For most people, (with an exception to the few ‘genetically blessed’) exercise must become a part of your everyday lifestyle if you desire to loose (or maintain) weight. I think one of the biggest ‘mis-understandings’ when it comes to exercising for weight loss is that you must do ENDLESS amounts of cardio to burn off as many calories as possible! I know this to be true, because I too once thought cardio (for at least an hour a day) was the only way to trim down and stay slim! Well…I’ll just say it now…I WAS SO WRONG!!!
Now, don’t get me wrong, doing cardio is an important element of weight loss, and it does have it’s benefits! However, it’s strength training that will help you not only loose weight, but will help you get the results that really LAST! I think the benefits of weight training (especially in women) are poorly understood, and are therefore greatly neglected.
It seems like everyone starts out their weight loss journey doing strictly cardio exercises. Which is a great place to start, and certainly better than no start at all! So, let’s start by discussing a few of the benefits of doing cardiovascular exercise, (which is any type of activity that gets your heart rate up.)
First and foremost, cardio gets your blood pumping through your arteries at a higher pace than normal, so it essentially prevents the ‘plaque’ (that leads to heart problems) from settling in your arteries, (aka helps keep your heart healthy!) Cardio also requires energy from your body, which means it requires calories, (aka it burns calories!)
Cardio usually works well at helping people ‘take off’ excess weight, but what usually ends up happening is people continue to do cardio (and maybe even become ‘cardio queens’ like I was) but eventually STOP loosing weight, and hit a plateau. This generally leads people to wonder what they are doing wrong…and so they do the next ‘logical’ thing which is cutting more calories. What people don’t realize is this combination is actually doing more harm than good!
You see, once your body ‘looses’ a certain amount of body fat, it will come to a HAULT in order to preserve homeostasis (aka a ‘comfy’ place for it to stay at). In addition, once you have burned off a certain amount of body fat with cardio, your body will start to burn muscle in addition to fat. So, in order to prevent a weight loss plateau, and burning off muscle, you will need to incorporate strength training into your routine!
Now lets discuss the benefits of strength training! First and foremost, strength training will build your muscles mass, which will in turn build your strength (hello…I can carry all 500 bags of my grocery’s inside no problem! ;)) Which is important if you would like to keep you body strong, and prevent injuries down the road! Weight training also prevents osteoporosis, (which is a common problem for many women as they age), by building your bone density!
Building muscle also has the added bonus of appearing more ‘toned’ and strong! Also, women don’t have the testosterone to ‘bulk up’ like men do, so it’s not hormonally possible for a woman to get bulky muscles like a man can! I have much more I could say on this… but I would be going on far too long, so I encourage you to study it out for yourself if your still not sure!
Last but not least, here is the greatest part of weight training of all (if you ask me!) Muscle mass is ‘metabolically active tissue’ which means it uses energy to ‘survive’ in a sense, (which means it needs calories to be maintained). This means with every pound of muscle you build, you are burning more calories when you are just sitting around! With cardio, you do burn calories while exercising, and you have a slightly higher ‘caloric burn’ a few hours after you are done. However, with lifting weights, you will burn calories during your workout, and will continue to do so after you have stopped exercising for the day.
Now lets talk about how what your eating affects this whole equation!! When you are on a ‘diet’ or cutting calories, you will most likely lose muscle mass along with any fat you lose. This may cause your metabolism to slow down somewhat and you may find the pounds not coming off as fast as you would like (or plateau all together.) However by building your muscle, you are more likely to keep burning calories long term, with out a plateau effect!
As you continue to build up your endurance and can lift heavier weights you will continue to add more lean muscle mass, which in turn will burn more calories during the day. Another important thing about dieting is you also want to make sure you are eating ENOUGH calories to support your new muscle growth.
You need to be careful to start slowly and not move too fast when you start lifting weights. Lifting too much weight too fast can do more harm then good (remember, our bodies like homeostasis, and any drastic changes will cause your body to freak out and go into plateau mode!!!) :) Ok i’m being dramatic…But I would recommend seeking out advice from someone who is knowledgeable and experienced in weight lifting to help you out when you first start.
Now after RAVING about how awesome weight training is…I must add that weight training should not replace your cardio program, because as I discussed, there are many benefits in doing cardiovascular exercise as well. So, if you want the best results try mixing the two together. This should give you the positive benefits of both types of exercise!
If you have already ‘discovered’ the many benefits of adding weight training to your personal fitness routine, I’d love to hear about it!
I know this post doesn’t have much to do with fitness or nutrition…But I have realized one thing about both of these topics. Our society always seems to try to motivate people to ‘eating right’ and ‘get fit’ in order to look better. I admit, I do feel better about how I look when I eat right and exercise, but when it really comes down to it, those two things have nothing to do with being beautiful!
Regardless of your weight, height, age, or overall appearance, has anyone ever told you that you were WONDERFULLY made!? Well…You were! The Bible says in Psalm 139:14 that you were both “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made!” Now I understand that the Bible is not exactly the ‘common’ or even ‘popular’ standard used to measure beauty…But I have found through my own personal experience that it is the ONLY way. Why do I say this!? Because I have looked to people in the past- men, other women, even myself- to define and affirm my beauty, and it it didn’t matter what kind of validation I received, I was always disappointed. In fact, when I looked to others (or the mirror) to tell me I was beautiful, it was then that I found myself reaping feelings of doubt, loss of self esteem, and seeds of insecurity.
However, when I chose to look to God for my validation, He provided me with constant fulfilling and lasting affirmation. If you open the Bible, you will see verse after verse of telling us how He CHOSE US, how He LOVES US, and He tells us that He has GOOD PLANS for us! It isn’t until we understand how valuable we are to God, that our life begins to radiates true BEAUTY, (because we will start to reflect Him!) Don’t believe me!? Take a moment to think about a woman who shines and radiates Love… A woman who is full of Joy and Peace…That woman may never appear on the cover of a magazine, but one thing is sure, even without seeing her picture, she us undeniably, stunningly beautiful.
I heard a song on the radio by Johnny Diaz recently, titled A More Beautiful You. It really spoke to my heart. I find that the Lord often brings the words of this song back to my mind when I start to have moments of doubt or insecurity…And it always reminds me, that I need to remember what HE says about me (in His Word)..and that He created me wonderful and unique, and the same goes for YOU!
I’m starting a new ‘addition’ to my site called the“Daily Dish”! The Daily Dish will consist of photos and recipes of foods that I ate that day. I will be doing this about once a week to give people a general idea of what I eat on a typical day for meals, snacks, and dessert in order to provide inspiration for ‘real life’ healthy eating! I also hope to show that it can be easy, fun, and delicious to eat healthy on a daily basis! You will see that “eating healthy” doesn’t have to mean eating lettuce for every meal, or eating ‘like a bird or rabbit’ for that matter!
I read this post today on a fitness/health site (www.thatsfit.com) and I thought WOW…I wish more women knew/understood this truth about having six pack abs! Basically, in order to have a ‘six pack’ you need to shed the fat that covers them, (you could have a 12 pack and it be covered with fat and they would never show through!) In order for a woman’s abs to show (in relation to a man’s version of a six pack), she must get down to exceptionally low body fat, (which when too low is not healthy in a woman). Now I’m not necessarily saying having a ‘six pack’ as a woman is ‘right’ OR ‘wrong’ and i’m sure there are cases when women are perfectly healthy (body fat wise) and have RIPPED abs…But I do think there are way too many mis-conceptions about abs out there, especially when it comes to women having them! :) So I thought i’d pass this along…and I’d love to know other people’s thoughts on this!! :)
Six-Pack Abs for Women: A Good Idea?
by James S. Fell Apr 23rd 2010
Earlier this week I wrote about the male six-pack and how difficult (and possibly unrealistic) it is to achieve for most men. Well, for women it’s even harder, and not as coveted, and not even all that healthy. And to make the whole thing even less attractive, ladies, if you want six-pack abs, then you can probably say goodbye to your breasts. Please don’t do that. Seriously, on behalf of literally hundreds of millions of men, don’t.
The fact is that women are designed to carry more body fat than men. It’s actually healthier for women to have higher levels of body fat. A 2000 article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition determined that a healthy body fat range for men under 40 years old was between eight and 19 percent, but that for women in the same age group it was in a higher range: from 21 to 33 percent.
To achieve abdominal definition, you are looking at getting down towards single digits of body fat percentage, which is considered to be way below the healthy fat range for a woman.
What’s more, it’s probably going to be even harder for you to do this than it will be for a man. Men have an increased ability to build muscle tissue, which allows more of their calories to be partitioned towards building lean body mass. Even more important is that women are specifically designed to retain more body fat, so your own body is going to fight you harder at losing it. Your body wants to keep fat reserves even more than a man’s body does. Evolution programmed you to be this way.
There is also the fact that abdominal definition on a woman can look kind of creepy.
I’m just one guy, and I don’t know if you care about my opinion, but I can tell you that I don’t like it when women get too lean. I like curves. I like some softness over the muscle. And as I mentioned, achieving abdominal definition makes breasts go away.
This is why so many female fitness models with rippling abs get breast implants. You can’t make your body lose fat only on your midsection, so you’ll end up sacrificing breast tissue as well.
My point is that you shouldn’t let the media dictate to you what is attractive or healthy. Just because some magazine has a ripped and implanted young model on the cover doesn’t mean it’s a realistic or even healthy ideal for you to pursue.
When it comes to fat loss, you can definitely get too much of a good thing.
James S. Fell is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and a middle-aged family man with a desk job and not much free time, yet he’s able to keep in shape because he loves exercise and doesn’t mind eating healthy. He is the author of Body for Wife: The Family Guy’s Guide to Getting in Shape. His column for That’s Fit.ca focuses on weightlifting, running and exercise motivation.
What to Eat…What Not to Eat…That is the Question!
I think one of the ‘easiest’ traps to fall into when desiring to loose weight is to start putting foods into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ categories. I know there was a point in my life when I would not eat certain foods, (or even entire food groups) because I heard something about how they make you gain weight… (Example: I stopped eating popcorn because I heard it was bad…now I think really?!? It is a perfectly healthy source of whole grain, and a yummy healthy snack as long as it isn’t smothered in butter!)
There are so many ‘rules’ out there for eating, and we’ve all heard them…Don’t eat past 7 pm, don’t eat carbs after lunch, don’t eat carbs in general, don’t mix certain food groups at meals…I’ve EVEN heard don’t eat fruit because it has too much sugar! (Now this just proves these ‘rules’ are silly, who has ever became fat from eating fruit!?!)
Unfortunately, I think so many people, (especially young girls/women) fall prey to these rules and restrictions and before they know it, (whether realizing it or not) end up developing an ‘unhealthy’ relationship with food. I know this to be true because of my own personal past.
My Personal Journey With Placing Rules on Food
It all began my sophomore year of high school (before I knew anything about nutrition, fitness, etc.) when I started working at a bagel shop, and I got to eat as many bagels as I wanted. I found myself eating bagels for breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner without a second thought (up until that point I pretty much ate whatever I wanted)….and so the weight gain began.(Note: I was never heavy, just uncomfortable with how I looked/felt.)
In addition, it just so happened that my ‘gym’ class at school was no longer required, so I stopped doing any and all physical activity. After a few weeks of working at the bagel shop I remember wondering why my jeans were getting tighter with each passing day, and feeling horrible about myself, (not to mention, totally out of control of what was happening to my body!)
This ‘out of control’ feeling led me to search for anything that I could do to feel ‘in control’ again. I remember one of the first things I heard was that bread makes you fat…and so the ‘rules’ began…NO BREAD, then I heard carbohydrates in general were bad…and so I decided…NO CARBS! (To think I cut out an entire food group out of my diet…ah!!! As you can see I have the personality of doing something ALL THE WAY or not at all.)
And so the rules and restrictions of diets continued… until I started noticing there were contradictions in many of these theories, which led me to start to study ‘scientific based’ articles on how the body works, how it uses food to work efficiently, and how exercise effects what and how we need to eat. (I also signed up for an ‘optional’ aerobics class which was where I first learned that exercise can be fun!) And so, the weight started coming off!
Lost the weight…But Not the ‘Sluggish Metabolism’ and Restriction Mindset
Despite my weight loss however, I started to realize that after all that ‘dieting’ I couldn’t simply eat what I wanted anymore without gaining the weight back! The problem was (I clearly see now) that I was that I had harmed my metabolism through diets, AND I was only doing ‘aerobic’ style exercise, and therefore had very little muscle mass. I didn’t realize it then, but I was lacking the ‘metabolism torching’ power of muscle in my body! I began doing more research on exercise, and started to come across many articles on the many benefits of weight training as a woman (which will be one of my next posts!)
So, I started to weight train, and before I knew it, I started to feel hungry all of the time! (Perfectly natural I now know, considering your body is trying to build new muscle, which takes energy~aka calories). Which led me to part II of unhealthy eating… Restricting calories while weight training!!! I was doing all kinds of new exercise, while trying to stay on a ‘low calorie’ to stay ‘skinny’ despite my body begging for the energy it so desperately wanted and needed to build new muscle! It didn’t take me long to learn that this was not healthy when I was feeling fatigued, stressed, and tired all of the time!
Time For a New Mindset!
Everything finally started to change when I finally started to pray (you think I would of done this sooner… Nope, we sometimes have to learn the hard way first!) I came to the Lord and asked Him to help me, and show me what to I needed to treat my body right. I wanted to glorify Him with this amazing body that He gave me to take care of!
And so the pursuit of true ‘BALANCED’ healthy living began about a little over a year ago for me. I am in no way perfect now, and I know I will be forever learning (and even continue to read scientific based research on the way the body works). However, the one thing that made all of the difference was giving it all to the Lord…and letting Him teach me how to take care of my body. (After all, He created it!)
When I finally got off the ‘control’ wagon and gave Him control was when I saw the most dramatic and beautiful changes in my weight, health, and life in general! (I no longer restrict foods, go hungry, or feel stressed about my body or ‘following rules’…How freeing!)
So…How Do You Know What to Eat to Lose/Maintain Weight For Life!?
One of the most marvelous things that the Lord has been teaching me about eating is how to listen to my body. This is an on-going process like I said, but I pray every day that He would help me listen to what my body needs, (i.e.: does it need a rest day, does it need more carbohydrates, am I satisfied and ‘done’ eating even when I still have food on my plate?)
In addition to listening to my own body, I have been praying that the Lord would lead me to information, products, and knowledge on how to treat my body the best that I can! And ohhh my He is a good teacher when we listen! :) I learn so much everyday and it’s amazing how my body has ‘thanked’ me for treating it right!
One of the things I began to research that really changed my mindset on food is how to eat when you are truly hungry, and listening to what your body needs to properly fuel it. (Now how much better does that sound than dieting, counting, and restricting!?) I started eating based on my body’s own hunger signals…Who would of ever guessed that our bodies ‘true hunger signals’ were the best source of knowing what we needed all along!
I don’t think this ‘intuitive eating’ mindset can happen overnight, especially if you are like me and have to combat many years of eating according to plans, calories, and food groups (although with the Lord all things are possible!) However, I think it’s a revolutionary way to start to fuel our bodies with what they actually need, and I know I will be asking the Lord to add this to the on-going ‘renewal’ of my mind when it comes to food, eating, and life!
Don’t Know Where to Start?!
Do you eat when you’re truly hungry? Here are a few tips to help you start eating intuitively:
I love birthday celebrations with my family. Unfortunately though, (and i’m sure many people can relate) birthdays and holidays are really the only time my family and I sit down to eat a meal together these days. Now, granted, we are all married and moved out (except for my younger sister Emily…Lucky man whoever that will be ;)) and we all work and have busy schedules…But I sure wish we would get together around the table more often, because when we do it is always a blast! :)