Weight Loss Wisdom
Health Education

Weight Loss Wisdom

Authored by DesiMD Team

Debbe Geiger could summarize her feelings about exercise in two words. “It stinks,” she'd say.
But then her thinking changed when -- after much urging from friends who wanted her to play with them -- she joined a volleyball team. Now, she’s at the gym with a convert’s fervor on game nights because she doesn’t want to let her teammates down.
“There have been lots of reasons I could have missed, and I haven’t,” says Geiger of Cary, N.C.

Her experience illustrates what exercise experts have known for years: To stick with an exercise routine, you need a reason to carry on when that little voice inside says, "Sit on the couch. Have a doughnut."
And just knowing that exercise is good for you doesn't seem to be enough to get you moving.

Carla Sottovia, assistant director of fitness at the Cooper Fitness Institute in Dallas, says, “You may have had a bad experience in school, or maybe you’re afraid you’ll hurt yourself. Maybe you’re even afraid to sweat.”
Intimidation is a factor also, experts say. When you're out of shape, it takes courage to don workout duds and head for the gym.
If any of this sounds familiar, don't give up hope. Here are fitness inspiration tips from fitness experts and exercise converts that are guaranteed to help you learn how to love moving.
 

Overweight or Obese?

Doctors usually define "overweight" as a condition in which a person's weight is 10%-20% higher than "normal," as defined by a standard height/weight chart, or as a body mass index (BMI) of 25 to 30.

Obesity is usually defined as a condition in which a person's weight is 20% or more above normal weight or as a BMI of 30 or more. "Morbid obesity" means a person is either 50%-100% over normal weight, more than 100 pounds over normal weight, or sufficiently overweight to severely interfere with health or normal functioning.

Approximately 60 million Americans, nearly one-third of all adults and about one in five children, are obese. In 2008, only one state -- Colorado -- had an obesity rate less than 20%.

There are several tests that can be performed to determine if you are overweight or obese. But, measuring the exact amount of a person's body fat is not an easy task. Some tests are more accurate than others.

 

What Tests Are Available to Diagnose Obesity?

Hydrostatic body fat test.

This is the most accurate test given to assess body fat. During the test, you are submerged in water while your underwater weight is recorded. This test is usually done at research and academic centers, but the test is also now done with mobile units.
Dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA). This is another very accurate way to assess body fat. During this test, the person must lay flat for approximately 20 to 30 minutes while every section of his or her body is systematically X-rayed in a CT scanner.

Unfortunately, these methods, however accurate, are not practical for the average person, and are generally done only in research centers with special equipment. As a result, doctors have developed easier methods to determine if a person is overweight or obese. These include:
Calipers. A caliper is a device that is used to measure the amount of body fat on different parts of the body. Special computations provide your percentage of body fat based on the various measurements of skinfold thickness. These devices are commonly used in health clubs and commercial weight loss centers, but the results are only accurate if performed correctly.

Bioelectrical Impedance, or BIA.

This technique uses a machine that sends harmless and painless electricity through a person's body to measure each of the different kinds of tissue in the body. These include the amount of muscle and other lean tissue as well as the amount of fat and water in their body. The greater amount of fat a person has the greater the resistance the electrical signal encounters. BIA is very accurate and is often available to the public for purchase or can be found at gyms and rehabilitation centers as well as doctors' offices.

Height/weight charts.

Special tables can be used to determine if a person is overweight or obese. To get your ideal weight, you find your height on the chart, decide if you are thick, medium, or thin framed and then you can find the range of your ideal weights separate for males and females. However, this technique is not always accurate. For example, the height/weight tables could indicate that a lean, muscular person is "overweight" (muscle weighs more than fat) while a person whose weight is within the "normal" range might actually be carrying around more fatty tissue than is healthy.

Body mass index.

The BMI is now the most common tool used to measure obesity. It measures your weight relative to your height. The ideal range is 18.5-24.9. A person with a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered to be overweight and a BMI 30 to 39.9 indicates obesity and a BMI 40 and above indicates morbid obesity. This technique has the same drawback as the height/weight charts -- it does not take into account if a person is very muscular.
 

Be Realistic
First-time exercisers often set unrealistic goals that are too ambitious for beginners. Gerald Endress, fitness director of the Duke Diet and Fitness Center in Durham, N.C. says, “They want to go for maximal goals, but they tend to get overwhelmed.”
So don’t start off trying to work out an hour every day. Instead, set more reasonable, achievable goals, like exercising 20 to 30 minutes two or three times a week.

Keep Track of Your Progress
Remember to chart your progress, whether it's with a high-tech online tracker or an old-school fitness journal. Seeing incremental improvements, whether it's improved time, increased reps, or greater frequency of workouts, can boost your exercise motivation.

Don't Expect Perfection
Another pitfall is all-or-nothing thinking, a perfectionist way of looking at life that leads to giving up when you miss a day or two or your workout doesn’t go well. Endress says if you accept that there will be some sidesteps on your fitness journey, you’ll be better prepared mentally to deal with setbacks.

Expect that you'll get sick from time to time, and be psychologically prepared to miss a few days of exercise when that happens. Don’t let it be an excuse for giving up. "From then on, many people say, ‘I can’t exercise,'" Endress says. "But there’s always a way to exercise."
To keep injuries from sidelining you, do your best to prevent them by warming up, cooling down, stretching properly, and not doing too much too soon.

Don't Compare Yourself to Others
We’ve all seen those toned, fatless specimens who strut through the gym in their Barbie-sized shorts and sports bras.
Don’t compare yourself to them, Endress says. Forget about them. Forgive them. But do not let them deter you from your goal.
Get Support

Enlist the help of your spouse, girlfriends, boyfriends, buddies -- anyone who will encourage you to stay on track.
"The person should be in support, but not say, 'Why can’t you? It’s so easy,'" says Sottovia. If helpful reassurance turns into criticism, gently remind your pal that you don’t need nagging.
If you need additional help, hire a trainer, she advises.
Find the Fun In It

Sottovia and Endress both say it’s essential to find an activity you like. With an explosion in the number and types of fitness classes at most gyms, it has become easier to find something to appeal to you, from aerobics to Zumba.

If you're not the gym type, walk around your neighborhood or try activities around the house, such as walking up and down stairs or dancing with the stars in your living room. If you're motivated by being social, follow Geiger's lead and join a team.
Break It Up

You can make it easier on yourself by splitting your exercise session into two or three sessions, says Endress. Research supports the idea that this can be as beneficial as one long workout, he says.
So, for example, if you don’t feel like exercising for an hour on any given day, do three sessions of 20 minutes each.
Make It Convenient

Do whatever you can to remove obstacles to exercise, and make it as convenient as possible, says Sottovia.
If you are time-pressed, for example, don't spend 30 minutes driving to a gym. Try exercising at home to fitness DVDs instead. If you're too tired to work out at the end of the day, set your alarm a little earlier and exercise in the morning.

Forget the Past
Don't let previous bad experiences with exercise hinder you, Sottovia says.
So maybe you weren’t the most athletic kid in high school and were the last chosen for class games. That was years ago. Your goal now is not to win a letter jacket or make the cheerleading squad -- you want to exercise to stay healthy and enjoy your life.
Reward Yourself

Treat yourself for making the effort to exercise -- not with food, but with something that you enjoy, like a movie or flowers, says Endress
Try to think of indulgences that will reinforce a mind-body connection so you can savor the rewards of your hard work. Plan a short trip, or just an hour in a botanical garden. Go to a ball game. And remind yourself with each precious moment that you are enjoying this time because of all the great things you have been doing for yourself.

Be Realistic
First-time exercisers often set unrealistic goals that are too ambitious for beginners. Gerald Endress, fitness director of the Duke Diet and Fitness Center in Durham, N.C. says, “They want to go for maximal goals, but they tend to get overwhelmed.”
So don’t start off trying to work out an hour every day. Instead, set more reasonable, achievable goals, like exercising 20 to 30 minutes two or three times a week.

Keep Track of Your Progress
Remember to chart your progress, whether it's with a high-tech online tracker or an old-school fitness journal. Seeing incremental improvements, whether it's improved time, increased reps, or greater frequency of workouts, can boost your exercise motivation.

*Disclaimer This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.