Tuesday, June 06, 2006

What Did You Do?

A lot of people have asked me how I lost all the weight, but there is no simple answer. I didn't get surgery or get shipped off to some fat camp for the summer. I just had to work at it, day after day. But, there are some things I've learned and that I would tell anyone who wanted to lose weight and get in shape.

1. There is no easy solution. Period. You will have success and failure. You will wake up some days and not care and have other moments when you feel great about yourself and your progress. You won't lose weight as fast as you want and you won't always have the self-control you need, but you can still meet your goals. I lost 90 pounds by staying motivated, re-committing myself to losing weight every few months, and to being open to trying different strategies to accomplish my goal. I did South Beach, Atkins, Weight Watchers, and all sorts of wacky diets I invented on my own (like the eat a Balance Bar and then starve yourself until dinner diet). If you want to make it, you just have to keep working at it.

2. Near term and achievable goals were a big key for me. Originally, I had wanted to get down to 200 pounds. But, to stay motivated, I set near term goals for myself. I would work to lose weight in 10-15 punds increments and then ease up when I hit each goal. It allowed to shoot for something I could achieve in a short period of time, which meant that I didn't have to work at it for too long a period of time without any gratification. Then, I'd get "sick" of being that weight and push on to the next goal. This strategy ultimately led me to push back my final weight loss goal from 200 to 185 to 175 pounds. This was particularly helpful the longer I worked at weight loss since it became increasingly hard to lose weight. It is not that hard to lose 15 pounds when you are 265, eat garbage all the time, and don't exercise. Some very basic changes can make a huge difference. When you are 200, eating healthy, and working out fairly regularly, you need to have a pretty serious approach to drop another 25 pounds, not to mention some extra patience. So, break up your weight loss into shorter term goals and just focus on making it through the next 10-15 pounds.

3. The only real solution is diet AND exercise. Diet alone or exercise alone just won't get all the wight off or help you to keep it off. I lost a fair amount of weight by basically dieting, but I had to starve myself fairly often just to keep it going. I got sick of that. I needed to incorporate exercise to lose the last 35-40 pounds. And, as a result, I also had to eat more (my hunger became unavoidable) and I had to learn how to eat more without sabotaging myself. So, eating more didn't mean loads of any food I wanted, but meant increasing my intake of healthy options in proportion to each other and in moderation. And, I also let myself enjoy more treats (okay, so I basically didn't eat any when I was in serious dieting mode).

4. Drink water. It sounds simple, and it is, but it makes a huge difference. I probably drink between 75-100 ounces of water a day. At the same time, I've cut back on how much coffee I drink, from 5-6 cups to 3-4, and I will never drink any soda that isn't a diet soda. One can of Coke is 150 calories. Think about that for a moment. One 12 ounce can of Coke is 150 calories. And it has no nutritional value whatsoever. There is absolutely no good reason to ingest that stuff when it is simply sugar water. Is a can of Coke worth running a mile and a half? Is it worth getting on an elliptical machine for 20-30 minutes? Right, I didn't think so.

5. Eat your veggies. And fruits too. Vegetables are more important, though, since they carry a great deal of the vitamins and minerals that we need and don't bring along nearly the same amount of sugar with them. Fruits are great and have a lot of cancer-fighting agents, not to mention fiber, but they all have some degree of sugar. If you eat 5-6 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, but eat them all as fruit, you are ingesting a much larger amount of sugar than if you balance your fruit intake with more vegetables. Same amount of food, less sugar, and more variety. I eat all kinds and try to mix it up regularly. You'd be amazed at how easy it is to eat all the vegetables you need.

6. Whatever you are doing, it has to be for the long haul. The changes in your eating habits and level of activity should be changes that you are willing to accept as part of your life...for the rest of your life. I always think about the fact that I spent my 20s as a fat slob and that I wasted those years. Yes, I had a lot of great times. I fell in love, got married, started a family, bought a home...sure. But, I never wanted to go anywhere because I spent ten years feeling like crap all the time. I wasn't able to enjoy myself and the opportunities that I had, both work and personal, because I was overweight. So, for me, it is easy to commit to making life changes because I never want to go back. I pissed away a good chunk of my life as an unhappy lardass who ate anything he wanted and indulged himself all the time. I don't plan on doing that any more.

7. You have to pick an exercise that focuses on fat burning. The majority of your effort should be on some aerobic activity so that you can drop the weight and build up a general level of fitness. I think women probably benefit from weight training more than men do, but I've seen some men who have horrible muscle tone and need to pick up a dumbell. And, once you've lost most of the weight, you should really shift your exercise to something that you enjoy and that will give you the kind of body you want. If you really like lifting and want to be a beefcake, go for it. Me...I spent so much of my life "husky" that I want to be lean. So, I stick with running with a bit of lifting just to take care of my core and upper body. Weight lifting bores me, but I love running and don't want to ever stop doing it.

I'll share more stuff in the near future, like what I do when it comes to ordering food at restaurants. That is, assuming that anyone cares to hear about this stuff. I guess I'll just post and then everyone can complain.


Dave Walsh said...

"Is a can of Coke worth running a mile and a half? Is it worth getting on an elliptical machine for 20-30 minutes? Right, I didn't think so."

Better still... is it worth a bottle of beer?

Dave said...

That is a good point too. I don't drink much alcohol these days, but I sure rather have a beer than a can of soda. And, an Amstel Light is only 90 calories and has very few carbs in it.

Audrey said...

Dave, where are the requisite before and after shots? How do we know you're not making all this up?