Consistency

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One key to my weight control, that I don’t touch on in my book, but nonetheless is very important is consistency. By this I mean consistency with my diet and exercise.

I was riding my bike a few days ago in perfect weather. Most days aren’t like that, but I exercise on the bad weather days as well. In the winter, summer, snow, rain, cold, dark, strong winds and heat – I’m out there.

Many of my friends aren’t very active unless the weather is nice. And that’s when it occurred to me how vital consistency is to my weight control success.

I once believed that I burned many more calories than I really did during exercise, which contributed to my weight problem. When I first learned how few calories I actually did burn, I was shocked. I went through the normal stages of denial and frustration. “Well, if I only burn a couple hundred calories in a 1/2 hour workout, why even do it?”

The answer is summed up best by personal finance author, Jean Chatzky. “We tend to overestimate what we can accomplish in a day and underestimate what we can accomplish in a year.” So true.

In the whole scheme of things, one exercise session isn’t going to make or break my health. But, the calories I burn during all of my exercise sessions over the course of a year makes a huge difference. For example, I exercise 5 days per week for anywhere between 20 minutes to 4 – 5 hours. Over the course of a typical week I burn around 2,000 additional calories by exercising, which is less than 1 pound (or 3,500 calories). But, over the course of a year that adds up to to 100,000 calories or 30 pounds.

If I only exercised when the weather was nice, that extra calorie burn would be much lower. Consistency keeps me on track.

Same goes for diet. We often think, “I’ll splurge just this one time.” Once isn’t likely to make a difference, right? But, splurging again 2 days later and again in 3 days adds up over the course of the year. And, as the title of my book indicates, it only takes a few bites a day to make the difference between being in control of your weight or having your weight control you.

So, from now on, I’m going to keep the thought of consistency in mind whenever I think about skipping exercise or eating more than I should. Maybe you will to.

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Excuse #4: "I’m just naturally filling in"

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About five to seven years ago, I seem to recall this notion circulating about society that we each had a natural weight. I recall it, because for some time I believed it.

We don’t think about it on a daily basis, but we each have a set of mental models, or frameworks, that help us understand the world around us. Many of those models were handed down to us in school and by our parents or picked up from our friends. Language is one such model. Has a common word ever caught your eye funny? You look at it, you know you have read the word thousands of times before, but all of sudden something looks strange about it.

That’s your mind testing your mental framework. Language is something we learn at a very early age. Spelling comes shortly after. As adults, speech and reading comes to us so naturally that we don’t even have to think about it. But, occassionally or brains tend to poke holes in those frameworks and when that happens things we’ve taken for granted without question for a long time suddenly seem strange.

Religious and political beliefs are other examples of mental frameworks. You hold certain beliefs on how the government should be involved in our lives and that helps you decide who to support by voting for the people you think are going to best put your beliefs into practice.

I’m sure that it’s no surprise to you that we each have a mental framework about how weight loss works. The natural weight framework was alive and well in my head at one point. I had resigned myself to a life with a chubby belly, love handles and puffy cheeks.

Thankfully, I’m not the kind of person that sticks with a mental framework that doesn’t produce the results I’m after. In other words, I may be stubborn in the short term, but not in the long term.

Eventually, that old framework collapsed and I replaced it a new framework under which I lost 35 pounds, gained 5 back to get to a more optimuum weight and have held it to within 4 pounds of that weight for over three years now. I detail this new framework in my book.

If you’ve been having a tough time with your weight loss, perhaps its time to knock down your weight loss mental framework, or belief system.

Race Scheduling

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We’ve had some really great days of weather this Spring where I live. I love to exercise outdoors. I exercise outside through the winter, but it’s especially nice not to have to bundle up, feel sunshine for a change, see the trees in bloom (which have been spectacular this year) and see a few people the trails coming out from their long winter hibernation.

By this time of year I have a decent idea of which events I’m going to participate in. You should too. Events, such as 5k runs or MS 150 bike tours are a great way to keep yourself motivated and burning calories.

I manage my event schedule like a pro. I have a certain set of events that I like to repeat each year and then I sprinkle in a few new ones. Some of the new ones stick and become a part of my regular schedule, some don’t. I enter 5k races, bike events and I’m thinking of trying an adventure race.

For the events I repeat each year, it’s fun to see how my fitness level compares with the years prior.

Check out websites with event calendars in your area so you can start participating in events that’ll keep you interested in exercising. I recommend not bogging your schedule down too much with too many events. When waking up for an event begins to feel like a chore, take a break for awhile and resume at a later date.

Also, look for ways to involve your friends and family to promote healthiness and give yourself a little extra motivation for the event.

Excuse #3: "I’ll just run twice as far to burn those extra calories."

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I’m amazed about how hard I’ll work against myself sometimes. If your brain is anything like mine, then you may find your inner voice coaxing you to eat more than you know you should and providing all kinds of reasons why it’s okay. One excuse I used often was that I would workout more to cover the extra calories.

However, this has a few inherent problems. First, using this crutch too often nulls out any benefit I receive from exercising. In other words, I’d have to exercise more all the time just to stay even. Second, as with the previous excuse, I simply wouldn’t follow through. Third, we tend to overestimate how many calories used during exercise (and underestimate how much we eat). So, even if I did extend my exercise time, it’d rarely be enough to truly balance the additional calories.

This kind of thinking definitely contributed to my weight gain. I figured that I was active enough to burn all the calories that I was eating. But, the scale told a different story. When I put numbers to my calorie intake and use I was astonished. The imbalance was large. No wonder the needle on the scale kept creeping up.

Learning how to estimate my calorie intake and use was a major key to gaining control of my weight. I describe the simple techniques and calculations I use to monitor my calorie flow in my book. These techniques have been working for me for four years now. Some friends and family members think I’m crazy for tracking my calories. But, to me, having a good sense of my calorie balance is like using a watch to figure out what time it is.