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Published: Sunday, 3/12/2006

Weight warnings: Enough is enough

How many times a day do we need to be reminded that we are overweight and should reconsider our food intake and exercise? I mean enough is enough.

Warnings seem to be everywhere we look, and even where we don't look. TV commercials constantly badger viewers with magical exercise equipment. To demonstrate the machinery there is always a slim, muscular man, or size 4 woman, showing just how easy it is to trim the abdomen and the rear end so that we can look just like them, even though they are at least 50 years younger.

I turned the TV off Saturday afternoon after a sizeable dose of fitness commercials in favor of doing something mind-improving, like reading.

A zero-size model wearing a sauna belt was the clincher. I'll wager they don't make sauna belts large enough to sweat off many of our big waistlines.

Then what did I turn to in the magazines that have been stacking up? You got it, more ways to a healthier me via diet and exercise.

Magazines choose America's excess weight as the subject they think we would most like to read about.

In one publication a weight control 2006 calendar suggests strategies to help people overcome temptation on holidays and special events.

As an example, for Oscar Night gatherings, the author shared a tip Dr. Stephen Gullo of New York gives celebrity clients to keep them from overeating at parties. The tip is to suck on a menthol-flavored lozenge instead of hanging out at the appetizer table. The cost is 15 calories over a half-hour period of not eating.

For St. Patrick's Day, the dieting tip is to trade one eight-ounce glass of green light beer for iced green tea. The beer is 70 calories; the tea is calorie-free and said to boost metabolism.

The diet tip for Easter probably won't get many takers, either. Instead of eating a chocolate Easter egg, settle for a decorated hard-boiled egg that is only 78 calories.

As for dinner on Tax Day, April 15, the advice is to breathe deeply between bites to avoid mindlessly shoveling in food in a nervous frenzy.

A headline that caught my eye was "Walk Off Your Belly." I bought the magazine to read about the walking plan developed by Shirley Archer, fitness expert and health and wellness educator at Stanford University School of Medicine. It's a recommended seven-day walking program to reduce fat combined with abdominal exercises to tone muscles.

As much as I say I would do almost anything to make the belly disappear, a seven-day regimen is too much on my busy retirement schedule. Three days is workable, but not the whole week.

I am not sure whether it's easier to understand the manual on the new digital camera or the instructions for an exercise if you can't watch it being demonstrated. Figure this one out if you can: It's called the Standing Oblique Twist. Stand with feet hip-width apart. Lift arms to shoulder height with elbows bent at 90-degree angles, palms facing forward. Exhaling, lift right knee up toward chest as you rotate shoulder toward the right, twisting through the waist. Contract abs so hips stay facing forward. Inhale as you lower leg to the ground and bring upper body back to center. Repeat with the left knee, twisting left, and continue alternating for one minute.

Did you get it? Good for you.

This is not to say that we don't need to eat more healthfully and exercise.

The bonus of exercising three times a week is that I am not as hungry afterward as I would ordinarily be and I certainly feel better in every way. The key to success in any diet or exercise program is mindset. I am not a professional, but I have spent a lot of my life trying to improve my appearance and therefore my health. The several sizes of clothing stored in my attic wardrobes are proof.

We have to want to change our bad habits even more than we want the piece of chocolate cream pie with buttery crust and whipped cream.



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