Friday, August 15, 2014

Weight Loss Lessons From My 6-Year Old

As the proud father of an amazing little boy, I got to thinking about what life has been like with him and most importantly, FOR him since he was born. Before we delve too far, allow me to get a bit personal.

My son Jackson (Jax for short) was born in Charleston, South Carolina in January of 2008. Roughly 5 weeks after he was born, his mother and I split up. While we were both immensely happy to be parents, we were no longer compatible as a couple. Fortunately, we made a pact very early on that we would do everything in our power to see that Jax saw little of the ill effects of our divorce. Being devoted in our love for him has made that a reality as I can promise you Jax never hurts for love, support, or attention! And there is still a happy ending on all accounts, as his mother has remarried a very nice gentleman herself and I'm very blessed to say I will be remarrying an incredible woman in a couple of months!

However, a little over 3 years ago, after many attempts to understand why Jax wasn't communicating at the same level as other children his age, he was diagnosed with autism. By all accounts, he is an energetic, immensely happy and bright boy. But should you attempt to engage in conversation with him, you'll quickly see his challenges. While he is able to say some words, many of them aren't as clear as one might hope or expect and he rarely ever speaks or responds in sentences. As his mother and I have found out along the way, sometimes one step forward in progress with communication can cause one to two steps back in other areas of his life. As I am prone to say, raising a typical child has a certain set of challenges; raising a child with autism just has a different set of challenges!

So what does autism or being a 6 year old have anything to do with your ability to lose weight? Maybe more than you think...

Small Victories Rule 
As parents, we have learned to accept small victories with Jax and not be in expectation of leaps and bounds in progress. If the leaps of progress occur, we're all elated but we have to focus on his ability to tackle challenges at his pace. Weight loss is no different. While many people (especially at the beginning of their weight loss journey) can see big drops in weight, those drops won't stay at that rate. The body has to adjust which can be terribly frustrating. Consistency and patience trump nearly everything when it comes to steady and sustainable weight loss. 

Get Lost In Yourself
One of the things we've learned as we have watched Jackson grow up is, he tends to be in his own little world. In many ways, it makes being around him very easy. He doesn't need the external approval of people around him to be happy. He's perfectly self-sufficient and can literally entertain himself for significant lengths of time. While this can lead to some interesting social situations, he thrives when he can accomplish what he wants to by himself. If you consider what has to be done for you to lose weight, it is truly all about you. While it may take a support system to get you started or keep you going, you have to be willing to be selfish to make time to care for yourself and your health. No one is going to eat the food (proper selections and portions) for you or lift the weights to elicit the right response. Everything that needs to be done, will be done by you and you alone. So, take solace in getting "lost in yourself" to hit your goals.

Be Unstoppable 
Jax is going through a phase right now where the word "No" is very funny to him. To be specific, if I ask him if he wants something or if there is something he wants to do, usually his first reply is "No" even if, in reality, it's actually "Yes". In addition, hearing the word "No" from his mother or myself turns into a bit of a game. I personally think this has less to do with autism and more to do with being a 6-year old who basically gets whatever he wants! Jax needs the world to conform to HIS wants and needs. The humorous thing is, he's just so damn happy about everything. Hardly anything gets him down. He has discovered that the word "No" is not only empowering but it helps him keep control over a situation. How does this pertain to weight loss? Remove the barriers that constantly try to get in your way. Try to develop a lighter approach and perspective to your obstacles. Let's take weighing in on the scale as an example. Many people make positive changes in their diet and activity levels and then completely derail when the scale doesn't give them the answer they're expecting. Take the number on the scale and let it motivate you to stay consistent, tighten up the deviations to your plan, and give the little bit of 'extra' you might need to see the number on the scale change in your favor for the next weigh-in. Don't let the slight detours in life throw you off the reservation. As my happy little guy would illustrate, "be unstoppable" when it comes to pushing through and getting the results you want. Then again, if you're saying Yes to too many things that are getting you off course, Jackson would be happy to give you a lesson in No!

Being Uniquely You Will Be Your Greatest Asset 
Since Jackson was diagnosed with autism, I've been able to experience what life is like for other children on the autism spectrum. Believe me when I say, they are all completely different! Some have better verbal skills and others are more introverted. Some are hypersensitive to loud sounds, others are hypersensitive to bright colors. Taking small lessons from the parents about their experiences and best practices can be a nice guideline but what works for them/their children may not work for Jackson. Consider this when you look at physiques on the cover of magazines, contestants in weight loss shows, or the diet your neighbor has seen such great results with. We are not cut from the same cloth and we haven't grown up with the same life experiences, challenges, or perceptions. Make every effort to find out how you and you alone can thrive with your health, wellness, and fitness goals. I can assure you, it will likely be very different from what works for those around you. Start a journal of what you like and how your body responds to different stimuli. Stop searching and waiting for the panacea that supposedly works for other people. Focus ONLY on what works for you. Once you've determined how your body best performs, you will finally make sustainable strides in progress.

It's Not What You Do, It's How You Do It.
One thing that Jackson's mother and I found out early on is that he behaves very differently around each of us. Since the majority of his time is spent with her and her family, she generally sees greater changes at a faster rate than I do. In fact, she could see Jax exhibit a certain behavior weeks before he demonstrates the same behavior for me. As a result, we have learned to appreciate that we handle our parenting roles in different ways with him. So, we have to be candid with each other about what things we have done to help Jackson continue to see progress in his life. If a best practice worked for her, it may or may not work for me and that open line of communication has been pivotal for us. With weight loss, let's say you believe that running will help you lose weight faster. In many cases, you could be right. Running, in and of itself, is a great calorie burner. However, not everyone was intended to run long distances. Maybe they carry too much weight on their frame or they're rehabbing an injury. So, you have to get creative. Maybe you need to focus on sprint work (higher intensity, shorter distances) or hill work (slower speed, higher hills/inclines/resistance). It could be that running just doesn't work at all at this stage of your journey and you just have to make sure you walk for a certain amount of time each day. Each one of these activities engages your lower body to perform, but you have to listen to the signals in your body to determine which road to travel (pun intended). Respect the deviations to the plan as long as they help you reach your goal in the safest possible manner.

So, that about wraps it up! Nothing about weight loss and keeping the weight off was intended to be easy. It will always be hard work and there will be countless frustrations along the way. Allow that motivation to push you further along, not bury you. Remember that we are all confronted with life-changing challenges on a daily basis. You're no different in that regard, neither am I, and certainly Jackson is no exception!

We're here to help you be the best YOU that's possible!

Can You Be Fooled?

At least a handful of times each week, I'll field a variety of questions from concerned clients. There's a new trend, fad, or phobia gaining momentum through the media. Perhaps a new product has hit the shelves or a new headline has caught someone's attention via their favorite blog or news source. 
I'd be lying if I said I didn't from time to time get caught up in some of the hoopla myself. Every now and then, what a client mentions may even be news to me, so I have to go and investigate a bit to get more clarification on a topic. 

But where do you turn for a trustworthy response? 

A cursory Google search can lead to more confusion and frustration. Not to mention, if you ever want to really entertain yourself go to Google and type in "dangers of (said topic)" and see what comes up. There will almost always be some detractor who is happy to instill the fear of anything into your consciousness if you allow them. 

Out of morbid curiosity, this morning I delved into: 

Dangers of chocolate milk
Dangers of mangoes
Dangers of walking

And my favorite:
Dangers of breathing

It appears there is an inherent problem with, well, everything! 

Keep in mind, I really tried to go for the mundane with my searches. So, imagine what happens when you start searching for really hot topics such as: 

GMOs (genetically modified organisms)
Dr. Oz
Santa Claus

Ok, the last one was a joke. Everyone knows Santa Claus is real and he is of no danger whatsoever. I just wanted to make sure you were paying attention!

For the same reason that you may likely surround yourself with people like financial advisors, accountants, attorneys, general health practitioners or even your friendly personal trainer, go to the people you feel you can trust. Don't be afraid to have your initial views and opinions on a given topic challenged. As I've been prone to say in previous newsletters, be flexible with your philosophy. While double-blind peer reviewed scientific studies can be a nice guideline, they rarely account for the exceptions to the rule who defy those results. 

If you're looking for people, concepts or ideas to simply agree with you, those opinions can be found. Just remember that the contrarian lurks behind every corner waiting to throw you off and make you think something better, faster or more effective is out there (you just haven't experienced it yet). 

Hence, there is a reason why things like raspberry ketones, garcinia cambogia, or green tea extracts haven't solved all of society's weight loss issues. 

If you would like a realistic and honest approach, we're here for you

The Stars Aligned

I know what you might be thinking. I’ll get started/re-started when:

I have more money
I have more time
The kids are back in school
I’ve gotten a few pounds off first
I can work out around other people without feeling embarrassed
I get back from vacation
I survive the eating temptations from that upcoming party

I would like to remind you of something: the stars will never perfectly align for you.

Don’t get me wrong. They may fall into place temporarily, giving you a glimpse of relief. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll actually get something started.

And then (cue ominous music)…life happens.

You get a bad night’s sleep
The scale doesn’t move at the rate you like
Your bonus check wasn’t as big as you had hoped
The kids get an unexpected snow day
You ate the cake you swore you wouldn’t touch, leading to the chips, and the cheese, etc.

Funny how easily we get derailed, right?

Allow me to take a slight detour with this…

The last few weeks of my workouts have been some of the hardest I’ve ever endured. They will only get harder with time as the cycle I’m on invariably must progress. More often than not, I find myself “almost” talking myself out of them.

Imagine that, a guy who makes his living from fitness who doesn’t relish every moment of lifting a weight?

Fact of the matter is: it’s damn hard.  But I get my head back into it, commit to the work that has to be done, lift the $%&#@ weight and then call it a day.

And really, that’s what I’m asking of you.

The results you want, in whatever manifestation they have, will not be accomplished without you being “in it”.

The exercise (for those of us with some semblance of sanity left) isn’t really the fun part. It’s hard. You might sweat. Your heart rate may elevate.

The food is ridiculously agonizing to dial in and behave with. In many cases, it can be so boring and redundant that it borderlines on painful.

But wherever you are, there is an end to meet.

I don’t fancy myself as the aggressive “Push Harder” type. However, I know there has to be a fire somewhere to not only start you but to keep you honest.

So, if you’re waiting for the stars to align, the heavens to part, angels to sing and a fluttery breeze to blow which signals your call to action…please don’t hold your breath.

There’s work to be done. And we’re here to help you do it. 

This Is Gonna Hurt

Pain is an interesting thing. Line 10 people up side by side and their respective definition of pain will likely be very different. I’ve seen people fight through tremendous pain to overcome adversity. Ask any mother about the pain of childbirth and you’re likely to get a very specific definition as well!

The pain that concerns me most is what happens in the arena of fitness. What shocks me is how many people choose to distinguish between an effective or ineffective workout by how sore they were afterwards. It’s about as misguided as someone who says “I know it’s been a good workout if I sweat a lot!”

So, allow me to clarify a few things:

Post-workout soreness should never be your goal. When you’re literally tearing muscle fibers every time you lift a weight (a good thing), your ability to recover is just as important as the amount of trauma you just created for that muscle. As we age, the ability to recover stands the greatest potential to decrease. I would ask you to concentrate more on giving your reps in the gym your best effort while you’re there. Not trying to obliterate your body to the point where sitting on the toilet becomes the most challenging part of your day!

Don’t get me wrong: I love a tough workout. And from time to time, I want to know that I pushed myself because I feel tender in some muscles the next day or so afterwards. Contrary to some opinion, I don’t secretly rub my hands together in victory when a client tells me that they’re having trouble taking the stairs the day after a good workout!

That being said, “some” soreness is okay. It can mean that muscles have been utilized and stimulated in ways they haven’t been in some time. This will generally lead to (wait for it)….progress!!!

Typically, when a new client starts here, we start conservatively. There may be some areas of the workout that are more strenuous than others, but for at least the first few weeks (depending on how the body reacts) soreness is rarely an issue.

With time, we can assess how the body is reacting to a given stimulus and raise weights and intensity accordingly. Fact of the matter is, many people just don’t MOVE well. So, the initial workouts are lessons in mechanics just to get the body functioning appropriately. For some, that can mean very fundamental movements with low or no weight.

In addition, there is a mental aspect to consider as well. There are some clients who fear going up in weight with a given exercise. They equate it to immediate injury and/or a bulking effect. 9 times out of 10, they’re wrong on both accounts.

Unfortunately, there is a belief based on current fitness trends that pain is the answer to your fitness woes. If you push harder, you’ll achieve more. If you fight through it, it makes you stronger. You know the adage: what doesn’t kill you…?

My challenge to all of you pain junkies is this: focus on cleaner movement, focus on progressive training, focus on responsible eating for your goals.

Just try to remember: post workout pain rarely equates to the quality of a workout. Any bozo can make someone sore: simply add more weight, time, or reps to an otherwise unconditioned body and soreness will soon follow. The people who reap the most benefits are the ones who can make steady, long-term progress with as few injuries as possible. 

Still Failing At Change?

Currently, I would say 70% of our clients are here for weight loss. The other 30% are at maintenance weight and want to stay there or need to gain weight. No matter what the goal is: change has to happen.

Typically, a significant amount of the wisdom that can be offered happens during the initial consultation. That's when a client has the opportunity to talk about what's happening with their body currently and/or what's led to the current condition.

Depending on the individual, this is also the time when people are the most open-minded and accepting of the changes that need to take place. The interesting thing is, what we as trainers believe will lead to the goals and what the client believes does not always coincide.

Since every client is different, the path to success is not always crystal clear. Take any list of proposed avenues and one can find that Plan A doesn't work so well. That's where Plans B and C may need to be introduced. What helps at this point is the flexibility and patience to understand there is rarely a textbook protocol.

In my position, I always WANT rapid results for a client. Reason being, the sooner a client reaches their goals the better I look as their trainer. It's a win-win situation. Unfortunately, rapid is not often realistic.

So, we (as both trainer and client) have to look at what changes need to take place to get to the goal. In many cases, I can usually give a client at least 5 habits that need to change to get them going in the right direction. The assumption and hope is the sooner those changes can be adopted, the sooner the goal can be reached. Sounds simple right? Not really.

By time a potential client comes through my door, there is already some level of mentality that things have to change. Take a certain Type A personality, and that individual may be ready and willing to move mountains to get that change.

But we are all creatures of habits in varying degrees. And wherever we are, we didn't get there by accident.

So let's consider what a list of changes I offer might look like for a weight loss client:

-Drink more water
-Eliminate night-time snacking
-Consume more protein
-Eat out less at restaurants
-Consume more fiber

In and of themselves, no single item seems all that difficult. In fact, for most people they see a list like this and say: "Well, I could start this all tomorrow." However, this might be the worst mistake one could make.

My proposal is to not see how quickly you can conquer all of these changes. Find the one that serves as the path to least resistance and commit to it. Give it some time (which can mean days or weeks) to become habitual. Once you can perform the task without much effort, it's time to tackle the next item that also seems easy to implement. A list of 5 changes could EASILY take 5 months to become part of your every day life. Granted, it's not that I want it to take that long I just know that human nature is what it is.

Recently, a new client started here with a very small amount of weight to lose (less than 10lbs). Because the media can sensationalize what we do with our health, this client had been eating a low-fat diet for the better part of 20 years. Now, if you were to see this client, you might wonder (as I did) where she intended to lose the weight she was aiming for. Truth be told, if you had been accustomed to a particular weight and frame for most of your life, minor variations can make a big difference.

At any rate, I gave this client 3 changes to focus on: higher water intake, fewer daily calories, and more frequent activity. Seems fairly simple. The problem came when she tried to tackle all 3 at one time. The activity part was easy, she had already committed to a certain amount of sessions with me per month. The water intake spiked up for a few days initially as well. When she tried to reduce her calories, the problems compounded. She wasn't expecting to be as hungry as she was with the reduction. Next thing you know, the water intake started dropping and so did morale.

Fortunately, we had our chat about conquering one change at a time and I reminded her to focus on the easiest change first. Allow it to become the norm. It never matters to me which change happens first, as long as it's the easiest one to implement.

Many people know the right answers. Sometimes they need someone like a personal trainer to help with accountability or a fresh perspective.

If you find you're still failing at change, feel free to contact us. We can help!

Revisiting The Calorie

There has been a lot happening at RevFit lately. We continue to push for more effective, more efficient weight-loss results for our clients. Some of our clients are just looking for a little bit of weight to come off (5-10lbs) and others have significantly more (100+lbs). So, no conversation about weight loss can happen without discussing the importance of the almighty calorie.

Over the last several months we have seen more diligent and consistent weight loss for our clients than ever before. Not to mention, a handful of our clients have hopped back on the weight loss wagon after some dietary detours.

With these things in mind, I thought it would be a good time for a refresher on how calories will not only help you reach your goals but how variations can affect you as well.

1) We all have a baseline. Take any given person and factor in these things: age, weight, height, gender and level of current activity. Since we are all unique in this regard, calories can vary with a fair degree. Some things to consider in relation to this fact: we need fewer calories as we age (the body is less efficient at burning them), the more you weigh the more calories it takes to sustain the functioning of your body, men are typically more efficient at burning calories than women and the more sedentary you are, the fewer calories you need.

2) In order to see a change in physique, you HAVE TO alter your intake. Many people make the mistake of assuming that as soon as they go from sedentary to exercising that their body will transform into a calorie burning dynamo. This RARELY happens. Yes, exercise does help you burn calories. However, unless you're training for marathons year in and year out, it will not be the amount of calories you'd expect. I tend to tell people: exercise shapes your body, food gets you closer to (or further away from) your goals. It also bears to mention that as you exercise your hunger will typically go up. This is important for those of you trying to lose weight to keep in mind.

3) There are some people who gain weight because they don't eat enough.

I'll throw my own numbers out so we can use a frame of reference:

Age: 38
Weight: 140lbs
Height: 5'9"
Gender: Male
Level of Current Activity: Light to moderate activity

I know that it takes me approximately 2100 calories per day just to maintain my body as it is right now.

Let's assume I wanted to lose 5 lbs. The moderate deficit I would need to create would be approximately a 20% deficit in relation to my maintenance. That puts me at 420 calories. Deduct that from my maintenance calories and I would need to eat approximately 1680 calories (let's say 1700) daily. There are roughly 3500 calories in a pound of fat, so if I didn't increase my exercise activity it would take me a little over a week just to burn 1 pound.

I will say this: If I am accustomed to eating 2100 calories per day and I drop down to 1700 I will definitely notice a difference. It won't be easy and I WILL be hungry. This is one of those circumstances where I would just need to suck it up and focus on the goal. The body will adjust to the change and it won't be so unbearable after a few days.

As with many things in life: consistency rules.

Where many people get in trouble is their impatience. There are some people who can make a drastic drop in calorie intake and see very favorable results. However, the body tends to wise up and will stop dropping weight for fear of starvation. At this point, weight loss can stall or even worse, the body will hoard the small amount of calories it's receiving and store them as fat.

Using my information from above, let's say I wanted to either drop more than 5lbs and I wanted it off faster. I really have only two choices: do longer or more intense calorie burning cardio and/or take another drop in calories. The problem with continually dropping calories is, at some point you can't go any lower. The body will just start shutting down. Organ function can be impaired as well as cognitive abilities, etc.

While there is nothing exciting about having a routine or predictable food plan, it does keep the goals on pace. The body will always have a mind of its own when it comes to the rate of weight loss. With weight loss, you are constantly trying to stack the deck as much in your favor as possible. The more factors you have control over (proper caloric intake, proper water intake, appropriate and consistent exercise) the better chances you stand to have.

Need to know where you stand? We can help!