Friday, January 15, 2010

Fat: Finding the Balance in America


Americans are fat.

If they aren't fat, they're very skinny. Hollywood skinny. Anorexic.

And then, there are people like me. I'm not skinny, thank you very much. But I'm not fat either, even though there are days I'm convinced otherwise.

Diet 'experts' (the skinny people on TV) tell you that you need to lose your belly fat, hip fat, butt fat, thigh fat, neck fat...all of it. It's almost as if we shouldn't have any fat on our bodies whatsoever. And if we do, then we should buy their product, try their diet, or do their 'exercises'. I'm tired of listening to those people. I'm tired of hearing people fall for diet fads.

Americans, in general, use magazine covers and Hollywood stars as their guide for what is beautiful, what is popular, hot new trends and next season's line of lip gloss. Fortunately for me, I know better. I know Lindsay Lohan is unhealthy-even though most think she's beautiful. I also know Christina Aguilera will never be a size 2 (and she knows that too!) because that isn't how her body was made-she's got hips! But most of the population just sees skinny girls and rock hard guys walking down the red carpet and think, "that is what I need to look like to be beautiful and happy."

Where do we draw the line when it comes to our bodies?

Two years ago I went on a vegetarian diet for about 6 months. I also started running around that time. I lost 10 pounds. I thought I looked great! But once I moved in with my boyfriend and started to eat more, I started to gain weight. Even though I ate healthy and still went to the gym. It wasn't until I trained with someone this fall that I realized my 'healthy lifestyle' wasn't so healthy. Not eating enough protein and running, without lifting weights caused my body to eat my muscle. Not my fat. So then, once I started to eat better and more often, my body couldn't burn the extra calories. Now I've gained about 10 pounds of muscle, I may not be as 'small' as I was before, but I'm healthy. And I look like what my body wants to be-I have hips and they want to be shone off!

There is a general rule that skinny is beautiful. When in reality, being healthy is beautiful. It comes in many shapes and sizes!

Two-thirds of American Adults are overweight. One-third of children are overweight. This is finally starting to level off. But we are still a long way from being a healthy nation. Losing weight is incredibly difficult. It takes determination, motivation, desire, will, a lot of sweating and a lot of convincing your mind to think that you just don't need that donut.

Most Americans will die overweight. Losing the extra weight is just impossible when there are fast food restaurants everywhere. Every social gathering is surrounded by half-price deep-fried apps, high calorie alcoholic drinks...Food galore! Resisting the urge is excruciatingly difficult.

Then there are those that believe the quick weight-loss diet plans will work. Unfortunately, weight doesn't stay gone forever. Most people gain one-third of their weight loss weight back within a year of losing it.

Let's face it, change is tough.

There is only one way to lose weight. Intake vs. output. Healthy eating and exercise. Muscle gain and fat loss. ...Get my drift?? But this is also hard to do!

Most people who need to lose 50 pounds or more don't just go on a diet. They go on a weight-loss journey. They need to be educated about what they need to change, about what needs to happen in order to lose the weight. Then, they need to work their asses off (literally). In the end, they change their complete lifestyle. It's quite the challenge. I've been following my good friend, Tralle, in his blog about his journey to lose 100 Pounds. He's in the early stages and has seen success, but struggles every day to stay focused on the end goal. You can join him on his journey here.

In the end, it will take decades to reverse the damage fast food has done to our nation, our arteries and our way of living. It will take even longer for people to realize that beauty is not about being the smallest, or having stick-straight hips. It is about being healthy-allowing your body to look the way it was meant to. For some that means being stick thin and still being able to eat a burger everyday. For others, that means we just might need to enjoy our curves a little more.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

If You Could Retire, What Would You Do?

Friday night brought forth an interesting conversation with co-workers: If you were retired, what would you do?

At first I thought, "Gee, thats a dumb question! I would do everything I've ever wanted to do." But then I started to think more about it. Today, 60% of people haven't thought about how much they will need for retirement. That also means they don't know if they are saving enough, or anything at all! Research also shows that a majority of Americans will only save through mandatory savings-Social Security. And we all now how that program has been going with the baby boomers nearing or at retirement age! You can read more about savings trends in the U.S. here. Essentially, most people will not be able to do anything when they retire because they will probably make less than what they did while they were working. That is sad. Very sad.

It's difficult to say to someone reading this blog, you need to have X amount of money saved before you can choose to quit working. I can't do that, but I can tell you that you should probably look at what you want to do when you retire now so you can plan for it. And I would advise for you to think big, just so you'll have money to do what you really want to do when you get to that age (hey, things change!).

Saving for retirement: I have a 401k. That should be plenty right? Wrong. Let's use me as an example. My 401k started when I was 21 years old. So even if I don't max out my contribution each month, I will still make a hefty amount over my lifetime. But if it isn't at least $1,000,000 then I won't consider it enough money. I will need to open an IRA. This is separate from my 401k and I will probably need someone to manage it for me (I'm not investment savvy..). Which, as long as I make a lot of money, I don't mind paying someone to make my money grow. The next goal is to max out the yearly contribution for these.

The big challenge is to not take out money from these accounts, penalties hurt and in the long run its like stealing money from yourself that you haven't seen yet. Investments grow faster when more money is in the account. So lets just watch it from a distance. You'll appreciate it when you decide to travel around the work at 70 years old.

So this goes back to my conversation I had with co-workers, what do I want to do when I retire...? I would want to travel and continue to make my money work for me. I would also hope that I have the health and mind to do all of the things I wanted to do over my lifetime but couldn't because of my job, or my family, or other goals that I had. I would make sure to volunteer. This can allow for more traveling if I work my cards right. I would be decorator, play music, take classes, maybe even open a restaurant (where I can work when I want)....I would want to do everything. And right now, at the ripe young age of 23, I know that I have the power to make this happen by investing in my future.

I would hate for my answer to be, "Worry about how I'm going to pay my bills."