When I see a headline like the one above – my first inclination is to dismiss it, because it is either a fad diet that won’t last, a “professional worker-outer” that hits the gym 4 hours per day and doesn’t eat, or some super-obese person that has 200+ pounds to lose.
Let me tell you, I have wanted to lose weight for about as long as I can remember. I can’t even remember the last time I was at my current weight. I wanted a magic pill! I wanted to be able to sit on my butt, keep eating poorly, and lose weight without any effort. I would open articles like this to see if there was some secret trick, because the old-fashioned “work hard and eat better” just wasn’t an option.
I am not writing this article for you to pat me on the back. I even struggled with whether or not I should write it, but as part of living a more purposeful life, I wanted to inspire you to do the same. I really should be ashamed of how long I lived such an unhealthy lifestyle. I made excuses, blamed my job, the stress in my life, blah, blah, blah – you know what I’m talking about.
My goal in writing this article is to encourage you to just get started, because that’s what I did. I just got started. One day at a time. A little more every day (most days). I had no specific goal in mind – I will be turning 40 in November and I wanted my 40’s to be my best decade yet. I just knew it was time to do something – and BAM – 5 months blows by and I am 50 pounds lighter.
Some people were starting to wonder if I had been diagnosed with a serious illness – I mean isn’t that what we are trained to think? No one could lose that much weight purposefully, without doing something extreme, could they?
I started April 19, 2015 at 244 pounds and today, September 22, 2015 I weighed in at 194 pounds. That’s 50 pounds!
Do you know how much weight that is – it’s crazy when you start picking things up that weigh even half of that – we went camping last week and I picked up two 20 pound bags of ice (one in each hand) – that’s heavy. It’s crazy to me to think that I lost that much. I basically lost a six year old child.
How I Did It
So, how did I do it? Here’s the deal. I wanted to lose weight, but I also wanted to live a real life. I didn’t want to be miserable and torture myself and give up living. I wanted to “get healthier,” whatever that meant. I was severely out of shape and really never did anything physical. So, “working out” and getting in shape seemed very daunting. If I had set a goal of losing 50 pounds in 5 months, I would have quit before I got started – it seems impossible and it seems like a lot of work. Big surprise – it is a lot of work, but just a day at a time.
How did I do it? I just started. Sunday, April 19, 2015 I put on my workout clothes, grabbed my running shoes and went out to the treadmill that had been sitting in the garage unused for years. I have never considered myself a runner and I probably never will, but I am at the point that I can run a 5K without stopping and on a good day I can keep it at about the 30 minute mark. But, when I first started it took me about 48 minutes to do a 5K, because the majority of it was a walk. I gradually increased the speed and time.
Two days later, Tuesday, April 21, 2015 – I drank my last Mountain Dew. I had been addicted to Mountain Dew since high school – over 20 years. I just quit. I supplemented with some caffeinated sweet tea and coffee and I got over the headaches after a few days.
I made wiser decisions. I would try to get up more often. My work required me to sit, a lot! If I was working from home it was even more difficult, because I could go a whole day and barely walk 1,000 steps. I continued to work at it. I made it a priority and now it is more of a lifestyle for me. I know that every day includes my treadmill time.
It also helps that I had a constant encourager on my side – my wife. We all need someone to help cheer us on. Find someone that will encourage you and someone that will help you make your healthier lifestyle a priority, too.
Activity Tracker – I bought a Polar Loop. This is not a paid endorsement, it’s just the activity tracker I chose. I think any of them would do the trick. I use it mostly to track my steps/activity. I actually had the kids get it for me at Christmas time, but didn’t put it on until I was ready. I put it on that Sunday, April 19, 2015 and I haven’t taken it off yet. I think my goal is about 10,000 steps per day roughly. I don’t pay as much attention to that, because the goal is reached based not just by steps achieved, but also the level of activity that you use to get to that magic number. For instance, I can reach my goal by running a 5K on the treadmill with fewer steps than I can by walking and doing yard work. I just keep that 10,000 step goal in my head for a rough estimate.
Treadmill – We bought a nice treadmill a few years ago and it sits in the garage (it gets hot in there – maybe that’s part of how I was able to sweat the weight away). Most days you will find me on the treadmill for about 60 minutes. I try to run a 5K and then walk the remainder of the time. So, if I run a slower 5K and it takes me 35 minutes or so at a 5.5 MPH pace, then I will walk the other 25 minutes on about a 4.2 MPH pace. I usually get between 4.5 and 5 miles on the treadmill. I have come to find out that my yard work equals about 7,000 steps, too, so most yard work days I don’t need the treadmill.
Scale – The scale has been motivating for me. I didn’t think it would be, but I am constantly weighing myself. I don’t get distracted by it (I like to see how my body reacts to different things), because it can be very frustrating at times – my body weight can easily fluctuate +/- 5 pounds during the course of a day. My official daily weight is taken first thing in the morning. When I first started weighing myself I would do it at different times of the day, before lunch and after a workout, or after a heavy dinner, etc. – consistency is key when weighing yourself – it makes the measurement more meaningful.
What I Eat and Drink
As I mentioned earlier – I wanted to continue to eat like a real person. I love to eat! Everything! I can’t diet! I do try eating more in moderation now though. I eat a fairly consistent meal most days. I don’t count calories or eat foods that I don’t like. I eat peanut butter straight out of the jar with a knife every morning (it sticks with me) and a glass of 2% milk (I like the fat taste). For lunch I eat “fancy crackers” and cheese and pita bread or naan with hummus.
My snacks are better than they used to be. Usually some applesauce or some veggies with hummus or smaller amounts of junk food that I like. I love carbs. I eat popcorn at night before I go to bed – it’s a smart version, but it’s still a good tasting one.
We still go out to eat sometimes twice on Sundays and other occasional days. When we do I try to make some healthier decisions, but I still feast on some chips and salsa and eat normal meals most of the time – I don’t even order from the Light Menu selections. But, in moderation. I still go and grab a burger, but sometimes I split it with my wife. I have tried to be more conscious of my portion sizes. Last night we had spaghetti with sausage (I had a pretty good-sized portion – normal size) with garlic bread and green beans. Tonight for dinner we had tostadas with beans, and lettuce, and cheese, and hot sauce with some chips and guacamole. But, I only had one tostada. I used to eat two, just because I could. I still eat like a normal person.
One big change for me though was the cutting out of my Mountain Dew. It still tempts me when I walk through the grocery store or stop at the gas station and see those pretty 20 ounce green bottles calling my name. But, it’s not worth it. I still steal a sip or two, every once in a while from my kid’s soft drinks though – I like a little something sweet from time to time.
I have always been a pretty good water drinker. I don’t know how much I drink each day, but it’s a decent amount. I try to keep water with me most of the day. But, with the water, I also drink a few glasses of sweet tea – it’s virtually all water anyway, right? In fact as I sit here writing this article I am on my third glass of sweet tea today.
Everything in moderation! Eat, drink, and be merry. Don’t make yourself miserable – if you do, it won’t last. That’s why so many diets fail. Don’t deprive yourself, don’t stress over calories, everything in moderation.
Weight and Percentage of Daily Activity
As you can see in the graphs below, via the trend line – my percentage of daily activity continues to trend upward. I started slow, but most days now I hit about 150% of my goal, if not better. I still have my off days from time to time, but I am much more consistent. The first two months, I didn’t track my weight, so if the weight loss line looks a little too consistent, it’s because I estimated a small loss every day just to mark the eventual weight loss. You will also see about a two week plateau, that was a trip to California where I didn’t weight myself – even with two weeks of vacation living – I lost 3 pounds – I was just proud that I didn’t gain any weight.
Just Do It
So, my advice, my encouragement for you… just do it – get started! Do it right now. Don’t make it too complicated. You don’t need fancy equipment or the CrossFit or the gym memberships. Do what works for you. Simple is better for me. If CrossFit or the gym works for you, do that. Just figure out what you will continue to do. For me, if I have to get in my car and drive somewhere to do something active… it ain’t gonna happen. Figure out what’s going to work for you.
Take it one day at a time – don’t get overwhelmed with the big picture or the end goal. Today I am going to . Don’t worry about tomorrow. One day at a time.
It’s worth it.
Plateaus will be frustrating, especially if you are tracking your weight. They are for me. But, instead of just getting frustrated – they encourage me to work harder. Work through your plateaus. It’s a head game. When I hit a plateau, some days I tell my wife, “I am headed out to the garage to punish myself,” and I work through it.
Remember, too that body weight can fluctuate (for me) 5 pounds per day – don’t let it mess with your head – just keep doing it and you will be successful in the long run.
Make wise decisions – stand instead of sit. Take a walk at work while meeting or while you are on the phone with a client. Don’t grab a Mountain Dew and a Butterfinger at the gas station, especially when you are going to be driving for a long time (I would do that all the time while taking road trips). Horrible combo! Don’t order the double cheeseburger, just make it a single. Make wise decisions.
There’s no secret formula. Just get started, take it a day at a time, and make wise decisions along the way.
What’s Next For Me?
I still don’t really have an end-goal in mind. I am starting to worry more about maintaining my weight loss with an eye towards some more weight loss (but, who knows how much). I know the mirror doesn’t lie though and there is still more work ahead of me. I don’t get too caught up in the “ideal body weights,” but I see sites telling me I should be in the 161-181 pound range for my height. I don’t know if that is ideal or not. I can tell you that with 50 pounds gone – I feel ideal already. I do want to work on building some (not too much) upper body strength. I won’t worry about the weight quite as much once I start that though, because I know muscle makes you heavier.
I don’t have specific goals – I think that helps me. I will just continue to challenge myself every day – I’m still just taking it one day at a time.