miss a day or two

You’re a few weeks into your new, “healthy you” plan and things are going fine. You have good days and days that it’s a struggle, but you’re making it through. You’ve been sweating up a storm but eating (mostly) right. But you’re starting to wonder, what happens if you miss a day or two. You may have a trip planned and you don’t know if you’ll be able to do your workouts. And if you’re on someone else’s timetable, you don’t know what the meal situation is going to be like. You’re worried that if you miss some time that your plan will be completely undone.

First, take a breath and celebrate

First, take a minute and celebrate your successes! It’s not easy sticking with a healthy plan for a few days, much less a few weeks. And you’ve done it! You’ve stuck with it! You should be incredibly proud of yourself.

But if you miss a couple of days

But that trip is coming up, and you’re concerned. Know that if you miss a day or two, it’s not the end of the road. You may eat things that aren’t on your meal plan. You may miss a few workouts. But you can’t plan your entire life around your workouts. Things happen.

It’s OK. The world will not end.

It’s OK if you miss a day or two. Or even more than that. The world will not end, and you’ll be fine.

The key is to get back on the plan as quickly as you can. And while you may not be able to completely stick with your meal plan while you’re away or your schedule is disrupted, try to eat as sensibly as you can. Don’t think to yourself, “I can’t do my plan, and I don’t want to be impolite and ask for separate food, so that’s it. I’m done.”

Eat sensibly and move!

No. Eat as sensibly as you can. Try to limit high-fat and high-sugar items. Say, “Thank you, but no” to all the sweets your host offers you. (Or just have one of your absolute favorites.) Stick as closely to your own meal plan as possible without being rude.

And get what exercise you can. Suggest walks outside. If you’re staying at a hotel, check out the fitness center. 

Back to normal

You may not want to go all out when you get back to your routine after you miss a day or two.

When you get back to your normal routine, assess where you are. Get back to your healthy eating plan as quickly as possible. You may have gained a couple of pounds, but they’ll come off when you’re back to your plan.

And you may want to ease back into your exercise program a little more slowly. If you miss a day or two, you probably won’t lose momentum. But more than that and if you go back to full exertion, you could be sore for a couple of days. So, modify the intensity a bit for the first few days. And if your muscles are sore the next day, it’s normal. Follow these suggestions to feel better – Drink more, stay active and don’t sit too long. And remember that the sooner you get back to your routine, the easier it will be.

You’ll get back to your fitness routine in no time! You’ll be improving your health and increasing your resilience. There’s no need to quit if you miss a day or two in your fitness journey – you’re just taking a little break.

The other piece of the puzzle for weight loss

If you’re serious about wanting to lose weight, exercise is important. Exercise is more important for lowering blood pressure and reducing your risk of certain diseases. It’s also important for building strength and bone mass. What you eat is the more important piece of the puzzle for weight loss. 

The formula for losing weight is simple: consume fewer calories than you use. The number of calories that you use exercising can be large, but not nearly as large as it needs to be in order for you to lose pounds. Even the Mayo Clinic says that diet is more important than exercise when it comes to losing weight.

Diet is a 4-letter word

What you eat is most important in the weight loss puzzle

Yes, diet is a nasty word. But it’s also what we consume every day. Our diet is just that – what we eat. The word is neither good nor bad. It’s just a word. What can be good or bad are the foods that make up our diet. 

You’ve heard the “experts” promoting the “South Beach Diet,” the “Atkins Diet,” the “Mediterranean Diet,” “Keto,” gluten-free diet, Pescatarian diet, Intermittent Fasting – the list is endless. What works for one person may not work for you. 

What does work

Change your mindset: Stop thinking of “diet” as a bad thing. My own diet includes lots of really “healthy food,” but also ice cream, bread and donuts. None of these are bad themselves. What is “bad” is when you overload your diet with processed foods high in sugar and fat. My motto: (like Benjamin Franklin) “Everything in moderation.”

So, if you’re really serious about losing weight, do some research about food plans. What’s included, what’s not included, the long-term prospects of sticking with it. Figure out what appeals to you. Try it for a few weeks. See if it works, and if you can live with it. If you need to modify the plan – it’s your body. Do what’s right for you. Keep a food journal – write down every morsel of food that goes in your mouth. Be religious about this. You probably don’t realize everything you eat. And that can sabotage your results. 

Losing weight is hard, but the more you know about what it takes to lose weight and be healthy, the better your chances of success.

It’s (mostly) what you eat

Trying to lose weight? That seems to be the permanent state for many of us.There’s no instant cure, and it’s mostly what you eat. A sad statement, but true. Losing weight is hard. Really hard. Especially as we get older. And it seems to be even harder for us women. So many of my friends are struggling to lose the extra pounds the pandemic caused them to pack on. And it’s harder after menopause to maintain our current weight without gaining any.

Losing weight after menopause is not impossible

Yes, it’s hard. But it’s not impossible. Yes, hormonal changes tend to increase our appetite and change the way our bodies store fat. Unfortunately, it’s around our middles. And after menopause our activity levels tend to decrease which leads to loss of muscle mass. 

But we can change that. It is not a foregone conclusion that you can’t lose weight after menopause. 

The same methods that worked before menopause to lose weight work after. It just takes more discipline and thought on our part to make them work.

So, what’s the plan?

In order for you to lose weight, the formula is very simple. You have to burn more calories than you consume. Simple, right? It’s mostly what you eat: specifically it matters how much you eat. No matter what you read anywhere else, the combinations don’t matter. Where your food comes from doesn’t matter. What matters are the numbers.

After that it’s a head game. 

It's mostly what you eat: you can eat a lot of salad or a little ice cream for the same calories.
You can eat a lot of salad or a little ice cream for the same calorie count.

Your body will trick you to eat more. A calorie of ice cream looks a lot different than a calorie of kale. Your mind wants more ice cream. Or cheese puffs. Sometimes it’s really hard to say no to that. And that’s the hard part. It’s hard sticking to the plan when the numbers on the scale don’t move.

For long-term success, it works best to lose weight at a slower rate. If you slash your calorie intake, you’re going to be hungry. Your body will tell you that it’s starving. And even if you lose a ton of weight quickly, you’ll gain most if not all – or even more – of it back within six months. Plus, you won’t be taking in the quality nutrients you need to maintain your muscle and bone mass.

To maintain our weight, experts say that most women need about 1,400 to 1,800 calories a day to maintain their weight. Taller women and those who weigh more to start are at the higher end of the range and those of us (like me) who are smaller need less. That has never seemed fair to me, being “height-challenged.” But, anyway …

So it stands to reason that eating less than 1,400 calories a day will put you on the road to weight loss. Experts say that cutting 200 – 300 calories a day makes sense for weight-loss of about a pound a week. Four pounds a month sounds pretty good for a sustained weight-loss plan. 

And this is a plan that you can stick to. You’ll be able to take in the nutrients your body needs and lose the weight that you need to.

But, wait. You always write about exercise being important

Yes, yes I do always write about exercise. Exercise lets me burn even more calories so that I can eat more. And exercise has other benefits beyond weight-loss that I’ve written about.

But today it’s about the head games your body plays with your diet.

Those hormones that I referred to at the top of this article will trick you into snacking. They’ll trick you into eating more mashed potatoes. And those extra calories will go to your belly.

So you have to play more serious head games with yourself to stay on the straight and narrow path. 

No, you don’t want that cookie. Water sounds delightful. I’ll take a walk instead of eating that pint of Ben & Jerry’s in the freezer. In the coming weeks I’ll talk more about my tips and tricks for sticking with the plan. 

For now, please know that it’s not impossible. It’s just hard. But you’re fierce and able to do it.

Sometimes it’s just hard

No matter the motivation, the inspiration, sometimes it’s just hard to get up the get-up-and-go to work out. Like yesterday for me. I know all the reasons to exercise. I write about them, for goodness’ sake.

But sometimes even all that knowledge just isn’t good enough to inspire me to exercise.

I know the benefits

I knew that once I started and felt everything start to tingle with the warm-up, the workout would be over before I knew it.

I also knew that when the workout was over and the final stretch and cool-down began, all those endorphins would be racing through my body and I’d feel fantastic. And that shower when I was done would feel better than great.

And I knew that I’d sleep better if I worked out. And that I would be in a better mood. And that my blood pressure would go down, I’d be able to concentrate and focus better, and that I would have even more energy after my workout. (For more benefits of exercise, read http://fitness-over-50.com/2015/09/why-exercise/)

Not enough

But that did not convince me to change into my workout gear and exercise. The dogs were not helping, they were being cute so I didn’t want to stop playing with them.

What did make me change and start my workout?

Pasta with bolognese sauce.

It was hard finding motivation. The spaghetti motivated me to work out.

My favorite. I’m a pasta-holic. I love pasta, especially my mom’s “spaghetti.” When we were growing up, mom would make spaghetti every month or so and it was always my sister’s and my favorite. Only when we were adults we learned that it was really pasta with bolognese sauce – a hifalutin’ word if ever there was one. Pasta – didn’t matter the shape – in a rich, tomato-ey sauce with caramelized onions and ground beef.

And it was for dinner. There was no way I wanted to feel guilty about consuming loads of calories of my favorite dish, and I certainly was not going to skimp on the portion size. We don’t have it that often any more.

No guilt

So I changed and worked out.

And, yes, the warmup felt good. It was an intense and sweaty workout. The stretch and cool-down felt better. The shower afterward was absolutely divine.

Best of all – no guilt. And I ate all my pasta.

Everything in moderation

Everything - yes, even red velvet cake - is OK in moderation.

It’s been another tough week in a series of tough weeks. And you’ve been (mostly) good about your diet.

And then, out of nowhere, you have an incredible craving for red velvet cake.

It’s OK

Try to resist if you can. Take a walk. Drink a glass of water. Do some gardening. Read a chapter in the book you have on your night table.

But if you’re still craving that cake, have a little bit. It’s OK. That little bit won’t hurt you.

In fact, you’ll probably have fewer calories if you have a little bit of exactly what you want rather than a substitute. If you have a little cookie to try to satisfy your craving, chances are you won’t have just one cookie, you’ll have ten. And those ten will have more calories than the small piece of cake you would have had. And it won’t taste as good.

Have that small piece of cake. Don’t deprive yourself. My watchword is, “Everything in moderation.” Don’t go overboard, but don’t cut yourself off from the small pleasures.

I’ve talked about it before – even a little bit of chocolate really is OK: http://fitness-over-50.com/2018/07/chocolate-and-a-healthy-lifestyle/

Watch every bite

If, as I have, you’ve struggled with your weight for your whole life, you know the importance of paying attention to every morsel that passes your lips – every taste, every single square of yummy dark chocolate, every forkful of deep-dish Chicago style pizza, every spoonful of ice cream.

So when we have an irresistible craving, we watch that going into our mouths as well. And feel absolutely no guilt. Because we plan for it.

If I’m going to have that chocolate, I give up something else. Or I do a more intense workout. Or I run a few more minutes on the treadmill. Because I still have to pay attention to the calorie limit I set for myself.

If the worst happens

But, if you can’t resist that craving and you go completely overboard – you can’t stop eating that cake, that pizza, that chocolate, that ice cream – and you think to yourself, “Well, that’s done it. Why stop now. I’ve eaten almost everything in sight, might as well finish it up. I’ve completely forgotten that diet. I’ll never lose weight” –

Hang in there!

One day is not going to ruin everything. You may have a little ground to make up, but all is really not lost. Get back on the straight and narrow. You’ll be fine.

What’s really stopping you from losing weight?

Tools for measuring weight loss. But are you stopping yourself from losing weight?

We’ve all been there. Those extra ten pounds. They just won’t budge! You try every diet on the planet and they work for a while and then … not. You try running for miles. You try sweating off the pounds. And nothing. Are you stopping yourself from losing weight?

No diet has worked

No diet seems to work. Everything you see goes on the hips. You try the Mediterranean diet. The Keto thing. The Paleo thing. You think – maybe I have Celiac disease? Or at least gluten sensitivity? Weight Watchers – or WW as they call themselves now. Jenny Craig. Nutrisystem. You’ve tried it all. And nothing.

Yo yo syndrome

Or you take a few pounds off and keep them off for a while. Those few months when you could wear a smaller size – how you cherish those memories. And then the pounds creep back.

Sound familiar? If you’re built like I am – when even looking at mac & cheese puts inches onto your hips – you know the struggle. Perhaps you don’t think of it every day, but it weighs on your mind.

Are you sabotaging yourself?

How to lose those extra pounds. “Maybe I shouldn’t make that for dinner.” “Well, I’ll just have a taste.” “I’ll just make myself some vegetables.” “I’ll start working out tomorrow.” “I hate these pants. They cut off my circulation.”

And the self-doubt. “I’ve tried it all. Maybe I’m just meant to be heavy.” “I can’t lose weight. My metabolism is too slow.”

Or it could be that those thoughts are causing a vicious spiral – I can’t do it so I won’t even try. You could be sabotaging yourself.

NO JUDGMENT ZONE!

If these thoughts seem familiar – don’t judge yourself. You’re perfectly normal. Everyone has these thoughts. But, if you’re serious about wanting to lose weight – make sure you have a few minutes. Grab a pad and pen. And really think about why you want to lose weight – and if you really are serious about it this time. If you are serious, write down those doubts about yourself. Think about the times that you’ve tried to lose weight in the past. Were you serious then? What makes this time different? And go from there. Be kind to yourself – you’re the only one you’ve got! Life is too precious to be unkind.

Why do you think you’ll be able to do it this time? Let me know!