Category Archives: Weight Loss

The power of delayed gratification

In this world of sound bites, instant news, and instant food, we have lost the art of delaying gratification. Learning to wait for something is a concept that eludes many. You can see it in the tweets hollering about the Olympics being on a time delay. You can really see it when it comes to weight loss.

Google weight loss and you will see thousands of products promising FAST weight loss. Lose 10 pounds in a week, lose 20 pounds in a month, lose, lose, lose. Heaven forbid you have to wait. We want results and we want them now. Failure to get insta results leads to diet switches, workout changes, or just plain giving up.

In 1972, Stanford University researchers did a test with marshmallows and toddlers. The children were placed in a room with a marshmallow and told that if they waited 15 minutes without eating the marshmallow, they would get a second. The purpose of the experiment was to see if there was a correlation between being able to delay gratification and giving in. Subsequent follow ups have shown that the children who were able to hold out for the 15 minutes have correlated with higher levels of competency in later life.

In short, being able to wait and be patient is an indicator of future success. So the question is, do you have the ability to wait and be patient? Are you willing to ignore the marshmallow in front of you for the promise of weight loss in the future? When you talk to successful weight loss folks one of the big things they mention is the ability to hang in there. You are not going to see instant results. Setting realistic expectations is critical.

Working with a trainer or a life coach is a great way to get workable goals set. But the trainer can only help you. It’s up to you to find ways to resist that marshmallow now for the promise of something more later.

My food is out to get me

You aren’t fat just because a particular food is making you fat. Carbohydrates, sugar, alcohol, fat and protein don’t magically find a way into your stomach. McDonald’s cheese burgers don’t magically levitate into your stomach. The movie size box of candy doesn’t jump off the shelf and say, “BUY ME!”.

Oh wait, you are addicted to a food item? Well that changes the laws of matter and physics. Now obviously the cheese burger can levitate, and candy has the power of movement. It’s the inanimate object that’s responsible for your decisions, not you. That’s the problem.

So as you go through life, fat and unhappy do feel free to blame the box of candy.

Can these foods lead to increased obesity? Yes. Are manufacturers trying to design foods to entice you to eat more, yes. The question is, at the end of the day who’s responsible?

You are. Food does not think or act. You are the one who decides what you are going to stick into your mouth. You can give me a laundry list of excuses. Bottom line, even an alcoholic has to acknowledge his actions. If you have a hard time saying no to a beer, don’t go into a bar. If you have issues with movie size candy, don’t walk into CVS and buy one. If a food causes you to binge, YOU are the one who has to figure out how to walk away. There is no magic, and there’s no special technique. If you gobble up the bowl of queso, then you need to tell the waiter to take it off the table. If your friends complain, tough nuts.

You are responsible for your actions. Period. It’s great that you’ve identified a food as a problem. It doesn’t matter a lick if you do not take steps to address the problem.

The cottage cheese theory of weight loss

One of my favorite arguments against eating healthy is the, “but I don’t like the way X tastes.” I get this one frequently.

“What should I eat to make breakfast healthier?”

“Well eggs and oatmeal are a nice, balanced breakfast.”

“Oh I don’t like oatmeal. It’s yucky. How about a bagel?”

This type of conversation goes on in every weight loss forum, support group, and gym constantly. People ask what you need to eat to lose weight, you tell them, and then the answer is, “I don’t like that.” Cottage cheese is a major do not like food. For many in the fitness community it’s a staple food item. It’s affordable, and a great source of protein. It also hits a wide range of icky food buttons for folks. Be it a matter of taste or texture, cottage cheese inevitably receives an ick vote.

Here’s the thing. So what? So what if I don’t like cottage cheese? I like being fat even less. I don’t have a food allergy, I just have an aversion to that particular food. The foods I do like aren’t good for me. I mean a donut tastes tons better than cottage cheese. The donut is not going to help me hit my weight loss goal.

There are many foods I didn’t like when I started my weight loss journey. Cottage cheese was on the list. What I realized is that to get where I wanted to go, I needed to give up things that I enjoyed for a time. So the donuts went off the daily list along with a host of other foods. Cottage cheese rotated on the list. It was a struggle in the beginning. I mixed it with a low fat yogurt to mask the taste, held my nose and ate my cottage cheese. I made the decision that my personal dislike of a variety of foods needed to take a back seat while I worked to lose the weight.

This is a key point for those looking to lose weight and keep it off. You’ve got to make conscious decisions to do things which make you uncomfortable. Being fat is comfortable. It’s familiar, and it’s safe. You need to break down those old routines and habits that are keeping you locked in negative routines. Is it fun to eat food you don’t like? No way Jose. It was months before cottage cheese and I became more than antagonists.  I hit a point where I ate so much tuna I thought I was going to grow gills. I did not enjoy it.

I kept reminding myself that I enjoyed being fat far less.

Over the next several months, the weight dropped off and I formed new relationships with food. Cottage cheese turned from a disgusting food to a staple in the pantry. The Cottage Cheese Theory of Weight Loss was born. In order to get what you want, you’ve got to be willing to suffer through a little (or in my case a lot) of cottage cheese. Embrace being uncomfortable, and through that discomfort discover just how strong you can be.

Weights and measures, fitness style

Without an accurate map, it’s hard to see where you’re going. For those looking to lose weight, figuring out a system to track your progress is important.

The standard tracking system for years has been scale weight. While the scale tells you how much you weigh, it’s not as good at telling you what all that weight is. Muscle occupies less space than fat does, which can create a situation where you are wearing smaller pants, but weight more than your “goal” weight. Additionally, environment can impact scale numbers. Grab a Libertarian taco from Torchy’s and the sodium will cause an overnight spike in weight. That 2 pound gain means you have extra water in your body, not extra fat.

Using a tape measure is a good way to mark progress. Circumference measurements of key body sites can give you a good idea of your progress. The American College of Sports Medicine suggests using the following sites:

  • Abdomen
    • level of umbilicus (belly button)
  • Waist
    • narrowest part of waist above umbilicus and below xiphoid process (about half way between bottom of the breast bone and your belly button)
  • Hip
    • maximal girth of hip, or buttocks
    • Above gluteal fold (where the butt and leg connect)
  • Thigh
    • maximal girth of thigh
    • below gluteal fold
    • legs slightly apart
  • Calf
    • maximum girth between knee and ankle joint
  • Arm (bicep)
    • Arm in anatomical position (relaxed at your side, palm facing forward)
  • Forearm
    • maximum girth of forearm
    • arm hanging downward and slightly away from trunk
    • palms facing forward

The recommended method is to do all measurements on your right side, take three sets of measures, then average them out.

Body fat percentage is the last of the methods available to help measure body composition and weight loss progress. There are a variety of methods available, and the accuracy can vary. For most folks, the caliper measurement or bio electrical impedance method is most common. Calipers are used to measure skin folds, and those measures are then plugged into a formula which estimates your body fat levels. Bio electrical systems can be found in scales or hand held systems like this Omron fat loss monitor.

All of these systems have strengths and weaknesses. It’s important to realize that every single one of these numbers is an educated guess. The only way to be 100 percent accurate about what’s going on inside of you is an autopsy. I’m pretty sure that none of us want to go to that level of detail.

What I suggest is using a combination of all three systems to get an idea of where you are going. Each week I take a single set of measures using a tape measure, I weigh on the scale, and I check body fat. So long as two out of three of those numbers show a downward trend, I call it good and move on. Because each measure accounts for something different, a bad week on the scale may not translate into a bad week on body fat or tape measure.

It takes about 10 minutes first thing in the morning to get these measurements done. With information in hand, you can plan out your next week and help keep your weight loss on track.