I still maintain that what I have done, while significant for me, is minor compared to what what others have done. The only difference is that I’m willing/eager to share the thoughts and feelings behind my experience. I maintain that this is a selfish act to keep me honest. In a recent discussion with a buddy who works in the heath field and hadn’t seen me in several months, I mentioned the blog, and how it has kept me on track. “What’s that they say, ‘if you want to accomplish something, tell someone?'” Well, I tell 500 people (or really the 30-50 who read this). But either way, I have to stay on track or people will know that I let myself down.
That said, I’ve been asked by many friends and family, some of whom are battling with weight themselves or have a spouse or close family member who is (that’s right, if you are one of the people I referred to and you’re reading this, not only are you not alone, you’re not the only one who confided in me so use that knowledge as strength).
This blog entry will highlight all of the specific strategies and tactics I used throughout my journey (that word still sounds cheesy but it’s accurate) from 275lb to 215lb and falling. If you are reading this looking for advice, understand that no single one of these actions caused me to loose weight, but they all played a part in each other.
- Make a grand proclamation and tell as many people as possible, and start being honest with yourself. See above, and see my very first post on the subject form late March. When everyone on Facebook knows what your goals are, it’s harder to let them down.
- Know your math. Ricky Gervais once defended himself for making fun of fat people by saying “I don’t ‘have a go’ at fat people. I simply make the scientific observation that if happen to be heavier than you want to be it’s because you consume more calories than you burn.” The way he said it was much funnier (and I’m sure I’m probably paraphrasing), but it’s 100% true. 1 lb of fat takes 3500 calories to burn. Therefor if you burn 3500 calories more per week than you consume, you will lose 1lb a week. This is not a gimmick or trick, this is a hard scientific fact. And since there are 7 days in a week, and 3500/7=500 is also another scientific fact, if you burn 500 calories more than you consume EVERY DAY, you will lose 1lb a week. Or, 1000 calories a day for 2lbs a week. This will literally work, without fail, every time you try it. The only variables are how you get to the deficit (more exercise, less food or a combination of both), and how ACCURATE and HONEST you are with yourself about both measurements. If you track yourself at a 500 daily deficit but disregard your daily doughnut because the company pays for it and really it’s only a bit of a doughnut several times a day when you walk by them, you’ll find yourself wondering why the system doesn’t work. Otherwise, the weight WILL come off at that rate over time. I have been averaging 1.5lbs a week for 3 months with a 750 average deficit. It’s also important to remember that if you weigh yourself once a week, you may not see the week over week change. But rest assured if run a 1000 calorie deficit for 5 weeks you will lose between 8 and 12lbs depending on water weight. Every time.
- Hemp Hearts. When you start your day with one of the 7 healthiest foods in the world, you are giving your self the energy and nutrients you need to be more active, and the protein to keep you from getting hungry and snacking on bad food. I eat 3 tablespoons every morning and if a skip a few days I notice immediately. You can eat them with yogurt or (like I do) just shovel them in to your mouth, but either way, it’s a simple change you can make to your diet to start every day on the right track.
- Cut out all carbonated beverages and replaced them with water or juice, specifically Odwalla Original Superfood and Safeway Valencia Orange Juice (it’s ingredients are juice and water). What I’m about to say might sound like a lot of empty calories, but that’s not what caused me to loose the weight. At different times I was keeping track of my calories or drinking lots of diet soda instead of regular, so the calorie balance wasn’t the major issue. The chemicals and fake sugar were causing me to feel lethargic, which lowered my motivation to change my lifestyle. I was drinking a 20oz regular or diet soda every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was how I got my caffeine in the morning. It was a habit. If I went for a long car drive I would get one for the heck of it. When I tried to quit cold turkey I had withdrawals that were worse than quitting smoking. I finally stepped it down, first going down to once a day, then once every other day, then gradually increasing the number of days in between consumption. It’s gotten to the point that if I have one (usually once a week now) I can feel the difference in my body the next day. I believe that if you are unhappy with your health and consuming these types of beverages (not to mention alcohol), cutting them out of your diet is one of the single most important step you can take to getting healthy, assuming you’re not a smoker.
- Quit Smoking. I’m not going in to detail on this, as we’re all smart enough to understand the importance. I used Chantix several times and it worked every time. I know that sounds funny but the quitting always worked, it was the staying quit that I had trouble with.
- Find one physical activity that you can add to your weekly routine that you will both enjoy and remember to do. This was different things for me at different times. in 2006 when I was at my heaviest this meant finding a softball team to play with once a week. In 2007 (still north of 250) it meant walking for an hour on my lunch break 3 times a week. 3 months ago it meant taking up yoga and the elliptical, which eventually evolved in to jogging, which has evolved in to distance running. I’ve also used walking the dogs, yard work, racquetball and weight lifting. It doesn’t matter what it is, it will make a difference in your health if you do it regularly.
- Take your vitamins and supplements and make sure you do your research first. I don’t believe in pumping your body full of man made supplements, but a multi-vitamin and fish oil are 2 that I stand firmly behind. I haven’t taken ibuprofen in months and I recover quickly from workouts. However, there are different kinds of fish oil, and if you pay a little extra for the DHA/EPA omega 3’s it’s something like 5 times as efficient.
- Buy clothes that are too small for you and hang them in your bedroom. Something about the visual reminder every day and every night of a shirt or pants that you want to be able to wear
- Get Technology. Body Media makes, IMO, the most accurate and least invasive calorie counter on the market. It costs around $100-$120 and is worth every penny. No more guessing at how many calories you burned, you actually track it. If you are committed to running a deficit, you can only do so if you know what you’re burning, and most estimators are wrong. This tool is so accurate that if I wear it to bed I can tell when I woke up in the middle of the night. Other great apps you can use are myfitnesspal.com which has a complete database of just about every food item known to man and tracks your nutrition by the meal, and mapmyrun.com which will be helpful if you are adding any kind of distance related activity to your workouts.
- Find somebody else who is doing what you are doing and talk about what you are going through. I have a buddy who recently lost over 100lbs, but has struggled to maintain the weight loss for an extended period of time. He hasn’t gone back to his old ways and is still doing great, but we lean on each other. People who haven’t put in the work to change their body and mind will be happy for you, even emotional, but they will never know exactly what you are dealing with. Having someone who is either fighting the battle currently or has already gone through it will provide strength, both in your success and failure. When I email my friend and say “I ate garbage this weekend so I added half a mile to my run today, but I still feel like crap,” he understands not only how hard that extra half mile was, but how scary it is to see yourself slip back in to the old you, and how important of a win it was to fight back and get on track so quickly.
- Find a physical game or sport that you enjoy and get determined to get good at it. For me it was slowpitch softball. Some would argue that I’m still not very good (and they’d be right) but I’m light years better than I was 6 years ago. For others it might be golf, tennis, soccer, basketball, cycling or even crossfit. There are literally dozens of recreational sports that will allow anyone to participate, so pick one and get really good at it. The important thing is that you commit to yourself that you will improve in a measurable way, and then create a plan to put the work in to get better. As bad as this sounds, sometimes the idea of excelling at something you love is more motivational than improving your health.
- Yoga. I’ve never met someone who tried yoga for more than a month and didn’t love it. The key is to find a class where the instructor allows you to go at your own pace (which they technically all should but some are more forceful than others with their instructions). Don’t ever push yourself beyond your comfort zone, and be self aware enough to know when to say “I can’t do this pose right now, but if I keep coming back I will be able to some day.” The #1 complaint I’ve heard from people who tried yoga and didn’t love it was that they felt they were pushed too hard. Know your own body and your own limits and you’ll be fine. When you’re paying someone to lead you through an exercise, it’s ok to tell them “no.”
These are 12 things that I feel were essential to getting as far as I have. As I mentioned, many of them intertwine, like the Hemp Hearts and vitamins with the physical activities. All are relatively minor changes to make, with the exception of quitting smoking. I hope that this answers the questions I’ve been asked recently, and I hope that some people are able to use these ideas to enjoy the success that I’ve had.