Let me preface this by saying that I am in no way an expert on health and fitness. I’m just a guy that has been horribly out of shape and until recently was in a state of degrading health without even being aware of it. I am currently overweight, though I am losing weight. And I am currently on an exercise plan to assist in my weight loss. However, I have some experience with dramatic weight loss as in 2002, between January and October, I lost 107 pounds over the course of 40 weeks. And while the techniques I employed during that time still hold well when it comes to losing weight, because of recent discoveries in my health, my current regime of exercise and diet is considerably different than it was then.
If you have read my blog at all in the last year you will have found that within this past year I have discovered that I have not been as healthy as a 35 year old man should be. Because of this discovery, I had to make a series of changes to my lifestyle as it relates to eating. Those changes to my eating style started toward the end of summer 2009 and carried me pretty well through November. Which is when Thanksgiving rolled around. Which is when all hell broke loose in my eating.
The long and short of it is, I allowed myself to fall right back into a habit of eating poorly, which resulted in my health declining again. I gained weight back. I was tired. I was getting headaches. And I realized again, around the beginning of March of this year, that I needed to do something about this before it blew way out of my ability to control it. So I bought the Insanity workout program from Beach Body and purposes to follow it.
As you can guess by reading my most recent blog posts, I have been sticking to the Insanity fitness regime with vigor and resolve. I do everything in the workout as it is laid out, without exception (to the best of my ability, and I don’t count stopping in the middle of workouts as an exception ). Since I am documenting my exercise throughout my blog I wont go into too much of that in this post. No, what I want to talk about right now is diet, and how important it is when you are trying to manage your weight. I say manage your weight because not everyone is interested in losing weight. Some people actually want to gain weight as part of their routine. Some want to maintain their weight, without gaining or losing weight. For me, the focus is weight loss with an emphasis on low sodium and low sugar, so that is what I will be writing about here.
Low sugar and low sodium diets are not for everyone. They are a necessity for me since my blood sugar and blood pressure are high and my doctor recommended lowering my sugar and sodium intake. Because of that I am very away of the amount of both sugar and sodium that I am putting in my body. To that end, I have made sure that I track both sugar and sodium in everything I eat. In fact, I track calories, fat, sodium, sugar, fiber and protein. Let me explain why I do it this way:
At the heart of your weight is caloric intake. Plain and simple, if you take in more calories than you use you will gain weight. Take in less, you will lose weight. Equalize your intake and use of calories, your weight will not change.
Fat is heavy. And it is unhealthy in large amounts. It is hard to digest, sits around a long time in your body and ultimately ends up added weight on your body if you do not turn fat into spent calories. It is important to remember, however, that not all fat is bad fat, and you must consume some amount of fat for your own health. It is also a hunger deterrent, so eating some fat sates your appetite for a while.
Excessive sodium is bad for your heart. Simply put, it raises your blood pressure making your heart work harder at rest. We do need sodium in our systems. But we don’t need a lot of it. The typical 2,000 calorie per day diet allows for 2,400 milligrams of sodium per day. But before you get all happy about that amount, have a look at some of your favorite foods. You’ll be shocked by just how much sodium is in almost everything you eat.
I’m still trying to find a good need for sugar in your system. Seriously, it does offer short bursts of energy to your body and it helps regulate you to some extent. But excessive sugar should be avoided at all costs. Too much sugar in your system can overwhelm your body and cause you to become tired, lethargic and overweight because sugars have a tendency to carry a lot of calories with them. Do your body a favor and minimize your sugars. It’s a lot easier than you might think.
Fiber is a good source of regularity for your system. Yes, it makes you go to the bathroom a lot. It gives you gas. But because of the nature of fiber, how it helps evacuate waste, it also helps evacuate excess fat as well. Higher fiber means more intestinal movement for you, which means less absorption of those elements that you might not want in your body.
Protein is a building block of strong muscles. Stronger muscles can do more work resulting in more calories being burned. When you are exercising you want to eat foods that are high in protein.
There are plenty more reasons why I choose to watch each of these item carefully. But for me, right now, sugars and sodium are the most important to me, so I make sure to check those values before anything else. Then I move on to fiber, then to calories, then to fat and protein. Of course I make sure to keep all of these values as close to appropriate proportions as I can. I like lower calories, but I like lower sugar more. I like high fiber, but I like lower sodium more. And since I am keeping myself to a fairly strict 2,000 calorie diet, I need to make sure I maximize my food intake so I get the best “full” for each and every bite of food I take.
And speaking of calorie limits, I have intentionally set mine at 2,000. I calculated my caloric needs, or Basal Metabolic Rate, according to the Harris-Benedict equation and found that I should be taking in 2,500 calories. I then used that to calculate my caloric needs as per the recommendation in the Insanity meal planning guide and according to it, I need almost 3,700 calories a day. I know myself. And I know that if I consume that many calories, no matter how much I work out, I will get fat. So I had to adjust it to something that I know is more reasonable. Which is something that I recommend you do as well. If you need to lose weight, always make sure your intake is lower than your expense when it comes to calories.
Which is really the topic I want to end on. If you want to lose weight in a safe and healthy way, without medications or pills or surgery, you need two things at a minimum: a great diet plan and a willingness to stick to that plan. Exercise helps out a lot, but to be honest, I lost about 30 pounds toward the end of last year on just diet. So proper diet is the basis for any weight loss you want. But to really ramp up the loss, to get the most out of every day, I’d recommend coupling your diet plan with a healthy exercise plan. Because exercising helps you burn more calories in a day, which means more of the fat on your body being burned up for energy. That is, of course, as long as you don’t overwhelm your body with bad calories or excessive fat.
So if you want to lose weight the first thing I’d recommend you do is look seriously at what you are putting into your body and craft a meal plan that suits your needs. Not according to your taste buds or where you like to eat lunch, but according to what is going to help you live better and longer. Once you have that, look into how you can get your body in motion so that you are actually burning more calories tomorrow than you did today. Because with sensible eating and the right combination of calories and fat mixed with exercise that actually burns calories, your body will have no choice but to lose weight.
I know. I’m living proof of that.