Diets Busted

First off, sorry there haven’t been posts recently. I’m sure it feels longer for me than you. I have like, three of them written in my head, but unfortunately I also have a concussion and have been banned from all screens, reading, physical activity, thinking (basically life…). So, against doctor’s orders, I’m taking a break from staring at the walls and figured I would update with something simple.

I have been wanting to share with you this article. Essentially, there is no miracle diet out there *surprise*. But what I do find interesting is that all diets will produce roughly the same weight loss results provided you stick to it. Personally, I’m not one for diets because they’re not lasting. You can’t realistically sustain an no-carb no-sugar nothing green eat-while-standing-up-and-jumping-on-one-leg kind of fad diet, and the moment you stop dieting, you are guaranteed to gain back some (a lot) of the weight you lost. I think making more conscious and lasting attempts to change your daily diet will benefit you maybe a bit less now, but significantly more in the long run. Instead of seriously limiting your food intake for a few months, I think it’s more important to set goals like “pizza only once a month” for life or something.

That being said, diets can be a useful tool to jumpstart weight loss if you are feeling particularly stuck or overwhelmed. In all honesty, I tried the Slim Fast diet plan for a while once. Which is definitely not one of the healthier diets out there, trust me. But after a month or so of only drinking a sugar-laden shake for breakfast, and a sugar-laden shake for lunch, and being over-all hangry, I did lose just enough weight to make me feel more confident to lose the rest. Except, you know, a few years later and I’m still here, weighing only 2 to 3 lbs less than I did then. So take what you will from that, I suppose.

What was the craziest diet you’ve tried?

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I promise, the gym isn’t as scary as you think it is.

If you are fortunate enough to afford a gym membership, or if you have a gym in your apartment or access to a gym, do it. Do it now. (And don’t be afraid. I’ll hold your hand and go in with you.)

Now, I used to be terrified of gyms. They smelled bad, were full of Gym Monkeys and ‘Roid Junkies grunting and lifting big heavy weights and growing fangs with beedy red daemon eyes that would stare into your soul as you walked by, hissing in glee as they prepared to eat your soul. Or, you know, something like that.

The first feat is the changing room. If you bring Lysol wipes to wash out the bottom of the locker, people will look at you strange. I wouldn’t recommend doing that. But as long as you avert your eyes, you will –mostly– avoid seeing anything life scaring. And the exhibitionist leather-skinned 50 (or 60?) year olds that walk around naked throwing their junk all over the place are really just senile. Or so I tell myself. Just don’t talk to them. Or look at them. Maybe throw some soy nuts in their direction as a distraction.

Okay, so you have now managed to wiggle yourself into some sort of moisture wicking get-up (and if you haven’t, stop right there, go to Winners or Wal-Mart and find some. It will change your life. You don’t need to spend $650 on a pair of pants from Lululemon. The 10$ ones you found on clearance will do just as well, take a beating, and will hold up in the drier a lot better.), and laced up the new pumps. Time to venture into the belly of the beast.

Take a deep breath. Brace yourself. Step out into the gym.

The first thing I always do is familiarize myself with the lay of the land by filling my water bottle. Casually make your way over to the fountain while surveying the assembly. You are not Cersie doing a naked walk of shame through King’s Landing. I bet most people don’t even notice you there, and hun, you’re the only person that can hear the Chariot’s of Fire theme song playing triumphantly in the background.

Now if this is the first time being in a gym (outside of the super friendly orientation when you first signed up) since that awkward pubescent high school torture room, let me introduce you to the characters:

The Gym Monkey: That wonderfully fit person in tight spandex with rippling muscles and the quiet confidence and comfort only possibly achieved by living in the locker rooms. Give it a few weeks and you will notice that these people are always here. Always. In general, they are actually quite friendly. They are all besties with the personal trainers and instructors at the gym. They have inside jokes with the other gym monkeys. But unless they have seen you at the gym enough, they won’t deign to acknowledge your presence. If, after several months of sweat torture you manage to win a nod from one of them, you’re in. You’ve made it.

The ‘Roid Junkies: These differ from the gym monkeys because their arms are the size of your thighs. They will mostly be found in the weight area, grunting loudly, sweating profusely, and are all round intimidating. And possibly on steroids because how else can you get arms that big!?! These are actually really nice people. And probably not on steroids at all. Aside from asking you if you’re still using such-and-such a machine, they are quite friendly. When first approaching the weight area they will look at you skeptically, and clear a path, but in general I find they are quite understanding. Bring a friend if possible and laugh at yourself openly when trying to figure out exactly how to contort yourself into the machine and they will actually become fast friends. If you find the right one, and ask them politely to help you out with a certain weight, they are almost always happy to oblige. Or will look at you skeptically and walk away. Either of these results are just fine by me.

The Fashionista: This is the skinny twig that wears see-through scampy tops, skin tight booty shorts, and will flounce around the gym flitting from one machine to the next, stopping just before she starts to sweat. She will spend half her time in the changing room fixing her hair and applying make-up, and the other half of the time trying to get the attention of the ‘Roid Junkies. Thankfully, since you are NOT a ‘Roid Junkie, she will generally ignore you. Unless you get a little too close and your sweat filled aura affects her perfectly applied lip-gloss and she will glare you down. But that’s okay. Laugh at her in your head and get back to work.

The ‘Tweens: These always travel in flocks, and will chatter loudly about how unfair it is that their parents have to be there with them because they are under 16 but they are, like, totally adults now. Avoid getting stuck in the middle of their flock and you will be okay. Unless you are part of their specific peer group, you clearly do not exist. Although, I’ll be honest, I have strategically chosen machines next to this group just for a source of entertainment. Can you just believe
how unfair it is that Mr. Brown like, totally wouldn’t let me hand in my essay late? Like, I so tots was way too busy to write it because like Josh was like snap chatting with me and like OMG I was looking soo hot. Yeah. Real world issues. For realz.

The Elderly: I have such a soft spot for little old men. They are just adorable. And friendly. They will give you a knowing smile and shuffle over to the next machine.

The Overweight: Wait. What? Is that a somewhat overweight person over there on the elliptical huffing and puffing? And there, on the treadmill, that man is twice my size. And there, a woman with the mother’s ponch with her best friend talking about daycare and losing baby weight. They are, in fact, normal people just like you and me. It will be alright. Maybe, just maybe, this place is not so scary after all.

Enter the machine.

Being awkward and clumsy as I am, I try to avoid any over complicated weight machines, or ellipticals, or things that generally require some sort of hand-eye co-ordination. So I tend to gravitate towards the treadmills. In general, these are fairly straight forward. Approach with caution. Address it calmly, like a startled deer. Step on. Pick a speed. Rock it for half an hour or so. Get off. Except you can’t quite figure out the buttons. Or you miss a step and your shoe squeals. Or you start getting into it and go a little too fast and smack into the front hand bars. Or you get distracted by the TV just off to the left and veer side to side. Or go flying off the back of it. Or start choking uncontrollably on your water because you swallowed wrong. It’s okay. Trust me. No one has ever pointed or laughed at me. Most people, I find, will avert their eyes if you have a misstep or do something uncouth. In general, people don’t notice. Or at least have the courtesy to pretend not to. Because they have all been there.

You have now survived. Your face is beat red, you’re sweating profusely, but you. Are. Victorious.

Wipe down your machine, and find a corner to stretch. I find most gyms don’t provide you with set areas, so I tend to gravitate to the strange TRX rig. The thing that looks like a swing set missing the swings. Although stretching is not always popular, I strongly recommend taking some time (and maybe a few dirty looks) to stretch out. You will thank me tomorrow when you can barely move. Just avoid any direct eye contact with yourself in the mirror. It’s better that way. You don’t need to see how ridiculous(ly amazing) you look.

Brace yourself for the single most horrific moment of the gym experience. The showers.

Now, before you think to yourself you can just shower at home (like I had a habit of doing) please, please, take into consideration the other people taking public transit and/or your car. It is not worth it. And bum shaped sweat stains tend to linger.

You are welcome to use the stalled in changing rooms, or even strip down in the shower itself if you would prefer, but I find in general, people are there to get in and get out with seeing as little as possible just like you. Grab the soap and bring some flip flops and you will get through this. The first time is always the worst.

Congratulations! You survived. Your gym virginity has been taken. It was likely awkward and clumsy and a little embarrassing, but strangely not as horrific as your over-active imagination had chalked it up to be. No one pointed or laughed. No one told you that you didn’t belong there (unless you mistakenly ventured into the wrong changing room because you were madly trying to get to a toilet stall and catch your breath because honest to goodness you were one step away from a panic attack. True story.) And, if you are still terrified, just remember. Everyone is there with the same purpose in mind. The Gym Monkeys, the ‘Roid Junkies, the Elderly, the Overweight. They are all there to be a live a little longer, lose weight, and be active. (Well, almost everyone. The Fashonistas are just trying to pick up. But we ignore them.)

So tell me, was it really all that bad?

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BMI Be Gone?

Once you have hurdled the first step to weight loss, the next logical step is to figure out your weight loss goal. It is imperative that you chose something that is realistic, attainable, and specific. Don’t plan to drop your weight to 80lbs unless you’re a child or a dwarf. Don’t plan to lose 30lbs in 3 weeks, it’s just not going to happen unless you cut a leg off, which I would NOT recommend doing. Don’t plan to just “lose weight”, because without a concrete target your dedication will crumble.

I recommend shooting for a weight loss goal of 1lb per week, a healthy and sustainable weight loss, for as long as it takes to reach your target weight plus half of that. So, for example, if you want to lose 10lbs, plan on it taking at the very least 10 weeks, realistically 15 weeks (half of 10 is 5, so 10 plus 5 is 15). If you are a normal person with a desk job and a penchant for comfort food and lattes, there are definitely going to be weeks where you don’t lose anything, and likely weeks where you are going to gain weight. But don’t get too discouraged, this change is about a lifetime of skinny, not about a few weeks of being up a few pounds.

But how do you go about deciding what your target weight should be?

Often, this is when people turn to the body mass index (BMI). In the simplest terms, BMI is a height to weight ratio. First determined by the mathematician Adolphe Quetelet in the 1800s (yeah, totally relevant, right?), BMI was designed to determine the most ideal adult proportions. It has been tweaked a bit over the years, but roughly, a BMI of 30 and up indicates that you are obese, 25 to 29.9 indicates that you are overweight, 18.5 to 24.9 indicates that you are average (or “ideal”), and less than 18.5 indicates that you are underweight. For the mathematically inclined, you can calculate your own BMI by using the following formula:

BMI= weight(kg)/(height(m))2

OR

BMI= [weight(lb)/(height(in))2 ]x 703

For the non-mathematically inclined (myself included), a 2 second Google search will give you thousands of BMI calculators, like this one, where all you need is your height and weight. There are also countless BMI charts that neatly map out height and weight into colour coded bands of obese, overweight, average, and underweight. This seems beautifully convenient, right? But BMI has come under fire quite a bit for not taking into account individual body types. My family doctor, Dr. O, politely explained that everyone has a different frame and a different bone structure, so a weight to height ratio (or BMI) is not always the most accurate judge of health. Someone with broader shoulders or denser bones will come in heavier than someone with a narrow or frail build, but still be medically healthier. But if you can’t count on BMI, what can you use to determine an ideal weight?

According to Dr. O, the most important ratio to keep in mind is the waist to hip ratio (WHR). Although commonly considered a measure of attractiveness, WHR is also generally considered a more accurate indication of health risk/obesity. Women under 0.80 and men under 0.95 are considered low risk, women between 0.81 and 0.85 and men between 0.96 and 1.0 are considered moderate risk and women over 0.85 or men over 1.0 are considered high risk. From a more aesthetic perspective, attractive (or “ideal”) women trend between 0.60 and 0.70. Calculating your WHR is significantly less complicated than calculating your BMI. Measure the circumference of your waist (the narrowest point, often between your last rib and your belly button) and your hips (the widest point across your hips and buttocks) in inches. Divide your waist by your hips, and voilà!

But even the ever cautious Dr. O turned to BMI to tell me (less politely this time) that I am overweight, coming in at the higher end of the overweight spectrum with a BMI of 27.4. Her ultimate advice to determining a target weight?

If your pants are too big, that’s a good thing. You’re on the right track. 

Which does not exactly serve the purposes of this blog. I find that achieving a set weight is a lot more of a tangible concept than, say, losing a set number of inches off your waist, or getting into a specific pant size. (Although I have this super cute pair of size 8 jeans that I would LOVE to wear again…) And since my WHR is within the low risk range (a lovely 0.77, which means that I have successfully gained weight evenly enough across my body to maintain a reasonable WHR), in order to determine my ultimate weight loss goal, I cautiously considered the BMI chart. For someone who is 5’10” like myself, the BMI chart gives me an average range of 130 to 170lbs. Now, when I was at my skinniest (that is to say, when I was still 16 and an A cup), I weighed a solid 170lbs. Give or take. My memory is pretty rusty. So, as much as I may dream of being only 130lbs, I highly doubt I could ever realistically sustain that weight. So let’s stick with 170lbs as a goal, plus or minus 5lbs (plus or minus a now C cup). According to the BMI chart, that would put me at the very top end of the “average” range.

A more uncouth weight loss measure is your mirror. As much as we all want to fit into an ideal range or ratio or box, everyone is different. The only person that can really say if you are skinny is yourself. So strip down, spread your arms out, and take a good long look in the mirror. Turn to the side. Repeat. If you are happy with your weight, go away. If you are not so happy with your weight, try to picture what you would want to look like. Guesstimate how much gut would have to disappear for that to happen. Keep in mind where your frame ends and your weight begins, since you’re stuck with the bones and build you’ve got. For a point of reference, every pant size is approximately 10lbs. This may not be completely accurate, but it is the best gauge. As you begin to, and continue to, lose weight, return to the mirror and check your progress. Readjust your goals as required.

Taking into consideration my BMI, WHR, and –most importantly– my mirror, I would like to lose 20lbs, which will take a whopping 30 weeks (7 and a half months). Provided I actually manage to lose 1lb a week. (Although, to be honest I’m not entirely convinced I will be successful at that.) That’s not so bad…right?

So, for all intents and purposes, weight can be a very useful tool to track progress, and helpful at outlining ultimate fitness goals, but don’t become obsessed with the number in your head, or the often not-so-realistic number dictated by BMI. So what if you don’t quite hit your target weight? It’s just a number. As long as you have found something that is sustainable and comfortable, I would recommend you stick with it. Not everyone is built for flamingo-like thigh gaps or 12inch waists. Be honest with yourself, take your build into consideration when calculating your BMI, and be willing to change your goals as you go along.

thighgaps

Based on the above, how long is it going to take you to reach your target weight?

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Step 1: Schedule It

The most difficult challenge to weight loss is also the first you will come across, actually doing something about it. You’ve taken the first steps to acknowledge that something needs to change. You’ve let that sit in the back of your mind as your muffin top slowly engulfed your waist line. You’ve finally heard and accepted as true the word “overweight”. You’ve convinced yourself that now is the time to finally do this! You’ve (tentatively) decided to take action! And now, you have no idea what to do next. Which brings me to step 1.

The single most important thing you can do at this point is to schedule in work-outs.

Let’s face it, telling yourself that you’re too busy, or that you’ll get to it, or you’ve had such a long day at the office and maybe tomorrow will be a better day, ends up with you on the couch watching Game of Thrones and cursing Daenerys for being so darned skinny while eating a whole bag of chips and lamenting the growth of your recently named gut, Georgeita. (Kudos to Serious Tom who first named his beer gut George.)

Now, I have set myself the rather enthusiastic goal of devoting 5 hours a week to fitness. According to the Canadian food guide recommendations, adults should be active a minimum of 2 and a half hours a week. So I figure if I want to counteract the 40+ hours a week I spend sitting in a cube and if I want to actually lose weight, I would need to overshoot that target.

I just don’t have any time.

This  is probably the most used excuse. And I will have none of that!

If you manage to schedule in time to binge-watch Orange is the New Black on Netflix, you can schedule in time to be active. Now, I am not asking for you to devote 2 hours a day, 7 days a week to “lose 30 pounds in 3 weeks while doing this ridiculously over energetic spandex-clad work-out video”. I am asking you to a) be realistic and b) don’t be so realistic as to not schedule in any time at all.

I’ve broken my days down into two main time frames, AM (before work) and PM (after work). To start things off, I’ve picked activities that I am most comfortable with, eg. activities that I have tried to do in the past with some measure of success. I’ve also kept my weekends free, because the last thing in the world I want to do is hit the gym instead of my sacred Sunday morning Starbucks.

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If you’re any good at math, you’ll notice that I’ve only scheduled in 4 hours a week. I’m all about baby steps, and want to give myself room to grow. And also room to fail. I don’t expect to be able to jump into this schedule full swing right away. I figure it will probably take a month or so before I actually manage to roll out of bed early enough every work day to roll out the yoga mat, but I’m all about setting goals that I can work towards. Take a look at what your weekly obligations are at the moment, and work around them to try and integrate something as seamlessly as possible.

If you are desperately struggling to find time in your days, I would also suggest that you reconsider sleep obligations. Most of us have been lead to believe that you should ideally hit 8 hours of sleep a night, but recent studies show that the ideal amount of sleep for adults is 7 hours. With that in mind, you might be able to find an extra hour a day to devote to sweating instead of sleeping. And if you find that your 5 hours of sleep a night pattern has suddenly been banished, you might want to reconsider how much time you spend a night in front of a screen. Sorry.

Finding a set schedule creates an obligation that would otherwise be lacking. Putting off workouts to tomorrow is no longer an acceptable excuse. Treat your scheduled in time like any other appointment you make, and try your best to stick to it. If possible, you can even set times to stick to in an attempt to keep things on track. And if you’re as OCD as I can be, you can even schedule out everything else in your life, including dinners, blogging, and time with the hubby. No really.

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Reclaiming Skinny (def’n)

  1. To reclaim a previous state of skinny. To achieve weight loss through healthy eating habits, fitness habits, and lifestyle choices. To shed the office 30 and find general wellness.
  2. To redefine skinny. To recognize that skinny should not be considered a universal term. To find a personal meaning behind skinny and what it entails, including a healthy body weight and body image independent of unrealistic social expectations. To break free of fashion fitness.
  3. A blog that outlines a realistic approach to losing weight and offers firsthand accounts of the blogger’s personal weight-loss journey. A blog that motivates and challenges both the blogger and the readers to take on healthier lifestyles and reclaim their own skinny. A positive support group that explores the reality of losing weight in a world of social media, fad diets and fitness programs, negative body image, unrealistic expected time commitments, office jobs and Starbucks.

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