When you increase your blood sugar with a meal or snack rich in processed foods or very starchy carbohydrates, the sugar has to get out of your blood quickly. That’s insulin’s job – ushering insulin out of the blood stream and helping it find a place to go. However, as we’ve talked about before, insulin isn’t really effective at doing it’s job in many overweight people. Why? Because the chronic state of high blood sugar from constant carbohydrate consumption floods the body with insulin and we develop what’s called “insulin resistance”. When insulin is always hanging around, the tissues and cells that normally respond to it become immune. It’s kinda like how we get used to the brightness of the sun after being outside for a while. When you first step outside, the sun can sometimes be overwhelming. You squint, shield your eyes and look away. But, after a while, you’ve adjusted. It’s no big deal. You aren’t squinting and it doesn’t seem so bright. You’re used to it.
When insulin is always around due to chronically elevated blood sugar, your cells become immune to it. That is a problem for a number of reasons, but today we’re going to talk about what happens when insulin is no longer able to quickly remove that sugar from the blood and it just hangs around in the blood stream.
There’s a reason we need insulin to clear sugar from the blood ASAP. When it hangs around, it can become quite toxic. One of the things sugar does when left to linger is bind to proteins or fats that are naturally present in your blood. Not only does this render the protein/fat ineffective (and it can’t do what it’s in the blood to do) but it forms something called Advanced Glycation End Products (AGES). The acronym is really quite appropriate; these AGES age you. There’s absolutely no question that they accelerate the aging process.
AGEs cause destruction throughout your entire body. Through research, AGEs have been implicated in the development of diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, neuropathy and much more. They damage your cells, which is the starting point for almost all disease. They can impair blood flood and have been linked to asthma, eye problems and systemic inflammation.
From a cosmetic perspective, AGEs seriously impair skin health. The body sees these AGEs as foreign bodies, triggering an inflammatory response. This can lead to both internal and topical inflammation. AGEs are naturally drawn to the collagen and elastin within your skin. Collagen and elastin are then no longer able to do their job effectively. The result? Fine lines and wrinkles.
It’s important to note that you can also increase your exposure to AGEs from smoking or eating foods that have been cooked at very high temperatures (grilled, fried, etc). We certainly can’t eliminate our exposure to AGEs – they are naturally formed within our bodies, but reducing their prevalence by managing our blood sugar is KEY. The simplest way to do that is by eliminating processed foods, sugars and wheat products.
We all need a little motivation for our workouts sometimes. Pushing through a workout isn’t always easy. I’ve had tons of days in the gym when I just haven’t felt totally connected to what I was doing. I didn’t feel like putting in my best effort, I didn’t feel strong or I didn’t feel motivated. If I gave in to those feelings every time, I’d rarely get in a good workout and I certainly wouldn’t be able to build much strength, endurance or mental toughness. When I’m not feeling like putting in the hard work, I have a few steps I work through to get my mind in the right place and bust out a killer workout.
If my issue is that I don’t want to go to the gym in general, I don’t even listen to that voice in my head. It’s not an option (unless I’m injured or it’s a rest day). I will, however, tell myself just to go and get started. If I need to change plans once I get there and do something other than what I’ve planned, that’s OK. But rule number 1 for me is just get there. There will always be reasons not to go, but what will make the difference in whether or not I reach my goals is my ability to follow through. I follow through. I get to the gym.
Sometimes, though, even when I’m there I just don’t really feel it. Maybe I’m tired or feeling frustrated and the last thing I want to do is push through a hard workout. Here are some tricks that have worked for me.
- Pick a motivating scenario and play it through in your head. Do you have a class reunion coming up or maybe a friend’s wedding? Imagine exactly what you’ll wear and how flawless you’ll look in it. Imagine how people will react when they see what a transformation you’ve made. Think about how proud you’ll be and how excited you’ll feel. Think about every single detail and truly dive into the moment. Oftentimes this is the strategy I’ll use when I’m doing bike or rowing sprints and I want to quit. Not only does it really motivate me but it also helps distract me and the time flies by more quickly.
- Play a song that really speaks to you. When Katy Perry’s “Roar” first came out, I think I kept it on repeat during my workouts (not really, but almost!). It can’t just be a song that you like or that energizes you. It has to be a song that really tugs at that person you want to be or that goal you know you can reach. Lose yourself in that song for a moment. This is usually enough to trigger me to remember that the ONLY way to my goals is through pushing myself. If I’m comfortable all the time, I won’t be stretched enough to get where I need to go.
- Imagine what is happening inside your body as you push yourself. I do this all the time. Maybe it’s my inner dork, but it really works for me. For example, I hate burpees. They’re hard. They make me sweat and they make me breathless. But damn do they work. Usually when I do them, I want to quit within a minute. Instead, I imagine what’s happening in my body as I work so hard. I imagine fat being released from cells. I imagine it being carried through my body (thanks to the increased blood flow from those damn burpees) and entering another cell to be burned. I imagine my legs or my belly getting leaner as I push myself to the max.
I don’t know what will work for you but I do know this: giving up won’t work. Never pushing past your comfort zone is not what it will take to get you to your goals. It’s not supposed to be comfortable. Embrace the discomfort because it’s what is required to transform you into what you’re trying to become.
Chances are, in order to reach your fat loss goals you’re going to have to create some new habits. If only it was as easy as bottling up your good intentions and writing down some goals. It wasn’t so easy for me.
My terrible habits were so deeply engrained in me they felt automatic. Choosing comfort foods on a bad day almost didn’t feel like a choice, it had become instinct. There were days that it felt like my car went on autopilot to the Mexican restaurant after work. I didn’t feel like I was actively “choosing” junk anymore than I chose to fall asleep or yawn. Yes, I know they were choices. But 20+ years of making poor food choices and using food as a drug DOES create a degree of instinct. So if our habits have become automatic, how can we possibly make new ones?
It’s pretty easy to stick to a new routine for a day or two but for lasting fat loss your new habits have to become a part of your everyday life. When I started my weight loss journey I had such a long road ahead and found success by breaking up the necessary lifestyle changes into small, manageable adjustments.
Need to adopt some new, healthy habits? Here’s 5 ways to make sure you can stick to it over the long term!
- Understand your current ones
Are you even aware of how, why and what you eat? That’s really the first step. I suggest keeping a journal of not only what you eat but when you eat it and how you’re feeling before you eat. Beginning to see the patterns around your eating is an absolutely critical part of being able to change them.
- Start small
If you’re living on microwave popcorn, PopTarts and Taco Bell, declaring that you are cutting out all processed foods might be a big leap. It’s a great long-term goal but it might not be the most feasible starting point. Take an honest look at your lifestyle and identify one, small, meaningful area for change. One change I like to recommend is avoiding processed foods before 10am. It removes the pressure to be perfect all day but it starts you out on the right foot and it’s easy to build upon once you get comfortable. If incorporating physical activity is important to you, commit to stretching for 5 minutes first thing in the morning or to taking the stairs at work. This isn’t a race and taking on more than you’re ready to handle is a fast way to fail and get frustrated.
- Focus on one thing at a time
I’m definitely guilty of feeling a surge of motivation and writing out an aggressive, detailed plan to have killer workouts, a super clean diet, an early bedtime, etc, etc. When you’re ready to change your life, you’re ready to change it all, right? That’s totally my MO. However, you’ll be far more successful if you focus on one thing at a time. Make it a part of your life, invest your energy in making it an effortless habit and then tackle the rest. Most of us will claim to be wonderful multitaskers but your focus is finite and if you want to master lasting change, take it one by one.
- Practice makes progress
Once you have identified the small, singular habit you’re going to work to incorporate, practice it at every opportunity. If you come up against a roadblock, embrace it as a great opportunity for practice. Just because you’ve declared walking for 30 minutes each day your new habit doesn’t mean it’s going to be effortless. When your day gets crazy and you feel like there’s no time, don’t respond in frustration. Respond with excitement because your life is giving you an opportunity to demonstrate that you’re willing to put in the work to find a way to reach your goals. Prove to yourself that when things get crazy, you make time for this healthy, new habit. It’s easy when it’s easy, right? We need it to be consistent when it’s NOT easy. That takes practice. When it rains for days on end, don’t throw in the towel and give up on your habit, take advantage of the opportunity to practice your habit and find an indoor track or a shopping mall and get your walk in! It’s going to take consistent practice and commitment to overcoming obstacles. Don’t get frustrated, look for those chances to practice and make progress.
- Hold yourself to a high standard
We are our own greatest ally and our own greatest enemy. We can be very effective excuse-makers. Commit to holding yourself to a high standard. Commit to living up to the potential you know you have. Don’t give in and don’t give up. Push yourself and expect consistent practice. You don’t have to be perfect but you DO have to be consistent. Creating new habits is easy until it isn’t, right? That’s when you need to keep pushing through and not allow yourself to give up or move on. No one can do it for you. Hold yourself to the standards you know you are capable of.
When you identify one small change and consistently practice it, soon it will be an effortless habit just like brushing your teeth or starting your day with a cup of coffee. The process, however, takes focus and commitment. When you buckle down and focus, you’ll soon be ready to take on more and before you know it, you’ll be well on your way to person you want to be.
One of my favorite quotes is from Marcus Aurelius: “Would you have a great empire? Rule over yourself.” I love this so much I have it written on the wall of my office and in a note in my iPhone. These simple two sentences have been one of my greatest motivators during my weight loss journey.
I’m sure the words mean very different things to different people but I want to share with you the impression they have made on me.
At the time I first came upon this quote I was working in a management role. I had a fantastic team and though I was being pulled in a million different directions, I tried hard to set a good example for them. I wanted them to see my hard work, initiative, problem solving and tenacity. When I read this quote I thought, “How can I inspire my team if I can’t inspire myself?”
It starts with me. “Rule over yourself.”
I thought about my marriage. I was encouraging my husband to quit chewing tobacco and this quote hit me hard – how can I expect him to listen to me or be encouraged by me if I’m not living a healthy, disciplined life?
It starts with me. “Rule over yourself.”
I thought about the family I might have one day. How hypocritical I would be to lead my kids in ANY way if I’m unable to lead MYSELF! If I’m not compelled to follow the wisdom of my own mind, how in the world could I expect my children to be?
It starts with me. “Rule over yourself.”
I remember thinking at the time, “I want so many big things. I want to be debt free. I want to lose over 100 pounds. I want to be strong, fit and confident.” I became instantly aware that an unrefutable requirement for all of those things is to become an effective leader of ME.
Does anyone read this quote the same way? It just is so powerful to me – if I’m not able to instruct, lead and inspire myself then I have no business trying to do it for anyone else.
I can’t tell you how many times a day this simple phrase runs through my head. If I’ve told myself I’ll go for an hour leisure walk and I start listing all the reasons I should stop at 40 minutes, I’ll hear in my head “Rule over yourself”. When I’ve finished dinner and I’m tempted to do a kitchen-walkthrough just to see what might look yummy I hear it: “Rule over yourself”. When my alarm goes off in the morning and I consider hitting snooze instead of getting to work, there it is: “Rule over yourself”.
Spend some time looking at the gap between what you expect of others and what you expect of yourself.
Spend some time considering if you are able to reach any of your goals without mastering the art of following your own guidance.
Maybe it’s not these words that fuel you but I’m sure there are others. Find something that reminds you of what is most important and keep it front of mind. Put it on an index card on the dash of your car or write it on the mirror in your bathroom. Encourage yourself daily – there’s no question that you’ll need it!