Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Lifestyle Changes

Recently a writer acquaintance of mine blogged about dieting. She wanted to lose weight and look good for the summer beach. Truth be told, I loathe the word diet. Oh, we all use it. "I can't have that third slice of cake, I'm on a diet." But what exactly does it mean? To me it sounds temporary. Like something borrowed that has to eventually be returned. "Thanks for the use of the diet, but I'm at the size I want to be, so you can have it back now."

If you are looking to lose weight, become more toned, or feel stronger and more vibrant, you need to consider a lifestyle change. It can be as small as walking a mile every other day or as encompassing as hitting the gym daily while noshing mainly on fruits and veggies. But this will have to continue the remainder of your life. Once you hit your target of, say, 140 pounds, if this is where you want to stay, you can't return to your old ways.

Here's what I mean. I apologize if you've read this story before in one of my other blog posts, but it bears repeating. When I was in my 30's I worked in a retail store. People brought in donuts and cake regularly. Maybe to ease the tedious days of folding shirts and sweaters? Maybe to celebrate a birthday? Whatever the reason, junk food was readily available. My co-workers didn't care for me passing on the invitation to indulge. Once in awhile I'd reach for a donut, but I knew I couldn't have more than one, nor could I eat one everyday. My metabolism was already showing signs of slowing, and I didn't want to encourage it to conk out altogether. The responses I'd get? "It's one donut, it's not gonna hurt you." And "You're skinny. You can stand to eat a couple donuts." Or "Look at you. You can eat what you want."

That was the point. I didn't eat what I wanted to eat. Between that and moving around a lot on the sales floor, I kept my weight steady for years. The truth is, the older you get, the more often you need to change both your diet and your exercise plan. That is, if you don't want to turn to mush by the time you're 70.

Those of you who have been steady readers understand that my main focus is keeping my cholesterol levels down. I could stand to lose a little belly fat (and some around my back), but for the most part I think I'm pretty healthy. But I exercise three times a week for at least an hour each time, and I don't consume much meat, and try to load up on the green stuff. I love my cookies and pastries, so there's my downfall. If I could quit my sugar addiction, I'd be perfect. But that's one lifestyle change I have yet to master.

Dieting is temporary. It's a way to trim the fat until you've hit your ideal weight. But it doesn't last because once you're there it's easy to think, "I did it! Now where's that ice cream sundae award I've been waiting for?" And suddenly you're sitting in the breakroom with a gigantic bag of Fritos in your lap. A lifestyle change? Fritos are replaced by carrot sticks and a couple of saltines. Dieting: "I'm at 135! Perfect! I was getting sick of running on the treadmill." Lifestyle change: "Running on the treadmill is getting lackluster. Maybe this week I'll master the Precor."

See the difference?

Oh, sure, a Frito or eight won't hurt once a week, and skipping the workout because you're not feeling well (or you've pulled a groin muscle) is fine. But being that it's now routine to eat better and get exercise, the break is temporary. Like a diet is temporary. Only better.

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