Taking it forward
Staying on the nutrition, exercise wagon
Wow, look at our Calgary Herald Health Club Challenge finalists.
Next Thursday we announce the winners of the 12-week challenge (including the At Home challenge winners), but we think you’ll agree that all three of our finalists — Karen, Sharleen and Tracy — are worthy of the title for having made some remarkable transformations to their bodies, minds and spirits.
They look fitter, stronger, healthier and happier, as does Theresa Tayler, the Herald reporter who both followed their progress and participated in the challenge.
We all love a makeover, whether it’s homes, closets or bodies. The seemingly hopeless beginning. The ups, the downs, the swearing and the tears. The drama in the buildup to the big reveal. Ta-da!
But what happens when the contest is over, the cameras turn elsewhere and life goes back to so-called normal? How do you take the changes you’ve made with the help of professionals and stay the course on your own?
We tapped head trainer Stan Peake and registered dietitian Stefanie Copple of INLIV for some pointers on taking it forward.
Keeping nutrition on track
“To keep moving forward with these healthy changes, it is crucial that you do not view these changes as temporary — more commonly referred to as a ‘diet,’ ” writes Copple in an e-mail.
In other worlds, plan on eating healthily — with fewer calories — for life. The hard truth is that, as you lose weight, your metabolic rate decreases.
“Because your body burns fewer calories at a lower weight, it is important to understand that the reduced calorie intake has to be maintained forever to maintain this reduced weight,” she explains.
“Bottom line: if you are not happy with your calorie intake now and feel your diet is overly restrictive, you will eventually return to old habits. It is better to build eating habits that you can continue forever and be happy and maintain a steady weight.”
No foods or beverages are forbidden. Making a favourite food or drink a no-no sets you up to eventually give in and binge-eat it, she warns.
A better strategy is to have one small “joy food” — i.e. cookies, wine or chocolate — a day, or two “joy meals” a week.
The key? Savour every single bite and calorie. If you find you’re not fully tasting the treat, stop eating it!
Other strategies: Planning the week’s meals and snacks ahead is crucial. Stick a dry-erase board on the fridge or in your pantry and write down your weekly menu; use it to develop a shopping list.
Serve a grain, a fruit or vegetable and a protein source at every meal. Never skip meals or go more than four hours without eating. This ensures you get adequate nutrients and that you don’t over-eat, especially at night.
Keeping a food journal will help you decipher the difference between emotional and physical hunger. Record when and what you’re eating and how you’re feeling to track patterns.
At the same time, record everything that made you successful throughout the three-month challenge, says Copple: “Everything on this list is what you need to continue to do until it becomes second nature. For example, if you used a food journal to keep accountable of your intake, continue it.”
She urges people to seek nutrition information from reliable sources such as the Dietitians of Canada website (dietitians.ca), or by consulting with a registered dietitian, noting that many health benefits plans cover the cost of these services.
Moving fitness forward
Peake says he’s “really happy” with this year’s Health Club finalists because they’re already working on new fitness goals.
“One is focused on the Ride to Conquer Cancer, another is doing the HSBC half-marathon in May and the third is hiking Machu Picchu,” he says.
“They’ve gone from a big life change and a physical transformation right into the next thing. They’re celebrating their victories, but they all have something they’re working toward, right now. There’s no time to go back to bad habits.”
You need three things to succeed at an exercise program: a written goal, a plan and a reward or accountability system.
Without all three, it’s tough to make any significant change, he says, adding that it’s a lot easier to make a viable plan and stick to it with the help of a fitness professional or an organization such as The Running Room.
All three contestants have opted to continue with a regimented personal training program once or twice a week at INLIV, supplemented by lower-cost group fitness classes at INLIV and elsewhere.
Change your exercise program every three months; otherwise, your body and brain plateau. If you keep plugging away at the same workout year after year, says Peake, you can expect to pile on one pound a year — that’s 10 pounds every decade.
He recommends switching up your workout and goal setting to coincide with the seasons.
For example, you might want to focus your fitness program to get in shape for spring running, a big hike in summer, a canoe trip in fall or skiing in winter.
The buddy system will help keep you account- able. Guilt is a powerful motivator, but so is the desire to not let down a friend. And getting the family involved, whether it’s skiing, hiking or playing soccer at the park, is one more way to ensure fitness happens.
“If you promised, just try sleeping in and disappointing the kids,” he says.
Reward yourself. If you work out three times a week and burned 1,500 calories, let yourself have that 150-calorie piece of chocolate cake.
Ask for fitness related items — sporting gear, lift tickets, experiences or activities — as gifts. And build activities into vacations. Instead of sitting on the beach the whole time, look into renting bicycles or kayaks.
Ultimately, the goal is to create a happier person, not a gym rat, says Peake. Do the activities you enjoy, be it dancing, hiking or bicycling, so that fitness becomes pleasurable and lasting.