Sunday, June 16, 2013

Fighting The Boomer Bulge

I was called by Barbara Phillips, a writer who is interested in health and wellness, and asked to contribute a chapter to her book, A Balanced You for Baby Boomers
Taking on the challenge, I wrote the following piece, called "Fighting the Boomer Bulge."  As we approach the summer, with barbecues, picnics, and such, as well as just about any other time of the year when weight is an issue, the information here may provide some help and guidance for many of you.

Are you in that group of folks in which your belt size is approaching your age? Gaining weight in early middle age is common, and results in that Boomer Bulge that allows you to fit in with your cohorts. Do you really want to lose it, and regain your svelte youthful profile? Remember four words: Eat Less, Exercise More.

There are all kinds of diets out there, limiting or emphasizing this or that food, nutrient, origin or color. But if you really want to lose weight, all that really counts are calories. Many studies have supported the principle that a calorie deficit diet, eating less calories than you require, is the first step towards losing weight. The trouble with going onto some kind of diet, like high protein, carb loading, liquid supplement, or pre-packaged foods, is that by going on, you presume you will come off. And that is the fallacy. You don’t want to go onto a diet; you want to change your approach to food.

Limit your portion size, eat a variety of foods. Meat, chicken, fish ... all good! Fruits, vegetables, grain ... fine! A little wine, a little caffeine, a little chocolate, why not? The key, if there has to be a key, is to eat appropriately sized portions to what your needs are, and to keep you diet varied. Have a colorful plate with a variety of food hues and textures. Use the protein as a condiment, patterning the meal after the Asian model. Big portions of brown and boring foods are out; an exciting small plate of tastes and variety is in.

Ultimately, that you limit your calorie consumption is the goal, how you accomplish that goal is up to you. Do you really enjoy a low carb diet? Fine, incorporate that into your daily regimen, keeping the other principles intact. If you need a little guidance, there are organizations, such as Weight Watchers, which can help you understand portion size and the values of different foods; or you can use any of a number of online resources, many of which are free. Whichever path you take to eat less, you can accomplish the goal of incrementally reducing your calorie intake. By doing so, in a consistent and conscientious manner, you can take those first steps toward the goal of a healthy weight.

Speaking of steps, the second half of the equation was to “Exercise More.” That’s really not a dirty word, you can exercise. You have to want to. If you want to join a gym, go there every day for a few hours, and develop those “six pack abs,” go to it. It’s not for most of us but if you enjoy it, who am I to stop you? No, here I go by the principle of “slow and steady wins the race.” Remember the hare and the tortoise? Who won? Just start doing something every day. If you are really out of shape, ten or fifteen minutes of walking may be all that you can do. Just do it. Do it every day. You eat every day, you need to move every day. Sure, it would be great to do an hour on the treadmill every day, but let’s be realistic. Start slow and build. If ten minutes is your limit this week, maybe you can do eleven or twelve next week. Stay motivated, work your way up slowly, and stay interested. You will do what you can do, and what you want to do.

So how do you do it? You can walk, you can jog, you can run. You can use a treadmill, an elliptical machine, a stepping machine, a rowing machine, or a stationary bike. You can ride a real bike, on or off road. You can go to a gym, or have a gym at home. You can use a video game exercise program, or you can pop in an exercise DVD or even an old VHS tape. More than how you do it, it is that you do it. If you don’t exercise, the effect of a calorie restriction is blunted by the body shutting down, trying to conserve energy in the face of a perceived shortfall of calories. You’ve got to push the system to burn calories, and burning calories helps you lose weight.

Let’s get serious for a minute. Obesity is epidemic in this country, and is responsible for illness and death when it could have been prevented. Do you want to enjoy retirement? Do you have children, and hope to see them grow up? Do you look forward to grandchildren? Do you just want to be able to reap what you have sown? Carrying those extra pounds makes you tired, and can make diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, and more worse and worse. So start now, today. You did not gain the weight in a short time, you won’t lose it quickly either. But start, take the task to heart, and you can succeed. And that success can reward you far beyond your expectations.

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