We’ve all said it before, “Starting January 1st I’m going to get healthy!” or “I’m going to drop 20 pounds by March!” Unsurprisingly, the top New Year’s resolution is some variation on getting fit or losing weight, what’s notable is how much doesn’t stick.
- Fewer than 8% of resolutions are kept past March
- Thousands of pounds are lost, yet 90-95% gain the weight back plus some
- People spend upwards of $60 billion annually trying to lose weight through diet and gyms
So, how are you going to make this year different?
First, look at the big picture of health – weight loss should be viewed as a positive side effect of a healthier life. You don’t need to lose weight to get healthy, once you are healthy you will lose weight. This means lifestyle changes must happen to achieve overall health and I’m not talking about drastic, overnight changes. In my 25 years of experience with fitness injury, every January is exactly the same. People are pumped up and start like a bat outta hell. They take on huge diet restrictions (no fat or sugar and fewer than 1500 calories a day) and add intense exercise all while maintaining family and life responsibilities on 6 hours of sleep.
This is a recipe for disaster on so many levels because the changes are unsustainable. I know this because my office is quiet in January and February, but by March there’s a waiting list full of tendonitis’s and back injuries.
First it’s imperative to understand the physiology of the body parts you aim to change: for strength it’s muscle, for weight loss it’s metabolism, for energy it’s cardiovascular fitness. Also understand that all of these systems work together. Metabolism, is an especially tricky system that is different for everyone and finding the unique balance will lead to success.
We must consider what makes your body work? Where is your tipping point? What’s the quality of the food you eat? Are you sleeping well or enough? Are you exposed to excessive environmental toxins? Are you not exercising enough to stimulate change, or are you exercising too much?
Imagine a wheel. The image on the left has the some of the big factors we need to focus on for a successful fitness program. The wheel on the right shows the imbalance of the pieces in the wheel. Rate your wheel in this manner are all the pieces balanced? Will your wheel roll or is it more like a stone, edges all jagged?
When all the factors of the wheel are out the balance, wheel (or in this case the body) doesn’t roll right.
We need to factor all the systems together to find what fits for our own individual bodies (not your spouse or your neighbor or the MD on Dr. OZ)
Cortisol is the hormone that regulates stress. Cortisol is what stimulates the Biochemical processes for us to run from a tiger (Flight or fight). Starting or changing an exercise program will increase cortisol production. When this system is stimulated appropriately weight will fall off, we will sleep well, we eat normally, cravings will disappear, need for caffeine and sugar decreases.
If we over-stress (which 80% of Americans do) the stress modulating system becomes over taxed and the body will spike cortisol levels for a certain amount of time. Unfortunately, the body can’t keep up the production of cortisol resulting in a sharp decrease in the production of cortisol, or a crash.
Symptoms of this crash can include: reduced immune system (colds sinus infections) fatigue, food cravings, joint pain, muscle pain, weight loss plataue/ weight gain( rebound) mood imbalances, anxiety, depression, and brain fog to name a few.
The challenge is to balance enough stress to grow without so much stress we break down. This is the fine line we need to walk when starting a new fitness program.
Hormonal balance depends on:
- Cortisol regulation: Normal production is based on circadian rhythm and stress response
- Small stressors are healthy (quick run/exercise burst, learning something new/problem solving, occasional intermittent fasting)
- Chronic stress this is what does us in (daily 90min commute in traffic, physical pain, fighting with spouse, unhealthy eating patterns, not enough sleep, over exercise)
Calorie restriction is a huge factor in metabolism. You need to be aware of how much you are consuming, but excessive restriction will make matters so much worse. Looking at the nutrient value of what you are eating will continue to fuel your body for the new activities you are asking it to do.
Excessive caloric restriction combined with exercise is a disaster in the long run. Your body will find the nutrients somewhere in the system. Catabolic (breakdown) processes will begin, your body will breakdown muscle tissue and bone to get fuel. Therefore, destroying the results from your workouts.
Realistically you may see weight loss quickly. Unfortunately, continual deficits in nutrient intake is impossible to keep up and the rebound effect of weight gain will be greater than the loss.
Components of a well-rounded fitness program
- CARDIOVASCULAR ENDURANCE
My least favorite question what is the best exercise? It ranks up with what is the one best food… There isn’t one best. We need a combination of it all. You must be muscularly strong to tolerate the stress of the activity you want to do. You need to be flexible to move safely in to certain positions. You need to be balanced on each side of the joint (biceps to triceps, pectorals to rhomboids) to avoid uneven strain and inflammation.
To be fit the answer is NOT ”Eat less and work out more”.
Benefits of appropriate exercise:
- Psychological benefits
- Increased endorphins (only if you like what you do)
- Increased social interaction
- Mental clarity
- Physiological benefits
- Vanity benefits slim, muscles,
- Better performance
- More resistant to injury
Symptoms associated with over training:
- Chronic reoccurring Tendon and muscular injury
- Weight gain or weight loss resistance
- Sleep disturbances
- Increased susceptibility to infection (more frequent colds, respiratory infections and “flu-like” illness
- Increased food cravings or disordered eating patterns
A balance program needs to incorporate strength training, flexibility and cardiovascular endurance training.
The body respond to variance vs consistency. Meaning that you should start an exercise program but switch it up frequently. Once our bodies learn how to do something the effort is diminished and so are the returns.
Ways to optimize your workouts:
- Change the intensity,
- Change the movement,
- Change the resistance,
- Change the speed.
Some options are:
- Strength training, body weight or Olympic lifting, make sure your form is correct!
- Injury happens when the weight and speed are too much causing form break down.
- Interval training, such as Tabatas, or HIIT training, this can be as simple as running lines on the basketball court
- Yoga for mind and body, strength and flexibility
Here are the big do’s and don’ts I have found to help start and stick with healthy lifestyle changes.
|Eat real food: veggies, organic meats, fruits||Rely on Frankenfoods: weight loss shakes and frozen dinners|
|Eat healthy fats: coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil, smaltz, tallow, ghee.||Eat fake sugars, diet foods, and vegetable oils|
|Sleep at least 8 hours every night||Forgo sleep for extra workouts|
|Take recovery days: exercise 2-3 days in a row then take 1-2 days off||Workout every day at maximum capacity|
|Feel good after exercise, feel invigorated||Push to exhaustion, feel drained all day after training session|
|Vary the type of workouts throughout the week: Cardio, strength training, yoga, balance||Do the same activity at the same intensity every day. Your body will react and adjust to change, but doing the same workout will lead to a plateau.|
|Choose activities you enjoy||Exercise you hate will never make you thin and happy|
|Create realistic short and long term goals for each quarter of the year.||Haphazardly begin a program with no structured focus.|
|Exercise inside and outside. Smell the trees, feel the sun, get dirty – it’s all good for you!||Exercise through pain. Muscle burn is ok, but pain is a sign of something wrong|
Change is good, and resolutions can be a great way to initiate change. Be mindful of why you want to change and have a plan for executing it in a realistic manner. Make 2017 the first year of your new healthy life!
Check out our blog for recipes and ways to get stronger than yesterday!