It hurts to type. OK, not really to type, but with my arms hovering above the keyboard like this, I can tell I've worked hard this week! Lucky for me, I happen to like muscle pain. It makes me proud that I've done something good for myself and makes me aware of my muscles...some I didn't even know I had! Ouch!
As you've probably surmised, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. And at this computer. And while I'm proof positive that it is possible to lose weight just by eating right, exercise is the other half of the equation. Sitting, cooking and eating (though svelte!) just don't cut it. Unfortunately, once you've taken some time off from the gym -- say, to get married, start a new business and write a cookbook -- it's SO hard to get back into it. A few weeks ago, I decided it was time to jump back in with both feet. The holidays are over, the cookbook is published, and Charleston bathing suit season is right around the corner (gasp!). My friend invited me to a boot camp trial session my gym was offering, so I thought, "what the heck?" Smart, right? Get right down to business!
I huffed and puffed my way through the hour. It really wasn't too bad -- after all, not too long ago I was in pretty good shape! But it's amazing how much muscle tone you lose after just a few months of not working out. I managed to get through the session, drive home, take a shower and make lunch. Then I sat down at the computer to write. A couple hours later, it was time to start dinner, only I couldn't move. My legs were like Jell-o. I wasn't sore, per se, just weak. But eventually I made it out of my chair and headed for the stairs, groaning with every step. And as I took the first step down, my other leg gave out and I ended up bouncing down the stairs on my backside. Now I know why they call it a "landing!" And thank God we have one!
OK, so I'm also really clumsy, which may account for part (all) of this. I fall down A LOT. But whatever the reason, doing that boot camp was the best thing I've done in months. My muscles hurt for days, but I felt strong! It was just the motivation I needed to get me back in the gym 4-5 times a week. Once I was back in, I remembered how good working out feels. The endorphin rush, the strength, the stress relief! It still takes a lot to get me out the door, but once I'm there, it's great.
As I said, it is definitely possible to lose weight without working out. After all, it's really just mathematical -- calories in, calories out. Experts say that 3500 calories make a pound -- either gained or lost. Burn 500 more calories than you eat each day and you'll lose a pound every 7 days. Simple as that! The tough part is figuring out how many calories your body burns in a day and then working to raise that number through metabolism and exercise.
Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is how many calories your body burns in a day just "being." And obviously, calories are burned when you move -- a few for lifting your arm to work the remote control, many more for taking a spin class. But still, every little bit counts toward your total daily "burn." Experts agree that many factors can effect your daily burn -- for example, muscle burns more calories than other body tissues, even when you're not moving. So building muscle will help speed up your metabolism. Moving more, eating smaller meals more often, and even eating spicy foods are all suggested theories for speeding up metabolism. But again, the point remains the same -- burn more calories than you put in, and you will lose weight. So say my BMR is 1700 (based on an age/weight calculation, but only a fitness pro can tell me for sure!), I burned 300 calories running at the gym and doing housework, and I ate 1500 calories today. If I did this everyday (taking in 500 calories less than I burn), I would lose 1 pound a week.
I designed The Svelte Gourmet dinner recipes to fit within this sort of model. I estimate that a main course entree with the Signature Salad and a green veggie total between 500-550 calories, depending on your ingredients (read your labels and pay attention to serving sizes!). And it's all lean protein, whole grains, heart-healthy fats and veggies with the herbs and spices to make them taste great! In the grand scheme of things, really good for those on restricted calorie diets and even better for those who have been eating poorly! This allows us to eat a decent breakfast, a light lunch and some healthy snacks throughout the day, and we're not hungry at all. Top it off with the work I've been doing at the gym, and it speeds up weight loss that much more!
If you've been trying to lose weight and you're eating better, then congratulations! The next step is to get moving! Every little bit counts, and you'll see your efforts reflected on the scale in no time. Move it, and you'll lose it! Start with walking and you'll be amazed at how quickly you see results -- I got a pedometer that I wear everywhere and I aim for 10,000 steps a day. No easy feat, but even my thousand trips around the kitchen count! Take the stairs instead of the elevator and park far from the door. Those steps add up quickly!
Just be careful on the stairs -- hold on, and don't fall! Or maybe that advice is only necessary for me?
A portion of all cookbook sales through the end of February will be donated to the relief efforts in Haiti. The Svelte Gourmet: A Month of Main Courses cookbook is available at www.thesveltegourmet.com/products.html.