Friday, 20 July 2012

Dr. Strangefood or: How I Stopped Gaining and Learned to Love the Exercise

Hello everyone! I'm so terribly sorry for the lack of activity on this blog over the past couple weeks. I've been pretty busy with various things (including school and work), but I promise to make stronger effort to update this more often!

Well, not too much has happened since I last posted. I'm getting pretty comfortable at work, and like I said before, the people I work with are great. They make it really easy for me to be comfortable in the new environment.

I guess that's not totally true: a couple things have change since I last posted. Telling you this involves me confessing some deep personal feelings - but then again when have I been the type of person to be shy about those things?

I'd like to talk about physical health today. I am a person, like many, many, many people, who has struggled with my weight my entire life. I come from a family who are not slim by nature, and we are all big "foodies" as well (hense why my brother became a chef). Now, I'd like to emphasize that I am completely and 100% proud of these facts. I grew up with parents who exposed me and my brothers to many different types of foods. Because of that, I'm very open to exploring different cuisines, and I'd pretty much try anything once. However, there's the obvious fact that this makes maintaining a healthy weight difficult. My weight story is that basically, after a life of being on the heavier side, I lost a healthy amount of weight in high school, but then over the course of university, I gained it all back and then some. So now, I am stuck with the task of losing it again.

One thing I have learned over the course of my life so far, is that if you want to lose weight, you need to really want it. It can't just be something that you say "I know it's probably the right thing to do" or "I really should lose some weight" about. It needs to hit you like a ton of bricks one day that this is going to be a lifestyle change, and it will affect you in an extremely positive way for the rest of your life, if you are disciplined and determined. You need to truly realize, completely independently, that this is something you need as well as want. Last week, I finally had this epiphany.

I could give all the excuses in the book for why I gained weight over university (the "freshman 15" phenomenon - although in my case I would have gladly only taken 15 lbs - I was so focused on studying and school that I neglected exercise, I went through a depression, I was in denial, etc.), but in the end, I just had to accept it, and make the positive changes in my life that I needed to in order to be at a healthy weight again. Once I realized that it was time for me to start taking care of myself again, everything else became clear.

I've begun Weight Watchers again (how I lost the weight the first time around until I stopped following the program!), and I'm extremely motivated and excited for this new journey. I'm moving forward and I'm not looking back. Of course having my family's support is a huge bonus, as they've been living very healthily now for quite some time. This is not a diet - diets deprive you, then end, and inevitably welcome old habits again. This is a complete lifestyle change. I'm teaching myself portion control again, and it feels great to be aware and in control of what I'm eating.

A perfect example of this is that last night we had salmon steaks for dinner. So, I looked up the points for the salmon steak, and it's 9 points for a 6 oz steak. I weighed the salmon, and it ended up being 12 oz! I'd been eating 18 points worth of salmon for years without even realizing it! So I hesitantly cut it in half, hoping I wouldn't be hungry after and resort to eating the whole thing anyway. To my pleasant surprise, it ended up being exactly the amount I needed to feel satisfied. So often do we just mindlessly put food on our plate and eat all of it because it's there (at least that's what I used to do). When you actually take the time to see what you're putting into your body, it makes a huge difference, and you realize you didn't really need all that food after all.

I've also started going to the gym again with my parents. I'm pretty lucky because I can go with them for free since they have guest privileges, but for those of you who don't have that benefit, or who can't afford a gym membership, there are tons of things you can do for free or cheap to fit in a workout at home or in your neighbourhood. There's the obvious: running, biking, swimming (if you have a pool, or you could go to a public pool), not to mention hiking, as I mentioned in an earlier blog post. But there are also lots of workout videos out there that combine cardio, weight training and stretching into a half hour workout. Those are very efficient and effective - not to mention they leave you EXHAUSTED and feeling great! That's what I use when I can't go with my parents when they go to the gym. You could also invest in a pair of free weights, or one of those chin up bars that you put in a doorway, or even a bike - the possibilities are endless! And I think a useful piece of advice for those of you who dread the thought of exercise (don't worry, I hear you), is to choose something that you can have fun with. I hate running, but love biking, so that's what I choose for cardio when I go to the gym. It's also a great idea to find a friend who you can do it with. That way you don't have to do it alone, and you can keep each other motivated on those days you just can't bear the thought of doing a workout.

All of this being said, I never think it's a good idea to deny yourself of things that you want. This will just make you want it more, and won't allow you to enjoy yourself. Of course, you should have discipline, but if you are really craving ice cream, go for it. In my case, if I know I'm going to want something a little higher in points one day, I'll compensate that by having lower-point options throughout the day. You can also make healthier choices of your favorite treats. For example, last night, I was really craving ice cream, but I know frozen yogurt is a better choice. So my brother and I went up to Menchie's and got some delicious froyo for dessert (only 3 points for a 1/2 cup of most of their nonfat flavors!).

I guess my point is that it's important to lead a healthy lifestyle in general, and if you're like me, and you have certain weight goals, you need to learn the importance of discipline and self-control. However, this doesn't mean that you can't enjoy your life at the same time. Set short term, attainable goals for yourself, and work towards those one day at a time, rather than focusing completely on your final goal. Afterall, the decision to lead a healthy lifestyle will in turn make you not only a healthier, more energetic person, but a happier person. Trust me: there's no better feeling than stepping on that scale and seeing that number you've yearned to see for so long. I look forward so much to finally seeing that number. But, in the meantime, I'm going to enjoy the journey!


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