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female_joggerphoto by mikebaird

Editor’s note: I begun writing this article last week, and it came out to be more than 5, 000 words, almost 10 pages long. So I’ve decided to break it up into smaller chunks and publish it as a series.

I hope that you find these articles helpful and look forward to your comments.

This article is the start of that series.

Obesity is increasing at an alarming rate throughout the world. Today it is estimated that there are more than 300 million obese people world-wide – which is associated with a large number of debilitating and life-threatening disorders. Everyday millions people are diagnosis with some type of killer disease. Heart disease and cancer account for 75% of all deaths in the western would, for example.

A large majority of these diseases can be preventable just by changing our eating habits and proper exercise for maintaining a healthy body. Changing your life-style can literally postpone your funeral for years.

Probably no more than 20 per cent of those trying to lose weight, and possibly as few as 5 per cent, will have any long-term success with dieting.

So how does a trim, noticeable figure come about? Certainly not by accident; you have to eat less and exercise more. The key words are balance, common-sense and planning.

A lot of people adopt short-term weight reduction schemes to loss weight quickly, but many of these weight-reduction schemes may be at a cost to one’s general health if vital nutrients are missed out.

Nor will skipping meals on a regular basis help since there is a general tendency for meal skippers to ‘catch up’ at their next opportunity. Many are prepared to eat less but rarely think of engaging in an exercise programme.

The two items (eating less and exercise more) must go hand in hand – exercise is an aid to reducing, not a substitute for correct eating practices.

To be continued…

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woman flat stomach

Forever since I can remember, I’ve always wanted to lose weight and stay in shape. Over the years of workout and trying different exercises I’ve to come learn that loosing weight is only one factor – lean muscle mass, body fat percentage, hip to waist ratio, etc are all just as important.

After I got into shape, I wanted to get six –pack abs to look like one of those male models we see on magazines and on TV. That’s also was a dumb goal, and I will tell you why it’s dumb. Most people are not genetically programmed to have those kinds of abs. Secondly, even the supermodels and male models that have six-pack don’t have them all the time. Usually they have a little fat, and then burn it off in the weeks before a photo shoot.

My only goal now is to have a flat stomach – I’ve given up on having a six pack. It really should be all about getting it down to an acceptable body fat percentage, but I don’t have an easy of measuring that. A flat stomach can be measured in the mirror or by my fiancée. I don’t need to have defined abs, but just to lose some of my stomach fat and keeping it flat. To me, that will look good, and feel good.

Over the years I’ve learn what works best for me, and I’ve also done my research – here’s the three steps to a flat stomach and a healthier you.

Cardio, cardio, cardio. Doing all the abs exercises in the world will do nothing if you have a layer of fat covering it. To many times I’ve seen people go to the gym to lose stomach flat, and beginning doing all different types of ads exercises – then after six months they’re wondering why their is no improvement. Doing strength training, or lifting weights, would help, but not as much as aerobic exercise. So my plan is to continue my running, and add in playing basketball and swimming. I plan to do at least 35 minutes of cardio 6 days a week. On some days I’ll do more — 50 minutes, an hour, even more on long days. Until I build up my endurance, like I did with running, I’ll start up slow playing basketball and also the amount of time I spend swimming.

A quick note: interval training is also great, and I will add that in after my endurance is better. If you want to add some ab exercises in after the cardio, that’s great, but be sure to work your whole torso, not just the upper abs — that includes the lower abs, lower back and the muscles that wrap around your sides.

Less Fat and Sugar. It’s that simple. Here in the Caribbean there is everything that anyone will ever need to maintain a healthy diet, but most people resort to a diet that is typically filled with fat and sugar, and you’ll never get a flat stomach on that recipe. Cut out meat, if you can, and even better, cut out dairy and eggs. But if you can’t, at least eat lean meats (low-fat turkey, skinless chicken breast, lean beef, fish), and stay away from fried food and too many sugary desserts. I’m not saying that you have to starve yourself — if you’re eating healthy, you can actually eat a lot — or deprive yourself too much, but only eat the bad stuff in moderation. I’m not a Vegetarian, but Vegan diet is the best, especially if it’s balanced, rich in vegetable protein and calcium and minerals, full of fresh fruits and veggies, and high in fiber.

Give it Some Time. If you’re one of those persons who want to have a flat stomach in 3 weeks, or two months, forget it. Losing fat takes time, and it’s unhealthy to lose too much weight too fast. Aim for 1-2 lbs. a week. Gradual weight loss is healthier, and more likely to be sustained over time. Go for a lifestyle change, something you can live with for the rest of your life. Working toward having a flat stomach, is kind a like a marathon, not a sprint.

Photo via hbjock.org

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While getting back in shape has been a start-and-stop-and-start-again issue for me over the last few months, over the long run, I’ve become fitter. And I’m beginning to feel like when graduated from high school 10 years ago.

I’ve dropped a few pounds, soon I will start run regularly again, and I’ve become more consistent with strength training. I’m not saying all that to show- off. If you saw the details of how I got here, it’s something to be proud of — I ran to and from the gym every morning, workout about an hour five days a week and play basketball on the weekends… but then I slowly started eating more junk food and gaining weight.

Recently, I dropped sweets from my diet (cakes,donuts, candy, CHOCOLATE!, sodas, etc.), and surprisingly I don’t really miss them. I’ve been exercising with some of my friends at the gym on alternate days and it’s been great. I’m healthy.

The ups-and-downs of my fitness efforts have highlighted some important points for me. Key among those points: don’t quit. If you stop for awhile (life is like that sometimes), that doesn’t mean you should quit altogether. Just keep going. You’ll get there eventually.

And during this journey, which hasn’t stopped and probably won’t ever stop, and I’ve learned a lot over the years, about what works and what doesn’t.

What follows are some of the more important truths I’ve learned, that I’d like to share with you. Take from them what you will — everyone will find different things that work for them (in fact that’s the #1 rule), but I think just about all of them are important to share.

Small steps. That you get fitter in stages, as you exercise more, is pretty obvious I think. You might start out just walking, but as you get fitter, you might add some slow jogging to your routine. And then eventually you’re running three miles, several stages later. However, this really applies to everything, including diet, and many people don’t realize that. You shouldn’t try to change your entire diet overnight — do it in stages.

Small steps, one thing at a time and you’ll get there. Just start eating more fruits at first, for example. Then cut out sodas. Then eat more veggies for dinner. Then change your white bread for whole wheat bread. Then cut out candy at work.:smile: And so on. The thing is, you get used to each thing after awhile, and so the changes don’t seem drastic. A year later, and you’re eating extremely healthily (that word again), and you can’t imagine going back to your old diet. Small steps — this is the key, to both diet and exercise.

Find short-term rewards. Most people quit their diet or exercise program because they’re looking for immediate results. And they’re discouraged when they don’t get them. But you won’t get immediate results – that’s not how things work. One fitness trainer said something like,

“After a month, you’ll start feeling some results. After two months, you’ll start noticing results. After three months, others will start noticing.”

And that’s pretty true — it takes months before you start to see the results you want … but in the meantime, you have to look for other things to keep you going. Those shorter-term rewards could be simple things like the great feeling you get after a workout — that helps me stay motivated. Or you could give yourself a treat or reward (something healthy, preferably) or buy a book or something like that.

Track your progress. The scale is probably the most popular way to see your progress, but other ways include measuring your waist, or taking photos of yourself each month. You could also track your performance — for example, try to run 2-3mile every week to see if you’re getting faster, or log your miles to see them increase. However you do it, you should have some kind of way to see your progress over the weeks and months. Otherwise, you might not really notice the difference — but the numbers or pictures will.

Get a workout partner. The key to my exercise success in the past was my best friend. I began running with Glen, (who btw is an incredible inspiration — he has come a very strong runner in the last year), and even though we’re at different levels, we really enjoy our runs. When we agree to meet at 5 a.m. for a run, I have to be there, or face the music :smile:. And sure, once in awhile there were times I didn’t show up, but most of the time we’re there, and we run, and that’s the important thing. These months of running was really what gotten me in much better shape. Now Glenn is back and I think it time we start back running. Get a workout partner, it’s best the move.

Enjoy yourself. Very very important. If you see your exercise as extremely difficult, or painful, you won’t be able to maintain it for long. You’ll quit. If you see your diet as very restrictive, or torture, you’ll go back to junk food in a short while. You must find exercise that you enjoy, and find healthy foods that taste good to you. Experiment with new recipes until you find ones you absolutely love. The bottom-line, enjoy the whole process. It’s what’s kept me doing it — I love my life and the way I feel.

Never ever give up. Maybe the most important truth on this list. If you give up, you won’t get to your goal. Very obvious, I know, but the problem is that people don’t put this into action. Messing up by falling back into junk food or stopping exercise — that happens. Life gets in the way. No one is perfect. Just forget about that stuff, and move on. Learn from your failures, adjust your plan to prevent the same thing from happening again, and start again. If you stop, that’s OK — just starts again. Always start again. If you do that, there’s no way you won’t eventually get to your goal.

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