OK, Richard Simmons aside, he does have a point.
I was just talking to a friend of mine who is struggling with his weight. Now to me he looks just fine, but after learning a little background about his family history, his food triggers and exercise struggles, I started to get where he was coming from.
I've been trying to lose the same five pounds or so for the past five years. Yeah, it used to be 10, but I've lowered my expectations. My issue happened the second I turned 40 and my metabolism came to a screeching halt. All of a sudden I couldn't eat what I wanted, exercise, and break even. My tiny waist that I was so proud of way back when (before kids) has been replaced by a little "dunlop" (when I bend over, it dun lops over my jeans...) and my thighs and calves are looking remarkably about the same shape and size.
More than anything, I just don't FEEL as fit as I used to, and I am more critical now than ever when I look in the mirror - which irritates me since my 40's have so far been the decade that I've been trying to rise above all that.
But back to my friend. As I listened to him and we discussed what food and lifestyle changes had worked for us in the past, I found myself mentioning a few things that really seemed to make a difference - for me. Now, this is me. I'm not in need of losing a large amount of weight, nor am I an anorexic that just can't seem to see the forest for the trees. That brings me to my first point: You have to strive to reach a weight you can live with. Not a weight you want to be at. Could I get to that dream weight? Yeah, for a day or two. Could I maintain that weight? Nope. Been there, done that. I love food waaaaaay too much.
The key is to compromise, or at least set small goals that you can attain without getting too discouraged. This goes for both diet AND exercise. For your diet - I heard once that you should make one change a week. The first week, go without mayo on your sandwich. The next week, make sure you have fresh fruit with every meal. The next week, cut out diet soda. Whatever. Not, "For the next two weeks I'm only going to eat organically grown fruits and vegetables." You're settin' yourself up for failure, my friend. Tiny goals. Doable goals.
If a diet plan - like Weight Watchers or Atkins or Jenny Craig - works for you, then by all means, go for it. What works for me is simple - buy good stuff and don't have junk in the house. If it's not here, I won't eat it. I do try to have some fat-laden snacks in the house for my skinny boys, but thankfully they don't share my taste in treats, though I have been desperate enough in the past to raid their classroom party treat stash or bake sale purchases. Yes, I'm embarrassed.
And if some idiot is sweet enough to bring me some fresh baked cookies or a box of candy - yeah, I eat it. I'm not disciplined like that. Then I feel bad. But honestly, deprivation is the worst way to go, unless you have a will of steel, and if you did, well, you wouldn't need to lose weight in the first place, would ya?
The same small goal-setting theory also goes for exercise. Have you ever noticed that around the first of the year the gyms are flooded with those good-intentioned, New Years-resolute people? Then by mid-March (at the latest), the classes aren't as crowded, the weight room a little sparse. As commendable it is for people to attempt to set out on these life-changing exercise regimens, they normally don't last long. They're too hard, they take too long, an injury occurs... there's always something. So start small, and find what works for you.
I'm lucky - I've been exercising for years, and I do what I enjoy. I TRY to do three to four days a week of cardio - either on the machines at the gym or walking a four mile route near my house. I enjoy it, and hate to miss a day - which does happen. The other two days I do a weight class at my gym, because if I've learned anything it's that you need muscle to help burn fat. And it does. And I love to feel strong.
On the days when I've found some reason why I can't do the cardio or the weights, I try to do SOMETHING. Yesterday the kids and I went on a bike ride. Granted, it was to Culver's for ice cream, but it was a bike ride nonetheless. The other day I pulled weeds in the yard - that was like a half hour of squats. A game of tennis with an 8-year old always keeps me on my toes. Or you want to be really humbled? Challenge your kids to a footrace. Bet you're not as fast as you used to be. I'm not, but did enjoy my huge slice of humble pie.
One thing that has helped me at least be accountable for what I eat and what exercise I do is a website called Livestrong.com. On a page called The Daily Plate, you can enter in what you weigh and how much you want to lose, and it will calculate how many calories you can have each day to attain your goal. If it thinks your goal is too lofty, it'll tell you so. Then you enter in exactly what you eat and drink, and it will keep track of the calories, fat, carbs, protein, sodium, etc. and let you know if you're over your allotment for the day. In addition, you can plug in any exercise you do and it will back that out of your daily calorie content. That's a nice little gift - realizing that my little walk earned me an extra 300 more calories. Sometimes I don't even use them. But I figure they compensate for the days I went 300 calories OVER.
However, you have to be on the computer enough - and disciplined enough - to log in everything each day, but it does help with your accountability. And the site doesn't make you feel bad when you plug in that hot fudge sundae. It simply spits out the repercussions - nutrient wise - of what you just ate. That's judgment enough and makes you think... for next time.
I know everyone who struggles or obsesses about their weight has different methods that work for them, and that's fine. My goal is not to get trapped in a quick fix diet, but to slowly change my lifestyle so that I just get used to eating well most of the time, exercising as much as I can, and living life to the fullest... without being too "full".
I wonder what's for dinner?