When You Fail

Winston-Churchill-2-12“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

“Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.”

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

“Never, never, never give up.”

(All quotes above from The Right Honourable Sir Winston Churchill, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom)

First, my apologies for no post last week; mandatory overtime at work is taking its toll, but should end by October.

One of the biggest challenges for me and I would think anybody else trying to change their eating habits (or any habits for that matter), is how to handle failure.

A Weight Watchers leader a few years ago told the group: “if you have a flat tire, would you respond by slashing the other three tires?”  It was a perfect analogy. In the past, if I overate by consuming more than I meant at a meal or going over for the day, my reaction was to “throw the baby out with the bathwater” and eat whatever I wanted for the rest of the day…  and that giving in made it harder to get back on track the next day, too.  Soon, nothing was left of my diet plan but the memories.

There are two things to do when you fail: first, plan out beforehand what you will do if you fail, and second try to minimize the damage.

There have been about three ways that I have “failed” so far: #1, eating more than I supposed to, #2, planning a meal and not having what I planned available, and #3 just dumb mistakes.

A good example of #1 was when we had pizza ordered in.  Everybody has their “trigger” foods; for me it’s pizza and calzone.  For my wife it’s cookies.  She’s not bothered by pizza, I’m not bothered by cookies.  I knew how many slices I could have, I just wanted more.  How do I beat it?  The simplest way is to not bring more than I can eat at one time into the house.  I can split it with my wife, or I can order a small, or I can eat it there if that will help (I can leave when I’ve eaten as much as I should).

#2 is the one that happens the most often.  I plan my meal in MyFitnessPal, we get where we’re going… and they don’t have what I was going to order.  A variation of this is that they have something else, a limited time offer usually, that I really want.  There are a couple of solutions to this: first, make sure you have a “backup” menu plan, and second don’t be afraid to step out of line and take the time to re-calculate what your menu will be.

I have a perfect example of the 3rd cause of failure: one day a couple of weeks ago, I was having dinner at Panda Express, and had figured out my dinner calories so that it used exactly 100% of my calories for the day.  This doesn’t happen often, and I was thrilled!  I completed the meal, and with a triumphant flourish, I popped the fortune cookie into my mouth.

…It was at that moment that I realized I hadn’t counted the fortune cookie.

It ran me over 40 calories, I think.  I felt pretty stupid.

One way I’ve handled running over is to deduct the extra calories from tomorrow.  It’s not a solution that can be used regularly, but for the occasional screw up, it can help both control your intake and control any guilt you may feel about the extra calories.

The point with each one of these is that a plan in advance, combined with an intent to limit future damage will help keep your diet on track, even when you aren’t.  Just because the other team scores, doesn’t mean you’re out of the game!

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Exercise Won’t Help You Lose Weight

5dd5d33266d8a331169b1fcf1bfa321dI’ve been thinking a couple of weeks about this post.  Yes, my headline is designed to shock and agitate… but (generally) it is factually accurate.

I must start by saying the obvious: exercise IS good for you.  Exercise is good for your heart, your lungs, even your brain.  Exercise helps strengthen and tone your muscles.  Exercise is a stress reliever and an anti-depressant for many.

Having said all of that: exercise won’t really help you lose weight.

I used to say the way to lose weight was to eat less and exercise more.  It makes sense, doesn’t it?  If you don’t burn more than you put in, it turns to fat.

However, it turns out science isn’t on my side.

I have ten articles from ten different sources, but they all basically say the same thing, so I’ll put them in a list at the bottom of this article.

What scientists have found, time and again, is that exercise isn’t a great tool when you’re trying to lose weight.

The obvious question is, why?  Truth be told, scientists aren’t 100% sure, but there are some basic (and logical, when you think about it) reasons exercise doesn’t help with weight loss:

First, the amount of exercise required to burn any significant amount of calories is monumental.  If you’ve used one of those machines at the gym that guesses how many calories you’ve burned, you’ve likely experienced the frustration of walking for 90 minutes and burning maybe 100 calories.  For that amount of sweat, you expect a bit of a better return!

Second, and related to the first, is that many of us will eat something high calorie and say, “I’ll work it off tonight at the gym.”  The problem is, if you’re eating a 1,500 calorie entree, you’re going to have to exercise for 18 hours or more to work it off!  Of course you’re not going to do that (nor should you!), and so the extra calories stay.

The third problem is similar: you exercise for a half an hour, so you “treat” yourself with a high calorie reward…  and it’s often quadruple the calories you’ve burned off.  The net result is a gain instead of a loss.

Fourth, exercising can make you hungrier!  You are burning SOME calories when you exercise… and when you’ve already been limiting how much you take in, exercising can turn a moderate craving into an irresistible drive to consume large quantities of your favorite food.

Exercise is wonderful for many reasons… but losing weight is not one of them.  (KEEPING weight off, however, is a different story.  More about that on another day.)

See you next week; check out these links!

Mashable: You can’t ‘outrun’ obesity
Dr. Briffa: Exercise boosts the metabolism?
The Guardian: Why exercise won’t make you thin
Newswise: Only Effective Way to Lose Weight is to Eat Fewer Calories
New York Times: Dieting vs. Exercise For Weight Loss
American Physiological Society: exercise does not induce negative fat balance
Daily Mail: How exercise can make you pile on the pounds
New York Magazine: The Scientist And The Stairmaster
Science Daily: Exercise alone does not help in losing weight
British Journal Of Sports Medicine: exercise — shifting the focus from body weight