Apr
7
2010

Generosity and Community – LaidOffCamp Phoenix

I went to a truly uplifting event last Saturday called LaidOffCamp Phoenix. Before you ask — No, I haven’t lost my job. I am, however, trying to learn as much as I can about entrepreneurship in case that ever happens… and in case I ever want it to happen.

The LaidOffCamp Phoenix website describes it this way:

“Laid Off Camp Phoenix is an extension of a national effort to help people find work — full-time work, freelance work, volunteer work, or whatever’s next for them. Like other LaidOffCamp events, it is a locally-based, community-supported effort to offer resources and reassurance to job seekers.”

Over 200 people attended LaidOffCamp last weekend. At first, I felt a bit funny going to something called that, but it was a great experience. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting many new people and getting some new ideas. Everybody there was friendly, helpful, and excited about being there. I definitely felt uplifted by the day, even though I was exhausted by the end of it.

Amazingly, the entire thing was free to all participants. The City of Chandler graciously donated facilities. Local businesses donated food and drink. The speakers all spoke for free. Many volunteers kept things running smoothly. Susan Baier coordinated the entire thing and did an awesome job. Many kudos to Susan for a job well done. If you’re on Twitter, search for the #locphx hashtag to see what people are saying about it.

We were treated to a wonderful array of presentations and discussions. There were sessions for job seekers, budding entrepreneurs, and anybody who is wondering what to do next (which is or probably should be most people). I had no trouble finding sessions to attend and had to make some difficult choices between ones happening at the same time.

In addition, several highly qualified people offered their time and energy to help people one on one in a variety of areas, such as with resumes, insurance options, taking photos for avators, and signing up for Twitter and Facebook.

Like many other people, I have dreams of someday being my own boss, of managing my own destiny, and of following my own passions. I feel encouraged by the many examples of other people here doing that, and I am grateful for their willingness to share.

Are you interested in moving out of a corporate job and working for yourself? What are you doing about it? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Robyn

P.S. I realize I have been a total slacker with this blog for the last couple of months. Life has been pretty hectic lately. More about that later.

Jan
31
2010

No, I Don’t Want to Loose Weight!

I see people write this over and over again, “I want to loose weight.” You may think I’m crazy, but I really don’t want to loose weight myself. I want to lose it instead.

Confusing the words loose and lose is a very common mistake. I don’t want to offend anyone, but this has become a pet peeve of mine. The idea of “loose weight” brings horrible images to my mind. I imagine fat getting all lumpy and muscles hanging loose. Not a pretty picture, is it?

The dictionary defines the verb to loose as “to make less tight; slacken or relax.” That’s the last thing you want to do when you want to reduce your weight. I think what we really want to do is to lose weight so we end up with loose clothes.

Often when people cut their calories but don’t work out, they lose muscle as well as fat. Their bodies end up looking very loose and even gaunt. The right kind of exercise can counteract that and make you look firmer and slimmer.

Tighten Up, Not Loosen Up

You should have the three following components in your plan to get to a healthier, fitter you:

  • Cardiovascular exercise, such as jogging or aerobics, is important for burning fat and losing weight. Most people seem to know that.
  • Strength training is also very important, but it seems to be more controversial, especially among women. Strength training builds lean muscle tissue, which is much more active than fat. Muscle burns extra calories even while you sleep. Women don’t have enough of the hormone called testosterone to get bulky (unless they take steroids), so you don’t need to worry about that. Instead, it will give you a tighter, more defined look, especially once you’ve gotten the extra fat off your body. Michelle Obama is a good example.
  • Proper nutrition is the third leg of this stool. As I’ve stated in other articles, you need to eat a well-balanced, calorie-controlled diet, too.

In summary, you need all three of these components–cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and proper nutrition–in the proper amounts to lose fat, get stronger, and improve your health.

So, please watch what you wish for and watch your language. Don’t say you want to “loose weight” when you really want to “lose it.” In fact, you should actually say you want to “lose fat.” You don’t want your weight loss to include muscle loss. In fact, gaining muscle is a good thing. However, realize that you’re probably not going to gain a lot of muscle, so don’t use that as an excuse if the scale doesn’t budge.

What language do you use when talking about this? What do you think about strength training? Please let me know in a comment bleow.

Robyn

Creative Commons License photo by ste3ve

Jan
21
2010

Can Hitting a Weight Plateau Be Good News?

Usually, we think of hitting a weight plateau as getting “stuck” for a while in your weight loss efforts. In this case, however, I’m talking about a plateau in the obesity rate in the United States. Finally, there seems to be some good news. The rate of increases in obesity appears to have leveled off. Unfortunately, the bad news is that 1/3 of Americans are now classified as obese, and another 1/3 are classified as overweight. Those are staggering numbers.

Last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced publication of a study about
trends in obesity among US adults between 1999 and 2008. The study states that the prevalence of obesity was fairly stable from 1960 to 1980, but it showed striking increases in the 1980s and 1990s. This current study indicates that we may have entered another period of relative stability, perhaps with small increases in obesity, although future large changes are still possible.

The study uses a common measure called body mass index (BMI) to classify people as normal weight (BMI 18.5-24.9), overweight (BMI 25-29.9), or obese (BMI 30 or more). BMI is a calculation based on a person’s height and weight.

The obesity rate for women has remained fairly level over the last 10 years. For men, it has been steady for about the last 5 years. Another study showed that the incidence of high-weight children and teens has also stabilized, with one exception. The data showed a still-increasing rate among boys ages 6 to 19 at the very heaviest weight levels.

Even though this is good news for most U.S. adults and children, it doesn’t mean we can relax. The rate needs to go down significantly.

“We’re at the corner with obesity, but we haven’t turned the corner,” said Dr. William Dietz, director of the CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. He said the data may reflect increased awareness of the problems caused by obesity. As a result, people may be adopting healthier habits. On the other hand, he also said, “I don’t think we have in place the kind of policy or environmental changes needed to reverse this epidemic yet.”

As I mentioned in a previous post, like most studies, this one has some limitations. The data was obtained through surveys, which could be subject to errors. However, this analysis is based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which is considered the gold standard for evaluating the obesity problem in the U.S. It is an extensive survey of people whose weight and height are actually measured rather than being self-reported.

For me, I’m willing to be cautiously optimistic based on this information. But there are still a lot of really heavy people out there. I know it’s just a TV show that’s designed for ratings, but if NBC’s Biggest Loser is any indication, this country has a lot of work to do.

What do you think? Is this good news, or not-so-good news? Please leave a comment with your thoughts.

Robyn

Creative Commons License photo credit: Lars Plougmann

Jan
18
2010

Losing 100 Pounds – Finding a New Way of Living

I assume that if you want to lose weight, you want to keep the weight off too. Otherwise, what’s the point of doing all that work? The secret is changing your lifestyle, not just “going on a diet.” I’ll talk about that today.

In the previous post in this series, Learning What Works, I talked about sorting through all the conflicting advice to figure out what works for you. This post discusses the last of the five phases I went through. It’s the phase I still consider myself to be in–a new way of living. As a quick recap, here are the 5 phases I’ve identified:

  1. Gain the weight.
  2. Understand the impacts.
  3. Get on the path to weight loss.
  4. Learn what works in losing weight.
  5. Find a new way of living.

You May Not Want to Lose Weight Quickly

You can find a lot of people selling you ways to “lose weight quickly,” but you’re probably wasting your money. As frustrating as it may seem, the real key to a more permanent weight loss is to lose weight slowly and consistently. Many studies have shown that slower weight loss is more likely to be lasting weight loss. Rapid weight loss often leads to rapid weight gain shortly afterward.

You can’t maintain your loss if you can’t integrate the changes into your normal lifestyle. Both your body and your mind need to get used to a new way of living.

Studies say you should aim to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week, on average. Some weeks may be a little more; some a little less. When I was losing weight, I consistently averaged 1.5 pounds per week. That seemed very reasonable, and I looked forward to getting it off safely but fairly quickly. In hindsight, however, I wonder if that was still too fast, even though it fell within the “recommended rate.” In some ways, I might have been better off losing it even more slowly.

Get It and Forget It?

Getting to your goal weight isn’t the end of the line. Losing weight isn’t a one-time thing. You can’t just assume that once you lose it, you can go back to your old habits and be fine. It doesn’t work that way. It really doesn’t. You have to remain aware of what you’re doing every day.

It’s like decluttering your house. You can go through a big effort and get rid of all the excess junk in your house that has accumulated over time. However, if you’re not careful about stopping clutter from piling up again, you’ll soon find yourself in the same mess. Yo-yo decluttering in your house is bad enough, but yo-yo dieting is much worse. It puts a real strain on your body and makes it harder to lose weight in the future. It can really mess up your metabolism.

Change Your Likes. Change Your Life.

Changing my likes and dislikes is one of the major secrets to my success at losing weight and keeping it off. I didn’t just “go on a diet.” That phrase implies a temporary change that you put up with for a while. To most people, the very notion of a diet conjures up images of deprivation and pain. It’s not fun. No wonder we “go off our diet” so often. Then we wonder why it’s not working.

Instead, work on changing your lifestyle. Develop new likes and dislikes for food and physical activity. That way, you don’t need to think so much about being “on a diet.” For example, I made the following changes in my life:

  • I used to eat snack chips and white bread. Now, I eat fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains instead, because they make me feel better and they’re more satisfying.
  • I used to drink a lot of Coke and Diet Coke. (I hesitate to admit how much I loved Cherry Coke. I would drink one every morning instead of coffee.) Now, I drink water instead of soda because I prefer it. I can’t even touch a Coke now because it tastes awful to me.
  • I used to sit on the couch and watch TV. I couldn’t even walk around the block. Now, I exercise because I love it and I can. I’m even a triathlete and runner.

You definitely need to eat better and exercise more in order to lose weight. However, when I say diet and exercise are important, I really mean improving your nutrition and the amount you eat on a regular basis. I found the following two dictionary definitions of the word “diet” as it relates to food:

  1. what a person or animal usually eats and drinks; daily fare
  2. a special or limited selection of food and drink, chosen or prescribed to promote health or a gain or loss of weight

The second definition of diet is what helps you learn discipline and how to eat a new way. However, it ultimately comes down to changing your diet as defined in the first entry. It just becomes the way you like to eat.

What are you doing to develop a new lifestyle you love? Please let us know by leaving a comment.

Robyn

Creative Commons License photo credit: E. E. Piphanies

Articles in the Series:
Losing 100 Pounds – The 5 Phases
Losing 100 Pounds – Gain It First
Losing 100 Pounds – Waking Up to Weight Gain
Losing 100 Pounds – On the Path to Weight Loss
Losing 100 Pounds – Learning What Works
Losing 100 Pounds – Finding a New Way of Living

Jan
8
2010

Losing 100 Pounds – Learning What Works

Now that the holidays are over, it’s time to get back to my story about how I lost and have kept off 100 pounds. In the previous post in this series, On the Path to Weight Loss, I talked about how I started out my weight loss program. I made some fairly simple changes to begin with. Over time, I added other techniques.

This post discusses the fourth of the five phases I went through. As a quick recap, here are the 5 phases I’ve identified:

  1. Gain the weight.
  2. Understand the impacts.
  3. Get on the path to weight loss.
  4. Learn what works in losing weight.
  5. Find a new way of living.

Conflicting Advice

How do we learn what works? Unfortunately, when it comes to losing weight and getting fit, there must be a million or more suggestions. You need to sort through it and figure out what works for you.

Have you ever thought, “Why can’t the scientists ever make up their minds? Why are there so many diet plans out there? How can I know what will work for me?”

It can be very tough to know. You often see advice on diets, fitness, and health that is completely contradictory. You can read one article that says one thing. Five minutes later, you read another article that says the complete opposite. This is true whether it comes from the popular media or from so-called “diet experts.”

For example, I’ve seen some articles that say what you eat is the most important for weight loss, and exercise doesn’t really matter. Others say exercise is more important. How do you choose between the two? Personally, I believe in a third choice, you need both nutrition and exercise together.

The Harvard School of Public Health has some great tips for cutting through the confusion about various studies reported in the news. In Nutrition Research and Mass Media: An Introduction, they describe how and why researchers often come up with different conclusions when studying a particular issue. The media often makes matters worse by reporting on a single study, usually one that runs counter to current recommendations. Controversy sells, and the media knows it. They give advice to help you decide how important an article is for you. For example, are they reporting on only a single study? How does it fit into the bigger picture of recommendations about the topic?

Weight loss science is very complicated, and researchers discover new information every day. They have looked at questions about how genetics, medications, types of food eaten, blood types, and even viruses can impact your ability to lose weight. I caution you not to get too bogged down in all of this confusing information, especially when you’re just starting out. You’ll make yourself crazy. Keep it simple.

Try Different Things

My best advice is to keep trying different things out until you find what works for you. Just be sure you’re trying out reasonable ideas, not crazy off-the-wall ones. For example, decreasing the amount of sugar you eat is a good idea; eating only cabbage soup is not.

There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of diet plans out there. The same with exercise plans. Each one has probably worked for somebody, and now some self-proclaimed expert thinks they can make money by selling it to you.

It may not matter what the diet plan is. You could pick one of several that would work. In fact, it could work for reasons that have nothing to do with what it claims. Have you seen how many expensive machines, pills, and powders you can buy that promise amazing results with little or no effort? Have you looked at the fine print that says “when combined with a good diet and exercise plan”?

Why don’t you just eat better and exercise more, and save your money for new clothes in a smaller size instead?

Some Common Recommendations

Even though you can find people who will argue about anything, a lot of sources do agree on some common recommendations:

  1. Combine changes in eating habits with exercise. Exercise, including both cardio and strength training, is critical when trying to lose weight. Cardio helps burn calories and improve your blood circulation. Adding muscle raises your metabolism and reduces “jiggle.”
  2. Reduce the number of calories you eat, but not by too much. (see below)
  3. Choose a diet you can live with. Most people who lose weight will gain it back, especially if they lose it by following a diet they can’t live with in the long run. Eventually, they will break down and slip back into old habits. Can you imagine living the rest of your life without any ice cream or chocolate at all? Learn to allow some in moderation, so you don’t go on a binge someday.
  4. Avoid crash diets. The recommended rate of weight loss is 1 to 2 pounds per week. This rate is the most likely to result in sustained weight loss. If you lose more than this, chances are you aren’t making sustainable lifestyle changes. Don’t get too anxious.
  5. Work on your mindset. Thoughts and emotions surrounding food have a huge impact on your weight loss efforts. For example:
    • get support from other people who understand
    • identify “food triggers” and emotional eating situations
    • focus on the positive aspects of improving your health, not on the restrictions and deprivations

Your Calorie Deficit

To lose weight, you should reduce the number of calories you eat and increase the calories you burn. The total is called your “calorie deficit.” If your deficit is 500 calories per day, you should lose approximately 1 pound per week. A pound of body fat equates to 3500 calories. Don’t attempt to lose more than 2 pounds per week (a 1000 calorie-per-day deficit).

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends that you never drop below 1200 calories per day for women or 1800 calories per day for men. In fact, these could be too low based upon how active you are. Therefore, cutting down to 1000 calories per day is probably counter-productive. Reducing calories by 15 to 20% below your daily calorie maintenance needs is a useful starting point. Use these as very general guidelines. You will need to experiment to determine what calorie level works best for you. Also, realize that they will change over time as you lose weight and get stronger.

Determine how many calories you are eating now, by checking your intake on a few typical days. You can get information about the calories in your food from nutrition labels (watch the serving size!) and several websites. You can also get information about calories burned based on the amount and type of exercise you plan to do from websites.

To Summarize

The bottom line is use some common sense. Don’t get caught up in the latest fad, figure out what works for you as an individual, and make a series of small changes in your lifestyle that you can sustain over time. You should do fine.

Please remember that I am not a doctor and not a source for medical advice. Check with your own doctor before starting or changing any diet or exercise plan.

Robyn
Creative Commons License photo credit: alancleaver_2000

Articles in the Series:
Losing 100 Pounds – The 5 Phases
Losing 100 Pounds – Gain It First
Losing 100 Pounds – Waking Up to Weight Gain
Losing 100 Pounds – On the Path to Weight Loss
Losing 100 Pounds – Learning What Works
Losing 100 Pounds – Finding a New Way of Living