January is almost over...how's that New Year's resolution going so far? "Getting in shape" is probably the most common New Year's resolution every year. The problem is that "getting in shape" is a little on the vague side. What does that mean to you? Without specific goals it's almost impossible to measure success...and without goals it's very easy to get off track.
About eight months ago I decided that enough was enough. My youngest child was two and a half years old and I was still referring to my extra ten pounds as "baby weight". The fact of the matter was that I'd lost the baby weight...and then I gained some back again. That wasn't really baby weight...it was more like "eating like crap weight". It wasn't that I didn't workout...I did cardio like a maniac trying to keep the weight off, but cardio can only do so much. One night I broke down and (blubbering like a baby) asked my husband if we could get a gym membership. Working out at home wasn't working for me anymore...did I mention that my children stopped napping right around this time? I am by no means saying that a gym membership is a must for everyone, but for me joining a gym was the start of making some healthy changes in my life. My goal was to get back into my pre-baby clothes by the time I turned thirty (January 6th, 2013), and I did it! The key to my success was setting clear goals, and having a plan to help me achieve them. I changed my diet and started doing more strength training and less cardio. I went from being 23% body fat to 11% body fat, and it wasn't as hard as you might think.
So...are you ready to plan to succeed? Here are a few tips to get you started...
1. Set Short Term and Long Term Goals: It's great to aim high when setting goals for yourself. However, if your goal is to run a marathon or lose several clothing sizes you probably aren't going to be reaching that goal tomorrow. Keep yourself on track by setting short term goals that will get you to that long term goal. Your short term goals can be working up to a certain amount of time on the treadmill, a higher amount of weight or reps on an exercise that you currently find challenging, or just sticking to your meal plan for an entire week. Reward yourself when you reach each goal...but NOT with food. Reward yourself with new workout gear, a massage, or something else that you consider a treat. As you reach your goals make new ones to keep your momentum going.
2. Schedule Your Workouts: Don't tell yourself that you'll workout "when you have time". Don't wander around the gym using random machines until you feel like you've been there long enough. Make a plan and stick to it! If you are just starting to incorporate working out into your life I would suggest shooting for two to three workouts (30-60 minutes each) a week. Decide what times and days work best for you and schedule your workouts accordingly. It's also a good idea to have a backup plan just in case. I like to workout in the mornings, but if something happens to screw up my normal routine I know I can squeeze a workout in at home while my kiddos are eating lunch. If that falls through I can take them to the gym with me in the afternoon. If that doesn't work, then my last resort is to workout at home after they've gone to bed.
3. Plan Your Meals: Every week I make a dinner menu for the following week. It's not that we HAVE to eat a certain meal on a certain day, but I make sure that I have seven options planned for the week. Then I make a grocery list based on what I'll be making for dinner. I also make sure that I have plenty of healthy breakfast, lunch and snack options on hand. If anything on my weekly menu is time consuming I try to make it ahead or at least prep it ahead of time on the weekend (when my hubby is home to help wrangle the kiddos).
4. Be Accountable: I am lucky enough to have a workout buddy that I met at the gym. We were wearing the same shoes...it was fate LOL. I push myself harder when we workout together, and it's great to have a friend who's into health and fitness. Not to mention the fact that it's easier to keep an "appointment" at the gym with a friend than it is to keep one with myself. I also belong to a few online fitness accountability groups that really help to keep me motivated. If you have a real life friend to workout with and be accountable to that is awesome. If not...no worries! There are plenty of online resources that can help to keep you motivated and on track.
5. Track Your Progress: I've said it before and I'll say it again....STEP AWAY FROM THE SCALE. The scale is not your friend. The scale does not tell you the whole story. The measuring tape on the other hand is your friend. The measuring tape tells you that although mean Mr. Scale says you haven't lost a pound, you have in fact lost INCHES. Who cares about pounds when you are losing inches?!? As you gain lean muscle mass and burn away fat your weight might fluctuate. Don't let the scale psych you out. Measure the largest part of your chest, waist, hips, your right thigh, and your right bicep once a month to track your progress. I'd also recommend taking before and after pics. It's really the only way to SEE how far you've come.
6. Don't Beat Yourself Up: Hey guess what? You're not perfect. Neither am I. No one is! You might miss a workout. You might have a moment of weakness and mow through an entire box of Girl Scout Cookies all by yourself. Beating yourself up about it isn't going to make things better. The best thing to do when you get off track is to try to figure out why it happened. If you can pinpoint the why you can prevent it from happening again. Don't let one moment of weakness be the beginning of the end!
So where to begin? First you need to decide how much time you are willing/able to devote to working out. Maybe that's no time at all at this point. Maybe it's thirty minutes three times a week. Maybe it's an hour five times a week. Once you know how active you are going to be you can determine how many calories you should be eating each day.
To figure out how many calories you should be consuming each day you need to know your BMR (basal metabolic rate). You can use the Harris Benedict Equation to calculate your BMR:
Men: BMR = 66 + (6.23 X weight in pounds) + (12.7 X height in inches) -- (6.8 X age in years). Women: BMR = 655 + (4.35 X weight in pounds) + (4.7 X height in inches) -- (4.7 X age in years).
Now multiply your BMR by your activity factor:
Sedentary (little to no exercise) = BMR X 1.2
Lightly active (light exercise 1-3 times a week) = BMR X 1.375
Moderately active (exercise 3-5 times a week) = BMR X 1.55
Very active (exercise 6-7 times a week) = BMR X 1.725
Extra active (exercise 7 times a week more than once a day) = BMR X 1.9
This will give you the total number of calories that you need to maintain your current weight. If you are trying to lose weight you should subtract 300-500 calories per day. It's not a good idea to cut your calories more than this. If you don't get enough calories your body will actually hold on to fat and cannibalize your lean muscle mass. You want to get rid of that fat and hold on to that muscle. The more lean muscle mass you have the more calories your body will burn (even when you are sleeping!).
If you don't have a number two pencil or calculator on you because you were told there would be no math...just Google "calorie calculator" and you can plug in your age, height, weight, etc. and the "Google machine" will tell you how many calories you need ;)
Here are a few links to save you some time:
Calorie Calculator - Calculator.net
Mayo Clinic Calorie Calculator
The Caloric Needs Formula - Livestrong.com
If you are looking for an easy way to track your calories I recommend www.Myfitnesspal.com.
***I am not a doctor, nutrition specialist, or personal trainer. Basically, I am not an expert. If an expert is advising you on your diet and/or exercise please follow their advice!