Feeling and looking good has become one of the fitness focal points of the modern era. As a result, billions of dollars are poured into chic franchise gyms that offer everything from yoga classes to freshly squeezed juice after a workout. And a barrage of infomercials that promote the next big thing in weight-loss or muscle enhancement is constantly being streamed.
Combine that with people’s annual New Year’s practice of making vows to change–most often beginning an exercise or fitness routine–and you have a recipe for potential disappointment.
That is because people often start quite energetically on an exercise regime, but in time lose their enthusiasm. There are a number of reasons why the entire process can eventually become an uphill climb that drains the body and mind.
This could be particularly true for those who suffer from severe obesity. Chances are if you fit this category, even sitting and standing can be difficult, let alone running. In addition, carrying excess weight is one of the leading causes of joint and back pain among young and old, which in turn makes it difficult to exercise effectively.
Lack of variety, or repetitive, boring routines are other reasons people lose their enthusiasm for working out.
Finally, lack of results or slow weight loss can also sap motivation.
In a recent interview with TV One, celebrity dietitian and author Ian K. Smith, M.D., offered this perspective:
“You have to put one foot in front of the other–literally. Take your time,” urged Smith, whose list of bestsellers includes “The Fat Smash Diet” and “Extreme Fat Smash Diet,” which address obesity in the African American community and healthy living.
“Don’t start a program that calls for changes that are too drastic. Getting overwhelmed at the beginning of a plan means you’re less likely to follow it. Start walking or playing a sport or moving in a way that’s fun.”
Unfortunately, rather than taking baby steps, as Smith suggests, novices often make the mistake of overexerting themselves to get results fast.
“Sometimes the gym is not for everyone,” Smith added. “Start by exercising with a friend. Do it in small intervals at first, and then as you get better-conditioned, increase the duration of your exercise. Most importantly, challenge yourself a little without overwhelming yourself.”
Opting for a slow and steady pace applies to weight loss as well. It’s important to understand that bodies aren’t designed to undergo vast transformations in short periods of time. In fact, rapid weight loss has the potential to cause dehydration, malnutrition, degeneration of muscle tissue, hair loss as well as damage to the immune system, among other risks.
“In most cases, rapid weight loss only occurs to people who are excessively overweight,” explained Jerren O’Neal, personal trainer and fitness manager at Gold’s Gym in Long Beach.
“A lot of people aren’t aware of this, but a person who is overweight has a much faster metabolism than someone who is average size or underweight. Their bodies are much larger. Therefore, the internal functions of the body require more energy, which in turn, burns more calories, which leads to weight loss if a proper diet and exercise plan is put into action as well.”
More body weight also means more resistance, added O’Neal. “Resistance is one of the key factors in weight loss because it forces the body to work harder under those circumstances. It becomes next to possible to lose 5 or 10 pounds in a week once someone reaches a decent weight range unless that person goes to extreme and unhealthy lengths. Two to 3 pounds max is what a person should shoot to lose per week at that point. That’s far more realistic.”
To a fault, television shows like “The Biggest Loser” continue to fuel the notion that hyper-accelerated weight loss is both possible and ideal. Fans of the show, some of whom watch for inspiration to reach their own fitness goals, base the demands of their workouts on what they see from the contestants.
“On any given episode someone many lose 10, 15, or even 30 pounds in a week’s time. But this comes with a steep price, which the average person making the average salary can’t afford. I know I can’t,” O’Neal joked.
Some resources available to cast members of “Biggest Loser” include private, on-call five-star chefs who prepare well-balanced, healthy meals, as well as world-renowned personal trainers who make a sizable living by getting their clients results in superhuman fashion. The cast also adheres to an exercise regimen that consists of three separate, highly intense workouts per day during a three-month period.
“Who wouldn’t lose a ton of weight under that system?” O’Neal asked. “What do you expect?”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children and adults get a minimum of at least two and half hours of moderate aerobic activity (exercise) per week, or one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. This breaks down to about 30 minutes of exercise per day for at least five days a week.
According to the Office of Minority Health, two out of every three American adults are overweight.
While recent estimates suggest the overall rates of obesity have plateaued, the fact still remains that currently African Americans, particularly Black women, are among the heaviest. Recent national data shows that 82.1 percent of Black women are overweight or obese compared to 59.5 percent of White women. Conversely, obesity affects 69.9 percent of Black men compared to 74 percent of White men.
“The rate of obesity in this country, particularly among our people, is so high because we continue to ignore the facts,” argues Michael D. Levi, Ph.D., orthmomolecular nutritionist and a former professor at UCLA. “We need to start feeding our bodies what they are deficient in to keep from falling into the pit of what tends to be intergenerational problems related to disease or disorder. This way arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure and other illnesses that mom, dad, grandma and grandpa had won’t continue to be an issue further along the family line.”
Levi also contends that Black men, particularly after 30, have to be more conscious about monitoring their health on a consistent basis. “Not everyone who comes into this world has all their nuts, bolts and screws attached in the right places,” he said. “If problems exist, there’s no way of knowing without doing what I call preventative investigation. Seek the professional opinion of a qualified nutritionist, doctor or fitness trainer to acquire the right information in order to keep your health and wellness in check. Get regular checkups. How can you get fit if your body won’t allow it? And how will you know what your body will or won’t allow unless you seek the counsel of a professional? That goes for pretty much everyone. It’s our job to monitor the progress of our clients because if you won’t hold yourself accountable we will.”