Friday, July 10, 2009

So How did you do it?

Thoughts on Losing Weight

The most common comments made to me these days are linked. It goes something like this:

"You look great/ You've lost weight! How did you do it?"

First, to everyone who has noticed, thank you. I've lost 40 pounds in 15 months. I'm trying to whittle away 10 more. I feel great and yes, I appreciate all the compliments.

As to the second part I thought maybe I should offer my simple thoughts on how I got to where I am since I know so many other people are struggling with weight issues. For me it came down to three simple concepts:

Eat Less - The first thing you need to accept is that you eat too much. You probably don't think you do but if you're the average American you're eating way more than you need. I always maintained that my food consumption was OK, it was always something else. I was wrong and it's extremely likely you're wrong too. Don't believe me? Do a food journal for a week. If you bite it, write it. Two M&Ms? Write it down and figure the calories. There are great websites to help you do this. Be prepared to be appalled at how much you eat. The average restaurant meal is at least twice as large as you need. Just ask for the to go box as soon as the meal arrives and put half of your meal in it. It really is that simple.

Eat Smart - Now you need to pay attention to what goes in your mouth. A lot of what we eat falls into these categories - simple carbohydrates, sugar, salt and saturated fats. Basically none of these are very good for us. You need some of them but not much. Move to complex carbs, reduce sugar, use unsaturated/mono saturated fats. Eat veggies instead of sugar, eat lean meats instead of fatty ones. It sounded complicated and boring to me when I started. In fact the shift can be done quickly and easily. I'm not a big fan of "diets". A diet is just what you eat. You need to re-learn how to eat and you never need to go on another "diet". I did find some very useful help in re-learning how to eat from the South Beach Diet, which was recommended to me by my doctor. Ignore diets that eliminate some category of food or over-emphasize a category. You want a balanced diet of good foods.

Exercise - I HATE to exercise. Always have. I'll admit that I now enjoy the RESULTS of exercise enough to get me into a gym on a regular basis. The thing about exercise is that you have to be willing to push yourself past the comfort zone. That's past the point that says "I'm tired, this is no fun, I'm starting to hurt". Don't go overboard right at the start and hurt yourself but you must, must, MUST commit to pushing yourself. Hot, sweaty, boring exercise. As soon as it starts to get easier (which happens with startlingly quickly) you have to push yourself back into a hot, sweaty hard zone again. And again. And again. Until you reach your goal you can't get comfortable with your exercise level. But the rewards! To suddenly drop clothing sizes, to start getting the compliments, to take a look at yourself in the mirror(have you stopped doing that? I did because I didn't want to acknowledge what it showed me.) and say "Wow. When did that happen?" You'll feel good, and beautiful and sexy. And that's really wonderful.

I've dropped just about two sizes in shirts and pants. Someone mistook me for a teenager walking across a parking lot recently. Folks I've known for years don't recognize me at first. I haven't done anything extreme or strange. I've followed the three steps above.

And I accepted that it was going to take time to do it. Programs, diets, pills, whatever that promises you that you can lose weight "fast" are lying to you. Yes, you may lose weight quickly but because you haven't re-learned how to eat you're going to gain it all back. The quick weight loss idea is a mirage, a lie. Be prepared for this to take months at the very least. I could have, maybe even should have lost this weight faster than I did. But it took me a while to figure out the "Eat Smart" piece completely. Turns out there was a lot of extra sugar sneaking into my diet that I didn't notice. There were a few other problems too.

But you know what? I've kept this weight off. It's fluctuated a little but never more than 4 pounds over 18 months. It works if you're ready to make the change.

Trust me, it's worth it.


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