Monday, February 8, 2010

To Weigh or Not To Weigh

Should you weigh yourself every day? Good question! We used to teach restraint with the bathroom scale. We thought that it was better to weigh only once a week so that you could see your progress over time and not be fixated on the slight fluctuations that happen in normal weight management. Well, data from the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) show otherwise. People who are successful losing weight and maintaining weight loss, weigh themselves daily. The logic is that if (or when) you gain a couple of pounds, you will correct for that gain with more activity or decreased food intake. This is an important skill to master in weight loss and maintenance.

Energy balance is maintained when energy intake is equal to energy output. But this equation is not easy to achieve, in fact, it probably is never achieved on any one day. The best that research has been able to show is within 50 to 100 calories of input or output. So there is never a day when we burn 2000 calories and eat 2000 calories. Maybe we burn 2014 calories and we eat 2115 calories. And the next day we burn 2354 calories (we exercised that day) and we eat 2274 calories. And that's how it goes. We need a tool to be able to measure the effect that this has on our body. The scale is such a tool. Whether you hate it or not, it can keep you honest about what you are really doing.

My recommendation to my weight loss clients now is to start with weekly weights until about five pounds are lost. Then it's time to weight daily. I know how much work goes into losing weight and I want my clients to be successful and not regain lost weight. The key with monitoring weight is to weigh on the same scale at the same time of day, wearing the same clothing (it is best to wear no clothing or minimal clothing). Write it down in your journal (because writing everything down increases your chances of success) and move on. At the end of the week go back and look at your weights and write a summary of your progress. It may go something like this:

Started the week at 155.6 pounds. Weight went down to 154.3 by midweek. Ate Chinese food for dinner at the end of the week and noticed that weight went up to 155.1 pounds. Probably holding extra water from all the salt in the restaurant meal
the night before. Finished the week at 154.7. Lost almost one pound this week.
Now, weighing daily is not good for people who struggle with eating disorders. If you are aware of disordered eating patterns, you will require both diet and psychological/behavioral therapy and you will have recommendations made by eating disorder specialists. The rest of us need to stop hating the scale. When we hate the scale, we hate ourselves. It's just a number that helps us measure progress toward our goal. We expect to see drastic changes in a short amount of time, but research again shows us that those who are most successful with maintaining weight loss, lose weight very slowly, 1/4 to 1/2 pound a week. So when the scale tells you that you've lost 0.4 pounds in one week, feel confident that slow and steady wins the race!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Value of a Training Buddy

My friend Linda hates to run. Linda and I train together. She told me this during one of our training sessions. I tolerate running, but can't say I love it either. I can manage one or two miles of interval running (preferring only one mile), but have never run long distances or entered any races. We train with another friend, Tim, who is a veteran runner. A while ago I decided that to continue to improve in physical fitness and to meet weight loss and management goals that people should continually challenge themselves. You have to do what you hate. So I made Linda run. She complained, but she did it. I wanted to quit too, but I did it also. We kept each other going. Tim kept challenging us and encouraged us to enter a 5K. We set the goal to run in the Jingle Bell Run in early December. We trained for a couple of months and we did it! It was a lot of fun! Our finishing times were not that great, but that wasn't our goal. While out shopping for new running shoes a while back, Linda expressed an interest in completing a 10K. OK, we can do that! We told Tim. Tim runs in a race almost every weekend during running season. Again Tim challenged us. How about running the Boilermaker 15K in Utica, NY in July? A 15K is a little more than we wanted to do, but I thought that we could do it (Linda was pulled along in this decision). We have plenty of time to train. Linda tolerates running now and is going out on her own. I think she even misses it when she can't get out for a run.

That's where Linda and I are right now. We're trying to get as much mileage under our feet as possible this winter. We spend two days training inside on the treadmill and as many days outside as we can considering the Rochester winters. Running long distances on the treadmill is agony. We'll run two miles and practice speed intervals on the treadmill. Linda hates this and doesn't see the point. Her 15 year old son tells her to stop complaining and to just do it. And she does. My goal is for us to complete the Boilermaker in 90 minutes. Ten minute miles seem easy for shorter distances, but we're running 9.3 miles. This is uncharted waters for us. Linda and I are now running five miles in an hour. This is beginning to seem easier to both of us.

Today, I met Linda in the bitter cold to go running. Sidewalks were not cleared and we had to run in the busy streets from time to time. We weren't sure how far we wanted to go today, but we both felt good during the run, despite not quite getting warm. We ran five miles, including a nice hill at the end of the run. Linda kept a good pace and we were both thrilled to be honked at by a gentleman driving by at the end of our run. Linda's goal now is to run six miles in an hour. That's a pretty good goal for someone who doesn't like running. I think Linda does like running now, she just doesn't love it! Hmmm...that sounds like another challenge.

Research shows us that when we engage in diet and exercise goals with other people our chances of success are greater. It's also important to set goals. Starting with small goals makes the challenge seem less difficult. But it's important to set new goals along the way, continually challenging ourselves. Humans are social and the camaraderie and encouragement that we receive from others can be tremendous. Conversely, others who do not share our goals can tear us down. Seek out those who will support you in your goals. I feel lucky to have Linda and Tim and the other friends who will be running and training with us! I'm really looking forward to putting many miles under my feet with good friends next to me!