The abundance of literature on weight loss inevitably leads one to the understanding that successful weight loss tactics are either very extreme or cumbersomely complicated. Some suggest fasting or a liquid diet; others suggest that primarily lean meats should be eaten, and at very specific times of the day . . . or night. And still others suggest that fish eggs, certain types of Himalayan salts, or God knows what else should be incorporated. This is not one of those articles.
The “secret” to weight loss is, well, not a secret at all. All of us understand that weight loss is a mathematical equation. If the body takes in more calories than it burns, then weight is gained. If, on the other hand, the body burns more calories than it takes in, then weight is lost. Simple. No patches, specially cooked meals, or howling at the moon required.
Before we begin, a note about these secrets originating from a prison, a federal prison to be exact. The simple truth of the matter is that while social life in prison is exceedingly complex (as illustrated at http://prisoneducation.com), nutrition in prison is simple. There are no pills, powders, or workout drinks to buy. There are no CD or DVD players, so there is no option, or need, to purchase any such supplemental, often branded types of information. In most of today’s prisons, there aren’t even any weights or exercise bikes to use. And by losing substantial weight in prison, without the aid of any of these extra, costly products, it is shown that weight loss is simple, yet certainly not easy.
The premise of this article is that people who want to lose weight can, but that it takes smart, clean eating, a bit of determination, and lifestyle tweaks. And with this being said, we present the 7 Prison Weight Loss Secrets:
Secret #1: Settle on a Goal and Create a Plan
Perhaps the most important secret to weight loss is planning. Anyone can say, and even fully believe, that they are just going to go cold turkey on junk food and sodas, and at the same time, spend two hours in the gym a day. While that’s a nice, fanciful idea, many won’t be able to follow through with it even if they want to. This is because losing weight is hard; a real lifestyle change. And with a lifestyle change comes detailed planning.
The first step is to buy a journal and jot down a weight loss goal. Once the goal is down on paper, the scheduling begins. If the goal is to lose 20 pounds in 4 months, then that means the target weight loss ratio is 5 pounds a month, a certainly achievable goal with the following plan. After all, this is only 1.25 pounds a week.
With this goal and weight loss plan in mind, it’s time to take a look at the calendar and create a workout schedule. While the more time in the gym the better, the body also needs time to rest and recharge, and the schedule has to be something feasible. If the planned exercise is too extreme, then there is no way that the plan can be accomplished. Everything in measure. With this being said, getting to the gym 3 days a week for an hour or so is a good goal. Add an additional 3 days a week of jogging or cycling outside of the gym and the goal of 20 pounds in 4 months is easily within reach.
Secret #2: Track Both Diet and Exercise in a Journal
As mentioned above, it’s vital to keep a written plan. A plan helps exercisers on track, and it has other hidden benefits, too. These hidden benefits come into play when tracking food consumption and actual exercises engaged in. Food consumption is probably the greater of the two issues.
People don’t realize how much food they are actually eating. It’s that simple. Sometimes people who are even dedicated and determined to losing weight can delude themselves into thinking that they are eating less than they really are. As such, every single food or drink item consumed should go in each day’s food and drink log, and if possible, the amount of calories and sugar that the food or beverage contains. This will help to put into perspective what small additions are being made, which often, when added together, amount to a large amount of sugar and calories. At the end of each day, as is most practical, totals should be added to give a good idea of the day’s damage (or success!).
An exercise log is also important for several reasons. By keeping track of the weights and exercises used, the exerciser can ensure to gradually increase their weights over time, not hurt themselves by going too heavy in mistake, and have a written record of what has already been accomplished. This can help both with planning and ensuring that the initial plan is being adhered to. No longer will there be a question of how many miles or reps were put in on last Thursday because there is an activities log for that exact day.
Secret #3: Cut Out the Junk
One of the fastest-acting weight loss secrets concerns the junk we put into our bodies. Candies, sodas, fast food, and anything else laden with sugars, fats, and simple carbohydrates simply have to go. This alone can make the most pronounced difference in a weight loss regimen, and in short order.
Let’s put this into perspective. In prison, people love honey buns. They’re crazy for these 75 cent packages of pure death. A single honey bun from the FCI Petersburg commissary — called a “Jumbo Honey Bun” from the people at Amish Farms — has 560 calories, 230 of which are from fat. It also has 42 grams of sugar, 25 grams of total fat (39% of the recommended total daily value), and 78 grams of simple carbohydrates (26% of the recommended total daily value). It’s a monster.
Let’s use another example that many outside of prison can relate to: sodas. A single 12-ounce can of Pepsi has 150 calories. It also have 41 grams of sugar, which equates to 41 grams of simple carbohydrates (14% of the recommended total daily value). And this is a 12-ounce can of soda, not a 20-ounce bottle of it.
By cutting out 4 regularly eaten honey buns a week, that’s 1,740 calories. By cutting out ten regularly consumed 12-ounce cans of Pepsi a week, that’s 1,500 calories. Do keep in mind that there are 3,500 calories in a pound. Either way you cut it, by cutting out both 10 cans of soda a week and 4 honey buns, this equates to approximately 1 pound of weight loss each week, every week. See how quickly it all adds up? Stop eating the junk and watch the weight melt away!
Secret #4: Increase Cardio, and Do So Regularly
With the basic understanding that to lose weight more calories than are consumed must be expended, cardio naturally comes into the mix. While weight training certainly helps (and we’ll be covering it in Secret #5), cardio is important because it specifically focuses on burning excess calories, and this is a crucial component to successful and healthy weight loss.
According to the initial plan, three days each week are being reserved for cardio outside of the gym. This could be walking, jogging, cycling, rowing, roller blading, swimming, or any other number of cardiovascular activities. The point is that the blood needs to get pumping and it needs to do so at a moderate level of intensity and for perhaps an hour or two each session. If you’re sweating, you’re probably on the right track. If only light walking is feasible — due to health-related concerns or current physical abilities — then it’s smart to find extra time periods when this light type of exercise can be performed. Ideally, participants will be healthy enough to engage in moderately strenuous exercise for an hour or so for around three times a week. If not, light walking, just more often, can be a good substitute. Anything to get the heart rate up, preferably at 85 percent of capacity (you can consult a commercial chart for these specific capacities based on weight, age, etc.).
Secret #5: Add Light to Moderate Intensity Strength Training
The key to weight training, regardless of focusing on weight loss or building muscle mass, is to do so in an intelligent, measured manner. Too many people injure themselves by going too heavy, too soon, for too long periods of time. Plainly, don’t do it. The first step is to find the right weight and stick to that right weight. This is a competition with oneself, not the others at the gym.
While weight training techniques are outside of the scope of this article, basic body-weight exercises like sit-ups, pushups, squats, crunches, calf raises, lunges, and dips should be employed. As the exerciser feels more confident and comfortable, weights can be added to these basic exercises. For example, once the exerciser feels comfortable in doing 30 or 40 pushups in a row, then they can start using dumbbells as a bench press exercise (by lying on their back on a workout bench and pushing the dumbbells upward like a bench press). The benefit of using lighter weight, heavier repetitions is that a spotter isn’t needed, but one is always appreciated for form and safety’s sake.
If funds are available, having a personal trainer once a week, or even all three gym days a week, can be a huge boost since they can help to devise a smart and healthy weight training regimen. If not, a basic book on a well-rounded workout regimen can do wonders. Hundreds and thousands of dollars need not be spent, just enough to get the gist of the movements and to ensure that smart, weighted or non-weighted workouts are employed effectively.
Along these lines, it’s important to work out different muscle groups on each gym day. For example, Mondays could be chest and triceps, Wednesdays could be shoulders and back, and Fridays could be legs. Only work out a specific muscle group on each day, unless cross training is the order of the day, then throw in a mix of things, but this shouldn’t be overdone. A good rule of thumb is to select three exercises for each specific muscle being targeted, then to move on to another, related muscle. Remember, workout smarter, not harder or more dangerously.
Secret #6: Find Smart Meal Replacements
Let’s talk tuna, baked chicken, milk, salmon, and other light, lean meats. Let’s talk salads (with very light dressing), spinach, green beans, and carrots. Let’s talk smart eating.
Smart eating is about eating — it’s very important not to stop eating because this slows down metabolism rates and hinders weight loss — but doing so in a planned and intelligent manner. The idea behind smart meal replacements is that the exerciser is going to want to eat, which is good, but that smarter alternatives can be found to what is currently being consumed.
For example, if fried chicken is a regular meal, then swap it out with baked chicken (and don’t use the gravy). If steak is on the menu, then perhaps a nice, light grilled salmon will suffice or even a Caesar’s salad (with light dressing). See, we’re not talking about starving ourselves, but making smart, informed replacement decisions. Swap out a high calorie meal with a tasty, low calorie meal. That’s it.
The same is true with drinks. In Secret #3 we learned about cutting out all of the junk, including sugary sodas. Instead of a Pepsi — or even a diet Pepsi, which isn’t all that great anyways — how about an ice tea (with Splenda or Stevia for sweetener)? How about a zero calorie drink mix? They only cost around a quarter a serving, much less than a soda. Instead of a beer, how about some water, carbonated water, or a light beer? Again, we’re not talking about starving ourselves, we’re talking about making smart, informed choices.
Secret #7: Make a Lifestyle Change
Weight loss isn’t easy, but it’s not complex either. As we’ve said twice now, weight loss is a mathematical equation: less calories + more exercise = weight loss. It’s that simple. What isn’t that simple is making lifestyle changes to help support a healthy weight loss regimen, and that’s the truth.
As the exerciser employs these seven prison weight loss secrets to their weight loss arsenal, they need to pay special attention to what else they can do to support these activities and tools. They need to find ways to reduce temptations and improve upon the advice presented herein. They need to make this plan their own. That is the only way any lifestyle change will ever stick: if the person attempting the revision can actually stand it, accept it, embrace it, and stick with it for good. Healthy eating, exercise, and living isn’t a 4-month solution, it’s a lifestyle solution. And once it is employed effectively, it can work wonders, not only on the waistline, but on a person’s quality of life as well.
The concept behind this weight loss regimen can be summed up in a short phrase: smart, clean eating and effective exercise. That’s all. When thinking about weight loss, don’t think about pills, powders, and fish oils. Don’t think about doing anything to the extreme (that’s just plain dangerous). Think about ways to eat as cleanly as possible. And by clean, we mean low calorie, low sugar, and low simple carbohydrates. The cleaner the exerciser eats, the more weight they’ll lose, the healthier they’ll be, and the better they’ll feel. And that’s what this is all about.
(First published by BlogCritics.org; used by permission)