Despite our national propensity to overeat, under-exercise, and grow steadily heavier and more out of shape, we all yearn to be slender, fit, and attractive. Our culture rewards the thin and the beautiful; look at how we devour celebrity gossip, mesmerized by the looks and energy of our current favorites.
Why the discrepancy between our aspirations and our reality? There are a plethora of reasons, most of which can be traced to the simple fact that life gets in the way.
“I’d love to cut back on my food intake,” we think, “But I have to attend all these work functions and have little control over the meals that are served.” “I would really like to get in shape,” we complain, “But there’s no free time and I can’t afford a personal trainer to the movie stars I see.” “I really want to take care of my skin and my body,” we wail, “But I’m so busy that a quick shower and a slap of moisturizer is all I can fit into my schedule.”
It would be so wonderful to have loads of free time: to plan our days; to cook low calorie, healthy meals; to exercise without time constraints; to be able to pamper ourselves without the pressure of deadlines. Unfortunately, our lives are too hectic for that to happen in the foreseeable future. We can throw up our hands in frustration and join the legions of the overweight and the unfit, or we can work out a personal plan that fits within our lifestyle, taking us where we want to go, albeit not quite as quickly or completely as we would prefer.
Your life, your time, the demands and responsibilities you face, vary on an individual basis. You will need to calculate what works for you, and what cannot be realistically accommodated. Here are some ideas to consider:
Eating on the run, at your desk, or on the rubber chicken circuit, wreaks havoc with even the best-laid diet plans. If you weigh even a pound more than you’d like, try to identify where you are going astray.
If the fast food on your way to an appointment is your downfall, look at what you order. Almost all drive-thrus these days offer salads. The problems with those salads can be minimized by throwing away the little bag of croutons (fried) and omitting the packaged dressings (loaded with fat). Carry your own individual container of low-calorie dressing, opt for (unsweetened) iced tea, black coffee, or a diet soda, and avoid those sugar-laden colas like the plagues they are.
If you lunch at your desk, ask yourself what are you eating? If it’s takeout, by all means, have a cheeseburger or a sandwich. Just discard the bread or bun and eat with a plastic knife and fork, cut into raisin-sized pieces that will fill you up fast. French fries and onion rings? You just don’t want to go there.
Is your office always filled with snacks and treats (as most of them seem to be these days)? When the snacks come by, go to the bathroom or, better yet, take a brisk walk around the building to beef up your “won’t” power and clear the vision of goodies from your head.
If business lunches, dinners, or those awful meeting banquets are your obstacles, plan ahead. Lunch is relatively easy: salad (with your own dressing, of course) or fish and cottage cheese are available almost anywhere. For dinner, try two low-calorie appetizers instead of an entrée. Best of all is something that you have to work at – crab legs, unpeeled shrimp, an artichoke (hold the hollandaise) – it will take a lot of time and no one will notice how little you are actually eating.
Banquets are particularly difficult because a plate is plunked in front of you, filled with food you would never order by choice. Cut whatever protein and vegetables there are into little pieces and chew slowly. Spread the rest out over your plate and play with it to delay the onset of a syrupy dessert. Get a cup of black coffee and place it squarely in front of you to thwart that eager-beaver waiter who keeps trying to slide a plate of pie onto your table.
Entertaining in the home creates a different set of problems because usually you know the hostess and want to avoid creating any bad feelings. Fall back on allergies as no one wants to see you break out in hives in the middle of their party. Carry a club soda or mineral water with you and no one will notice that you’re not drinking.
Over a period of time, these little changes can have a significant impact on your weight. If you’re hungry when you get home, make sure that you have some liquid protein or a health shake available to complete your daily nutritional needs.
With the best of intentions, millions of us purchase gym memberships. If we all actually used them on a regular basis, as we promise ourselves we will, there would be waiting for lines spilling into the streets. Health clubs can keep signing up more and more members because they know that the number of regulars will stay about the same as the new enrollees will show up in a burst of initial enthusiasm but within a few short weeks will gradually fade away.
Unless you have a job with very regular hours, something few of us enjoys these days, it’s difficult to commit to going somewhere on a regular basis. We mean to go but then an important meeting comes up, our significant other asks us to do something, or the kids pester us to drive them somewhere.
Our high demand lives almost force us to obtain our exercise at home. Television is replete with home equipment that promises to flatten our abs, define our parts, and re-sculpt our entire bodies. Despite their assurances that the equipment easily folds away, we know our apartments can never accommodate a Bowflex or a Nordic Track. Where do those buyers live? In the suburbs, we suspect, where the expensive equipment is soon relegated to the basement or the garage to gather dust until some future yard sale comes along. Equipment, except for minimal contraptions such as elastic bands and hand weights, is just too much trouble, and setting them up takes too much time.
Slipping exercise into your schedule is most easily handled (and therefore more likely to be regularly repeated) by pursuing activities that can be initiated without any preparation time, special clothes, or long periods free of interruption. The old standbys of pushups, situps, stretches with weights, yoga, and calisthenics has stood the test of time for a reason. They can be inserted into your crowded schedule at odd moments of the day and require no preparation except a short warm-up. Some of the newer programs: callanetics, pilates (some), killer exercises, and video workouts also fit these requirements.
When you unexpectedly find a secret half hour free, take a walk and, if you can, magnify its benefits with an occasional bout of sprinting.
Such a plan may not make you into a Mr. or Ms. Universe but it will keep you limber and semi-fit while avoiding that energy-devouring guilt you develop when you set your sights too high and then fail to follow through.
3. Taking care of yourself.
We have all read the accounts of Cleopatra bathing in asses’ milk to bleach and smooth her skin. But she was a Queen, for heaven’s sake! She didn’t have to get up at the crack of dawn to fight the traffic into the office. She didn’t have to take care of a husband, a house, or a child. You’d have the time to leisurely bathe if it weren’t for cleaning the house, washing the clothes, finishing that report for the office, helping the kids with their homework, cooking dinner, and picking up Aunt Mildred at the airport.
We know we need to take care of ourselves. We want to perform the routines that will stave off the signs of age that wait just around the corner. We would love to take a long daily bath or shower, polish our skin to perfection with a loofah and scrubbing powders, envelop ourselves in skin softeners and lotions, and pamper our face and hair with special cleansers, masques, and skin brighteners.
Again, our lives get in the way. We work out a minimal routine of makeup remover, toner, and moisturizer. We shampoo our hair when we can and occasionally find the time for a special oil treatment or facial. It is hard to be fully motivated when the signs of age are brief and fleeting. When I have more time, we tell ourselves, I’ll work on it. Twenty years later, the wrinkles have set in, the jowls have puffed out, and our skin carries the scars of sun, wind, and gravity. Then we bemoan our lack of care through the years and try to minimize the ravages of time already indelibly imprinted on our looks.
By all means, stick to your rapid daily routine. Sure, you could get up earlier in the morning and have time for more self-care but you’re already, like most working-age Americans, sleep-deprived.
One solution is to identify one period a week when you can steal a couple of hours for yourself. Women, especially, shortchange themselves, too busy taking care of everyone else and ignoring themselves. Stake out your claim to that two-hour window as if your life depended on it. Use it only for you. Use it to take deep treatments for your face or your hair. Use it to practice relaxation, listen to music, or walk in the rain. Use it to pamper every part of your body and spirit. Use it to think about yourself, and your goals, and your dreams. Use it to appreciate yourself and the good things life has brought you. Use it to lay plans for future self-development and use it to become your own best friend and confidant.
Our lives are so filled up with what we have to do that our wants and internal needs are often unmet. In even the busiest and most demanding schedule, there are moments we can carve out for ourselves, but only if we absolutely insist on it. Right now is the time to become assertive about your own self. You too deserve a brief moment in the sun.
Yoga is often praised in the mass media as the new fitness craze promising weight loss and increased strength and flexibility. However, when one sees a yoga practitioner curled up in a seemingly impossible pose, the natural tendency is to think: “Well this person has been practicing for years, how can Yoga help me lose the weight now?”
Through the acclaimed Sun Salutations, that’s how.
What are they?
These exercises are a combination of Yoga Poses, Breathing Exercises, Sun Bathing, and Prayer. They have been practiced for centuries by Yoga Practitioners in India, Martial Artists, and African Wrestlers and as a system to rejuvenate the body and soul are beyond compare. It’s been said in the Drugless Healing circles that one round of the Sun Salutations is much better than a week of exercises at the gym!
They are very simple to learn and just about anyone, regardless of their fitness or flexibility levels can learn these simple exercises. In actuality, if you are familiar with “burpees” (the calisthenics exercise), they do derive their origin from the Sun Salutations.
Here are some of their benefits:
They alleviate disorders of the skin and waist.
- Flexibility increases and breathing is corrected, moreover, they mildly exercise the legs and arms, thus increasing the circulation.
- They are the best way to burn calories and reduce weight and are often recommended for obesity and depression.
- They are an effective way of loosening up, stretching and massaging all joints and internal organs of the body.
- They stimulate and balance all the systems of the body including the endocrine, circulatory, reproductive and digestive system.
1. Stand straight with the palms together as in a prayer position.
2. Inhale and stretch the arms above the head.
3. Exhale and bend forward while touching the toes.
4. Inhale and stretch the right leg away from the body in a big backward step and keep the hands and left foot firmly on the ground. Bending the head backward the left knee should be between the hands.
5. Inhale and hold the breath. Move the left leg from the body and, keeping both feet together and the knees of the floor, rest on the hands (arms straight) and keep the body in a straight line from head to foot.
6. Exhale and lower the body to the floor. In this position, only 8 portions of the body come in contact with the floor: the two feet, two knees, two hands, chest, and forehead.
7. Inhale and bend back as much as possible bending the spine to the maximum.
8. Exhale and lift the body of the floor. Keep the feet and heels on the floor.
9. Inhale and bring the right foot to the level of the hands; left foot and knee should touch the ground. Look up, bending the spine slightly (same position as #4)
10. Exhale and bring the left leg forward. Keep the knees straight and bring the head down to the knees as in the third position.
11. Raise the arms overhead and bend backward inhaling. As in Position 2.
12. Exhale and drop the arms and relax.
You have now completed one round. Perform as many rounds as possible in multiples of 3. Ideally, you want to aim for 6 rounds minimum and up to a maximum of 30. It only takes about 5-10 minutes, depending on your speed and intensity and is best practiced with as little clothing as possible before an open air window first thing in the morning.
You could do a search in Yahoo! Images for “Sun Salutations” to see a visual representation of these powerful exercises and be rest assured that with a sensible diet and a wise combination of this exercises with any other fitness regimen you may choose you are well on your way to attaining natural weight loss, increased strength and overall fitness with the help of yoga.
So don’t get intimidated when you see a seasoned practitioner in a seemingly tough pose. Yoga is for everyone and can help you lose weight.
Many people in America today try all sorts of things in pursuit of healthy, permanent weight loss. Unfortunately, they mainly seem to try fad diets, diet pills, celebrity diets, the grapefruit diet…you name it. In fact, stick an adjective or noun in front of the word “diet”, and you might be the creator of the next diet craze.
While someone might temporarily lose a few pounds with a “diet”, diets are not successful when it comes to permanent weight loss and healthy weight loss.
As they say, I have some good news and some bad news.
The good news is that there is a known and proven way to achieve significant, healthy, permanent weight loss. More good news is that, although some modification to what you presently like to eat will be necessary, extremely drastic changes are seldom required. Oh, yes, you might have to learn to substitute something you don’t like that much right now for something you do like, but, in time, you can get accustomed to this, and even learn to like the new flavors and foods. I know. I’ve been there.
The bad news is that, along with modifications to your eating habits, you are going to have to become more active. Dare I say it….?
You will have to exercise!
The benefit of exercise is an article in itself, and I have written elsewhere about how exercise can take many forms, so there is no need to lock yourself into an unpleasant or painful exercise regimen. What I really want to do here is give a small pitch for the practice of yoga as my exercise program of choice. Remember, however, my exercise program of choice might not be yours. As much as I like yoga, you will have to decide if yoga is right for you.
Before I speak specifically about yoga, let’s just list some of the known benefits of regular exercise in general. Exercise…
- Reduces the risk or effects of many illnesses and conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, arthritis, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis to name a few. Some studies even show possible reductions in the risk of some cancers.
- Elevates mood and reduces depression.
- Helps maintain healthy bones, muscles, joints, and nervous system.
- Delays effects of aging, making seniors more mobile and self-sufficient and less likely to fall prey to injury or illness.
- Reduces risk of premature death (sounds like a big one to me).
- Helps maintain a healthy weight.
Okay, since any good exercise program can provide these benefits, what does yoga have to offer that makes it special?
In addition to providing the basic benefits of exercise in general, yoga does have a few specific things going for it.
Despite the apparently agonizing contortions seen in every yoga book, the benefit is in the attempt to achieve the position. The models in the books arrived at their present level of ability over time, and many a skilled practitioner of yoga today began in the same shape you’re in right now. It is okay to modify a position or to come out of it a little early if your body is not ready yet. The regular practice of your best version of the movement or position (asana), combined with yoga breathing techniques (easily learned) will produce progress over time.
No personal trainer or special equipment is needed, nor is it necessary to go to the gym or even out in public at all. You can do yoga naked if you don’t have a pair of gym shorts, and a carpet is just as good as a yoga mat…at least at first. Yoga is actually so simple that it CAN be learned from a book, although it certainly wouldn’t hurt to get guidance or training from a certified instructor.
Yoga is relaxing and relieves stress. Not only is this of great personal value in today’s world, but if any part of your weight loss problem is stress related, and I can almost guarantee some relationship, the stress relief offered by yoga can ease that portion of your weight loss journey.
In addition to being good for your health for several reasons, simply learning yoga breathing and practicing it regularly can help you burn fat.
As you begin to progress in your ability to better perform yoga poses (asanas) you will notice a sense of control, of mastery of life and self, which will become more evident. This new inner strength will aid you in facing difficulties, including temptations concerning eating and your new eating behaviors. You will also find yourself more forgiving, not only of others, but of yourself as well, and when you slide a little, you will be better able to shrug it off and get back on your path to success.
With more progress in your yoga practice, you will begin to experience new feelings of health, strength, and well-being. These feelings will, in turn, motivate you to take even more control of your life so that you can continue your progress with no desire or temptation to return to the way things used to be.
Nothing is perfect for everyone, but, as you can see, the practice of yoga does have some benefits to offer which may make it valuable in the pursuit of healthy, permanent weight loss.
Does any of the following sound familiar?
You desperately want to lose weight, but you’ve tried so many different diets and failed over the years that you’ve grown discouraged.
Let’s face it, most diets aren’t easy to maintain — they’re designed to get weight off … not for your personal convenience. And once you go off the diet, the weight comes right back, along with a bit more. Thus, you end up worse off than before.
No matter what diet you try – from the cabbage soup diet to the Master Cleanser to low-fat diets such as the Atkins Diet – one of two things usually happens:
• You lose some weight – along with your sanity as life becomes an unbearable drudge of boring food and not enough of it.
• You don’t lose weight because you just cannot stick to that diet.
In either case, you feel bad … discouraged … maybe even like a failure. But, take heart, losing weight is possible. In fact, here are five simple yet sound tips that when followed could easily enable you to lose five pounds, or more, a week!
Cut the Carbs!
Cutting down on your carbohydrate intake, particularly white carbs (that is, carbs from white bread, potatoes, etc.) and instead of eating more high-quality lean proteins (such as chicken and fish) is a great way to drop a few pounds quickly. But don’t cut carbs completely! You should still eat fibrous carbs, such as berries, spinach, and apples.
Stop Eating Processed Foods!
Instead eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Often, people who are used to eating a lot of junk food will discover they can actually a higher quantity of delicious fruits, vegetables, and whole grains without gaining any weight.
Cut Down on Your Sugar Intake!
In particular, watch how many sodas or juice drinks you consume. The sugar in these beverages can add up quickly and these drinks aren’t filling. You should also watch out for “fat-free” products. Sugar is often used to replace the flavor that is lost when the fat is removed. You will also want to be careful about how much sugar you add to coffee and tea.
Drink More Water!
Water naturally helps to suppress your appetite and drinking at least 8 glasses of water a day will help you lose weight and burn fat. On the other hand, if you don’t drink enough water every day, your body may store water and fat that you don’t need. To determine how much water you should drink: multiply your bodyweight by .66 to get the required number of ounces per day.
Exercise More Often!
The healthiest way to lose weight is to exercise. Someone who increases the amount they exercise, but maintains the same diet and calorie intake, will almost certainly lose weight. Plus, excessive sweating from cardio activity, such as running, walking and using aerobic gym equipment, will help you de-bloat and lose inches and pounds quickly.