This is an anniversary for me. One year ago today, I got on my Wii Fit and was told I was “normal” for the first time I could remember. Today, I am still there although I did go a little crazy and Thanksgiving and have had to get back on the train. But I managed to lose 120 pounds and I’ve kept it off for a year. So, now I offer some tips which you can take or leave as you’d like.
1. Be prepared for this to be a long term process. Nobody gets fat in a short period of time. It happens over time and you shouldn’t expect to lose it all in a month. It took me a year to get to where I needed to get to so you have to understand that you are in this for the long term and don’t get discouraged if you don’t see big results right away.
2. This is going to be hard work and will require sacrifices. It is a heck of lot easier to gain weight than it is to lose weight. Losing and keeping it off is work. There is no magic pill you can take. You will have to look at things in your life that are causing the problem and make the decision to change them. I used to go out to lunch once or twice a week – hit a fast food drive through. I haven’t done that in a year. I don’t miss it as much as would have thought.
3. Don’t just diet – change your lifestyle. Any diet will work – if you follow it. But, the secret for long term success is to understand that you will likely have to do this for the rest of your life. Sorry, but if you are like me, you can’t go back to old eating habits. So, if you are going to go with Paleo, be prepared to stay off grains the rest of your life. I found that carbs were the enemy and I’ve taken steps to reduce them substantially from my diet. I’ve also dealt with portion control and, during the summer, we’ve introduced a lot more vegetables into our diet. Since I hit my target, I have allowed myself some treats but, if I go for Ice Cream, it is the small size and not the large size I used to deal with.
4. Get an app, get a scale and count and measure and read the labels. I used MyFitnessPal which I found to be great help but there are many such apps out there that will allow you to pick a target number of calories for a given weight loss goal. Use it and get really committed to counting calories. It will force you to make tough decisions during the day. Someone brings donuts into work and if you are trying to stay to 1500 calories, then one donut will ruin your whole day. Trust me. Anything you buy will list a serving size and the number of calories associated with it. You’ll need a scale to understand what one cup of something looks like – and it will shock you as to how small some of the servings actually are. But you have to do until you can train yourself to visualize what an appropriate serving looks like. Yes, it is a pain and it is work but see point 2.
5. Exercise is useful but exercise along won’t be enough. Sorry, but this is true. The equation is simple – you have to expend more calories than you take in to lose weight. Exercise works on expending calories but not as many as you might think. 30 minutes of jogging at 4mph will burn roughly 300 calories but if you are taking in 2500 calories, then you are just slowing the process and not helping. And that assumes you can exercise 30 minutes every day and we all know how difficult that is. Miss a day and you probably cancel out the previous day. Yes, exercise is important and needs to be a part of your new lifestyle (see point 3) for a whole lot of reasons but don’t wake up on New Year’s Day thinking that a 30 minute walk per day is the answer to your weight issues because it just isn’t.
6. Find a support system. The best thing I had going for me was someone else going through a big weight loss at the same time. We shared experiences and pushed each other and kept each other in check. And we still do in the maintenance process.
7. Be prepared to change your wardrobe multiple times and give away your old clothes. This sounds trivial but it isn’t. I went from a size 42 waist to a size 32 and from an XXL shirt to a medium. You can’t keep wearing your “fat” clothes because they eventually will fall off you. That means, at some point in your journey, you will have to move to an intermediate set of clothes. This will not be cheap and you will have to change everything over as you get closer to your final weight. You need to plan for this. When you do decide to get rid of the old clothes, don’t move them to the back of your closet. Get rid of them as a sign that there is no going back! Goodwill really loved me during the year I was losing weight – I gave them a lot of stuff.
8. Come up with a plan but be ready to change it. This just seems logical to me but we are all different with different metabolisms and different ways of processing certain foods. I firmly believe there is a combination that will work for everyone. It took me a couple of months before I figured out that carbs were the issue and went pretty full out into Atkins and then things just started melting off. I also think that calorie requirements are averages and everyone has their own number so you have to play with things during the first couple of months to figure out (a) the right number of calories and (b) the mix between fat, protein and carbs. No, it isn’t easy but then I’ve already covered that back in point 2.
9. Control portion size and don’t be a human garbage disposal. Some of you may be like me and grew up with parents who didn’t believe in wasting food. For the longest time, I couldn’t get portions right for the two of us and there was always stuff left over. Since my wife tended to not eat things, I would just eat more so we weren’t wasting things. Well that didn’t work out well for me. We work harder at portion control now which is difficult and we try not to waste things but ask yourself which is worse, tossing something in the garbage disposal or eating it and gaining weight. Yes, there is money lost for food that goes down the garbage disposal but there is going to be more cost in terms of health issues by continuing to add the extra calories just to avoid the bad feeling of tossing out food.
10. People will treat you differently and will see you differently but your mind may still play tricks on you. This may be true the longer you’ve been overweight but I know that the scale says I’m normal but I can still look in the mirror and see the places that look fat to me. When I wear a shirt that is a little tight, my first though is how bad I look in it, no matter what people tell me. I had a lot of people who actually felt (and may still feel) that I’ve lost too much weight but all I see is that I still have room to go. But, once you get a to a certain point, you’d be shocked at how people treat you. People who didn’t notice you before now smile and say hi. I can’t tell you how many times people have stopped to hold the door for me when before they would just ignore me. Wish I had kept a better tally but it felt like I entered some private club that I didn’t know about before.
11. Practice your story about how you did it. Oh, did I get asked. The funny thing is that it wasn’t just friends or people at work but people who I’d run into on a routine basis – my Starbucks barista, for example. If you aren’t used to being a center of attention, then get used to it because once you hit a point where it is obvious, you will get asked and asked and asked. The funny thing is that everyone is expecting some kind of magic answer so when I hit them with the “eat less and did more”, you could see their faces fall a little bit.
12. Stop lying to yourself and stop making excuses. This one might be a bit sensitive but I had people at work who would give me “well I could do that, if only …”. Since I don’t want to preach, I would smile and nod and acknowledge their issue while inside just screaming “BULL****”. I made all the excuses myself. I tried a couple of times but wasn’t committed and it didn’t work. Again, go back and look at point 2. The sooner you accept that and stop the excuses, the sooner you will actually start a meaningful weight loss.
So there you go. If you have an issue, then I do encourage you to find a plan, stick to it and work. And, you have to realize that hitting a goal isn’t really a finish line. It is as much work to keep the weight off as it was to lose it in the first place. I can’t emphasize point 3 enough. If you are overweight, then your lifestyle is the problem. You can’t lose weight and then go back to a lifestyle that wasn’t working because you’ll just gain it all back. Yes, it is completely unfair that some people can eat all they want and not gain anything. Guess what? You aren’t one of those people. Neither am I. I throw myself a pity party from time to time about the things I have to do but, in the end, you have to make a choice and if you want to be thin then it will require a new lifestyle.
Why do it? Because it is totally worth it. There are all kinds of long term benefits that you wont see but the immediate impact is that you will feel better than you have in the past. Imagine being able to easily fit into restaurant booths or airplane seats. There are so many small things that just add up to a much better life. Don’t think its not possible because I’m living proof that it is possible. It will take time and it is hard work but it can be done.