I don’t need to be Carnac the Magnificent to know what is on most minds this time of year.

And the Answer is…

“Weight Loss”

As everyone knows, the most popular Resolution for New Years, by far, has something to do with losing weight.

My 4 Easy to Do Resolutions to Achieve Lasting Weight Loss

A renewed ambition for weight loss in January is so common, marketers budget for a major jump in their advertising expenses during the month.

This is probably no secret if you watch much television or listen to the radio. You will notice a constant barrage of ads touting their proposed solution.

This is also an ideal time to air inspirational TV shows that support the idea of losing weight, such as, “Biggest Loser”.  If you watch that show, you might notice the “product placements” and “name dropping” that occurs during the episodes.

That is not by accident.

So, because of the importance so many people place on weight loss this time of year, I wanted to focus less on the generality of weight loss, and instead share my four specific goals I defined to help me achieve my ambition to lose my holiday weight.

I can hear it now from the people who know me: “What holiday weight? There’s nothing to lose!”

O-contraire, my good friends… This is, in fact, something I focus on after every holiday season.

As I have stated before, here in Arizona, it actually gets cold.  (No, trust me… It does!)  And as I have often stated, I really don’t like being cold.

In fact, I dislike being cold more than I love mountain biking, hiking and riding dirt bikes.  And I L-o-v-e doing those things.

Since I am not a fan of cold, I cut way back on my outdoor activities when the temperatures drop below about 50 degrees.  Actually, to be honest, I begin to whine like a little girl when the temperature drops below 65, but to admit that makes me sound like…  a little girl.

When I combine a decrease in activity with the abundant availability of pumpkin pie… before long, my pants start shrinking in the dryer… again.

Which brings me to my own list of, “4 Goals to Help me Achieve a New Year’s Resolution for Weight loss“:

1) Hunger More
2) Error Less
3) Walk More
4) Stress Less

Goal 1 – Hunger more:

I am referring to my own hunger.  For some reason, I don’t really notice when I am supposed to be hungry.

I think a long time ago I decided to not be controlled by my feelings of hunger.  My logic was, if there is no food in front of me to eat, what’s the point of being hungry.

Unfortunately, what then happens is I sit down in front of a large platter of food and I suddenly realize, “I could eat a moose!!”  That’s when the oink-fest begins, continuing until I either must come up for air, or the food within arms reach is gone.

So, I am setting a goal to pay attention to the feelings of being hungry. Maybe then I can be motivated to eat more small meals during the day, which is always a healthier way to approach meals.

Then, ultimately, I will eat smaller portions and less food.

Goal 2 – Error Less: 

Einstein often gets credit for saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.”

I know I will make many mistakes this year, but, there are some I don’t have to keep repeating.

Such as, when I serve myself a plate of food, I don’t actually need to fill the entire plate. Because, if I do, and once it is in front of me, I will eat the whole thing.

So, I am going to discipline myself to either start with a smaller plate, or accept that it is okay for some of the plate’s surface to still be visible after I load it with food.

Also, I know if I sit down in front of a big platter of chips and salsa, or carton of ice cream, or bucket of bite-size brownies, and I have just one taste, I will eat the whole thing.

Additionally, I need to take extra precautions to not bring home any types of dessert… including the aforementioned brownies, chips, ice cream, etc., because if it is in the house, I will eat the whole thing.

Notice a pattern yet?

I have a problem not knowing when to stop.

My girlfriend can take home one chocolate chip cookie, or one piece of fudge from Bass Pro Shop, and nibble on it for a week.  She keeps telling me, “Don’t sit down at the table with the entire pie, quart of ice cream, or 4-pound bag of cashews you got at CostCo.  Put a little bit on a plate and take only the plate to the table.”

She’s right, of course, but I always think, “Naw… I don’t want to dirty another plate.”

So my resolution is to quit making the same mistake of plopping myself down in front of a large volume of food, with the belief I will recognize (and have the discipline) when it is time to stop.

Goal 3 – Walk More:

I need to take more time to simply walk. Not hike… walk.

When I am hiking, I am cranking along up steep inclines trying to get my heart rate up.  That is fine, but walking is a low-impact way to circulate the blood, release some tension, and raise the core temperature without getting out of breath and needing a shower afterwards.

I already make some opportunities to walk more than I have to, because I prefer to park away from other cars to protect my vehicles from getting door dings.  But I am going to make a conscious effort to park even further out in the weeds to give me the chance to walk a little further.

Raising the core temperature from something as simple as walking has a prolonged benefit, even if I return to my desk and plop back down in the chair.  To maintain a higher temperature, even for a short while, requires the body to consume more calories.

This might not seem like much, but like most people, I find I gain those extra pounds in a very gradual — almost imperceptible — way.  So, I know that any activity that helps increase circulation and body temperature will contribute significantly to reversing the trend.

If you think back to your physics class in school, you might recall that energy is not created or destroyed… it just changes form.  My goal is to change the form of energy that is stored in my waistline into thermal energy (heat) or kinetic energy (movement).

When energy is stored in some manner, it is considered a “potential” energy.  A flashlight’s batteries store a potential energy that becomes light energy when turned on. Food is a stored chemical energy that has potential to become movement and heat  energy (kinetic and thermal, respectively).  However, if more food is consumed than the body needs, the chemical energy is restored as fat, another type of potential energy.

Even in our resting states (like, sitting on my butt at the computer), “energy conversion” is taking place simply to stay alive.  We are like a car that is idling, converting the “potential” form of chemical energy we call gasoline into thermal and kinetic energies to pump the pistons and spin the crankshaft.  In a similar way, our fat cells act as our gas tank, storing our potential energy.

Walking a few extra steps each day, to raise my core temperature at a resting state, is simply a minor adjustment of my idle screw to a faster idle. Like on a car, a faster idle will consume more fuel in the form of fat, which for me, is my version of gasoline… it’s my  potential energy.

As I mentioned, it is the incremental changes that give me the few extra pounds… it is the incremental changes that each year help me lose them.

By the way, even though you often hear people refer to “Burning Fat” when describing weight loss, that is actually not accurate.  You don’t really burn fat, but it is a convenient image for folks to grasp.

I should make a note as an article idea to write about what actually happens to the fat cells when you are losing weight.  Although, I don’t think most people really care… they just want it gone.

Goal 4 – Stress Less:

That sounds like an important goal to have all the time.

However, for the sake of this discussion about weight loss, I am referring to the relationship between stress and the release of cortisol; the stress (fight or flight) hormone.

Cortisol is a hormone that is naturally produced during periods of stress, such as events that can trigger a “fight or flight” response.

Some cortisol is good… but, too much cortisol is bad.

It is cortisol secretions that trigger the release of amino acids, glucose, and fatty acids into the bloodstream for use as energy during a stressful event, such as, fighting off a saber-toothed tiger, or running out of the path of a stampeding herd of Woolly mammoths.

During ancient times, while facing an angry mammoth, it was cortisol that kept us from standing frozen in fear, soiling our loincloths, and becoming a furry pachyderm’s toe jam.

So, cortisol is good… right?

Well, as with pizza and beer, too much of a good thing can become bad.

In our modern world, our bodies still respond to stressful events by secreting the stress hormone,  but instead of a saber-toothed tiger, it is just a boss shouting in our face about a missed deadline.

And instead of out-of-control animals charging towards us, we have out-of-control Wal-Mart shoppers during the “Black Friday Sales Event”.

The real problem for us in this modern age has to do with our lack of aggressive reaction to the stressor.

Our “civilized” efforts to deal with stressors leans more toward pretending to ignore it, rather than simply identifying the cause of the stress and poking it with a sharp stick.

Come to think of it, I did try the sharp stick approach… and now I’m banned from Wal-Mart.

During ancient times, while facing an angry mammoth, it was cortisol that kept us from standing frozen in fear, soiling our loincloths, and becoming a furry pachyderm’s toe jam.

The problem with not being able to react in a Neanderthal manner to the stress hormone means our bodies are unable to deplete the energy pulsing through our veins.

This actually induces more stress and causes additional cortisol secretion, setting up a vicious cycle.

We are designed to handle the release of cortisol in short-term bursts.  But, we have not developed a healthy way to endure a constant barrage of the stress hormone.

As a result, many of the issues we experience from stress are traced to the disrupted metabolic processes initiated by cortisol that cause elevations in blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, and body fat levels.

This combination of metabolic disturbances is called Metabolic Syndrome, and sometimes called Syndrome X.

It is fairly easy to detect people who are experiencing some level of Syndrome X by their apple shaped physique.

Syndrome X sufferers tend to accumulate fat around their waist, contributing to their waist-to-hip ratio.

Now, granted, there are many things that can contribute to a poor waist-to-hip ratio — the aforementioned pizza and beer come to mind — but, for someone who may be wrestling with losing some stubborn inches around the middle, they may consider their stress levels and sleep patterns to see if there is room for improvement.

If left unchecked, too much cortisol for too long a period of time develops into widespread breakdown of tissues; a process called “catabolism”.

Catabolism is characterized by muscle loss, bone loss, immune-system suppression, and even brain shrinkage.

So, getting back to my point of this 4th Goal to help achieve a successful weight loss Resolution, it is very important to be aware of the effects of cortisol on a weight loss effort.

We now know that, besides the health concerns caused by prolonged elevation of cortisol, there is a direct link to cortisol and highly efficient fat storage.

Our bodies contain an enzyme in the fat cells called “11 beta-hydroxysteriod dehydrogenase-1”, or just HSD.  HSD converts inactive cortisol (unused cortisol floating around our body) back into active cortisol, which then functions as a powerful fat-storage signal within the fat cells, especially abdominal fat cells, where research has shown has a higher HSD activity than anywhere else in the body.

This probably accounts for the higher belly fat measurements for people challenged by high cortisol levels.

The bottom line is that I think I am going to commit to lowering my stress levels.  Because, to be honest, the thought of giving up pizza and beer makes me want to poke someone else with a sharp stick.

Whatever your New Years Resolutions involve this year, if they include weight loss, maybe your secret to success is in a few goals as I have outlined here.

And if you have your own secret to success, or a new technique you are going to try, please leave a comment in the section below... We would love to hear them, and I am sure others would to be inspired by your thoughts.

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