DEAR FORMER FAT GIRL: I’m in my 40s and would like to lose about 50 pounds. I’m watching what I eat—smaller portions, more fruits and vegetables, lean protein, low fat. I’ve never been into fitness or exercise, but I just started doing yoga and I love it. Do I need to add anything else to my fitness program, or is yoga enough? (Please say yes—I hate cardio!)—Carol
DEAR CAROL: Well, I’m happy to make your day—yes, you can lose weight on yoga (and a healthy diet) alone. You didn’t say what type of yoga you’re into, but certainly the more strenuous classes, like flow yoga, power yoga (Ashtanga) and hot yoga (Bikram) really work your muscles and can get your heart rate up. Some studies suggest that yoga might have a side benefit in that it makes you more mindful of what you’re eating, so sticking to a healthier diet might be easier for yoga-philes.
But—and you knew there was a “but”—you may have to be particularly patient. You probably won’t see results on the scale very quickly unless you’re really slashing calories. We women-of-a-certain age have to deal with declining metabolic rates, which make it more difficult to lose weight the older we get. Adding some heart-pumping cardio (there’s that word!) will certainly speed up your weight loss, and will also boost your cardiovascular health, which also becomes even more important as women age. I would consider adding a couple 30-minute cardio sessions per week to your routine, for your health’s sake more than anything else. A simple walk outside a few days a week would be a great complement to your yoga practice, physically as well as mentally. You may even be able to apply some of the mindfulness techniques you’re learning in yoga to your walk—breathing, for instance, and meditation. The setting is key—seek quiet spots and natural light whenever you can (the bustle and beat of some health clubs could turn even the biggest cardio freak off).
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Creating a healthy lifestyle that you enjoy and can sustain is the most important thing, though. The last thing you want to do is torture yourself to lose the weight, only to revert back to your old ways. One of the things I love about yoga—and what may be drawing you to it too—is that it’s a nurturing, gentle path to health and wellness, something we in the driven Western world aren’t used to. As long as you stay on that path, give yourself time, allow yourself to “discover” your results rather than force them with extreme means, I think you’ll end up with the body (and life) you want. Or maybe it’s the other way around–you’ll find yourself accepting the body (and life) you end up with.
Lisa Delaney is editor of Spry magazine and author of Secrets of a Former Fat Girl. To submit a question, visit spryliving.com/experts.