One of the weirdest lessons in life is how things have to be the opposite of the result you seek to achieve in order to realize you have to change it. For example, most people won’t necessarily realize it’s time to change their diets and hit the gym until they gain a noticeable amount of weight and start experiencing health issues. Or we often won’t eat properly until we are diagnosed with some measurable health deficiency or dietary issue caused by eating too much junk food or making bad health choices.
I think it was Albert Einstein who said, “If you don’t understand it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” There’s a depth of truth in this that applies to all persons, regardless of their goals. Here’s the simple truth: you shouldn’t wait until you fall out of shape or gain weight to start “getting into shape” or exercising. You shouldn’t wait until your blood sugars run rampant or your health falters before you change your diet and eat better. And live better.
That’s an important aspect as well. It’s not all about diet and exercise (although they are two of the most important factors and the focus of this post). You have to be well within your own existence. You have to be able to wake up in the morning WANTING to face the day instead of dreading the next 8 hours that may be coming. Trust me, when I say that this is not always an easy aspect.
But let’s focus on the two first factors, diet and exercise. I once read that the only way to get in shape is to show how out of shape you are. What I interpret this to mean is, there’s nothing impressive about the 250-pound muscle jock benching huge amounts of weight and screaming with every rep. Sure, he no doubt worked to get to the state he’s in, but what’s more impressive is the brave soul who steps onto the treadmill and sweats within a minute and has to struggle to speed walk for five minutes. Then they come back the next day. And the next. And the next. And before you know it, this person is losing weight and becoming stronger, faster and better. That’s how change is made. By showing up and doing it!
Your diet is the next big aspect. It has to be specific to what you’re trying to accomplish. The athlete training for a heavy weight boxing match won’t have the same diet as someone trying to slim down and lose weight. And most people seem to be confused about what diets can work and what specific foods can do for you and/or against you.
Let’s discuss carbs for a moment. Carbs are a Type 1 Diabetic’s biggest nemesis. Why? Because carbs are the reason we need to take insulin. The more carbs we ingest during a meal, the larger the dose of insulin that’s required. That’s an over-simplification, but carbs are meant to provide energy for the body. This is true for all people, Diabetic or not. So it’s usually not advisable or healthy (unless instructed by your health practitioner) to try and be completely carb-free. Carbs get broken down into glucose or stored as fat.
Carbs get stored as fat when we take in more calories than we require or burn within the day, and get stored in all those lovely areas we hate to look at when we hop in the shower. That’s why many professional athletes will “carb load”, because they know they’ll need the energy and it will all get used up, as opposed to being stored as fat.
The lesson here is that in order to lose weight and get into shape, you need to combine exercise AND diet. There’s no getting around this. You have to fire up your metabolism to help you along, and there’s no magic pill that will accomplish this. You just need to get off the couch and do it. You can’t diet but sit around like a lump and expect t lose weight. You can’t exercise like a pro athlete then go out and eat the entire value menu at your local fast-food restaurant and expect to stay healthy. You have to combine both aspects.
You want to avoid refined carbohydrates and sugars such as pastries, white breads and pastas as well as sweetened drinks and sodas. Base the amount of carbs you ingest on your level of exercise. If you are just starting, then keep your carb intake on the lower side in order to prevent increasing those fat stores. Eat plenty of fiber and lean protein to help with muscle repair and development and the continuance of “friendly” bacteria in the digestion. Lean protein means meat options that are low in fat and provide the healthiest totality, such as skinless chicken or fish (sorry vegetarians, cutting out meat does NOT help you lose weight). And last but not least, don’t make any major changes to your lifestyle without consulting your health practitioner and/or professional trainer.
All pebbles seem small until you have one stuck in your shoe. I forget who said that, but it’s true. Getting into shape and reaching your health goals always seem like a HUGE challenge… until it’s not. Then you get to maintain that health instead of trying to fight for it, and you can look back on the days you wished you were in the shape you are now. But you have to start. One step, that’s all it takes. Then once you get moving, you’ll be amazed at how difficult it is to stop! ☯