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Healthy Lifestyle – Exercise, Diet, Rest, Sunshine, Water and Air for Health

You might notice a very lengthy gap between my first post and this one, about two years in fact. I’m still alive, but I lost my momentum on the blog. 2011 was an eventful year in my personal life. My intentions for the blog were never realized, and at present I’m not sure if and when the blog will take off. But, this morning I’m feeling inspired to write a little update on my weight gain resolution.

In the beginning of 2011 I saw a gradual weight gain. I focused on eating more and increasing the body resistance training from my kung fu system. I knew I would have to add additional resistance training to meet my goals, but stress in my personal life was sapping some of my mental reserves. By the end of March I was struggling with maintaining my appetite, and in April I began losing the weight I had gained through early March. By the end of July I was a pound below my starting weight at the beginning of the year. With only five months remaining, my 130 lb goal seemed nearly impossible.

I continued to track my weight for most of that period. Click the image below to see my weight trend. I stitched together some screen output from my Libra phone app into one long graph.

Libra weight trend

My weight trend through July.

 

For many people stress management is key to meeting health goals. With respect to weight goals, stress can increase eating behaviors (think comfort foods) or it can sap appetite. I fall into the latter category, so even though I began lifting weights 1-2 times weekly in June, I continued to drop pounds. I was gaining some muscle mass, but progress was very slow.

Things didn’t change for me until the end of July when I began to take control of my depressed mood and anxious thoughts. I was tired of feeling a victim to my circumstance, and changed my internal dialogue. Interestingly, the more I counted my blessings and repeated positive affirmations, the more positive occurrences I experienced in my life. I began to feel better about myself and my life. My appetite increased accordingly. I’ll finish this update in the next post.

How have you experienced stress affecting your health or weight?

Have you ever made a resolution and lost your resolve?  I hope this post might offer a little encouragement to anyone who wants to improve an aspect of his or her health.  One of my New Year’s Resolutions this year is a health-related goal.  I’ve attempted change in this arena in the past, but I’ve found only minimal success.  I’m going to make this effort different and maximize my chances.

I actually made several New Year’s Resolutions this year.  We have to be careful not to make too many—one resolution at a time is usually plenty, but one of mine supports another, so hopefully I didn’t bite off more than I can chew.  One important resolution was to blog about healthy lifestyle, and I succeeded in writing the welcome page back in January.  It’s taken me awhile to post again, but I haven’t lost my resolve to make this a useful resource.

Resolutions and Success

Before I tell you my resolution, let’s look a little at New Year’s Resolutions.  Apparently, a lot of people have trouble sticking to them.  A quick Internet search found a study that tracked 159 “resolvers” by phone for over 6 months, and as time passed more and more people dropped their resolutions.  One in four had given up in the first week.  After a month, that had risen to one in three.  By the halfway point of the year, we see significant attrition, with over half of the study participants having given up on their resolution… and these were people who knew they were getting a checkup phone call.

Still resolved as time passes

Clearly, some people fail because they give up rather quickly.  For some, it’s possible that the goal wasn’t very important to them, but, for others, it is likely that they weren’t making progress and gave up.  I suspect that lack of planning and unrealistic expectations were the undoing of most.

Failure is not falling down but refusing to get up.

– Chinese Proverb

I found studies which yielded different numbers, but none of them were very encouraging.  Long-term success rates ranged from 8% – 20%, which aren’t very good odds.  I want to make sure I succeed, and I imagine you would to.  How do we do that?

Succeeding at resolutions (and health goals)

Wikipedia led me to a couple interesting articles about succeeding.  The first article suggests that if those resolvers were relying on willpower, that might be why they failed.  Apparently, willpower is elusive for most of us when we have too much on our minds.  The article is worth a quick read.  The author suggests that becoming aware of one’s weaknesses is a good starting point.  Only then can you avoid pitfalls.  The article mentions a several studies that suggest that limiting distractions and increasing focus might help one to resist temptation.  That will be useful if you are cutting back on sweets or cigarettes.

The second article, cites a survey of more than 3,000 people, which found an overall success rate of just 12%.  They looked at factors that helped some to succeed.  To quote the article, “Men were significantly more likely to succeed when asked to engage in either goal setting … or focusing on the rewards associated with achieving their goal,” and “Women were more successful when they told their friends and family about their resolution, or were encouraged to be especially resilient and not to give up because they had reverted to the old habits….”

If you follow this advice you will increase your chance of success by several times:

  • Make a resolution, ideally just one
  • Examine yourself to anticipate weaknesses, difficulties
  • Set specific, incremental goals
  • Don’t focus on failures; rather, focus on the benefits of success
  • Keep a diary or record of your progress
  • Reward yourself for meeting goals
  • Involve others for support or make your resolution public
  • Minimize distractions

I’m trying to do most of those things to achieve my resolution.  Writing this post will make my resolution public, involving my readers and those who know me.  I might get support and encouragement, or I might subject myself to a dent in my ego if I’m failing.  Either way, blogging about my progress will remind me of my resolution and motivate me to succeed.  I’m also setting some specific goals.

My resolution

So what is my resolution?  Well, it’s the exact opposite of one of the most popular New Year’s Resolutions.  Internet sources, regularly place losing weight in the top three New Year’s Resolutions.  With so many people trying to lose weight, people are often envious of me.  I am one of those people that seem to be able to eat whatever they want without gaining weight.  I have been underweight for most of my life.  This year I intend to change that.  I suspect my resolution will not be so easy, as I have tried several times in the past to reach and maintain a “normal” weight.  I always gained a few pounds but never enough.

Weight Tracking

Here’s how I began.  During the month of December, I tracked my weight most days to get a baseline.  I always use morning weights soon after I get out of bed.  Daily fluctuations in weight are normal and are affected by hydration, the types and amount of foods recently eaten, the timing of bowel movements, scale errors, etc.  If you’ve ever thought that you gained or lost several pounds in one day, you’re probably mistaking those fluctuations for a change in your body mass.  Remember, every pound of body weight is at least 3500 calories.  Gaining or losing 3 lbs is a 10,500-calorie change.  That’s hard to do in a day.

To get a better idea of my actual weight and my progress, I decided to use a phone app that smoothes out the bumps and gives me a trend line.  I recommend anyone monitoring his or her weight to use something similar.  I’m using Libra, but there are other good ones I’m sure.

When I stepped on the scale January 1, I weighed 115 lbs., but the Libra app said my weight was trending about 116, so I used that as my starting point.  The most I’ve ever weighed was 126 lbs.  I wanted to set an end-of-the-year goal that was high enough to motivate me, but low enough to feel achievable.  I set a goal of 130 lbs., a little over 1 pound per month.  I’d like to be a little ahead of schedule by the midpoint, so I’d like to weigh 124 lbs by the end of June.

My progress for January

Judging by the trend line for January, I gained about 1 lb. over the month, so I was fairly on track.

January Weight

For January, I just tried to increase my exercise a little and eat a bit more than usual.  I know very well that I might have to set some more specific exercise and eating goals.  I will have to do something different than I have done before.  The first few pounds will be the easiest, but experience tells me that I will begin to plateau.  Then, the fun begins.

Did you make any New Year’s Resolutions this year?  Are you still on track?  If not, is there any reason why you should wait until next year?