"That is one of the great secrets of life, that life is a movement. And if you are stuck somewhere you lose contact with life." -- Osho
Movement is life. To remain in one place and to expect change is the definition of insanity. Just the concepts of diet and exercise is enough to cause stress for some people. So are your choices insanity or stress? Of course not! This internal battle can lead to a slew of excuses to not take care of one's health (see my first article Fitting in Health: An Introduction): "There is too much work to do." "No one has it worse than I do." "My boss hates me and if she finds out I'm taking off time from work..." "I am not fit enough to be in the gym and everyone will stare at me..." To name a few that I have heard. Stress can also lead to a negative quality of life including: poor eating habits, facets of dis-ease, early effects of aging, decreased sexual desires, anger, and depression, to name a small handful.
Any pressure put upon yourself causes stress. When you think of diet and exercise as destination(s) and not parts of the journey, then the "end all be all" mentality kicks in which creates stress. To beat yourself up when you skip a day, don't push hard enough, don't feel that same feeling you feel every time, can create stress. Trying to be someone you are not, to fit into the mold of what the media projects, to look like The Situation or J-Lo, creates this constant struggle of self-doubt and loss of identity. These are mind-based, the ego taking control of you. When you are at the gym or studio, focus on yourself, not the person next to you to compare and contrast (in yoga, this is called "watch-asana"). To be healthy, fit, flexible, thinner, stronger, balanced, is a positive self-growth, not an internal hell. Stress is wanting everything to happen all at once, but that is not how any type of growth occurs, unless you have a magical bean.
Let's begin with the ability of tuning into yourself and listening to your body. What is it telling you? Are there aches? Inflammations? Strange internal sounds? Are you doing anything about it? Would you "give it some time"? Numb the pain with drugs? Would you continue your routine or would you do something about it by targeting the source? The reason I bring this up is that many people exercise, diet, and try to stay fit by being on a strict schedule. The mind takes over, the ego feeds on the success of the goal, and the body -- the very same one that you are trying to better in some way - is ignored. Listen to your body, not your mind, then injuries and undetected pains can be healed, plus any sort of tension could be avoided.
Don't rely on crash diets. These are pre-set rules, and are not directly designed to your personal needs and goals, body type and conditions. They also slow down the metabolism because of the few calories you are consuming, making you hungrier, causing you to eat more, and thus ultimately to returning to your path of re-gaining the weight you tried so hard to lose. Also, crash diets are boring. In a nutshell, they do more harm than good. This can lead to stress. Diet-only programs will lead to a considerable amount of loss of muscle mass as well as that fat - you must also exercise! The easy way out is not the easy way out, but an easy way in to more stressful problems.
Now you may be wondering how in the world is it possible to lose weight and not be stressed about weight? You may be thinking that your weight is causing muscle imbalances, pains, hindered breathing, poor sex life, low self-image, anger issues, and the feeling that everybody is staring at you. Some or all of this may be true and there may be many other side-effects. Reading this article proves that you already have a want, and that want is to find some kind of help. Each goal has many little steps towards it, and this is one of the first steps: acknowledgment. Honor yourself for acknowledging, for being in this moment, and take a deep breath. Always remember to breathe. Stress is caused by thoughts, which lead to emotions, which create more thoughts, building on the stress which develop more thoughts, et cetera -- this is the downward spiral. Breathe, breathe deeply, acknowledge and respect every moment on your journey, understand that the future - your goals - has not happened, but before you realize, you will be there and beyond, ever-reaching, always improving...
Here are twenty easy concepts to consider in your stress-free path to health:
1. Set realistic goals and intentions. You will not be on the cover of Men's or Women's Health tomorrow, but perhaps some day.
2. Health, physical health, is in waist and smile-size, not in numbers.
3. Don't be afraid to try it all, not just one type of exercise or routine.
4. Get a trainer or a teacher to help you along your path. You didn't enter school with knowledge, you were taught. If you don't know, get guidance from a professional.
5. Meditate. This is the process of no-thought, to reach peace. By just focusing on an object, an objective, a mantra, or your breath, space is created between your thoughts, stress is decreased, and a deep understanding may occur.
6. Don't get suckered into those as-seen-on-tv gimmicks which shrink your wallet and not your waist, which fill up space in your living room and negativity in your mind.
7. Eat. Yes! If you don't, your body will start feeding on itself, you will become weak, and you will resort to quick fillers like bread and sugar. Food is energy. Think of your body like a car: good fuel = smooth ride. Cheap fuel = you're calling for help.
8. Respect your food and where it comes from. Food comes from animals and the land, not from stores and restaurants. Acknowledge it's source. Even thank it.
9. Eat slowly. Set down the food or utensils between bites. Chew fully, eat mindfully. Enjoy your time eating. Let your body digest. Relax, there's no rush. Also, sit while eating (but not while working!).
10. Being at peace is acceptance of the now. Stress is not being present. When you exercise, flow in yoga, meditate, et cetera, be in the moment. Respect yourself in the moment. Also, distraction of any kind may cause injuries of many kinds.
11. If you are considered overweight or obese, burn 500 calories a day for a minimum of 5 days a week or 2,500 calories to 3500 calories or 500 every day, to lose 1-2 pounds weekly (depending on your metabolism you may lose up to 3 pounds).
12. Resist weighing yourself every day. It causes frustration and stress and you will likely give up. Think long-term, and don't base your progress on daily ups and downs (just like investing in stocks).
13. Is the weekend your weakness? Going to a luncheon and need to impress the boss? Take control of your choices now to prevent feelings of guilt later. (but see #18).
14. Energy/calories in < energy/calories out = weight loss. Easy math.
15. Relax. Breathe through whatever stresses you. Everything will be okay. Stress causes sickness, and sickness cause stress. Breathe. What ever problems you have now are temporary. If it's long term, then respect it, own it, but don't be it.
16. Listen to your body, not your mind.
17. Keep a food journal. In a book or online, make it fun!
18. Want a cookie? Have one. Want to splurge on a meal? Okay! Don't stress about it!
19. There are a gazillion articles online about what to eat: when, why, how, and what is best for you. Many based on truths, many on theories. Ugh. See a professional.
20. America is the fattest country. Our portion sizes are huge. Take that into consideration. You ate a bowl of salad and are confused why you are not losing weight? How big was the salad? What was in the salad? What kind of dressing?
Bonus: Hungry before bed? Drink water! It will curb your appetite, let your system relax when it's supposed to, in bed, and you will be that much hungrier for the most important meal of the day: breakfast (to break the fast of the night.)
Remember to take it one step at a time. Begin now. Have fun; even if you don't, then vent, cry, scream! Allow yourself to feel, and then conquer this great challenge. Inhale. Exhale. Enjoy living, healthy. If you would like to add your thoughts, please feel free to comment below! And don't forget to share the health!
Stay tuned for my next article, 'Fitting in Health: Breathing 101!'