I have discovered that over the past few years that I have so immersed myself in certain sub genres of our society that I find it hard to tell how much of the information has slowly leaked out into the world at large.  One of those sub genres is weight management and weight lifting.  Most or all of what I am about to write my regular readers likely already know, but seven years ago I did not have this information and my own weight loss would have been much easier and far less frustrating if I had.  With that in mind, I would like to pass on this knowledge for anyone who hasn’t learned of it yet.

When I started dieting the first time I had about 30 pounds to lose.  This would have taken me down to my lowest weight I remember at my height and athleticism (I played several sports in high school and trained martial arts in college).  When I finally got my head around losing the weight (meaning I finally found the motivation) I started out the no bread, pasta, or sugar route.  I knew nothing of low carb diets, only that weight loss could occur by cutting out these foods.  I didn’t work out beyond an occasional brisk walk.  A good amount of the weight came off but I stalled out 15-20 pounds in.  I then switched to Weight Watchers and lost almost all of the rest of the weight.  I should have been thrilled but looking in the mirror I looked nothing like my former athletic self.  I was very close to the weight but still looked fat in the mirror.  I had little idea why, and slowly started to put about 10 pounds back on.  We talked about joining a gym but didn’t really make a final decision until Maritus just came home with a membership one day as a surprise.  A couple of weeks later, after we had both managed to overtrain, (add to this list flu like symptoms for me) Maritus came home with some books on weight lifting, HIT training for him and Sculpting Her Body Perfect for me.  Thank goodness for that book.  It would be three years before I learned to eat much better, but I was on my way to lifting weights.

Lifting weights is so incredibly important because muscle burns many more calories than fat.  The reason I had become skinny fat is because, while restricting my calories, not only was my body burning fat, it was burning muscle.  I didn’t know this was how the body works.  So, even though the scale was reading what I had wanted it to, approximately 25% of my weight loss was due to burned muscle tissue.  I was skinny fat because I had burned away all my athletic lean muscle.  It dramatically slowed my metabolism and I had to eat even fewer calories to continue to lose weight, which would have led to even more muscle loss.  Then if I cheated, it was so much easier to add the weight back on as I didn’t have as much muscle burning calories throughout the day.  This is why weight lifting is so incredibly important. You will build more muscle to burn even more calories even while inactive.  It was when I finally learned about low carb that I got the closest I have been to my high school/college weight and size.  The important thing with low carb is that you are eating far more protein than a SAD entails.    This protein is vital to muscle growth and diet is vital to weight loss.  Approximately 85% of your weight loss goals will be achieved outside the gym with what you do and do not put in your mouth (I can’t find a link for this number right now and it may be off by a bit.  If anyone has more information on this I would appreciate it.  Just know that diet is key.  Without it, you will never reach your goals, no matter how much you work out).

So now, here we are today.  I’m about 15 pounds from where I want to be, as for the past four months I have been suffering terrible allergies that have kept me out of the gym (and many days made it very difficult to eat right).  Unfortunately, my allergies do not present with the normal itchy eyes and runny nose, rather I suffer from exhaustion, terrible sinus headaches,  and sinus pressure that causes significant dizziness and nausea.  What fun!  While I can still mostly function to get the kids through school, getting to the gym and eating right go pretty much out the window.  I’m too nauseous to stomach all the protein and fat and too tired and dizzy to train.  Last week, this latest spell finally ended and I am back to the low carb and the gym (I have had periods like this for the past 3 years.  Immunotherapy shots help tremendously, however it was just a particularly bad fall).  The good news is, I’ve been here before so there is not even a shadow of a doubt that I will be able to get back to where I was.  The frustrating thing for me is that I tend to get sick right when my goals are in sight but I’m not quite there.  Each time I recover, I tend to work through my old goal only to set a new one, so I really cannot complain.  So, I’m back at square . . . I don’t even know.  I’ve lost count.  I’m slowly getting my motivation back and very much looking forward to getting back into my nice clothes (so is Maritus).  I will get there but it takes patience and a lot of work.  Only, I know that after a couple of weeks I will love the work it takes and I will crave it.  You can get there, too.  Just know, that when you are first starting it takes longer to reach this place.  Give it time and work hard.  It will come.

Originally, this post was going to entail my favorite new training exercises, but I think I will save that for another day.  Today, ladies (and men), just realize how important weight training is to maintaining and losing weight.  You always hear what the scale reads is not important, and in reality this is very true.  It is how you look in the mirror and how your clothes fit that really counts (and, off course, how we look nude for our men).  By all means, use the scale as a motivator if it helps.  I have to weigh myself every day as it keeps me from raiding the fridge (food is my vice).  That’s what works for me.  Find what works for you and use it as best you can to your advantage.  Also, find what you love at the gym.  I was always an aggressive athlete.  I love the discipline of it.  It’s the one place I can go and lay it all on the table, get aggressive (yes, I know, not very feminine, but like I said, I was an athlete.  It came with the territory) in an acceptable fashion and kill it.  If you are lucky, you will be one of those people who gets a wonderful endorphin high while you are working out.  It takes time to really reach that place, but the more you stick with it, the more you will not only love the gym, but crave it.

Start out slowly and stay away from the machines.  Go right for the free weights and the cables.  You need to train your stabilizer muscles as well as the main muscle groups. The machines are too focused on on particular muscle.  However, when you use the free weights, bars and cables you are forced to use opposing muscle groups as well and it works all the little muscles in between.  You will train more thoroughly and be less prone to injury this way.  Also, head to BodyBuilding.com for more information than you could ever possibly hope for as well as hundreds of different exercises for your whole body.  Another favorite of mine is T-Nation.  This is, however, heavily geared toward men.  I go there mostly for motivation to reach for higher goals and to tweak my form or routine.  These things will come with time, but you must first get in there, get base routine started and learn correct form for each new move (this is so important).  Find your favorite exercises and learn them perfectly.  You will know when it’s time to add to your repertoire as you’ll want to learn more (which you will have to do to continue to make gains).

For those of you unable to make it to the gym, there is a lot that you can do at home with very little equipment.  I recommend BodyRock.tv (which has changed quite a bit since the last time I checked in.  It has grown.  Also, if it is still similar to what it was a couple of years ago, the guys will love the videos).   The point is, you want to build muscle.  You must not be worried that you will end up looking like this:

Won’t ever happen.

You cannot.  Women do not have enough testosterone in our systems to naturally look that way.  You can, however (depending on lots of different factors), look like this:

Jamie Eason. A famous female body builder.

One last thing, you can take lifting weights as far as your body will allow it.  However, you should be aware of what your husband finds attractive.  Some men do not like overt muscles on a woman.  If this is the case, use lower weights with higher repetitions.  You will gain tone without bulk or striations.  Some men do find it very attractive and they admire the discipline behind what it takes to achieve.  It’s really up to you (and your genetics) how far you wish to take it.