If you are looking to lose weight, and enjoy doing it, then forget Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem, and yes, even put away your Wii Fit. Stop listening to obsessive trainers like Jillian Michaels. I watched a TV segment with her where she explained how to eat out at restaurants and still eat healthy. She chose a meal, and then completely changed the order until it was something else. I felt sorry for the waiter taking the order. I do not believe in starving yourself to lose weight, or in having to spend hours at the gym every day, or in not being able to enjoy your favorite foods.
I am not a trainer. I am a typical young woman, maybe a little too quirky, but I wanted to shed some pounds I had gained while at college. And, I wanted to do it my way, not following extreme rules put forth by the weight loss industry, or by celebrities who have trainers and people making sure they keep at their diet.
So, to steal the line from all those weight loss industries: I lost 35lbs and 8 pants sizes in four months, and I did it all on the Dance Dance Revolution workout and diet.
Dance Dance Revolution is a video game that has been out for a number of years now. I am sure you have at least heard of it. It started out as an arcade game, and is now playable on almost every video game platform, Playstation being number one. To play the game, you use a controller called a dance mat, or dance pad. This controller sits on your floor and has four arrows on it, for up, down, left, and right. You stand on the dance mat, facing your TV. On the screen is four arrows at the top, and while a song plays, arrows scroll from the bottom of the screen to the stationary ones at the top. When the scrolling arrows pass over the stationary ones, you have to step on the appropriate arrow on the dance mat just as the stationary arrow and the scrolling arrow meet.
Sounds complicated, but it is really quite easy once you learn the timing. The arrows generally follow the rhythm of the song, and once you catch on to the rhythm of the song you will have no trouble getting the hang of the game. Besides, the game has a lesson mode that teaches you the basics to get you started.
What makes this game so great for losing weight is that you are always moving. With every step, you burn calories.
The makers of Dance Dance Revolution knew this about their game, and many versions have a workout mode. You can follow pre-set courses, or you can choose what songs to play. With this mode, you can set how long you want to play, or how many calories you want to burn. Many of the games will tell you the equivalent of how many miles you have run, or how long you have played tennis, based on the calories you have burned. After you have completed a song, the game will tell you how many calories you have burned, or how long you have played, and tell you how much farther you have to go to complete your goal.
Dance Dance Revolution video games are available almost anywhere video games are sold. There are a number of older versions out there that you could buy cheap to get you started. Or, you could purchase the latest one, Dance Dance Revolution X, for Playstation 2. DDRX is a great game for working out because there are five songs(that you have to unlock as you play) that are medleys of a bunch of the other songs. These songs are longer than the others are, and were created specifically for a great work out. After playing all five songs, which takes about fifteen minutes, I burn over 300 calories. Of course, many of the older games have some very hard and fast songs that will get you moving, too.
This is a summary of what I did with the Dance Dance Revolution game. I repeat: I am not a professional trainer or anything like that. This is just what worked for me, and is what is working for my sister who is dropping some pounds for her wedding.
I started out playing obsessively. I would play until I burned 300 calories…a day. This typically took me a half an hour to forty-five minutes, including any breaks I took to take a drink of water, or to breathe for a few moments. Right now, you are thinking, “That’s it?” Keep in mind, I have been playing this game for years, but had not used it to its full potential. When I play, I play on the highest level, Expert mode, generally. There are a lot of arrows on Expert mode.
You do not need to be at my level of play to use DDR for a great workout. My sister never played until I told her to try. She started a few months ago and is now on the middle difficulty, Standard mode. When she started on Beginner and then Light mode, it just took her longer to finish the 300 calories. Some days she was at it for an hour and a half. If you cannot play every day, it is fine. At least three days a week is what I would suggest.
My suggestion for beginners to DDR is to not over-do it, like I did. I suggest playing for a half hour at the least, but preferably an hour, and seeing what numbers you get with calories burned. As you get better, you will burn more calories, and your workout will finish sooner. Yes, it is important to burn those calories, but it is even more important to boost your metabolism so your body will burn them off for you. Playing DDR, even if only for fifteen minutes a day, will do that for you.
Another great idea is to just jump right into the harder levels of the game. Start out on Light mode, skipping Beginner completely. Yes, you will most likely fail every song you try, but that does not matter. Every time you hit an arrow, even if it is the wrong arrow, you burn calories. You will also have a good laugh at yourself as you scramble to hit the right arrows, and laughter burns calories, too.
Do not give up if you feel you cannot play the game. No one is a whiz at it right from the get-go. Just keep playing, and keep enjoying it and you will become pro in no time. Play with your kids, too, and have fun with them. My friends and I get together and have DDR parties.
Now that I have reached my weight goal, I no longer play so hard. I usually burn 200 calories every other day, sometimes less, and that takes me about fifteen minutes. That is it. This keeps my metabolism up. I also love to play DDR, so I want to work out, and enjoy doing it.
I am a firm believer that when you exercise, you must diet. When you diet, you must exercise. You cannot have one without the other. They compliment each other, and together, boost your weight loss power.
But, I refused to give up my favorite foods: pizza, pastas, and breads! Carbs are good for you, you need them! And I did not want to give up weekly lunches out with my family, where I could only eat a salad, and have to pay for it.
So, I didn’t.
I did cut out soda. More than because it hurts with your weight loss, even the diet ones, but because the caffeine was wreaking havoc on my body. I do still enjoy a bottle once and a while, usually once a week, but I used to drink it everyday, all day. That is a big no-no, and is one of the reasons I had gained so much weight in school. To help out while fighting my caffeine addiction, I would drink cranberry juice mixed with some seltzer. It tastes like a cranberry soda! Take any good fruit juice you love, and do the same. Drinking water is always a plus, but even I want something with flavor. I started drinking diet Lipton teas. They taste just like the regular, only less sweet. After a while of drinking the diet teas, when I drank a regular one, I nearly gagged at how overly sweet it was.
That is one thing about dieting, your body gets used to eating less, or not eating those high calorie foods that your mind thinks you need. Like chocolate cake. That does not mean you cannot eat chocolate cake. If you want a slice of cake for breakfast, go for it. When lunch time comes, eat something lighter to make up for it. Know when you are going out to a restaurant so you can balance your meals for the day. Eat light, very light, so that when dinner comes at that all you can eat buffet you can dig right in. Stop once you feel full.
On normal days, eat small amounts during meals. Eating several times in the day helps. If you have a big dinner with your family, eat half your meal and then set it aside for a while. Come back to it, and finish it, after some time has passed. By eating less, you are basically shrinking your stomach, and soon you will not be able to eat as much as you used to. You will get full a lot quicker. I started noticing that when I would go out with my family and would order my favorite meal, only to get full half way through. I would bring the leftovers home and have them later, or the next day.
Yes, you have to cut back on the foods that are high in calories. Do not have chocolate cake for breakfast every morning. When you start to have cravings for a food, do not force yourself not to eat it, but do something to calm the craving. If you crave chocolate, eat a Hershey Kiss. One Hershey Kiss. After some time your body will forget the cravings and you will not miss your chocolate fixes. By then, you can have your chocolate cake breakfast and not worry about needing it again the next morning.
Do not eat late at night. I learned this one quickly. If I did not eat after seven p.m., I would wake up ravenous in the morning. If I had a bedtime snack, I would not be very hungry come morning, and the scale would reflect that added snack. It is more important to eat a good breakfast that your body will burn off as the day goes by, than to indulge in that bedtime snack that will still be on your body when the sun rises.
Put Both Together
Eating better, but still enjoying your favorites, and playing and having fun with DDR, is all you need for successful weight loss. You will not even realize you are dieting when you are still eating pizza and spaghetti, and you will not even realize you are working out when you are laughing with your kids while playing DDR. After you have dropped all those pesky pounds, you will watch those commercials on TV from Nutrisystem and laugh out loud.
For a great article on why you should not drink diet sodas, read P.J’s article How Diet Soda Can Sabotage Your Weight Loss Efforts.
For a great article on good and bad carbs, read Zach Golt’s article Are Carbs Good or Bad: Why Should Carbohydrates Matter?