Archive for September, 2011

Manipulating motivation towards successful weight management


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If there’s something that I would consider that I’m really good at, that is creating both my intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. In fact, if I could only sell my motivation, I probably don’t have to work double jobs right now. The most common question many people asks me is how do I do it and of simply say, through motivation. I wrote my own diet story here. Motivation, in the context of successful weight management is very important because if passion would be the cause of igniting fire in a fireplace, it’s the motivation that keeps the intensity of the flame. In weight management, I was talking about consistency. Consistency is very important because fitness is a marathon, not a sprint. I can probably post several motivational and inspirational quotes here just like what most fitness gurus/ fitness websites does, not that there’s anything wrong with that because while it’s true that such quotes can be really beneficial if we can interpret it’s message/ meaning in real life scenario but most people simply just read such quotes without applying/ without knowing how to apply it in their pursuit of personal weight management.

Motivation is defined as the process that initiates, guides and maintains goal-oriented behaviors. Motivation is what causes us to act, whether it is turning a tv on if we want to watch a tv to entertain ourselves or to watch our favorite tv shows or by reading a book to gain knowledge. There are three major components to motivation: activation, persistence and intensity. Activation involves the decision to initiate a behavior, such as the desire to lose weight/body fat, increase muscle size or whatever fitness goal we have. Persistence is the continued effort toward a goal even though obstacles may exist, such as reading/ researching more informations about fitness stuff in order to earn adequate knowledge and understanding about fitness rationale although it requires a significant investment of time, energy and resources. Finally, intensity can be seen in the concentration and vigor that goes into pursuing a goal. The final part is where the majority of people fail to put into practice because the intensity part of their motivation is already gone.

The two types of motivation are frequently described as being either extrinsic or intrinsic. Extrinsic motivations are those that arise from outside of the individual and often involve rewards such as trophies, money, social recognition or praise. In the context of weight management, it can be our external feedback or flattering comments we get from people once we succeeded in our weight/ fat loss plan. Intrinsic motivations are those that arise from within the individual, such as myself writing this blog to fulfill my intrinsic motivation to help other people succeed in their weight management goal. By creating this blog itself motivates me to set myself as a good example to many people that despite of my hectic lifestyle, through my organizational skills, proper time management and of course motivation, I can successfully maintain my body weight & body composition regardless of any changes life has to offer. Just like what I always say, I taught myself how to become aware of my environment and I learned(still learning) to adapt to it.

Just like diet and exercise variables which are the highly manipulatable elements in order to achieve desirable fitness results because those two are in our control, manipulating motivation to our disposal is also in our control. Having an adequate and consistent motivation itself is already achieving 50% of the whole weight management success because it’s the drive that dictates our behavior. For example, if you are tempted to eat something that is not included in your diet, by thinking of something that highly motivates you, let’s say, you’ve been dieting for months to have a flat stomach, you can divert your attention towards the amount of effort you already put into instead of thinking about the tantalizing food in front of you. If we start thinking of the things that we have already accomplished versus thinking of the things that we may get in the future, it molds our future behavior towards dieting success because it becomes a habit. A habit is hard to break so make it a good habit to constantly remind ourselves of the things that motivates us. That is the key to consistency. While the source of motivation highly varies from person to person, the best source of intrinsic motivation is happiness. I would define happiness as an intense feeling of excitement or peace, or both. Try to recall an event where you are going to buy something that you really like(new shoes, new bag, new gadget or what have you). It gives you the feeling of enthusiasm and optimism; therefore, it motivates you to go to the store right away. It is the same feeling that we need to make ourselves feel to stay highly motivated in our fitness goal. When an activity becomes an accomplishment, it gives you the feeling of peace afterwards. Peace in a way of having a peace of mind and fulfillment that you accomplished your given exercise plan despite of being busy with everyday demands. Motivation is everywhere. We just need to find it consistently. Being creative helps too!

Personally, some may consider it as vanity but I enjoy looking at myself in the mirror; staring at my hard-earned lean physique that I maintain year-round yet it gives me a rewarding feeling of that I can now wear whatever clothes I want. This may be anecdotal but even an inexpensive unbranded shirt can look fancy if worn by fit people. That’s a motivation itself to stick to your diet/ training plan! I also have 3 kids myself and I want to stay fit so I can keep up with their high energy levels thus I will serve as a good role model to them on how to eat a balanced diet along with a physically active lifestyle. Those two were examples of my intrinsic motivation source. It’s quite normal for married people to gain weight after marriage. Staying lean and fit after marriage while my batch mates are all growing their beer bellies, it creates an extrinsic motivation of having the trophy of maintaining leanness. People are creatures of emotions. Sometimes, when I’m pissed off, I just spend those negative energy in my workout; in return, it makes my workout even more productive by motivating myself to conquer that negative feeling. It also helps to spend more time with people who have similar interests like fitness because we only not widen our knowledge spectrum but it also create an extrinsic source of motivation. This is the same effect people get on hiring personal trainers because of the beneficial effect of “coaching effect” because sometimes, we need that someone to be held accountable on pushing us psychologically.

There are many things in life that can provide us continuous motivation. Sometimes, all we need to do is to keep both of our eyes open and somehow, change our perspectives on life towards proactivity. Health is wealth as they say. People should view health itself as a motivating tool alone because it is a life-long investment.

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Staying lean during the holiday season


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It’s already September again and the holiday seasons are coming. Soon, we are going to be celebrating halloween, thanksgiving, Christmas then new year’s eve. I am going to play as your lean Santa Claus year round because of the free dieting strategies that I share on this blog. As you open my box of presents for you, it opens up windows of new strategies on utilizing effective weight management tactics.

“People are worried about what they eat between Christmas and new year’s eve but they never cared about the foods that they eat between new year’s eve and Christmas.”

I just love this quote because it simply summarize most people’s behavior during the holiday season as if we could gain tons of fat splurging on foods on occasional basis. Nobody gets fat overnight folks 🙂
In the first place, that’s why these special occasions are called occasions because it’s meant to be celebrated every now and then. Now, if your goal is to be the fattest person in the planet, make everyday a thanksgiving or a Christmas day and overeat on a daily basis. People shouldn’t be afraid of the holidays as if these special days are the only time we could get fat. It takes several amount of unused surplus calories for a new body fat to accumulate (approximately 3,500 calories/ lb.) consumed on a habitual basis. Even so, if you’ve been maintaining a certain body weight for a long time, even if you overeat on occasional basis, your body’s set point will likely fight weight gain through indirect mechanisms such as increasing your metabolic rate or via increasing our body’s NEAT activities spontaneously. I was once making a joke in my Facebook page wherein I was making fun of Men’s health advertisements which says “fire up your metabolism and build muscle while losing fat,” which is highly contradicting. In order for us to increase muscle size, we need surplus calories either coming from external sources(food) or in some circumstances(from body fat) while losing fat is a result of preserving lean muscle tissue on a calorie deficit. Fitness magazines will always exaggerate their claims for you to buy their product. Although increasing muscle size while losing body fat can happen, it takes more than just a few magazine pages to explain all the complicated process involved. Anyway, this blog isn’t about building muscle and losing fat. I only mentioned that because fitness magazines shouldn’t oversimplify a complicated matter because such informations are often misinterpreted by many people.

Backpedalling to the topic, so people shouldn’t be fearing the holiday weight gain nor the occasional food indulgence assuming that it is not done on habitual basis. The most common fattening behavior that I have noticed among people are these incorrect perceptions:

“It’s only one bite.”

-But they often forget about the other bite that they just ate this morning.

“I can burn it off.”

-They’re fooling themselves that they’re often the ones whose seeking weight loss most of the time.

“It’s just today.”

-But they do it everyday.

I can probably go on and enumerate some other common fattening behavior/ incorrect thinking that many people perceives on a daily basis. Most of us are too busy in our jobs, families and daily demands that we always neglect to spare ourselves some time to assess how our eating behavior really affects us. Obesity/ weight/ fat gain is a result of acute unused surplus calories that accumulate overtime, nothing else. Many people gain weight not just during the holiday season because they are not establishing a correct eating plan/ they’re not doing any lifestyle modification to effectively manage their weight. I have wrote numerous blog posts here regarding effective weight management strategies based on real-life applications. Many people waits until the new years to come before they act to do some lifestyle changes while they’re just wasting valuable time because a successful weight management plan begins now, not today, not tomorrow. Just like diet and training, our behavior is highly modifiable. We just need to choose it that way. Always look at the big picture; what determines our body weight would be based on how much and what we eat during non-holidays. So, stay physically active and have a regular exercise routine.

Now, think about it. Do we really need to fear holiday weight gain or is it really our fattening behavior that we keep as a habit year long?

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC292021/pdf/jcinvest00194-0053.pdf

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1660573/

When food avoidance becomes a necessary evil


Eat this

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Avoid that

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The great late Jack Lalanne, an American fitness, exercise, and nutritional expert and motivational speaker once said that “if it tastes good, spit it out” meaning according to him, a food that is highly palatable can automatically lead to overeating. While I really admire Mr. Lalanne’s fitness and health, from that statement he made above, I strongly disagree. I think that it’s a miserable way to enjoy eating. Most of us know that we gain weight as a result of accumulation of excess unused calories and not because of the type of food per se, in case you didn’t know. Anyway, he probably came up with that notion simply because he was once a “sugarholic” and a “junk food junkie” until he was 15. He also had behavioral problems, but “turned his life around” after listening to a public lecture by Paul Bragg, a well-known nutrition speaker. With no doubt, being a popular fitness expert during his time, he was probably one of the founders of “clean eating” regimen. In case you missed reading my blog about clean eating and when it is appropriate, I explained it’s context of application here

In real life scenario outside bodybuilding, many people need not to be super strict to their diet to maintain a healthy weigh range. Eating the foods that we like to eat(highly palatable foods) can be a double-edged sword because it can be either a reward or a punishment. Why is that? For those people who can tolerate a moderation type diet, they may do well maintaining their weight/ body composition eating a wider selection of foods. I also explained in details why I personally prefer calorie counting strategy here in order to achieve the freedom/ diet flexibility thus a wider variety of foods means more nutrients. For people who are highly active just like what I wrote here, they can easily lose/ maintain their weight because they create their calorie deficit or they are meeting their neutral energy balance state just by being highly active that’s why they can eat more foods. However, especially in our modern day environment setting, not everyone has the opportunity to burn that many calories on a day-to-day basis that’s why to some or probably most people these days must find their way to create their calorie deficit state through their diet. So, that brings many people to wonder if what foods they should eat on a diet which I explained in this blog. While the truth is that there are really no specific type(s) of foods that are fattening, some foods can be easily overeaten than the others. How we respond from the effects of palatability(color, texture, smell, taste) of foods can highly vary from person to person that’s why there is no diet that would cater to everyone’s needs. Eating highly palatable foods to some people could create a feeling of reward therefore making them eat less calories thus they feel more satiated. On the other hand, eating highly palatable foods to some people can lead them to create a punishment of ruining their diet because to these people, eating palatable foods makes them overeat of specific type(s) of foods. This also applies to some people with insulin sensitivity issues or people with metabolic syndrome whose insulin sensitivity are impaired. Impairment of insulin sensitivity can also mean an impairment of appetite regulation so to these people, it’s really hard for them to control their calorie intake.

If you will only take your time to analyze different diets such as low-carb diets, paleo diets, south beach diet, etc, those diets simply eliminate certain type of foods which are often in the form of sugars, starchy carbohydrates(rice, bread, pasta, cakes, etc) and highly processed foods due to it’s calorie density and the food’s palatability. How many people do we actually know who really follows the recommended serving per portion of foods? When you are eating an ice cream for example especially if you like the flavor, do you really stick to 1/2 cup serving size? When you are about to eat a potato chips, can you stick to an ounce serving? I doubt it. The point is, there is a great variance depending on genetics, cultural background, environment, stress, etc. that affects our eating behavior and individual food palatability. No one knows ourselves more than we do(our own self). Take a keen observation to yourself on how you respond to specific type(s) of foods. For example, if your goal is lose weight and you decided to create a calorie deficit through dieting, analyze your personal response to certain type(s) of foods if it gives you the feeling of reward or a punishment. It takes several trials and errors to really know our individual uniqueness when it comes to choosing our foods to eat in a diet. Personally, eating the foods that I like to eat gives me the feeling of reward. It makes me adhere to my diet more but how I respond can be different than yours.

In the end, what really matters is finding a diet that we can stick to. There are some things in life that needs a compromise to make the things that want to happen.

***Update:

It’s probably better to not to stock foods at home that are highly palatable that can easily be overeaten such as chips, ice cream, cookies and other highly processed foods. Although these foods are not automatically fattening per se, they can easily be overeaten. In a real world scenario where everyone is busy working combined with long hours of work, many people simply do not have time to cook. When there are no food options at home, the tendency of many is to settle eating hence overeating these foods instead. Most of us end up doing this habit on a regular basis which results on gaining too much weight in the process. The practical solution is to stock on more nutrient-dense/ lower calorie dense foods at home such as Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, processed meats(although moderate it’s consumption), frozen vegetables or fruits, fresh fruits, beans or the golden rule is, the less processed it is, the better.

References:

http://www.nature.com/ijo/journal/v27/n10/full/0802391a.html

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_LaLanne