MOST PEOPLE WOULD CHOOSE TO HAVE a flat lean stomach over a flabby one, but not usually for the right reasons.
Yes, having a lower body mass index (BMI) means you are at lower risk of having diabetes, heart disease or a stroke, but that’s not our initial motivator to get in shape (even though we tell others this).
It’s more emotional than long-term health. It’s about:
- Liking your body and yourself
- Feeling comfortable wearing a tight top or bikini
- Not feeling guilty for eating an extra helping of pie
- Being able to play with your child
- Being called “sexy” and not “cute” or “chubby”
- Or having the confidence to ask a girl out to coffee
The numbers on a scale, waist measurement or BMI doesn’t translate to your health status, rather your personal judgments. It either gives you permission to be hard on yourself, or reward yourself.
How YOU Read Your BMI?
- < 18.5 => My body doesn't look as good as it should
- 18.5 - 24.9 => It's okay but I could be better
- 25 - 29.9 => I feel gross
- ≥ 30 => I don't want to talk about it
*Note that BMI is not an accurate measurement for highly athletic and muscular people.
On the other hand, having a flat stomach and a BMI of 19 doesn’t mean you’re healthy either. The amount of body fat can be an indicator of disease risk, but it doesn’t reflect your quality of life nor your mental and emotional health.
There is more to life than your weight, pant size and calories eaten. <– Click to Tweet.
Sometimes it can consume your every waking thought. But don’t let your emotions drive your life.
When I choose to exercise and eat nutritiously it’s for the immediate satisfaction of feeling sexy in a bikini, having my boyfriend gush over my body and having the choice to enjoy a piece of chocolate once in a while.
It’s hard to keep your short-term or long-term goals as your primary motivator, no matter how important they are:
- To feel energetic and have mental clarity when you work.
- Taking less sick-days and being more creative, productive and efficient.
- Avoid the brain fog, depressed mood and stomach pains after eating too many sweets and greasy take out.
- Boost your confidence.
- Increasing fertility success and health of your infant.
- To be able to run around with your children and grandchildren.
- Preventing chronic diseases and physically or mentally limiting conditions.
- Being able to travel and explore well into your 80s.
- Increasing your quality of life.
Why do you exercise and eat healthy foods?
What is the motivating force that gets you out of bed or off the couch, instead of walking towards the cupboard for a snack? It might be an immediate or short-term reward or a long-term gain. Hopefully it’s both.
If you don’t know what this is, either you’re a robot or you haven’t been able to stick to a consistent healthy exercise and eating routine.
Finding your immediate or short-term goal could be as simple as:
- Having your morning coffee after a glass of lemon water.
- Posting a photo of you taking the stairs to work on social media.
- Getting your nails done once a week only if you bring or choose a healthy lunch every weekday.
- Allowing yourself to watch a tv show during your exercise routine.
- Going for a steam or sauna after a hard workout.
- Buying a workout top for exercising at a moderate-high intensity 4 days out of the week.
- Putting a big check mark beside the days that you drank 6-8 glasses of water or ate 6-8 servings of vegetables a day.
- Having one glass of wine with your healthy dinner meal.
Once you can start implementing simple immediate and short-term rewards it will be easier to maintain a healthy regiment and start to gain the long-term benefits.
But remember to reinforce positive rewards and not punishments. And also be careful to not make the rewards more damaging to your health than the original goal (ie. letting yourself eat fast food 4x a week when you would normally only go once a month).
Why it’s important to exercise regularly
We all know exercise is one of the best medicines and preventative activities for most metabolic, cardiovascular, hormonal and mental health conditions. But just to make it clear, let’s have a brief look at the evidence:
The WHO estimates overweight and obesity accounts for 3 million annual deaths and 6% of total global deaths are due to physical inactivity. Obesity is a risk factor the same conditions that can be prevented with physical activity, even conditions you are genetically predisposed to:
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Metabolic syndrome (a combination of high blood sugar, high blood pressure high triglycerides and low HDL [good] cholesterol)
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
- Heart disease and stroke (ischaemic heart disease, coronary heart disease)
- Many cancers (breast, prostate, colon, uterus, cervix, endometrium, ovaries, esophagus, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, kidney)
- Breathing disorders (sleep apnea, asthma)
- Gynecological disorders (infertility, dysmenohrea)
- Sexual health issues (erectile dysfunction)
- Poor immune function
- Hormonal imbalances (adrenal, thyroid, insulin, sex, neurotransmitter hormones)
- Depression and low self-worth
Childhood obesity is a major concern these days. It is associated with similar health hazards such as cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, orthopedic problems, and low self-esteem. Childhood obesity can track into adulthood and reduce life expectancy by 2-5 years.
Not only does physical activity prevent obesity and the associated risk factors, it can improve bone mineral density, decrease risk of injury, increase sweating and detoxification pathways, increase stamina, improve mental acuity, improves sleep.
Note: if you suffer or are predisposed to any of the above conditions, please check with your primary care physician before starting any exercise regiment.
Choosing the Right Exercise Regiment
The amount and kind of exercise you engage in is determined by your fitness goals, personal preferences and current life situation.
If you are training for a triathlon, a specific resistance and cardiovascular training regiment is required.
If you are a social person, hiring a personal trainer and attending group classes is more advantageous than trying to workout on your own.
If you’re a single mom of 4, playing a Wii video game with your children everyday may get you moving more often than a personalized gym workout.
When deciding what type of exercise to start out with, it’s important to keep in mind your fitness goals, personality, and life situation. Most people prefer a combination of these activities:
Steady state indoor cardio
What is it? – Using a treadmill, stationary bike, elliptical or other stationary cardio machines.
This is for you if:
- You need stress reduction without a focus on fat loss and muscle gain
- You enjoy watching TV, listening to music or reading a book while exercising
- You enjoy repetitive activities at a range of intensities
- You need a comfortable way to be introduced to the gym
- You are a busy person and utilize the cardio equipment at home or at the gym to build a routine
Outdoor cardio and interval training
What is it? – Outdoor hiking, running, biking, and swimming with short bursts of acceleration (ie. sprints) or increase in resistance (ie. climbing hills).
This is for you if:
- You require stress reduction without a focus for muscle gain
- Endurance training and improved tolerance to daily activities is of interest
- You enjoy being outdoors and have access to safe roads or paths
- You enjoy independent or group activities
- You have family members or friends able to participate together
What is it? – Team sports such as volleyball, soccer, football, basketball or paired activities like tennis at a competitive or intramural level.
This is for you if:
- Fun, endurance, competition and social activities are most important
- You need set dates to schedule and keep accountable for exercise
- You work harder when motivated by others and winning
- You are training for a bigger goal (such as a competition)
- You can commit to scheduled practices
What is it? – Machines, weights or body weight exercises with a trainer, workout partner or by yourself.
This is for you if:
- Your focus is on fat loss, muscle gain and stress reduction
- You enjoy challenging your body to improve
- You are willing to have a personal trainer access your current fitness level, technique and safety before lifting heavy weights
- You enjoy external motivators, such as a trainer or program to guide you
- You are training for an event (ie. wedding) or athletic competition
- You have access to a gym or basic exercise equipment
High-intensity group classes
What is it? – Group classes with an instructor conducting aerobic, dance, and/or resistance training (ie. Crossfit) that vary in level of skill.
This is for you if:
- You have some background in exercise (ie. can perform basic exercises safely), especially if the groups are large and the instructor isn’t able to give you direct feedback
- You want to emphasize fun, endurance and a social setting
- You are introducing fitness into your regular practice and have little experience building your own workout regiment
- You work best when you can schedule classes into your busy day
- You enjoy external motivators and having someone tell you what to do
Low-intensity group classes
What is it? – Group classes with low impact and low intensity, such as yoga, Tai chi, Chi gong.
This is for you if:
- You want to focus on balance, flexibility, stability and being grounded
- You have less focus on losing fat and gaining muscle
- You have physical or mental conditions that limits your physical abilities (ie. elder, hip replacement, acute injury)
- You have a stressful life and need to relax more
- You enjoy the group dynamic and social aspect of exercise
- You are introducing fitness into your regular practice and have little experience
- You work best when you can schedule classes into your day
Regardless of which exercise regiment you choose to take on, make sure the goals are achievable, motivating, fun and empowering. Having a personal trainer look over your form and technique (especially for more advanced movements) is very important.
Below are great online experts who share their knowledge for free on Youtube and on their websites. Be sure to utilize their experiences as a great resource:
The Fitness Experts
Girls Gone Strong – To educate and inspire women of all ages to maximize the strength of their body, mind, and character.
The PTDC best reads of the week – To improve the reputation of the fitness industry and ensure that smart, passionate trainers have amazing careers that are both personally and financially satisfying.
Neghar Fonooni – Teaches women how to live fit, happy, empowered lives without stress and shame.
Dean Somerset – Personal trainer, author, and international public speaker whose main area of expertise is injury and medical dysfunction management through optimally designed exercise programs.
Nick Tumminello -Owner of Performance University International, which provides hybrid strength training & conditioning for athletes and professional educational programs for fitness professionals all over the world.
Ben Bruno – Ben Bruno’s approach is simple, practical, and brutally effective. In an industry filled with big egos, you won’t find anyone more unpretentious and knowledge-hungry.
Jen Sinkle – My goal is to make getting strong and living well as fun a prospect as possible, to teach you new skills and share great recipes, to dig into fitness fashion and clean body-care products.
Gregory Robbins – With a focus on helping people become stronger, both physically and mentally, The Strength House is YOUR home for quality information on a variety of fitness and lifestyle topics.
Eric Cressey – Cressey specializes in applied kinesiology and biomechanics as they relate to program design and corrective exercise; maximal relative strength development; and athletic performance enhancement.
Tony Gentilcore – Tony Gentilcore is one of the co-founders of Cressey Sports Performance. He trains top-level athletes, contributes to the top fitness magazines and websites around, and sets up a camera in his garage to record his lightsaber skills.