Regardless of whether I’m sitting behind my harp or not, I’m not allowed to have a “bad hair day”. I’ve got to look simply mahvelous, dahling, whenever I walk out the front door.
I can’t look out-of-sorts even when I’m puttering around town grocery shopping, visiting the bank, and running other mundane errands. Am I paranoid? Not for a musician whose career often depends upon referrals by people I might just bump into while out-and-about.
I’ll go into hiding when I’m ill—You won’t find me posting sad selfies while I’m sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. After all, in this digital age, it only takes one sneaky cell phone photo or video shot to make a mess of a well-manicured reputation. Yikes!
So a few years ago, when I could not longer squeeze into my expensive performance wardrobe, I panicked. By allowing the pounds to sneak up on me, a financial emergency emerged—I could not afford to have formal dresses and ball gowns altered and could not pay many hundreds of dollars (or more) to buy a new wardrobe in larger sizes.
I went to work. The transformation was gradual. You won’t see me posting any before and after pictures, and you won’t see any poses of me flexing my biceps. I proudly dropped dress sizes without notice on social media.
Here’s my not-so-secret secret: quality calories burned vs. quality calories eaten. The word “quality” means I can’t eat a jar of peanut butter for my day’s worth of calories (I LOVE nut butters) and then do the most grueling weight lifting possible to get rid of the guilt. I could never sustain that kind of diet.
This eating and exercise plan became a way of life, not just a temporary fix for losing weight. It involves:
1. Empty Cardio—This is the term that my trainer at a local gym, Jeff Miller, once coined. It means to do exercise before breakfast. No food (water okay). Jeff explained that workouts before breakfast speed up metabolism and prevent injuries during the day. And he should know—Jeff was once obese, followed this regimen (plus specific workouts), and transformed himself into an award-winning body builder.
Winning trophies as a body builder is definitely not my goal, and I don’t bother with the gym scene anymore…
2. Workout at Home—When I spend time getting dressed, putting on make-up to look presentable, and driving over to the gym, I’m starving for breakfast by the time I park my car and walk through the front doors. So, I cancelled the gym membership.
Now I roll out of bed and get it done right away. I formed a habit to just do it and not think about it. By the time I’m finished, I’m hungry for breakfast, and I enjoy my meal without guilt. But I do workouts that specifically result in weight loss…
3. Weight Resistance—The treadmill at the gym never worked for me. Nor did classes with instructors who didn’t know how to modify the routines so that my puffy body could keep up with the rest of the class.
I experimented with a few exercise DVD programs, but I got bored. So, I signed on to Daily Burn, a huge collection of online workout programs that substitute for a gym. I pay a small online price (30% the price of my local monthly gym membership) and stream workouts on my cell phone or computer. (Nope, I’m not getting $$$$ as a spokesperson for Daily Burn, although as a working musician, I wish I could! Are you listening, #DailyBurn?)
After buying a few small dumbbells, I settled on an intense, 90-day workout program called “Live to Fail”, which focuses on slowly lifting weights to build muscle and burn fat. It’s not spot reducing (there’s no such thing).
When I started seeing results after 90 days, I hit the “restart the program” button, and I’ve continued on this program for several years, supplementing with other Daily Burn workouts, including one called 365 (a motivational, cardio-based total body workout that streams live every day).
But just taking 30-50 minutes out every morning to workout is not enough…
4. A Body in Motion Stays in Motion—Newton’s Law can be applied to getting trim, too. I’m sure you’ve heard those scary reports that sitting on our rear ends all day long will send us to an early grave. The Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (CJASN) concluded that just two minutes of walking every hour is linked to a thirty-three percent drop in risk of death.
As far as I’m concerned, non-movement could also lead to an early death of my career, because I’m convinced that no one wants to hire a blubbery-looking harpist. But blubber is okay for a walrus:
No investing in a standing desk or a treadmill desk for me. Remember, my motivation came from the fact that I couldn’t afford to invest in a new wardrobe. I have no cash for newfangled office exercise furniture.
My hard-earned money never went into a Fit Bit, Apple Watch, or similar gadgets, either—I’m not interested in a thing on my wrist becoming the boss of my life.
When I need to fidget (usually about once an hour), two minutes of climbing up and down the stairs will do. I downloaded a few other exercise apps, like 7-Minute workout, to vary the stair-climbing breaks. I even turn to Daily Burn for short mobility exercises shepherded by fitness pro Gregg Cook, when needed. Here’s a sample (and again, alas, I’m not being compensated for this plug):
Changing up the exercise routine keeps things interesting. But exercise, even the bits during desk breaks, is nothing without minding food intake…
5. Accountability—Jeff Miller also swore that the key to losing weight is keeping a food journal. In fact, a study by Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health Research shows that keeping a food diary can double weight loss.
Writing down the foods I ate, the quantities, and looking up calories the old-fashioned-way was a chore. So I dumped the paper and downloaded a free app to my phone called MyFitnessPal. It’s easy and accurate.
I create a goal of weight loss, and MyFitnessPal calculates how many calories I should burn for the day. Each day, I login my exercise and foods—It knows the calories for it all. I can either type in foods or take a photo of a barcode. And voilà! It magically totals up the calories spent on exercise done versus calculates calories ingested.
The bonus: I learned about nutrition and portion sizes along the way.
The bummer: I’m not being paid six figures as a spokesperson for MyFitnessPal app, either.
Now that I’m finished losing pounds, I use the MyFitnessPal app to remind me of how to keep at the same weight.
6. Honesty and Consistency—There are no days off, or “cheat days”. And I can’t fudge my entries in the MyFitnessPal food journal app and risk reality setting in. I’d be forced to buy that costly, plus-sized wardrobe if I lie. For me, progress only happens by keeping track of my new lifestyle.
I’m not new to exercise, and some of you know of my other physical activity, which I practice and teach. My favorite activity is great for keeping toned, but it didn’t help with weight management.
What’s this physical activity I’ve done for decades? Some would call it a sport, but it isn’t. That’s your only hint, but I’ll guide you to the correct answers with your guesses. Be the first person to mention it in the comment section below and get a free harp CD or free download of one of my albums of your choice.
List the diet I’ve stuck with for most of my life will and you’ll also score a free CD or free album download!
Performers: Do you stick to a regimen that keeps you at your peak weight and peak performance? Please share below. We could all benefit from some ideas that extend our mobility and our careers.
(Can’t wager a guess or add a comment, but still want a free harp album? Listen and buy them at Amazon, iTunes, CDBaby. Call 530-541-2575 to buy autographed copies with your VISA, MasterCard, or PayPal account.)