Skate FAQs Redux
Date: March 25, 2002
When you've been in fairly good physical shape most of your life, and suddenly you find that you've somehow descended into the depths of blobiness and lack of energy, it's kind of disheartening. The real problem is that it doesn't happen "suddenly". It sneaks up on you, day by day, week by week, inch by inch and pound by blobby pound.
It's somewhat of a vicious cycle: you excercise less --> you eat more, you have less energy --> which leads to even less excercise --> and more eating --> and even less energy, and so on.
The best thing you can do to break the vicious cycle is to replace it with something else -- a virtuous cycle. One that spirals upwards and outwards, not downwards and inwards (i.e., down the toilet). Trying to break out of it cold-turkey might work temporarily but if you have nothing else to go to, you'll end up on the downward spiral again.
As I mentioned last column, I had a sort of awakening from my blobiness-induced stupor -- a bad case of food poisoning and a trip to the hospital. That alone didn't break the vicious cycle -- it only slowed it down dramatically -- but it was a start.
Since my suspicions were that fast food did me in, I resolved from then on to avoid all fast food that had the greasy stuff (so sandwich shops like Subway or Schlotzky's were still okay).
So if you were like me, you did fast food most every day for lunch (and even dinner sometimes). The only way to work around this was to pack a lunch each day. This was a small but good start to reverse the vicious cycle and turning it into a virtuous cycle. Not only was it healthier but cheaper to boot. You figure $5-7 per lunch, 5 days a week, that's $25-35 per week, adding up to around $100 or more per month. After a couple months that adds up to a decent pair of skates!
Anyway, after swearing off fast food, maybe 6 months later, I happened to join a rather well-known, but perhaps misunderstood program called Weight Watchers (http:/www.weightwatchers.com) (WW). Now before you start snickering or rolling your eyes, read on before you pass judgment. I joined WW initially primarily as "moral" support for someone else. But after my initial "oh geez" in the first week, I was no longer doing WW for someone else. I was doing it for me.
First, let me summarize the WW program in a few bullet points:
- Each person has a set range of points for each day, say 22-27 points. Points are based solely on your current weight. The more you weigh, the more points you are assigned. Yes, it's based proportionally on your weight, and not the reverse. The reason for this is covered in the next point.
- You must eat your minimum points for each day. Your body, no matter how blobby or thin, requires a certain amount of energy to function throughout the day. If you starve yourself, you signal to the body to CONSERVE energy, not burn it. This is how your body works, like it or not. It's a survival mechanism for times when you truly are "starving" (lost in the woods, shipwrecked, etc).
- You must not eat more than your maximum points. The other side of the coin is that you cannot eat too much, otherwise all that excess energy has to go somewhere, namely into your fat stores.
- Every single item of food has a point value. WW provides a handy guide of thousands of typical grocery and restaurant items and their associated point values. Even better, there's a handy little slider that can calculate the point value of any food item, given only the calories, fiber and fat content.
- You can bank points from one day to the next, within the same week, since some days you might be hungrier than others.
- You can earn points with exercise.
- Drink lots of water, at least 5-6 8oz servings each day. Most people keep themselves dehydrated without knowing it. If you can't stand water, then coffee, juices or soda will do, although they will cost you some points (water is always 0 points).
- You go to weekly weigh-ins at your local WW center. This keeps you somewhat accountable for your progress. But lose or gain, they will always support you. Some times you have a bad week, sometimes a good week. Don't let it get you down. Every week starts fresh, so do not let your past stumbles affect your future progress! If you fall on your skates, you don't just stay on the ground, right? You get back up and start skating again. Same thing here.
I'm leaving out some of the finer details, but that is the core of the WW program. WW has no gimmicks, no forced purchase of their special food products because you can eat ANYTHING and EVERYTHING on this program. Want to eat McDonald's all the time? No problem. Want ice cream and chips? No problem. Want a steak? No problem. You just have to count the points for anything you eat.
So if you have 2 points to use, you can decided whether a handful of pretzels, 4 slices of whole wheat bread, or a single egg is what you want.
Okay, I'm not trying to be a salesperson for WW, but all I can say is that it simply works. You lose weight gradually (1-2 pounds per week is the recommended rate) and healthily. This doesn't sound like much, but after 12 weeks, you might have lost 12-24 pounds. For me, I started in September and I was down 40 pounds by February.
And remember, when you were putting on 1-2 pounds every few weeks, on the road to blobbiness, it didn't seem like much either right? But it all adds up. So you lose it, the same way you gained it. One pound at a time.
Of course, the hardest part of such an endeavor is sticking with it. Lots of people lose their excess weight. But once they reach their goal weight, somehow their brains say "hey, I made it, I can slack off now". That's what I'm trying to avoid doing myself right now.
Next time, I'll talk about how I'm planning to stay in the groove, both physically and mentally, and how inline skating will help in that regard.
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