The Weight Loss = Health Misconception

First, I have to be clear that I am not an MD or dietitian. I have studied the sciences; hard, social and psychological so when I read the research I do understand what is being reported. It is crucial that we, as a society, stop accepting something as gospel just because an MD published it. I am not saying that the information they, and others are providing is not correct just that we need to question everything. Nutrition research as a whole is inconclusive so I beg you to not just jump on the most recent plan. I read a lot about nutrition, fitness and health as a whole. Lately, I have run into MDs saying that exercise does not matter for weight loss. If you do not pause once reading or hearing that phrase you will miss how empty this statement is.

Your weight does not define you or your health. It is a factor of health and often weight gain is a result of something else before it turns into a cause of further dysfunction. Weight loss, by itself, is possible without fitness or counseling but what about everything else? You can cut carbs and loose those extra pounds or count calories (something that seems to be going out of fashion) or a combination. The thing is that loosing 10 or even 20 pounds does not mean you are healthy.

People with an acceptable number on the scale can suffer from all sorts of ailments that we generally associate with obesity. Overweight people can have great stamina, strength, bone health and happiness.

I am not saying that weight loss is something to ignore just that it is not the only thing to worry about if you are concerned about holistic health. Exercise strengthens your bodies structural integrity. It also gives you mental and emotional vitality. To top it off focusing on the scale can be discouraging!!!!!! Often, the mental block caused by that focus intern causes failure. If you set performance goals and stick to a plan you will see results. Weight loss then becomes a side effect and you are emotionally/mentally stimulated with your bodies positive feedback mechanism to continue to challenge yourself.

Weight loss does NOT help build strong bones. Your bones need impact and movement to be strong. Weight loss does NOT build cardiovascular wellness (I admit it reduces the stress placed on the system but does not strengthen the system). Weight loss, depending on how it is done, can slow down mental acuity and reduce your emotional coping skills. Movement increases the links made in the brain and quickens the responses. Exercise provides endorphins that provide lasting joy and a feeling of power and peace.

Helping people loose weight as well as become strong mentally and physically is my passion. My point is simply that weight loss does not stand alone and it is time we change the conversation.

Time Investment + Habit Change = Exponential Return

I don’t think it matters if you are a medical professional or working fast food, we know what is good for us.  If we know, why don’t we do the right thing for our physical being?  Is our daily activity habitual?  I know mine is.  I find great comfort in routine and this was one of the reasons beginning the journey to health was difficult.  We struggle as human beings to see outside our current space.  So how can we change where we are?  When was last time you decided to do something different?

The payroll company I work for is in the process of a major software upgrade.  The functionality of this upgrade is unbelievable at times.  I am sincerely excited about the possibilities this brings!  My excitement does not out way my hesitation and often frustration!  I know how to utilize our old software and can manipulate data to meet client needs efficiently and without hesitation.  My point is that what I have been doing day in and day out is what I am holding on to even though if I spend one day figuring how a new function works it may save me the equivalent of three days in just the first month.   As a result, my return is 3 times my investment.  If this were a financial investment the answer is simple.  As a time, investment it is a bit more difficult.  Last, as a change in my routine it can be outright nerve wracking!

Now let’s point this idea at health.  With today’s hectic life style and high stress jobs time is precious!  We work all day and when we get home we want to spend time with family or quite frankly, just relax!  Time and effort spent today, tomorrow and the next day will save you wayyyyy more than time in your future.  Focusing on Health Treatment today rather than Disease Treatment tomorrow saves you and your loved one’s time, stress, money and pain (physical and emotional). 

Excess weight causes a plethora of trouble down the road, but I am just going to focus on one aspect because of how tangible it is.  The general idea can be expanded into all the other troublesome realms of excess weight.  Throughout our lives we put stress on all of our joints and they slowly breakdown. Excess force (from weight or overuse) causes the tissue to breakdown faster than is natural.  As the tissue breaks down you feel PAIN!  Very strong, physical, tangible PAIN.  Right now, my own mother is not able to walk because of the pain associated with arthritis in her hips.  She is now experiencing a very real result of prolonged excess force placed on her joints.  The only way to relieve pain is to lose weight but, when you cannot move how is that a possibility?  Her time, her life and her money are all wrapped up in excruciating PAIN!  This is not a life that I want for myself or my family. 

I know that if I am not healthy now I will be spending my retirement in a chair just like my mom.  I want to be traveling world enjoying my life with my partner!  I want to be able to spend time with the younger generation of my family and be able to keep up with them.  Don’t you?  Many of you have children and your future will have grandchildren.  Do you want to be able to play with the kids, enjoy life and all it has to offer?  If so, then you must take steps NOW!  Your future depends on it!  Your family’s happiness in the future depends on it!

Sweet Rewards

If you are trying to lose weight or just make an improvement in your health you need to look at how you relate to food.  I used to say to myself, “I’ve been so good today I deserve …”  The end of that sentence was usually ice cream (my biggest weakness).  Me being good enough for my “reward” could have been, being active, eating healthy the rest of the day, having a stressful work day or any other challenge.  The problem with this ritualistic view of reward is that excess sugar is poison for your body.  Sugar addiction is said to be more extreme than an addiction to alcohol or tobacco. 

Pay attention to your thought process when you are reaching for your next delicious sweet treat.  If you do mentally call this a “reward” try thinking about how increasing your risks for diabetes and heart disease could possibly be a reward.  If you enjoy the taste of rat poison would you call its consumption a reward or fight the urge to consume knowing what it can do to you?  I hope your answer is to F I G H T!  You are worth the effort!  We all are!  We also still need to be able to reward ourselves.  What makes you feel good that is not sugar or fat?  One friend would say massage another would say going for a walk outside, another watching a movie.  I enjoy acupuncture, the sauna, pool, walking outside or curling up on the couch in front of the fire place.  Your reward is one you have to decide on.  The only restriction is that the reward is not sugar or fat.

Does this mean that you should never eat anything sweet again?  Not exactly, but after you decide to change your self-talk the next step is to eliminate it completely for 14 days strait.  It took me 4 months before I made an entire 14 days without cheating on myself.  After 14 days more than my mind changed.  My bodies reaction to sugar changed.  I ate 2 bites of a candy bar and became violently ill.  The cells in my body realized that this was poison after 14 days of being without it and reacted accordingly.  After my body reset, I studied the glycemic index to find just the right fruits so that I was controlling blood sugar spikes.  I find personally that if I control my blood sugar I do not eat as many calories, my brain works optimally, and my energy levels are sustainable.

Please do not think that means I never have sweets these days.  I definitely slide backwards more often than I would like.  It is a life long struggle.  The important thing is that I can recognize when I need to do another 14-day reset.  If I catch myself early enough in my backslide I can reset in 3-4 days and loose the cravings.  That first 14-day reset is extraordinarily difficult and is not for the faint of heart.  But it is worth attempting!  Remember though that if you give yourself negative mental feedback in the process you won’t get through it.  Be proud of every day you succeed and count that as a win!

-References concerning the risks of sugar are coming soon-

What is a health crisis?

Generally, it is only a phrase which refers to major public health issues.  They are major health concerns that affect communities both from a medical and economic stand point.  So how can we define a personal health crisis?  Is there such a thing?

According to the World Health Organization: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” defines crisis as: “a stage in a sequence of events at which the trend of all future events, especially for better or for worse, is determined;turning point.”

With these definitions I am pretty sure that each one of us can have a Health Crisis at any point in our lives!

Finding out your blood pressure is through the roof or you have diabetes.  What about cancer, blindness, paralysis, severe depression.  Only you know if your situation is a crisis!

My “Health Crisis” was the day I had my hysterectomy.  Before that moment I was falling; after, I decided to climb.  Do you have the courage to reverse the fall before you hit the bottom? I did not!!!

I admit my eating habits were far from great and my physical activity relatively low but not in a way that could, on its own, result in 300 pounds.  I turned to MDs saying begging for help.  After several tests they were banging their heads against the wall as was I.  One gynecologist said “this is not going to result in anything but, it’s the last guess I have.”  I had a biopsy, the next day pre-op labs and the following day was on the table.  Before surgery the surgeon and I sat facing each other one last time.  He said, after we remove your uterus and cervix we will be able to take a closer look at the tissue and know for sure if it is cancer or not.  If it is cancer we will remove your ovaries as standard.  However, if it is not positive do you want me to remove the ovaries or leave them.  Because I was in severe pain for 10+ years and I did not want to risk future problems I said, “take them out no matter what!”.  For me that was the ONLY option.  I was desperate for the pain to stop and I knew if they remained the pain would continue.

That morning I was 34, with a 56 inch waist, unable to sleep, taking 7 prescriptions, in excruciating pain all the time and suffering from severe depression.  4 hours later the situation remained, but my mindset changed.  Finally, a doctor listened to my cries.  I decided to continue the hunt for solutions, questioning MDs until they provided an answer! One at a time, solutions were discovered over a span of several years. Now I’m 42, with a 26 inch waist, taking only 1 prescription on top of my HRT, no longer suffering from constant pain and my depression is under control.  One day, one moment in time, changed my view of what was possible and that saved my life!

Find Support

Really look around you and see who is there.  When I started my journey, I was essentially alone in my desire to feel better and my goal was to be able to buy clothes from a regular store.  That was my ultimate vision!  Now I am in a completely different place with a new, fresh, more powerful mind set.  I was speaking to a woman at the gym a few weeks ago that was about the size I was back in 2010.  She was just getting started with her healing process.  She asked a question that triggered an in-depth conversation about our past struggles and she was shocked when I told her I used to be 300 pounds.  She asked, “How did you do it”? My answer is always the same, “hard work, patience with myself, and personal support”.  There are many pillars involved with success but the topic here is personal support.

There are varying degrees and styles of support.  Your personal needs will change as you progress and as the vision of yourself and your path adjust to the moment.  I went through 3 major support levels.  At the beginning of my exploration I was on my own!  The I was surrounded by those that provided as much emotional support as anyone could ever ask for but simultaneously, surrounded me with fresh baked goods and comfort food.  My current level of support is as good as it gets!  My partner makes sure I have everything I need to succeed.  He understands fitness and the dedication it takes!

When I was starting this path alone my goal consisted of being able to buy clothes from a regular store.  At the time it seemed like a big deal and when I managed to reach that check point I stagnated.  Alone I was not able to see the potential I had.  If you do not envision your future then how can you reach it.  This is one of the reasons you need people that know and care about you.  If you stand at the base of mount hood how far will you climb if you are on your own?  If someone knows where you are but is unable to be by your side, you will push harder and feel safer.  But think for just a moment, what if you have someone that not only holds your hand but carries the climbing ropes and the ability to catch you if you fall and lift you when you’re struggling. 

Alone I was able to do the baby steps but since I couldn’t even see the possibility of reaching the peak I didn’t set goals that would get me there.  Once I was surrounded by those that deeply care about my wellbeing my steps grew but I was carrying all of my own equipment and slipping on the ice.  Sometimes I slid miles backwards, went home, took a break and when I was ready to try again I went back to mountain and started climbing the same part of the path that I had already conquered.   Regaining one’s health is not always direct and the struggles are what make us strong enough to go further.

Now, the goals I am setting are much bigger than I ever imagined they could be when this whole process began but it took someone to push me to see what was possible.  It isn’t just any push though, it took someone who knows fitness, knows his own value and could see what I could become before I could see it myself.  It took positive feedback from someone I value and respect.  Now I am setting goals concerning the amount of weight I can lift and how fast I can run. I am not standing on the top of the mountain yet but I can feel it.  I’m breathing in possibility and exhaling doubt.

What each of us needs is different.  There is no prescription, which is why I push searching within yourself.  Figure out what you need to succeed and reach out.

How does your life effect your ability to achieve your health goals?

Anyone can prescribe something for weight loss, muscle toning/building, or cardio improvement. If are already in the process of regaining your health this type of information can be helpful. However, if you are like most people sitting on your couch thinking, I’m going to lose 10 or even 100 pounds and are searching for a starting point or an easy, quick fix then take a moment and search your soul before searching Google. There are endless reasons that you got to this point. Figure out what those are first. So often we see weight gain summed up to poor diet + lack of exercise. Well, guess what folks, it is a lot more complicated than that!!!!

Questions to ask yourself:
1) Am I experiencing, or have I experienced too much stress?
a. If you live in the US, work full time and support yourself and family, chances are the answer is YES.
b. Are you always busy taking care of others or do you take time for yourself?
2) Is there a medical underlying cause?
a. A few examples from my personal experience include hormone imbalance, ovarian polycystic syndrome, sleep apnea, adrenal failure and low thyroid. Also, a huge part of my health decline was caused by overprescribing MDs.
b. If you believe that something is seriously wrong have you accepted the information provided as gospel or are you asking questions and fighting for yourself?
3) Is my life stable?
a. Is your housing situation comfortable?
b. Are you in an unhealthy relationship?
c. Is your job secure?
d. Is your family healthy?
e. Are you concerned about basic financial needs?
4) Do I have support?
a. Are the people that surround you going to push you to make unhealthy decisions?
b. Are you surrounded by people that say things like; “I support you” “I believe in you” “Go for it” buuuuuuuuut… action, they are being less than supportive?
c. Lastly, are the people that you rely on for emotional/mental support providing only negative feedback or do they provide encouragement.