(Photo by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
SIKESTON -- With the ever-popular New Year's resolution to lose weight, local fitness centers are busier than usual right now -- and will stay that way for the next month or two.
"We have a lot more people come in after the first of the year and we love it -- they have motivation and ambition," said Kenny Stone, health and fitness director at the YMCA. "But that dies off."
"I think it starts doubling for a little bit," said Teresa Gilliland, manager of Ozark Fitness. She and other area gym representatives agreed those numbers taper off around March.
Often times, that's because people begin to get discouraged -- or "get busy with life," said Gilliland.
However, gyms work to keep people motivated and push healthy habits.
"There's nothing magical about weight loss -- it has to be a lifestyle change," said Lisa Neumeyer, owner of Contours Express. "Eating as well as exercise are both key."
Christy Pullum, owner of Curves for Women, agreed. A big problem for women that visit her gym is cooking for a family, which makes it more difficult to eat healthy.
"We try to encourage them to eat smaller, healthier portions," she said.
Neumeyer had several suggestions to help those aiming to lose weight watch what they eat.
For instance, people can keep a food journal. "We tell our members 'If you bite it, write it,'" she said. "A lot of people consume calories they don't even realize they're eating."
Like Pullum, she recommended people watch their portions. At home, it helps to use a smaller plate. "Visually, you'll still have a full plate then," Neumeyer said. And at restaurants, where portions are two to three times larger than recommended, she urged diners put half of their meal in a to-go box before beginning to eat.
Stone said sometimes people don't realize how many calories something contains -- for instance, some iced coffees have more than 1,000 calories. "For an average-sized woman, that's the daily minimum of their calorie requirements," he said.
Although the number on the scale is important, people shouldn't get caught up on that.
"We don't focus as much on weight as we do inches and body fat," said Pullum.
Gilliland agreed. "It's more so about the inches, the way they feel and how their clothes are fitting," she said.
Since muscle weighs more than fat, people may slim down more than the scale implies. Plus, muscle is better, since one pound of it burns 50 calories at rest, Pullum pointed out.
Gilliland said that muscle gain is something that she stresses to patrons -- a lot of women especially complain about weight gain, which is due to building muscle. "It just takes a little while for your body to get used to the adjustments you are making," she said.
Neumeyer said average normal weight loss is between one and two pounds per week -- anything more often means muscle loss.
And Stone pointed out that a little bit at a time goes a long way. "If you lose half a pound a week, that's a huge accomplishment," he said. "If you do that for 52 weeks, that's 26 pounds."
Although reality shows such as "The Biggest Loser" can be inspiring, they often give unrealistic ideas to people trying to lose weight.
"Unless you can devote eight, 10 or 12 hours a day to exercise, it's not possible," said Neumeyer. Not only that, show contestants are in a controlled environment and supervised by trainers and physicians and have cooks.
"People just have to fit exercise into their everyday lives," said Pullum. "(The weight) will come off slower, but it does work."
To keep an exercise routine, Gilliland urged people have a work out buddy or make friends at the gym. It's also a good idea to join a class or talk to trainers about goals and how to achieve them.
Stone urged people not just focus on the gym, since that isn't where they spend most of their time. For instance, people can stretch at their desks or find a parking spot further away.
"Those things are really going to add up," he said.
Even after someone has met their target weight, healthy eating and an exercise plan are still vital.
"It just maintains -- as well as improves your overall health," said Pullum. Exercise drops the risk of cardiovascular disease and improves bone health, in addition to helping keep stress levels low, she said.
Plus, it keeps people lean. "I hear so many people say 'why would you work out when you're thin,'" said Gilliland. "But that's why you're thin."