Friday, April 27, 2012

Building The Active Runner Dad: Greg.1 -- Part 2 The Long & The Short

I have been working toward Building A Better Greg for several years now, and I have revised my approach many times over the last few years.  According to one of my early Blog entries, In 2009, I weighed 316 when I went to the Doctor in January.  In 2010, I weighed 282 when I went to the Doctor on Jan 6th.  Currently, I am at 268, which may not seem like a lot of progress for someone running around 20 miles a week and going to the gym 4 to 5 days a week. Especially, when you compare this weight loss to the amazing results that you see all over the Internet these days.  I'll admit sometimes when I see dramatic before and after pictures from people, who dropped 40 pounds in 10 weeks, jealousy tends to crop up a bit.  But, I remind myself that slow nature of my results is not do to a lack of effort on my part.  Instead, it is the result of a conscious choice to take the long approach to weight loss and a healthy lifestyle.
I saw this on the web and think it illustrates
 my idea of the long approach really well. 
The long approach to weight loss is not easier, nor do I say it is always superior to a shorter intensive approach with drastic lifestyle changes all at once.  Obviously, what works for one person, may not work for another.  But, this approach has been working for me, and I think it is a pretty sound way of getting results.  I have come to believe in incremental lifestyle changes that work toward building a healthier, stronger, and more active version yourself.  Rather than attempting to make wholesale dramatic lifestyle changes all at once.  Gradually making small changes, which build upon on another until achieving a healthier lifestyle seems lie a more sustainable and logical approach to me.  For example, rather than suddenly trying to get up every morning at 5am, go to the gym and workout for and hour, do yoga, and take up a restrictive diet all at the same time, my idea is pick one of these changes and do it until it becomes routine -- then ad in another element.  Let's say you begin by going to the gym five days a week and working out for an hour, and it takes six months before it is no longer a struggle and is just part of your routine.  Then, you begin to work on changing your sleep habits to get up early for morning workouts and a better sleep schedule, which may take another three months.  As these major lifestyle changes begin to build up other smaller changes might also begin to work there way into your life, things like watching less TV, evening walks, eating less takeout, and breakfasts at home.

This long approach is not an excuse to go easy or get complacent.  It takes a lot of dedication, honest sustained effort, and the drive to keep moving towards your goal over long periods of time without giving up or backsliding.  Naturally, this approach is a less scale conscious approach.  I could write for hours about how much I hate to see people obsess over numbers on the scale when they are trying to lose weight.  Yes, those numbers are important and seeing results on the scale is important, but the scale is the lease effective way to measure the progress of your health.  The scales do little more than offer frustrations and false hopes to people.  Personally, I weigh in sporadically at best, and mainly do it as a means of confirming something that I already know.  If my jeans are more loose than normal and running times are beginning to improve, I'll go to the scales for confirmation that I am losing weight.  Conversely, if I feel like I am not progressing and need to change my routine, I'll go to the scales to see if my progress has stagnated or reversed. 

The scales don't have the answer.
The major benefit to this approach is that the changes in your lifestyle are more permanent and sustainable.  Personally, when I began working out, I was motivated to got to the gym, but I wasn't motivated to give up junk food, or to go to bed at 10:30 and get up at 4:30am.  Those things changed over time when I was ready to commit to them fully, but I am pretty sure that had I attempted to make all those changes at once, I would have gotten frustrated and given up within six months.  Let's face it, I didn't get to being a 330 pound inactive, junk food addict, in six months, a year, or even two.  I got there incrementally over the course of years.  Bad habits built upon each other until I reached that point.  It is folly to think that most people can turn on a dime, completely change there lifestyle, and sustain those changes all at once.  Some people can, but these people are the exception -- not the rule in my opinion.  Most often your body will begin to actively work against your efforts because it will see a sudden dramatic changes as a sign that something has gone wrong and you are in danger dying.  It will slow you metabolism and send hunger signal to your brain in an attempt to stop this sudden weight loss.  Yet, time and time again we see people try these dramatic life changes often encouraged by the diet and health industry with promises of quick results with little effort.  Most often, they succeed for a short while then flame out.  Only to get more discouraged and upset.  We all know that there is a lot of money to be made by the promise of quick results and little effort.  Not many people have patience these days, so these weight loss plans with celebrity spokespersons and dramatic testimonials have a wide appeal.  But personally, I am in favor of an approach that requires tons of hard work, willpower to change, and results that may be slow but are long lasting.  So, my suggestion to people who are striving for those dramatic before and after shots is to think about what you really want.  Do you want some fleeting attention or a long lasting life change.  If a life change is your goal, why not take it slow and let healthy habits build upon each other?  Your body will resist these changes less and your results are much my likely to last your lifetime. 

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