In the last couple of weeks, at least three people (ranging from acquaintances to friends) have shared their frustrations with me about still “being fat” despite strictness of diets and/or hours of cardio and resistance-based workouts, wearing Fitbits, parking further away, taking the stairs, etc.
I too would be frustrated if I was that diligent with my nutrition and exercise and didn’t see a difference. But (no pun intended) what I know that they do not is that there’s no one-size-fits-all formula to successful reduction of body fat. Further, there’s more to it in many cases than just restricting and/or burning more calories. One must factor in emotional stress, sleep-deprivation, physical stress, illnesses, food allergies (that you may not be aware of), thyroid malfunctions, etc. etc. etc.
A more important concept to me is that our society on the whole needs to look at fat differently. The World, and especially America, considers FAT unattractive. However, a huge majority of our population is visually fat and many have successful careers, happy marriages, are physically active, and live long lives despite their physical condition so what does that tell us?
Fat in foods is still widely misunderstood by most people – if avocado and peanut butter is okay, what’s wrong with butter and cheese? Sugar is still not really acknowledged as being one of the largest culprits in epidemic obesity, yet it is. Carbs are considered evil, yet I challenge you to get through a workout without them.
Internally, there are obese people who do not have high blood pressure or diabetes. Conversely there are “skinny” people who have dangerously high cholesterol or digestive issues that cause them to not absorb essential vitamins and minerals from their nutrition.
So in answer to everyone who has ever lamented why am I still fat I say look at your life as a whole entity, one in which every nuance plays a part in your physical health and body composition. There are so many negative “life” aspects that can affect your body:
- High stress levels at work
- Emotional stress at home
- Illnesses, injuries, digestive or auto-immune disorders, cancer
- Lack of sleep
- Eating too fast
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Not drinking enough water
- Over-exercising (yes that’s a thing)
- Not exercising enough or effectively
- Eating out too much
- Yo-yo dieting
- Worries about money
and the list goes on! Take stock of what’s going on in your life that might truly be sabotaging your efforts to be healthy inside and out. Then try to improve as many of these aspects as you can, or at least improve your perspective.
What ultimately should be your focus is: (1) are you able to do what you want physically (strength and endurance)? and (2) are you surrounded by people who love you and find you beautiful from the inside out? If the answer to both is yes, then who gives a hoot about the fat?! If they’re no, then work on fixing that (i.e., focus on building strength and endurance, not fat loss, and surround yourself with more appreciative and quality people).
In the end you’ll either successfully reduce your fat levels because your life isn’t fighting you on that goal, or at least you’ll realize that you’re healthy and happy so who cares about the rest.
Breathing, something we do automatically thousands of times each day. Even if we try to hold our breath, our brain takes over after just a few seconds and forces us to breathe. It’s so automatic that we take it for granted, But breathing is not just our body’s built-in function for staying alive, it’s also a tool that you can manipulate for the benefit of your body and brain.
Yoga and meditation fans already understand that breathing is imperative to a successful stretching of muscles or relaxing of the mind, but there’s even more to it than that. Breath control can beneficially regulate your blood pressure, heart rate, metabolism, and your body’s negative reaction to emotional stress. Specific breathing technics can also help control the brain’s release (or cessation) of chemicals and hormones that affect your organs and central nervous system. How’s that for something we ignore all day long?
Here’s the key, you must become more aware of your breathing. The easiest way to do this is by studying your breathing habits and keeping a mental or written diary. Over the course of the next few days, take note of your breathing many times throughout the day and especially during specific situations – like when exercising, arguing, driving in traffic, working, dealing with your children, watching TV, and even when eating. Pay attention to the speed you breath, the depth or shallowness of your breaths, and whether it’s from your nose or mouth.
A lot can be learned from these days of study about how you handle stress and how your body is being affected by what you’re focusing on (or more likely fretting over). Set an hourly alarm on your watch or smart phone if you need help remembering to pay attention to your breathing.
Once you see where/when the most detrimental affects are occurring (i.e., rise in blood pressure or heart rate, stress headaches, tension throughout the body, etc.) the next time you find yourself in that situation(s) try this:
Stop what you’re doing
Close your eyes
Take 10 very slow, deep breaths.
The best technique for this is to breathe in through the nose to a count of 7, hold for 3, and then exhale through the mouth to a count of 10. It might take a little training to become comfortable with this count-and-breathe method, but it’s so worth it. If you want blatant proof of the positive affects of this, place your right fingers upon your left wrist (finding the pulse point) and feel it slow down as you breathe).
I cannot stress enough how important breathing is – and for reasons you might have never realized. Go ahead, take a moment and see for yourself. Breathe in, breathe out, repeat.