Do you need to lose weight, or do you want to lose weight?
Because they are not the same thing.
“Need” suggests that there is a medical reason to lose weight. Unless that’s the case, you don’t need to lose weight.
If that’s not the case, then you “want” to lose weight.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to lose weight. But there is something wrong with how we view weight and weight loss.
We assume that extra weight (whatever that means, because I honestly don’t know. Extra weight compared to what?) is “bad”. I think most of us would tend to say that it’s unhealthy, but I don’t think most of us mean that. I think we just think it’s bad because we think it’s bad. Or that we are somehow less for having it. That it speaks to our value, our self control, and who we are as a person.
I don’t know how that came about. It probably started with certain ideals portrayed in movies, TV shows, and magazines, and then spiraled into a million different things that make us feel “less than”.
Losing weight doesn’t necessarily make you healthier, or happier, or more valuable. It does make you smaller…but that’s about the only guarantee.
I’m not bashing you if you want to lose weight. Shoot, I’d like to lose about 5-7 pounds right now. I get it. I’m just pointing out how much the language you use matters. If you are constantly telling yourself you need to lose weight, when you really just want to lose weight, it conflates things, and you associate your desire for weight loss with something that is critical for health and happiness.
Things get really ugly really quick when that happens.
If weight loss is something you want, make sure you keep the perspective that it’s a preference…not a need. It doesn’t have any bearing on your worth, your value, or your health.
Doing things for the right reasons is important. Doing them for the wrong reasons often leaves us unsatisfied, and still unhappy when we meet our goals.
When it comes to selecting exercises for clients’ programs, I’m pretty picky.
Because my clients are busy (and you are too), to not be as economical with their (and your) time would be a shame, and a disservice. I don’t like shames and disservices-es, so I try to not to do them.
I also try to choose exercises that do at least a few good things for the body.
That’s why Parallel Woodchops have been a staple in my clients programs for over a decade.
Here’s what they look like:
While their primary function is to train the abs, they also work the hips/glutes, and promote a healthy relationship between the abs, glutes, low back, and hips. Those things working together in harmony is a really good thing.
Start with a wide stance, and grab a handle attached to a cable column, or band.
Brace your abs tight, and rotate away from the the cable column, or where the band is anchored.
Keep your hips, torso, and chest in line throughout the entire movement.
You should feel almost all of the work in your abs. If you start to feel it in your arms/shoulders, reset and try to brace your abs tighter.
I like to have clients do these in the 6-10/side rep range.
Maybe you don’t have an hour today to hit the gym. That’s understandable.
Maybe you don’t have much equipment at home. That’s understandable too.
Don’t worry. I gotchu.
Below is a 15 minute (and 30 second) body weight routine you can do in your living room. Or bedroom. Or back yard. But not your bathroom…unless you have a really big bathroom. But still…maybe not there.
This routine has 7 exercises. You will perform each exercise for 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds rest. Once you’ve gone through each exercise once, rest for 60 seconds, and then repeat one more time.
If you have more time, you could certainly perform this for an additional set or two.
Here are the exercises:
Crab Toe Touches
Reverse Lunge to Squat
Body Tap Plank
Give this a shot the next time you’re short on time, or just up for a quick butt kicking! Do you know someone who would like to have a quick workout at home? Pass this along to them, or feel free to share on your social media feed.
You’re clicking along with your goals. You’re in the gym on a regular basis, and killing your workouts. Your nutrition is on point, and everything feels just like you want it to feel.
And then, seemingly out of nowhere, life rears it’s ugly head, and throws a wrench (or hand grenade) right into the middle of your previously smooth sailing journey.
Maybe it’s a parent who fell ill, or extra responsibilities and stress at work. Maybe it’s a divorce, or just a bunch of little things that happen at once. But whatever it is, it threatens to bring your momentum to a screeching halt.
That’s what most of us do…we don’t pump the breaks, we slam on them, throw our hands up in the air and say, “Well, I guess this was a waste of time!”
And you know what? If that’s your response when life happens, then you’re probably right…it probably was a waste of time to work so hard and then abandon everything completely.
But, is there another option? Is there a way to keep progressing when life explodes, gets messy, and stress levels go through the roof?
Did you already guess that I’m going to say yes? You did, didn’t you? You smart little cookie.
When life goes boom, we often evaluate our ability to continue to make progress against what progress looked like before life went boom. In other words, we decide if we can maintain our current level of investment in our health, and if we can’t maintain that same level, we quit.
Lets imagine you’re in the middle of some good momentum. Over the last few weeks you’ve been hitting the gym consistently 3 days a week. You’re getting in some extra movement on a few other days during the week. You’ve been making quality breakfasts, packing all your lunches for work, and have planned and prepped for all of your dinners for the week. Physically, you feel really good. You’ve dropped a few pounds in the last two weeks, you’re sleeping better, and you have more energy.
Things are awesome.
Then on a Monday morning (of course it’s on a Monday morning), your boss puts you in charge of a project. This is great for work, but since it’ll require several extra hours a week, it’s not so great for that momentum you’ve got going. That afternoon, you get a phone call. Your mom fell, and broke her hip. She’s in the hospital. She’ll be there for a few days before she gets moved to a rehab facility. As you hang up the phone, a notification dings, reminding you that your son’s basketball season starts tonight. That means two practices and two games a week. You had kind of forgotten about that.
Oh, hi life. Thanks for reminding me how tough you can be in a not-so-subtle way.
Somewhere in the middle of all of this is where you subconsciously make the decision to put your plans for self care on hold for a few days.
This is understandable.
After the dust settles a bit, you accept the reality that things suddenly got much busier. You will be spending more time working, more time visiting your mom every day, and more time getting your son to and from practice, as well as attending his games.
Wow. A whole just got dumped on your plate.
This is the point where you look at the reality of life now, and compare it to how life was before that dreadful Monday. “There’s no way I can keep up that pace”, you tell yourself. “I guess I just need to stop for now, and I’ll try to get back at it when things calm down a bit.”
But you’re also wrong.
It’s true that you can’t be the employee, daughter/son, and parent you want to be, and continue with the same level of energy you’ve been giving your personal health and well-being. It’s not true that things need to come to a halt until things calm down.
People feel like they have to stop all their momentum because they’re comparing their ability to invest in themselves in a time when life is very busy, to a time when life had fewer time intensive responsibilities. This is a very common, and detrimental mistake.
If you only evaluate your ability to make progress by weighing it against a time in life that had exceptionally favorable conditions, you are almost always going to feel like you don’t have the ability to make progress in any other conditions.
You’ve set yourself up to fall into a cycle of continually stopping and starting your goals, only to never really get anywhere with them.
That’s a crappy situation.
Let’s put your progress on a scale of 0-10, 0 being no effort or progress is being made, and 10 being a situation where everything is going incredibly well. If you’re honest with yourself, there’s a good chance you only operate at a “0” or a “10”. It’s either perfect, or nothing is happening.
But guess what? There are a whole bunch of numbers in between 0 and 10. And ALL of them will help you continue to move forward.
If you’re clicking along at a 10 and life goes boom, a 10 is probably no longer possible. But what about a 6? Or maybe a 2? Can you do that? Most likely, you can still do something. We just have it in our heads that if it’s not as much as we were previously doing, then it’s not worth it at all.
That all-or-none thinking can get us into a lot of trouble, and can keep us stuck in the same spot.
Giving yourself permission to do less, but still do something can be a real game changer. It’s also an incredibly important skill to have for long term success. If you only allow yourself to operate at a 10, you will perpetually be in a cycle of starting and stopping.
That cycle will get you absolutely nowhere.
Maybe doing less, but still doing something, looks like cutting your workouts in half, or in quarters. Maybe you only focus on planning dinners because that’s your most problematic meal. Or maybe you just focus on getting a certain amount of water, and going for a 5 minute walk each day.
All of these options, and countless others, are much better than doing nothing. They not only help keep you moving forward, but they are an act of self-discipline. And training that self-discipline muscle will come in handy when things settle down and you have the chance to ramp things back up. Your other option is to start from zero. Yet, again.
So, the next time life happens (or if you’re in the middle of life happening right now), instead of throwing in the towel, ask yourself what you can continue to do. Ask yourself how can you do less, but still do something. You might find that simply doing whatever you can goes a long way to being a healthier person, and keeps you out of a cycle that leaves you frustrated and never making real progress.
You want it cranking high and running hot, right? But how exactly do you do that? And what is metabolism, anyway?
I don’t want to get too deep into the complexity of metabolism in this post. Perhaps a dive into what metabolism is, and understanding it well, is something I will tackle in a future post. But for this post, let’s just go with the understanding that metabolism is all of the chemical processes that occur to keep you alive.
In other words, the sum of all the energy it takes to do whatever it is you do.
There is a funny inconsistency we have when we think about metabolism…we tend to think of it as a static or fixed thing. We say things like, “she has a fast metabolism” or, “my metabolism is slow”. But we also tend to think of it as something dynamic or flexible. “I know eating more often will increase my metabolism”, or “I think my metabolism is in starvation mode”. (Both of those are false statements by the way, but they represent how we see metabolism as flexible.)
So, which is it?
Your metabolism is very flexible. It is constantly adapting and adjusting to the activities, both voluntary and involuntary, you are doing all day long.
This is good news.
This means you are able to influence and control your metabolism. This means you can increase your metabolism, and burn more calories.
(It’s worth mentioning that increasing your metabolism also means in increase in your appetite. The body likes you to fuel it’s activities. So if you aren’t actively working on self-control and new habits with food, an increase in metabolism may be a shot to the foot.)
Let’s look at a few (or five) ways you can increase your metabolism and burn more calories throughout the day.
#1. Move more.
One of the biggest contributors to your body’s metabolism is simply how much you move during the day. In fact, non-exercise activity can make up close to 15% of your total calorie burned throughout the course of the day.
That’s a lot!
Simply being conscious of moving more throughout the day can go a long way. Play outside with your kids, clean the house, go for a leisurely bike ride, take the stairs instead of the elevator, just get off your butt a little more…these things can add up.
#2. Build muscle.
One way to increase your metabolism is to weigh more. The more you weigh, the more calories you need to maintain that tissue. You can increase your weight by putting on more fat tissue, more muscle tissue, or more of both. Of those two tissues, muscle requires more calories to maintain, pound for pound. So it would have the biggest impact on increasing your metabolism.
Gaining some muscle usually equates to increased strength, which is never a bad thing. It also gives you strong curves, and increased definition. If that’s something you’re into, adding some muscle to your frame might be a solid option for giving your metabolism a boost
#3. Stay hydrated.
If you’re dehydrated, things don’t work as well as they’re supposed to. You get headaches, feel sluggish, your body’s minerals are out of whack, and in general you feel like crap. Along with all of that fun stuff, your metabolism can get sluggish too. Staying hydrated can keep your metabolism running optimally.
But when it comes to keeping your metabolism elevated, it’s really important. Using our definition of metabolism above, we know that metabolism is simply the energy required to do what we do.
The thing about working out is that your body adapts to stress, load and difficulty. Your body adapts by getting more efficient at things. If a body weight squat is really challenging for you, but you do them every day, they’re going to get easier. This adaptation is how you get stronger.
Unless you make things more difficult over time, your body will become very efficient at doing whatever exercises you do. This means that, over time, any given exercise that isn’t made more challenging, will require less energy to perform.
On the other hand, if you’re focusing on getting stronger by pushing for a few more reps, or increasing weight, you’re constantly pushing your body to do things it is inefficient at. Put another way, you’re keeping the amount of energy required very high. And since metabolism is the amount of energy needed to do what we do, this is a very good thing.
Shoot to get stronger. Doing so will keep the work load high and your metabolism running hot.
#5. Eat your protein.
Protein is good for a lot of things. It’s the body’s building block, used for building and repairing skin, bone, muscle, blood, and cartilage. Plus, I think it’s delicious. It can also be really beneficial when it comes to keeping your metabolism up.
There are three macronutrients (categories of food) – protein, carbohydrate, and fat. Each of these require a certain amount of energy to digest. This means that eating any food will elevate your metabolism, because it requires energy, and metabolism is the amount of energy required to do what we do…including digest food.
Fats require the least amount of energy to digest (roughly 3-7% of calories from fats ingested), followed by carbohydrates (roughly 5-15% of calories from carbohydrates ingested), and lastly proteins (20-30% of calories from proteins ingested). This is called the thermogenic effect of food. This is essentially a measurement of how much your metabolism has to increase to digest a given food. In this case, the greater the increase, the better.
Keeping a good amount of protein in your diet, can help your metabolism stay elevated, especially when trying to lose weight.
You might have noticed that none of these suggestions for keeping your metabolism running hot are anything you haven’t heard before. In fact, they are all pretty basic tenants to living a healthy life. That’s because doing the things you know to do to be a healthier person leads to a healthy metabolism. That’s the case with a lot of things…lower cholesterol, increased heart health, chronic pain…making healthier choices, and making them more often, tends to make everything work better.
Don’t over think this. Just do what you know to do. You might be surprised at how much some basic things, done consistently, can improve your life.
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