That’s right, I’m writing a fitness article in my photography blog. Why? The nice way to say it, is that we could all benefit from being in shape to chase after our kids and pets while snapping away with our camera. The brutal truth is, we’re a country full of fat (I could say “over weight,” but fat is so much easier to type) people. Some of us are a little fat, and some are more, but most all of us could stand to lose some weight. I’m not an advocate for skinny people, but none of us need to be carrying around an extra 30 to 100 or more pounds. It’s not my intent to offend, so if I have not yet upset you, read on and give me a few more opportunities. I’m writing this because I was 50 pounds over-weight 2 years ago and decided I want to be around for my grand-kids. Don’t worry, it doesn’t take 2 years to lose 50 pounds. That’s just where/when I started. I lost 30 pounds in the first 3 months while eating everything I wanted to eat. Instead of gaining the weight right back, like you do on any diet, I continued to lose another 20 pounds over the next 4 to 5 months (still eating everything I wanted). Then my body hit 175 to 180 (a normal weight for a 6′ 1″ male), and stayed there.
According to the CDC, more than one third of U.S. adults are obese (still more letters than “fat,” but that’s what the CDC calls it). Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death. The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. was $147 billion in 2008 U.S. dollars; the medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight. That’s a lot of dough!
So, how do you know if you’re fat? Ask your spouse…not really, it’s in their best interest to lie. It’s determined by your Body Mass Index, or BMI for short. You can go here to find yours. If your BMI is 25 to 29, you’re chubby. Over 30, it’s official…you’re fat.
There might be a number of reasons that we gain weight. There’s the official ones…a “thyroid problem”, or “my family has big bones.” The thyroid thing might be true for maybe 1/10th of a percent of the population, but if you’re like me, the truth is, we have horrible eating habits and don’t get nearly enough exercise. Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be about getting you on a diet. Food deprivation never works. You might lose a few pounds like that, but then you binge (from being deprived) and gain it all right back…then you quit. This also is not about joining a gym and and trying to find an hour a day, seven days a week to lift weights and join a spin class.
Some of you might be thinking, “Well, Grey Darrah, where did you study fitness and nutrition? Why should I listen to you?” Here are my qualifications…I’m not a doctor, physical therapist, nutritionist, or even a professional trainer, but I have a brain. That’s really all that’s required to know that if you eat too much and exercise too little, you’re going to gain weight. The solution is just as simple as the problem. I’m about to sum up (in 4 words) every book ever written about dieting and exercise…hundreds of books…thousands of pages and thousands of dollars. I’m going to eliminate the need for every piece of exercise equipment you’ve seen advertised and forever rid you the need of a gym membership. No pills, no drugs, no diets. Ready? Here it goes…
EAT LESS, RUN MORE
I know it sounds simple, but that’s really all you need to do to lose weight (all that you want to lose), stay healthy, and enjoy food.
First, let’s talk about the eating part. So you know that I’m not a diet nut, here are some of the things I eat on a regular basis:
- Ice Cream (with heavy whipping cream poured over it)
- Red Meat (burgers, steaks)
- Fried Chicken
- Fried Fish
- French Fries
- Blueberry Muffins
I could go on and on, but basically, I eat anything I want. That doesn’t mean this is all I eat, but I enjoy plenty. I confess to having changed some of my eating habits. I’ve cut back on the amount of sugar I consume. Notice I didn’t say I cut out sugar…I just cut back. What does that mean? First, I pay attention to what I drink. I got rid of most sugary drinks, including sodas, fruit juices and coffee sweeteners. It’s amazing how much sugar we consume in liquid form. Now I drink a lot of water. Not as exciting, but the fact is, there’s nothing you can drink that’s better for you. I’ve also reduced my portions a little. Instead of a giant bowl of ice cream, I dish out a little less. Instead of eating a candy bar, I eat a few Hershey kisses, or a granola bar, or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Both peanut butter and jelly have way less sugar than other sweets, but taste good and satisfy your sweet tooth. I also eat a lot of fruit. It taste good, it’s good for you, and it does a great job of filling you up. The biggest thing to take away from this, is that you don’t need to give anything up, just have a little less of it.
Now for the running part. Before I get started, notice that I did not say walking. You’ve got to run. Walking is what doctors recommend because we have become so lazy, it’s the most they feel we can be persuaded to do. The problem with walking is that it doesn’t work. Want to question that? Just think about the people you see walking in your neighborhood or near your office. You’ve been seeing the same ones walking month after month and they look exactly the same as they did 6 months ago. It might be better that sitting at home, but it’s such a minimal form of exercise, it’s not going to change your weight situation.
If you’re not a runner, then I’m guessing that the idea of running is not something that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. We’ve all done it before, probably in high school PE, and it most likely brings back unpleasant memories. But the fact is, there is no other form of exercise that minute for minute, burns as many calories as running. It’s also the easiest form of exercise a person can do. Simple is good! Complications make it too easy to quit. Here’s how simple running is…put on running shoes, walk out your front door, run for 15 minutes in any direction you want, turn around and run back home. That’s it. The distance and speed (pace) that you run is irrelevant for now…just put in the time. Run 30 minutes a day, 5 or six days per week (I like to run for 3 days in a row, then take one day off and repeat). You don’t need to drive to a special running trail/track, that’s a complication (which makes it easy to quit). You don’t need a trainer, or special equipment. Walk out the door, run 15 minutes, then run back home. Then eat whatever you want. It can’t get more simple than that! You don’t even need to learn any special running techniques. You know how to run. As Nike says, “Just do it.” Will it be fun? Probably not at first. But as time goes on, the weight falls off (quickly), and you enjoy eating whatever you want to eat, you’ll find yourself liking it more and more. In the beginning, you’re going to be sore. Muscles will ache, your knees hips and feet might hurt some, but it goes away…just keep running. If you need to, run slower, take shorter steps, don’t lift your feet as high (kind of gliding along), do whatever you need to do, but keep running. The pains go away, and so do the pounds. Of course, if you’re experiencing severe pains, go see your doctor (I have to say stuff like that so you can’t pretend to be hurt and sue me).
The truth is, getting started running sucks. In the first 5 or 10 minutes, you can barely breathe and your legs hurt so bad, you’re certain that death is only a few seconds away. But a few minutes later, still alive, you’re halfway finished, you turn around, head home, and already you’re feeling better…Woo Hoo! The first couple of weeks are the hardest, but it gets better everyday and you’ll be amazed at how quickly the extra pounds falls off, even though you’re NOT dieting. This is the biggest reward, although every day when your finish your run, you will feel fantastic! It’s what they call the “runners high.” Unfortunately, you have to suffer through the run to achieve it.
If you really want to find out how much you hate running, jump on the treadmill. It has to be the most boring exercise device every created. It can sound like a good idea…watching TV while running in a climate controlled room. But it’s a trick. The workout is not nearly as effective as running down the road and it’s far too easy to quit. Despite the weather, get outside and enjoy the world. See the trees, the city, your neighborhood, dogs pooping…anything is better than staring at a wall. The only thing a treadmill is good for, is hanging a jacket on the hand rails.
Before you start coming up with some reasons (excuses) as to why you can’t do this, let’s address the most common:
Running is not bad for your knees.
Not only is running not bad for your knees, it actually stimulates cartilage growth, it increases bone density and reduces the incidence of arthritis in the knees. If you want to do your own research, you can start here. The number one cause of knee problems in the United States isn’t running, it’s obesity. Will your knees hurt, maybe, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t run. As your body sheds weight and becomes acclimated to the exercise, it gets better, just don’t quit. In addition to being good for your bones and joints, running is good for lowering cholesterol, increasing lung function, boosting immunity, lowering the risk of certain types of cancer, lowering the risk of a heart attack, losing weight, relieving stress, eliminating depression, and prolonging life.
Before some of you get offended and start emailing me from high atop your soap-box (I don’t read past the first line of those emails anyway), I’m NOT promoting skinnyism. If you’re overweight and love it, then, although I can’t imagine why you’ve read this in the first place, stay that way. We all have the right to be the person we want to be. But, if you’re tired of it…RUN.
So here’s the summary:
If you’re overweight and or in poor physical condition, eat less and run more. Keep it simple. Walk out your front door, run for 15 minutes, turn around and run home. If you’re at a busy place in your life, get up 30 minutes earlier and make it happen. Don’t worry about stretching or warming up (more relevant for longer distances at much faster paces), just walk out the door and run. If you’re sore or tired, don’t stop, don’t walk, just run slower, but get your 30 minutes in. Fire up those saggy butt cheeks and let them push you to feeling better. Don’t wait for New Years or your birthday to get started, walk away from this screen right now, get out the door and run! You’ll feel better, weigh less and be able to eat and enjoy all the things that normally make you feel guilty. Plus…for the girls, there are a ton of really cute outfits!
Before I go, let me give you one last piece of information. I’ve been running for three years now, so I can affirm something that all runners know…the first mile of every single run you do sucks. It hurts the most and makes you constantly question why you’re doing this, as well as consider quitting more seriously with every step. Don’t do it, don’t give in! As your body loosens up and the endorphins start to flow, you feel better. If nothing else, the weight you’re going to lose, combined with the great food you’re going to be able to eat are a great enough reward to suffer for a measly 30 minute a day. I’m telling you this because it’s easier to deal with these negative feelings if you know what to expect.
If you’d like to know a little more about why we runners run, along with some comic relief, check out this site.