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!

Pandemic poundage

Eating sweets during the pandemic put on the pounds.

I recently read a report that said that the average American has gained about 8 pounds from April through June of this year. That’s way more than the average holiday weight gain. It’s time to take off the pandemic poundage.

But, it’s really not surprising. When the country first started to shut down, toward the end of March, we were all hit with confusion, stress, anger, fright – a host of emotions.

Stress eating is natural

Many people eat when they’re stressed. It’s a natural occurrence. And, we couldn’t go anywhere. School was cancelled, and people were working from home. The weather wasn’t great to start with during that period either. So we were sitting on the couch, being distressed by the news, even afraid of going to the grocery store. And eating. Not healthy eating, either. Healthy foods are not generally known for their comfort factor. Salad and other vegetables do not give us that warm and cozy feeling. We were eating junk food and foods heavy on the carbs.

As a consequence, the pounds came on without our even noticing. Because, we were sitting on the couch in sweatpants. And looking at our screens for the latest COVID updates or word from the top infectious disease experts.

So, now it’s summer. In fact, summer is almost over in terms of the meteorological calendar.

Time to move!

Time to get moving. yes, our movement is still restricted. Our dog training classes have not started up. Many schools are opening virtually. But, those extra pounds have to go. It’s time to take off the pandemic poundage.

First thing: put the screens down. The news will still be there in an hour. Not much will have changed. But you can get in a good workout or plan a week’s worth of healthy meals for you and your family.

Get up. Move. Take the dog for a walk. If you don’t have a dog, then take yourself for a walk. If you have exercise DVDs, press “play.”

You’ll feel better.

The Satiation Diet

Eat foods to satisfy you longer

Chicken being prepared for roasting: a lean protein which satisfies us longer.

Ever hear of the “Satiation Diet?” me neither, until today. It makes perfect sense, though. The idea is to eat foods that satisfy you for longer. And by increasing the protein in your diet to 20 – 25% of calories, along with the fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains you’ll feel more satisfied for longer, eat less between meals and reduce your total calorie intake. You’ll lose weight and keep it off.

A well-rounded diet is key

We already know that the best way to lose weight is to eat more fresh vegetables and fruits. And the carbs we eat should be complex carbohydrates, like whole grains. And protein is essential in our nutrition. (And, of course, to move more!) 

But, to be really successful at losing weight, we need a “diet” or eating plan we can stick to. We have to reduce calories to lose weight, but that won’t happen if we find that our eating plan leaves us hungry. We’re only human, and when we’re hungry, we eat. (Or get cranky – like me.) And eating without planning means grabbing whatever we can get our hands on the fastest, and that’s not usually the healthiest option.

Reduce snacking

That means if our healthy planned meals leave us satisfied for longer, the tendency to snack between meals is reduced. And eating a little more protein with our meals will leave us feeling more satisfied. So, even if the total calories is a little higher, our total calories for the day will be less because we won’t be eating between meals. That protein should, of course, be lean protein like chicken or fish. I will admit to the occasional burger too! There are plenty of non-animal protein choices too, so there’s no excuse not to increase your protein intake. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you should decrease the fresh vegetables in your diet. These have other nutrients that your body needs.

The conclusion:

So, eat more protein!

Many aspects of fitness

The aspects of fitness are more than physical

Fitness is not just physical – there are many aspects of fitness.

We’ll be focusing on each of these aspects in more depth soon, but an overview might be helpful here. Because it’s the most obvious, let’s talk about the aspects of physical fitness. Health, balance, strength, cardio fitness are all elements of physical fitness. What you do to increase one aspect of physical fitness helps another.

Balance is one aspect of physical fitness

Balance moves like this one also improve strength.

As an example, by practicing your balance (and you can get a free Week of Balance by subscribing to my newsletter!) will increase your strength. By doing a cardio workout, you can also increase your strength and balance – think of hops and side-to-side leaps. Even jumping in place can improve your balance.

If you focus on improving your strength, you’ll probably also improve your balance. Those one-legged squats will definitely challenge your balance while at the same time increase your strength. Add a pair of dumbbells and you’re working upper body as well as lower body strength. (Talk about multi-tasking!)

Eating clean will also improve fitness

Eating clean helps your overall fitness.

We can’t talk solely about physical fitness, because so many aspects of your life can affect it! If you focus on eating clean, you’ll improve your overall health, you’ll feel more like exercising and thereby improve your strength and cardio fitness!

And by attempting to eat a cleaner diet, you’ll not only probably lose a little weight, you’ll be cleaning out your system. More fiber in your vegetables and fewer processed foods will tend to move things along in your digestive system.

Mental fitness may be more difficult

Mental fitness is like a dresser. Here's an organized drawer. An achievement to strive for.

More complex is the aspect of mental fitness. I like to think of this as a bureau, or dresser. Currently mine is a mess. Socks are mashed in with underwear, t-shirts and pajamas. There are even swim goggles and pantyhose in there. There’s no order in those drawers. Too many ideas, problems, chores, and other things to do are running around in my head. How’s yours?

First off, a plan is probably needed. I need to figure out what to do with all those items. How best to organize them? I really should start to write everything down. Then categorize them. This is called a “brain dump.” I should really do this every month or so.

If all the aspects of fitness work together – body and mind, happiness ensues. I’ll have to try it. Let’s start together!