I have a confession to make -- I love the original Beverly Hills 90210. When I say love, I mean LOVE. Luke Perry (a.k.a. Dylan) is still one of my favorite actors. (I like him so much I listened to his interview on a sports podcast called the B.S. Report. It is a little bit pathetic considering that none of the sport references meant anything to me, but it is the truth nonetheless.)
My love of 90210 may seem like an odd introduction in a fitness blog, but stay with me, it is relevant. It meant I read the issue of Health magazine with Jennie Garth on the cover.
I don't usually read Health. I tend to gravitate more towards niche fitness magazines such as Runners World or Triathlete, but I made an exception for Jennie. (View her entire interview here.)
I was underwhelmed. One article in particular frustrated me enough to inspire this blog. In big bold type on the cover of the magazine is the statement, "Lose 12 pounds this month. Fast! Safe! For good!" Since these types of grand weight loss promises are ubiquitous within health and fitness magazines, the statement probably should not have surprised or annoyed me. Most of the time I just roll my eyes and move on, but I think my love of 90210 gave this issue of Health a greater significance. I sat up and took notice.
Losing 12 pounds per month is not a safe and realistic goal for everyone. The closer you are to your ideal weight, the harder it will be for you to lose three pounds per week. A heavier male may easily lose three pounds per week, but a smaller woman will have a hard time loosing three pounds per week. This is especially true if she has already lost a considerable amount of weight, or has always been a healthy weight.
Statements like "lose 12 pounds this month! Fast! Effectively and safely" imply that everyone can, and should lose 12 pounds this month. News flash -- it is not healthy for everyone to lose 12 pounds of weight. Obviously, I strongly believe everyone should exercise, but exercise should not be synonymous with weight loss. Lots of people should exercise without the intention of losing weight. Some people are thin and weak. What they need is to gain muscle. Others may have already lost weight. To lose another 12 pounds might be unhealthy.
Generalized weight loss goals are not useful! The amount of weight one needs to lose has to be understood as relative to where you start.
Statements that imply that losing 12 pounds per month is realistic set many people up for failure -- they don't facilitate long-term dedication to health and wellness. If you initiate your health quest with unrealistic expectations, these unachievable goals will make it impossible for you to succeed. When you don't reach your goals, a negative domino effect can occur. You just revert to the unhealthy habits you were trying to move away from.
To lose 12 pounds in a month means losing three pounds per week, which is a lot. For long-term, sustainable weight loss I usually recommend my clients aim to lose between half a pound and two pounds per week.
My biggest piece of advice to anyone who is aiming to get healthier is to set yourself up for success by abandoning unrealistic goals. Miracle diets may be enticing, but they don't work in the long-term. Establishing healthier habits is a marathon not a sprint.
Take the time to set yourself up for success by:
1. Establishing realistic, specific and measurable goals. Determine what your healthy weight would be based on your height, age, gender and fitness history.
2. Focus on becoming stronger and more fit, not just weighing less.
3. Establish a support network: get an exercise buddy, tell your friends and family about your goals and/ or join fitness related social groups.
4. Outline a detailed plan of action: write your goals down and keep track of your progress.
5. Establish a positive internal dialogue. If you do have setbacks don't feel guilty and beat yourself up. Learn from your mistakes and move forward!
Lastly, remember that the faster the number on the scale decreases, the more likely the weight you lose is muscle or water, not fat. It is challenging and time consuming to lose 12 pounds of fat. Twelve pounds of muscle and water is easier to lose, but will not change your body shape as drastically. All weight loss is not created equal. In addition, when you lose muscle your metabolism decreases which makes it more likely that when you put the weight back on you will replace the lost muscle with fat, which simply makes it harder to lose weight in the future.
1. Care about fat loss, not just the weight on the scale!
2. Losing 12 pounds per month breaks down to losing three pounds per week. That is a lot. Make sure you have 12 pounds to lose before attempting to lose that amount of weight. Remember the amount of weight one needs to lose, and the amount of weight one can lose has to be understood as relative to where you start. Factors that will influence how much weight you can and should lose are your age, gender, your metabolism and your past weight loss history.
3. Take the time to set yourself up for success!
Rather than nursing a drink sitting down, belly up to the bar, or grab dinner at a high table with bar stools. <a href="http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20534367_4,00.html" target="_hplink">Leaning against a high stool</a> is a step up from sitting, but can be more comfy than standing all night, <em>Health</em> magazine reported.
This old-timey favorite is fun for kids and adults alike, and can burn 100 calories in just 30 minutes. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/machineisorganic/6740536715/" target="_hplink">Machine is Organic</a></em>
You don't have to be Michael Phelps to get a water workout. Even some leisurely splashing around can shave off 200 calories, and it's a great way to stay cool in the heat, too! <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/joeshlabotnik/311692139/" target="_hplink">Joe Shlabotnik</a></em>
Instead of just lounging on the sand working on your tan, get up and move around if you're at the beach this weekend. Bonus: Digging in the sand can be a surprisingly <a href="http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/great-summer-workouts?page=3" target="_hplink">good workout for abs and obliques</a>. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/donhomer/7200149722/" target="_hplink">Michael Bentley</a></em>
Let the music move you when you're out on Saturday night. A little boogying can burn 150 calories in just 30 minutes.
You're not chained to that park bench! If you're already enjoying the outdoors, why not throw around a Frisbee or a football, pass a volleyball or kick a soccer ball? It doesn't have to be strenuous -- you don't even have to be any good! -- but it will get you up and moving. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/perspective/458811240/" target="_hplink">Elvert Barnes</a></em>
If you've got a date night planned this weekend, skip dinner and a movie in favor of something that gets you off your rears. It doesn't have to be a trip to the gym or a jog -- it can be anything active you like doing together. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/78428166@N00/7283892652/" target="_hplink">Tobyotter</a></em>
Many local parks, rivers and lakes have row boats, canoes or kayaks available for rent. No matter your vessel of choice, it's a fun, seasonal way to burn some serious calories. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/inner-eye-photo/6849944748/" target="_hplink">Josh Hawley</a></em>
During the busy week, you sometimes might just let your pet out in the backyard to dig up his own trouble. This weekend, spend a little extra time moving with him. Play fetch, give him that much-needed belly rub or take him on an extra-long walk. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/footloosiety/4255290603/" target="_hplink">footloosiety</a></em>
If you've made plans to meet a friend for coffee, take your catch up session to-go instead and gab on a walk. Even strolling at a snail's pace will burn 85 calories in 30 minutes!
Put down the drink for some foosball or pool if you're at a bar this weekend that offers it. Thirty minutes of pool can shave off 85 calories, not to mention you may save yourself a few if your hands aren't wrapped tightly around that pint glass. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/15216811@N06/5842783313/" target="_hplink">Nicola since 1972</a></em>
Head for the hills! Depending on where you live, a hike can be a weekend expedition or a quick afternoon adventure. It's a change of scenery and a great way to spend some time outdoors. If you're feeling sporty enough to tackle some hills, you can burn almost 250 calories in just 30 minutes. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikebaird/4104101152/" target="_hplink">mikebaird</a></em>
If you typically find yourself hailing a taxi on the weekends, try hoofing it instead. If your destination is too far to make it on foot, try public transportation -- and leave the seat for someone else. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/tmab2003/3180940701/" target="_hplink">TMAB2003</a></em>
If you have plans to barbecue this weekend, break out the lawn games to get you out of your seat. Try <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/27/lawn-games-calorie-counts-memorial-day-_n_1546462.html" target="_hplink">croquet</a> or badminton, which can burn more than 150 calories in 30 minutes. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/jessabc/5835828281/" target="_hplink">Jessa B.C.</a></em>
Those people who do their exercise walking around the mall are onto something. Whether or not you plan to buy anything, browsing around your favorite shopping center gets you moving -- especially if you decide to wiggle in and out of a few things in the dressing room. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/jimmyharris/2774384836/" target="_hplink">jimmyharris</a></em>
Spend some time strolling through the halls and galleries of your favorite museum. You'll give your brain a workout while you're at it!
Pick your favorite nearby joint and walk to pick up your meal.
Sure, it might take a little longer than sitting through the drive-thru, but you get the pleasure of working those muscles a little bit.
Instead of sitting at a restaurant waiting to be served, why not whip something up at home? You'll be on your feet slicing, chopping, mixing and more, not to mention cleaning up after yourself. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/janicecullivan/4262146921/" target="_hplink">mamaloco</a></em>
A number of <a href="http://www.lsuagcenter.com/en/lawn_garden/home_gardening/vegetables/Variety+Of+Vegetables+Can+Be+Planted+In+Late+Summer.htm" target="_hplink">fall veggies</a> are ready for planting now. Spending an hour digging, crouching, weeding and planting in your garden <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/24/memorial-day-chores-calories_n_1543691.html#slide=1018494" target="_hplink">can burn more than 300 calories</a>. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/7682623@N02/7343305940/" target="_hplink">auntjojo</a></em>
You don't have be imitate the Tour de France! Even the most casual rides can burn 200 calories an hour. Don't own a bike? Many cities now have <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/money/economy/2011-05-08-bike-sharing-programs_n.htm" target="_hplink">bike share programs</a> that allow you to take a short spin for a small fee, and some parks have bikes available for rent, too. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/chinny_chin_chin00/6137088467/" target="_hplink">machernucha</a></em>
Go old-school, and grab a group of friends to head to the nearest <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/30/make-fitness-fun_n_1465840.html#slide=921050" target="_hplink">laser tag</a> arena. You'll run, jump, squat, crawl -- all in the name of fun and (healthy) competition. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/shawnzlea/324447996/" target="_hplink">shawnzrossi</a></em>
With the increase in <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/03/sports/the-sport-of-bouldering-climbs-in-popularity.html?pagewanted=all" target="_hplink">popularity of bouldering</a>, you no longer need a load of gear (and experience!) to reap the fitness benefits of rock climbing. Try it out at a local gym -- you'll burn calories and seriously work those arm muscles. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/toolmantim/6728078909/" target="_hplink">toolmantim</a></em>
It's not just for dads in bowling shirts! Grab a pair of nerdy-chic shoes and aim straight. You may even wiggle a little arm workout out of it! <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/junklab/68904368/" target="_hplink">junklab</a></em>
Dreaming of a couch-potato weekend? Turn that screen time into something more productive by challenging a roommate, spouse or kid to a Wii Fit boxing or tennis match. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/sashawolff/3190273060/" target="_hplink">SashaW</a></em>
Follow Kathleen Trotter on Twitter: www.twitter.com/KTrotterFitness