I love numbers, probably because I was a science student and they represent something. But that is all they are, a representation of information. They change as changes are made but I don’t put much power beyond that into a number. These numbers can be your BMI, your weight, your body fat, how many full body push-ups you can do or even your pant size. They are just numbers, aka data. But I am finding that many people around me put a lot of power into these numbers. STOP!
You may not like your BMI number but are OK with your body fat percentage. You may not like your weight but your body fat you are happy with. These are just numbers designed to let you know where you sit in the ranges of all numbers. They will not match your friends, many factors play into these numbers and good news, changes to them are usually at your control.
I pop on the scale pretty regularly to see what’s happening. I know what I weigh and what my range is and I simply note those numbers. I love having my body fat measurements taken especially by the bod-pod’s (long story short…I am excellent at caliper testing and will judge those around me for their very questionable skills…thank you to my college fitness labs for forcing/enhancing my skill in caliper testing) I use these numbers as tools not weapons. I wear different sizes based on brand and when that size is low, I know that the company is ‘generous’ in their sizing and when its higher, then well that is the size I wear in that brand. It’s just a tool so next time I shop them I know what to grab for the dressing room or better yet, makes online shopping a breeze.
We need to stop letting these numbers control our thinking. Rewarding ourselves when we buy a dress and the size on the label is lower than usual. Or getting down because our body fat measurement isn’t where we want it to be or greater than your friends number. They are numbers to guide you not define you. If you wear a size 10 and only a size 10 but the industry changes it and now all size 12’s fit the new size 10 then what; you now only wear clothes too big for you? It’s a guide. Designed so that when you pick up a dress and it’s too big or too small, you go back to the rack and select another size in either direction. Thank you mass production since we no longer have to be measured by a seamstress for our custom fit clothing of days long ago. If there were no sizes or unit of measure on a dress or pant, you’d have to take 10 items into the dressing room and try each one until you found one that fit. Numbers are that simple.
Do you really need a number telling you your body fat percentage to know that you are at a good body fat number or have body fat to lose? What knowing these numbers do is give you a start point and when you retest, an end point. If you wish for a different number, you make necessary changes in your life or way of eating then note what works or doesn’t work and test a third time and a fourth time to really know the impact of your changes. They help you design your life, not define it. They make clear what you probably already know about your body, not who you are or your worth in this world. They let you know if your chosen changes made the impact you wanted to make, not validate whether or not you hold value as a human.
Do not give numbers so much power. Take them for what they are and all they are is information. Use that information to make you the version of you that you and only you wish to be.
I don’t typically count calories. I do have one exception: if the container provides them. I primarily dine on plant based foods and there are no calories printed on broccoli, spinach or tomatoes. I buy bulk and those items don’t have labels once I get them home; such as quinoa, beans, nut butters, nuts, oat grouts, etc. The items that have labels include eggs, cheese, coconut oil and avocado oil which I know to consume in smaller quantities.
I base my food portions for what I am eating. If I am eating a healthy item (read plant based and not processed) I give myself a healthy portion. If it is a more processed version, then smaller portions of it. If it is a known caloric item such as nuts, nut butters, cheeses and oils; then I use sparingly or know that my general caloric intake will be higher for that meal or day.
I am not a fan of counting calories, I think that if we eat healthy we shouldn’t have to count our calories. We as a society are stuck on counting calories and I understand why with the horrifying rise of obesity in our nation. But often what we choose to eat and the number of calories we allow ourselves put us in problematic cycles of starvation and depletion of nutrients. You also cannot expect to get all your nutrients if you pick processed foods with high calorie counts and limit your intake of total calories. But that is another topic for another time.
This may sound like a simple idea, but I understand that it is not. We want easy, fast and healthy. Sadly, we cannot have all three. It can be easy and fast but it won’t be healthy. And healthy takes time to prep so it’s not always fast and easy is often up for debate. My suggestion is take all the energy you put into counting calories and put into creating meals that are made from fresh ingredients. You just might stop stressing over what can you eat and start getting excited at what you get to eat!
People like to ask me about weight loss with the how or why it’s not happening for them. I always ask about their food intake, habits, exercise intensity and very often I get their answer paired with a “George Burns”. This is what I call that random rare exception to the rule that has become their rule. They give me an example of someone with similar bad habits but without their current weight or health issue. Since we are the fit over 40 crowd I do not have to tell you who George Burns is. But what I am talking about is that rare person who can partake of bad health habits and live a long healthy life, even living to the ripe old age of 100, like George Burns. Mr. Burns was a heavy cigar smoker but he was very active too. He exercised daily for most of his life until very close to the end. I do not know his food habits but if you wish to take up smoking 10-15 cigars a day, as Mr. Burns admittedly did, that is your choice. There will always be that person who can eat pizza and beer and not gain weight. That person who eats sugar in all their meals and doesn’t get cavities or gain a ton of weight. Who can smoke like George Burns and never get lung cancer. They are rare and lucky individuals. But they are not the norm.
So if you compare yourself to that one random person who can start a fitness program and one month later have drop 2 pant sizes, you just set yourself up for misery. There will always be those out there who can achieve great things with what seems to be less work or effort. Or they enjoy unhealthy habits without the visible negative side the rest of us experience if we do it. So know that your goals have to be reached with you in mind. Your health needs, your problems, your injuries, your limitation, etc. You many need more cardio than your friend, your cheats may hit you harder, you may need more sleep. It’s OK.
Make your goals about you and what you need. You will be so much happier in the end.
Everyone has their thing, that one thing they believe is critical to reaching their health goals. Some people are serious calorie counters, some are all about the cheats, while others are about how much cardio they get. Oddly, my thing is food quality. I worry about chemicals added to foods, used in processing and sprayed during growth. I get upset when the grocery store has no organic apples or oranges and condemn them as bad (sorry Publix, you are equal to Winn Dixie in my book. Shame on you). I read books like the China Study and Wheat Belly and watch documentaries like Fed Up and Hungry for Change and gladly walk away from entire food groups. Some call this extreme but honestly, I think I need to be my own champion for my health. The food industry does not provide me with clean foods so I need to be my own guardian angel in this area since it is so important to me.
It may sound extreme, but this is my ultimate health goal. I want to be healthy, truly healthy for as long as possible. I am not looking to weigh a certain amount or have ripped abs. I want to be drug free with healthy organs, bones, joints for as long as possible. I do not want to be on cholesterol medication, blood pressure medication or insulin for any level of Type II Diabetes. I want to be healthy because I made healthy choices not on any drug that supposedly will make me healthy. You trade one symptom for another in that game and I refuse to play that game. According to a number of reporting agencies, 70% of all adults are on one or more prescribed medications. That average cost is $1000 per year. So 7 out of 10 people spend approximately $12,000 on medications per year. That is insane to me! And what is more insane is often these health problems can be completely avoided by making and maintaining healthy lifestyle choices.
So, yes, I fully believe in organics and natural whole foods as my path to health. I do not eat meat and extremely limited on fish I will consume. I do not drink milk, eat bread or processed foods. I especially stay away from sugar. I prefer hard beans that you have to soak overnight and cook for hours in the crockpot over canned. Seeds and nuts in their raw form vs processed for easy cooking are what I choose over ‘quick’ or canned. I will not eat fast food and get really picky about what restaurants I will visit. I drink black organic coffee with cinnamon and buy natural spices. It’s not easy but it’s a small price to pay for true health. I am not a purist, but I make strong efforts to be clean 80-90% of the time.
Don’t worry I still care about fitness and maintaining healthy weight but I believe that clean eating and regular exercise will take care of that. So although I don’t count calories, I do count chemicals…. it’s my thing.
We live in a world where we want the work done for us. We call them shortcuts. Unfortunately, with healthy eating, shortcuts are not so healthy. You need to do the work to get the benefit. Quick packaged meals and snacks are not the best option. Your body needs real food as often as possible. Not factory manufactured foods that tell you they are good for you. I am a firm believer that it the package has to tell you it’s healthy…it is a lie. Have yet to see an apple telling me it’s good for me or asparagus tips toting their many health benefits.
If you want to be healthy. Really healthy, feel good, happy body and mind healthy, then you need to feed it healthy foods. They are natural, not manufactured and you have to prepare them either by slicing, dicing, and many times cooking them. They are not in a package that you slide in the microwave and can eat in 45 seconds. There are plenty of great healthy meals that take hours to prepare, but there are many more that can be ready with a few minutes of your time. You need to create your list of quick meals and have ingredients around for weekly meals. You also need to plan out meals and have a day for meal prep. Busy schedules are why meal prep is vital to healthy eating, you need to come up with meals and prepare them in advance for quick access on busier days and for lunches.
There are no shortcuts. Don’t look for shortcuts. You have to do the work if you want to eat healthy and be healthy.
Stay tuned this week for some healthy prep-ahead meal ideas to keep your busy schedules from sidelining your healthy eating goals.