Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Putting myself to good use

I'm trying to be helpful lately. A lot of people have come to me for advice. Most people really don't want to hear what I have to say, which is kind of severe, but a few do, and I'm trying to help them with practical, plausible ideas. One friend has a 9 week old who is now sleeping through the night. She is a bit overwhelmed with the notion of getting back into shape and thinks that she should start. This is really a tough one. When you have a small baby, a toddler and a school-aged kid, finding time to focus on meal-planning, cooking, shopping, exercising, etc. is just kind of unrealistic. I suppose it's possible, but I'm not sure exactly how. I will find some ideas though. One has to do with thinking through every hour of your day and when you might possible have some time. But before that - the most important thing to do is ask yourself, "am I ready to make a huge commitment to this project?" The answer when you have a 9-week old probably is and probably should be, "No." It's ok to admit that. On the other hand, baby steps can be taken. Examples of baby steps are: cutting back on desserts, exercising 2-3 times a week, trying not to eat egregiously horrible foods like pizza and french fries, etc.

Below are my two contradictory thoughts on baby steps:
  1. Baby steps don't result in significant weight loss, if any at all, and as such can be more frustrating than doing nothing.
  2. Baby steps can be helpful in learning and practicing some of the necessary habits that will be used once a major lifestyle change (diet) is undertaken.
The reasons that baby steps don't work, in my unscientific opinion, is that a body used to hanging out at a certain weight will tend to stay there, unless it is shocked into going to a different place. This shock can occur by a serious increase or decrease in food or exercise (or pregnancy!).  Similarly a small increase or decrease in food or exercise doesn't really do much. 

So eating just a little bit better or walking a little more really doesn't have a big impact on weight. However, those things can get you started without being overwhelmed, and they can get you to start thinking more positively about your ability to make changes in your long-ingrained habits. Baby steps can help you see ways to make better choices at restaurants, find 15 minutes to take a walk instead of snack, find a chance to walk up a few flights of stairs during work, to start planning high-protein snacks before you get famished, to stop craving cheese on top of everything.

It is so exciting to watch this happen in a friend - my same friend who was my coach originally (not the friend with the 9-week old mentioned above). She has started her own blog so you can read for yourself. But in the last 3 weeks I have watched her change from listing all the excuses for why she went over her points and couldn't find time to exercise, to actively seeking practical solutions for finding exercise time in her tight working mom's schedule and planning how she will handle her many upcoming social events. It's a real change in attitude - from "If I can work health and fitness into my social/work/family life I will" to "my social/work/family life has to work with my health and fitness goals." Now of course this is very difficult - but we're working on solutions together - and I love helping her!

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