Follow along as this mom of two finds her way back to a healthy and fit lifestyle, one day at a time.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Women and Weights

Sometimes, I think that the universe tries to tell us things, but sometimes we're too busy to pay any attention. But sometimes, the universe tells you over and over and over again until you can't help but pay attention!!!! For the past week, I have literally had someone ask me a question about women lifting weights every single day, sometimes several women! I've been asked in school, at the gym, via email and on facebook…. And since I've been repeating myself over and over and over, I thought I'd share this info with you here. Not only because I've been asked so many times, but because you need this info. And clearly, the universe wants me to share it with you J

I have so many friends who are perfectly happy at the weight they are at, but just want to tone up a little, or flatten the post-baby belly, or get rid of the jiggle on the back of their arms (that would be the triceps, by the way!). When I hear these comments, I always reply the same way: "You have to lift weights." And this is always followed by the same reply "I don't want to get muscles/get bulky/get big/etc etc etc!"

Let's go ahead and dispel that big myth once and for all, here and now. WOMEN CANNOT GET BULKY THE WAY THAT MEN DO SIMPLY BY LIFTING WEIGHTS! I don't care how heavy you lift. You can be lifting more than your husband, more than an Olympic athlete, more than Arnold S. back in the day, and you still will not get big and bulky. It's just not in our buildup to be able to do so. Seriously. The science behind it is deep and confusing, but it boils down to a few things. Mainly, men have much higher levels of testosterone in their bodies than we do, and this is one huge reason why they have bigger muscles. We have different body make-ups, we carry our weight differently, and the effects of working out show differently as well.

Ok, so maybe you kind of believe me now… so tomorrow I'll see you at the gym with a 3 pound weight in each hand, doing 5 or 10 bicep curls. Yay, Nikki will be so proud of me, I lifted weights! Right? Nope, sorry. You need to LIFT WEIGHTS. They should feel heavy. And at the end of your workout, you should feel tired. I have seen so many women in weight lifting classes who don't want to lift too much (again, fear of getting big and bulky, which we all now know is FALSE, right?). These women are also the ones who claim they "don't sweat" when they work out. Well, duh, of course you don't sweat! You aren't doing a whole lot!!

I'm sure everyone reading this has heard the saying "muscle weighs more than fat." It's yet another common myth, but at least I can see where this one comes from. The truth is that a pound weighs a pound, no matter what. That means that a pound of muscle and a pound of fat both weigh the same amount: one pound. The difference lies in the amount of space that each take up on your body. Muscle is much smaller and takes up less space than fat. So if you weigh 120 pounds but have a very high body fat percentage, there is a good likelihood that your best friend who weighs 140 pounds (but who lifts weights 3 times a week!) has a lower body fat percentage and can fit into smaller jeans than you can!!!

I'm not saying cardio isn't important; we need cardio for our respiratory tract, to keep our lungs and heart healthy, for endurance, for lots of reasons. It should definitely be a part of your workout. But strength training is imperative, especially for women. It keeps our bones strong (preventing osteoporosis), it keeps our body fat lower, it makes us lean, and makes us strong. And as mommies, we need those muscles so we can lift our kids, carry the groceries, build the forts, etc etc etc!

So if you are serious about getting healthy, and want a lean, toned body, do yourself a favor and start lifting. You don't have to spend hours in a gym- find a way to lift that feels good to you. Maybe you want to join a gym and sign up for sessions with a trainer. Maybe you want to do free weights on your own at home- there are a ton of online videos and programs you can try. Maybe you want to try some group fitness classes- there are weight lifting classes you can take, where the instructor will tell you exactly what to do. No thinking required J

I hope this cleared up a bit about women and lifting weights. If you have any questions, let me know. I'm more than happy to share what I know.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Are moms more unfit than non-moms? ALL or NOTHING mentality...

Recently, a friend posted a shared a link to this article that began like this:

"Does having kids make parents less fit? New research suggests it might. The study found that mothers of young children ate more calories and were all around heavier than childless women. Parents were also less active than adults without kids"

Several moms weighed in on their opinion of the article, and their replies seemed to fall into one of two camps:

1- Since becoming a mom, I don't have as much time to devote to fitness and being healthy, so it has to take a backburner.


2- Fitness and health have to stay one of my top priorities, regardless of the time commitment it takes.

To me, these replies seem to reflect the two extremes: either all or nothing. Some moms say they don't have time to even brush their teeth some days (don't say ewww, you know you've been there!), forget about having time to exercise! Others stay up late and sacrifice sleep to work out while their baby(ies) sleep. Again, it's the two extremes: either ALL or NOTHING.

So I really have been thinking about this all or nothing mentality, and questioning it. Why does it have to be ALL or NOTHING? Why can't something in the middle work just as well?  Isn't a little bit of exercise better than none?

There has to be a way to make fitness and healthy living a part of daily life.

And in order to do so, we have to change our thinking.

First, let's get rid of the words ALL or NOTHING. Every single day, we have the opportunity to make choices, whether big or small. After all, it is our lives, our bodies, and thus our decisions, right?

Second,  let's stop being so hard on ourselves. Maybe you didn't have a chance to get to that workout class tonight, or to run your 3 miles after work. That doesn't make you a failure! However, it also doesn't give you a reason to say "well, I missed my workout, so I might as well eat this half gallon of ice cream anyways..."

Third, and maybe most importantly, let's start celebrating the small stuff!  Maybe you walked 3 flights of stairs today instead of taking the elevator. Maybe you parked in the farthest parking space instead of the closest one. Maybe your ab workout today consisted of lying on your back and lifting your almost 3 year old up with your feet into the air so he could fly like Buzz Lightyear, screaming "to infinity and beyond" as loud as he can (that was MY workout tonight!!)  Any of these things are SOMETHING. Maybe they aren't what you consider ALL, but they certaintly aren't NOTHING either. Celebrate yourself for the choices you are making.

After all, standing burns more calories than sitting, and walking burns more than standing. Any moving is good, whether its running a marathon or chasing your Buzz Lightyear (because you are Evil Dr. Porkchop... hey, I didn't choose the characters, clearly...)

In my next post I'll write more about how you can fit in little bits of exercise into your daily life, no matter how busy you are. And I'll write about how those little bits add up!

But for now, just remember: it isn't ALL or NOTHING. There is a very happy middle ground :)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What's holding you back?

I've been thinking about this question a lot lately... it applies to everything in life, not just health and/or fitness related goals. If you want to do something, have an idea, a goal, etc.... what's holding you back?

With regard to being healthy, we seem to take an all or nothing approach. You're a new mom, and although your baby is turning 1 next week, you still haven't lost any of the post-baby weight. And since you haven't lost anything, you call yourself a failure.

We need to change our thinking here!

Let's say you would like to lose 30 pounds. Well, it isn't all going to fall off overnight. It all starts with losing 1 pound. Then the second, and then the third. Three pounds isn't a lot, but it's moving in the right direction, right? We need to celebrate every achievement, and stop being so hard on ourselves, because every pound, every workout, every healthy choice, is an achievement in itself. And all those tiny achievements help us to reach our bigger goals.

So, I ask again, what's holding you back?

I challenge each of you to take out a pen and paper and write down four things: First, ONE goal you'd like to reach. It doesn't have to be huge. Just one thing. Then, write down ONE thing you can do to get closer to that goal. Finally, write down ONE thing that could (or is) holding you back from reaching the goal, and what you can do to overcome it.

For example:
Goal: I want to get back to a healthy BMI.
To get there: I need to lose 15-20 pounds, 1-2 pounds per week
Holding me back: My diet, I love to snack
To overcome this: better meal planning, have healthy snacks available

See? Easy! Remember, think small. The goal shouldn't be huge to start. Start small, with an achievable goal. Maybe it is to take 3 walks this week. What's holding you back? Laziness? Then just get over it, one walk at a time. Each walk finished is one goal down!

And remember, it doesn't always have to be forward motion. Sometimes we stumble, and don't reach our goals. That's ok too. Don't beat yourself up! Just get back on track to reach that goal again. I know we can all do it!

Monday, March 14, 2011

An inspiring story of a mom getting healthy

Last week, I met a woman who really inspired me, and so I thought I'd share her story here. I'll call her Mary...

I had seen Mary lots of times at the gym over the past month. She was always taking the same classes as me, and we often smiled at each other before or after class or on our way to the treadmill, etc, but we had never spoken until last week, when we ran into each other at a play place for our kids.

As we began talking, Mary told me that she had recently lost 65 pounds. As I asked her how she did it, I was really amazed by the answer. After having her third child, Mary suffered a medical condition that the doctors explained was largely a result of being overweight. She was told if she lost weight, the condition would go away. Mary realized that she was young and that she had no excuses, so she set out to lose weight.

Having been completely sedentary her entire life, Mary didn't exactly know how to start. So, she started off small: instead of taking a lunch break and sitting in the cafeteria with her co-workers, she began walking during her lunch hour instead. At first, being so heavy and unfit, Mary could only make it about 1/4 mile. But slowly but surely, she was able to walk more and more each day, and the weight began to come off. In addition to walking, Mary decided to make a small change to her diet that she knew she could stick to: switching from soda to water.

With these two small changes (a short walk each day and drinking water instead of soda) Mary lost 65 pounds in 6 months!

While the weight loss in itself is a huge accomplishment, Mary's story amazed me for other reasons as well:

First, Mary is a mom. Of 3! We all know how hard it is to be healthy and take care of ourselves when we also have to take care of other people. And yet, she did it!

Second, Mary is a WORKING mom. She works full time. So in addition to taking care of her kids, and herself, she also works, and has to find time to work out while doing everything else.

Third, Mary is encouraging others to be healthy as well. While her walking started out as something she did alone, her coworkers started to notice how healthy Mary was becoming by walking, and she has now attracted a small group of followers who walk with her everyday. She has not only gotten herself moving, but just by being a positive role model, she got others moving as well.

If this isn't encouraging for the rest of us, I don't know what is!

Mary still wants to lose a lot of weight. She said most people, by looking at her, would never guess that she had just lost 65 pounds, as she is still quite heavy. In fact, she told me she refused to even join the gym until she lost at least 50 pounds, because she wanted to show herself she was committed before making an investment like a gym membership.

But to me, it wasn't about the number on the scale or the size pants she wears. Mary inspired me to keep going with my own health goals, because she showed me it is possible to do it all and still take care of myself too.

I hope Mary's story encourages you as it has me!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Want to lose weight? I know a SECRET!

I've discovered the secret to losing weight! Seriously, if you do what I tell you in this post, I guarantee you'll lose weight. And it requires no money, no special clothing, no gym membership, no special pills, no magic weight loss coffee/tea/lemonade, etc. etc. etc.

It's really not a secret... lots of us know it. And we've known it a long time. But for some reason, people have forgotten it and seem to think we need a special "something" for weight loss.

So are you ready?

Here it comes....

Wait for it....

To lose weight, all you have to do is.....  EAT LESS AND MOVE MORE.

Yes, I'm serious. That's all.

Don't roll your eyes and close this page yet. Keep reading!

Weight loss is simply a mathmatical equation. You need to have more calories going out than in. That's it.  You can either achieve this by eating less, moving more, or a combination of the two.

That's it! No magic pill, workout, food, or anything else can do it for you. You have to do it for yourself. 

Don't blame your metabolism. Or your kids for making you fat (I've used this one plenty of times. After all, my daughter was an 11 pound baby, so surely it's HER fault I am overweight now, right??) Eat less and move more.

Also, have patience. It isn't going to happen right away. A healthy weight loss is anywhere from 0.5-2 pounds per week. That means that losing 10 pounds may take you anywhere from 5 weeks to as long as 20 weeks.

And how to do it you ask?

Make smart decisions. Small, smart choices, every day. They will add up, I promise!  Little things, like eating a piece of fruit for a snack instead of a piece of chocolate. Choosing a far away parking spot instead of the one right in front. Playing tag in the backyard with the kids for a few minutes a day. ANYTHING that gets you moving burns calories!

Also, there are a ton of resources online that can help. I'm going to give  a few examples in a future post. But for now, close the laptop and get moving!

Annnnd.... I'm back!

I've been a slacker.

My last blog post was October. It is now March. That is, um, a lot of time.

I really have no excuses. I mean, I have moved from one country to another. I do have two small children. I have been in school full time (3 science classes and 3 labs to go along). I moved into a new house, which required unpacking and painting and cleaning. And the holidays. And on and on and on... not too busy, right?

But I have thought about this blog And I've been itching to get back to it!

So here I am!

Apart from slacking on the blogging, I haven't been a complete slacker with regards to working out, which is good. I've joined a gym, and have been back at the running and lifting. I've also been hired on at one location as a group fitness instructor, and have an audition this week for another position at another club. So all in all, things are moving in the right direction again...

So yes, I'm back. And I am vowing to make at least one new post a week. I have a ton to say, so get ready!