Friday, September 25, 2009

Lovable Loser

Recently, an om gal-pal contacted me with a clandestine mission. She revealed that she and her cousins had devised their own version of the Biggest Loser, and she was seeking a competitive edge. I was to be her Jillian Michaels—albeit without the motorcycle jackets, TV contract, or endorsement deals. A poor man’s Jillian Michaels, if you will, and I’m OK with that . . . In fact, I love the idea.

My friend, a dedicated yogi, was off to an admirable start with regular asana practice and brisk walks with her toddler son in tow. Still, she suspected that she'd need to bring in the big guns if she wanted to play hard ball with her newly motivated relatives.

She also knew that her individual goal is among the most difficult to achieve. You see, my friend is not overweight, but she is trying to whittle away the last few, stubborn, post-baby pounds with which many women struggle. This creative family affair seemed like a good opportunity to regain her svelte pre-baby self once and for all. In other words: She was ready to wage battle with the hardest pounds to lose. These pesky critters don’t respond kindly to mere brisk walks and a sensible diet. They don’t defer to a few extra crunches. They don’t magically slide off while you’re in viparita karani. Few people lose these last lingering pounds and say, “Gee, that was a piece of cake!” No pun intended.

To be fair, my pal doesn’t eat cake. Judging from the many meals we’ve shared over the past few years, I’d say that her nutrition plan needs little tinkering. Her workouts could use a little jolt, however, which is why she summoned my input via text last week. First, I asked, “Have you tried running yet?” To which she provided the colorful response: “Running? I only run when there’s a shoe sale, and someone is grabbing the last 7.5.” And, the rest of the conversation unfolded thus . . .

Me: OK, my first instinct- and ur not gonna like this- is that you need a few activities that really jack your heart rate.

Gal Pal: Pls do not suggest I wear a leotard . . .

Me: No, but I might suggest old school Reebok “pumps.”

Gal Pal: Are you going to make me run (insert pout face) . . .

Me: Will you do jumping jacks maybe? Any big hills in your neighborhood? What about a pool?

Gal Pal: Jumping jacks? Fo real, Jane Fonda? Yes lots of hills. No pool. Would rather run. How about a jump rope?

Me: Can u jump rope? If so- that’s the jackpot.

Gal Pal: Well, I am my middle school’s reigning champ 4 yrs in a row.

Me: Oh snap! THAT’S MY GIRL! OK, ur golden. Will send a workout via email now.

Me: My computer is acting batty. Google: om gal jump rope.

Gal Pal: Perfect. I heart you.

The following day, my pal reported back that my No B.S. Most Efficient Workout Ever nearly killed her. (She has a flair for the dramatic—charmingly so). If anything, the workout killed only fat cells.

Any expert will tell you that weight loss is a mathematical equation. You must subtract (burn) more calories than you add (consume). Losing the last few pounds is toughest because your body becomes cozy with its current metabolic state and level of activity. In fact, once your body knows how many calories it requires to maintain a certain weight, it will convince you that this is the amount of calories you need by sending hunger signals when there’s a deficit.

For someone like my friend, who eats healthfully and is already active, the solution to shedding her last traces of post-baby weight depends upon the quality and nature of her activity. Let’s face it: There’s no sense in recommending that she slash calories if there aren’t many excessive calories left to slash. I believe this firmly and try to steer readers, friends, and students far away from starvation diets masquerading as a nutrition plan or “detox” program. Instead, I recommend altering your workout routine, adding some high intensity intervals, trying a more vigorous style of yoga, or exploring a different physical discipline that forces you to work harder than your standard ho-hum workout done on autopilot. Any trainer worth his/her salt will tell you the same thing: Don't workout longer; workout smarter.

The day after our text message repartee, my friend only worked out for 30 minutes, but the nature of the jump rope routine that I gave her was so intense that she blasted as many calories as her usual, brisk, 90+ minute walk. So, if your workout needs a little lift or your scale is hoping for a dip, try elevating your heart rate. Jumping rope is killer, but jumping jacks are great too. If you’re a hard core yogi, try integrating several rounds of kicking up into handstands against a wall into your daily asana practice. If your joints need gentler options, get thee in a pool and start swimming or water-jogging. These activities are bound to get your ticker pumping, and while you probably won’t win the Biggest Loser crown (and I’ll never own a Harley like Jillian), you can still count on seeing some winning results.


Joshua said...

What about letting go of the need to have a perfect body image? If trimming our tummy fat motivates us to get healthy, it could be useful, but other than that it's just self serving. There's good to be done in the world. How about setting our intentions on becoming greater agents of change?

pirate grrl said...

such a hard culture to live in...joshua is right and so is wanting to reach a certain goal...sigh...

Om Gal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Om Gal said...

Thank you both for your comments. Joshua, I appreciate your sentiment, but I do not believe that good workouts and good deeds are mutually exclusive, particularly as it relates to my friend, whose main priority is always doing good in the world. In fact, one could argue that this is the raison d'etre of being a mother, no? And, if being a new mom leads to the desire to lose the added weight that a 10 lb. son brings, then I'm happy to help in whatever small way I can. Health is comprehensive. True, being agents of change is our highest priority, but feeling healthy and strong is also paramount. Endorphins, family bonding, friendly competition, physical challenge, fitting into one's "skinny jeans," and self-empowerment aren't bad- or the polar opposites of altruism. Like I said (but pirate grrl beat me to the punch), I don't believe it's an either/or scenario.

Anonymous said...

Joshua, you must not do yoga, or don't you know that asana practice, or "exercise" is just one limb of the eight limbed path......and so another is karma yoga. And isn't that what OmGal is doing? Giving back? Weight loss of a modest 10 % has been shown to reduce womens' risk of breast cancer, increase heart health. Holler to Om-Gal for getting her friend to pump up thevolume and be there in a healthy way for her family.......and nobody said anything about skinny jeans. How about skinnier arteries?

Anonymous said...

Hi, I have read your article, I just want to say thanks.
You are so beautiful, keep your body in this shape forever.
I will check your site every week for new articles.

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Please visit this site to learn more about Pranamat. This is so simple in use like children's yoga mats.