|June 2010 just before it all began|
As the end of 2011 approaches and 2012 is about to dawn I thought it would be appropriate to write this installment of my blog about weight loss. Many of us have a tendency to overindulge in comfort foods and sweets during the holiday season from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve. Really you can’t blame anyone. Candies, cookies, cakes, pies, turkey, stuffing, ham, cornbread, pudding, all manner of delicious foods are brought out during this time of year. Many people feeling riddled with guilt will turn to some method or another to lose weight as the sun rises on January first or second. Some of you are like I was just two years ago, already overweight to begin with and your holiday gluttony will make little difference in your appearance, weight, or how you feel.
Before you step on the scale and groan though I’d like to share with you my own experience with weight loss and what I have found to be true about losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight as well as staying healthy.
The first thing you must realize is that there are no quick fixes. Just as there is no viable get rich quick scheme that will make you wealthy beyond your dreams while working from the comfort of your own home selling widgets on e-bay and then selling your widget buyers the tools to start their own widget business, there is no fast healthy way to lose weight, remain healthy and maintain that weight. Much like making a fortune, losing weight and being healthy is a long term commitment, in essence it is a lifestyle change. Rule of thumb as all the exercise video and diet pill or system commercials start rolling out on January 1st, if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is. Getting fit and losing weight is also not for quitters or those easily frustrated. It should also not be undertaken alone or without the support of someone close to you. The more support you have the better.
The last paragraph may have turned many of you off. For those who stuck around to see what I’m talking about please pay careful attention. Let’s lay out a few ground rules here. First and foremost, seek your doctor’s approval before you go to the gym or change your diet drastically. Yes you can roll your eyes but it’s true. Having a physical is a good idea, if your heart, joints and lungs can’t handle the load of exercise you’re likely to suffer some manner of medical malady from your attempt to lose weight rather than reap the benefits of it. That being said it’s also a good idea to know where you started, what’s your weight officially, what’s your blood pressure, what’s your cholesterol (total, HDL and LDL), what’s your resting heart rate. These are all numbers you should inquire about and write down.
Next realize that this method worked for my wife and I. I am not promising you success by following what I did, however it would stand to reason that if you did follow what worked for us you should experience at least some kind of results. Last ground rule, commitment. There is no room for quitters, the quitters are the ones sitting at home right now grazing on a bag of greasy (insert snack food name here) and watching whatever garbage their television spits out and poisons their mind with. (No I am not anti-television it’s just if you’re unhealthy you can do a lot better than sit around and watch the junk that’s on tv while stuffing your face with junk and wondering why you’ve got more junk in your trunk).
Now we get down to the business end of things. My wife and I made two primary changes in our lives that allowed us both to lose significant amounts of weight and improve our overall health dramatically. This all started Independence Day weekend of 2010 (fourth of July). This was a typical weekend at our house, I was off work for the holiday and had spent most of the morning doing some yardwork. After showering I just wasn’t feeling refreshed,I was still feeling sweaty and wanting to chill out for the rest of the day. So we headed to the local public pool.
|Me swimming @ YMCA|
Upon arriving at the pool we found a sign, “Closing early for Swim Meet”. Who has a freakin’ swim meet on Independence Day weekend? At least we still had a membership at the YMCA was my next thought, though I probably hadn’t set foot in there for six months or more. They had a pool and were less than five minutes away so we headed to the “Y”. Upon arriving we found that most of the pool was consumed with small kids and a few serious lap swimmers. There was however one lap lane open at the far end. So we hopped in. I felt instantly relieved, there’s just something about the water that relaxes me, I don’t know if it’s the sensation of buoyancy or something else but I always find getting in the water (as long as it’s a comfortable temperature) is relaxing.
Since we were in a lap lane, we decided to see if we could actually swim a lap. Let me set this up for you; one lap is counted as down to the far end of the pool and back. The pool itself is 25 yards in length. That’s seventy five feet to one end and seventy five back. That doesn’t sound like much does it? I swam as a kid all the time, friend’s pools, local public and private pools, swimming was fun, swimming was easy, how hard could it be to get from one end of that pool to the other, easy right? WRONG! Oh so utterly and terribly wrong. By the time I made it to the opposite wall I was panting and really thought I might drown, or have a heart attack, or both.
After resting for about five minutes I swam back to the other side of the pool. For some reason I decided to try this a few more times that day until I had completed four laps. A whopping 200 yards of movement. A strange thing happened though, I had a good time, my wife and I had enjoyed laughing at ourselves, and I think we both enjoyed the challenge. Besides it felt good to be in the water. Although neither of us had great technique, form or grace in the water we decided to come back again later that week. I had on previous occasions stated a desire to get back into better shape and be healthier, but in my laziness I had neglected to find the medium to do so. This appeared to be it.
I also was motivated by a recent incident that previous winter in which I took my mother to the doctor and was mistaken for her husband. Now I have never thought that my mother looked her age, but the nurse had the chart, which would have indicated her age and I was sitting right next to my younger brother who is only two and a half years younger than me. So either I looked old or she thought my mother was one crafty cougar. Either way it did not sit well with me.
Three weeks after we had first tried lap swimming Sydney and I were hooked on it. We were able to put together 20 laps at a time, it took us about 30 minutes. By the end of September I could swim 35 laps in about 45 minutes, 35 laps is a distance of 1mile in the Y pool. An entire mile, I could swim a mile. Also by that time in September I had managed to lose 25lbs, I was down from 267 to 242. Sydney also had lost about 10 lbs by this time.
We also made changes to how we eat. We started by reducing our portion sizes at all meals. I went to eating a half sandwich for lunch a handful of chips and a pudding cup. I ate a single cup of yogurt and half glass of orange juice for breakfast, no more doughnuts. I ate one serving/portion at dinner instead of two or three. I began curbing and eventually all but fully eliminating my intake of fast food. I love a good burger and fries, but eating the “Supersize” was literally killing me. I went to eating off the dollar menu, $1 fry, $1 cheeseburger, $1 diet coke. I switched from regular coke to diet sodas (although I don’t drink that much soda to begin with). I decreased the amount of sugar we put in a pitcher of tea (Sydney drinks water only except at breakfast).
|1 year later, July 2011|
Sydney and I both have a sweet tooth. Sydney is also a great cook, but we made a choice to stop keeping sweets stocked up in the house. No more stacks of cookies, large pans of brownies or cakes. Instead we keep granola bars, yogurt, nuts and fruit in the house. These things tend to fill you up faster and are better for you (if you buy the right kind). Eventually I phased out fast food burgers nearly altogether, instead choosing to go for low fat sandwiches at Subway, occasionally I will still eat a burger from a fast food joint but it’s a rare occurrence.
It is worth mentioning as well that if I eat fast food now for lunch I pay for it later. I don’t pay for it on the scale, but I truly find out what the meaning of empty calories is. Within three hours of consuming this type of junk food I am dragging, I’m tired, my stomach hurts, my head hurts, I just want to lay down and sleep, my skin feels greasy like my body is trying to purge the offending fat through its pores, I honestly wonder how anyone can eat like that on a regular basis. I really wonder if it’s like a drug and people get addicted like I imagine smoking is, seemed good at the time, but after you’ve been off it for a while it’s terrible.
|Running on the beach, July 2011|
By Christmas of 2010 I had lost over 50lbs, I was approaching 215, Sydney had lost nearly 30 lbs. I was already satisfied at this point with the way I looked and felt, and that was what I consider a crucial key to our success. We counted every pound as a victory, by that Christmas I knew if I didn’t lose any more weight I was already healthier, I was already doing so many things right.
By April I was down to 200 lbs. I decided to add running to my weekly regimen. Sydney can’t run, she had back surgery a few years ago and the surgeon specified no running. So she stuck to swimming only. By my 32nd birthday in September of 2011 I was down to 185lbs. Today I’m at 182. I have run in multiple 5k races and one 10k race. I’m signed up for the Derby Festival Mini Marathon this coming April. I just ran 10 miles for the first time a few weeks ago. I am up to swimming 2 miles a couple times a month when time permits me to do a one hour swim. We swim 30-50 minutes 3-4 times a week and I run an additional 3 days a week for anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours at a time.
So what’s your secret? That’s the question I am asked the most when I encounter people who I haven’t seen in a while. I will sum it all up below for you and I promise there is no other magic or tricks, no pills or secret formulas, just what I list.
1. Commit that you are going to change your life to be healthier. Realize that exercising and eating healthier are like marriage, they are intended to be a long term commitment for better or worse and til death do you part. AND if you cheat you are only cheating yourself and you WILL feel guilty about it.
2. Exercise 3-5 times per week for 30-60 minutes at a time. This needs to be exercise that gets your heart rate up, preferably aerobic or close to it. Running, biking and swimming are great for this. There are also dance classes, step aerobics, zumba, aqua fitness, jazzercise, all manner of workouts you can do in this area.
3. Exercise at the YMCA. The YMCA worked great for us, we were able to get solid advice and tips from the people who work there. The “Y” is family oriented and does not tend to be intimidating. I suggest if you can’t go to the YMCA because of location or scheduling that you locate a family friendly gym or, interview and hire a personal trainer. The bottom line here is you need some guidance, do some research and get some help with setting up your program. If you can’t do these for financial reasons then do one of two things. Find somewhere to make some cuts so you can fit this in your budget, or do some research online, read some books and some articles and work with your doctor to help you develop a basic plan that you can follow at home.
4. Have a partner. Just like going through life is easier with a partner, so is getting in shape. It does not have to be your spouse although I tend to believe that if you are working out together then you’re both on the same page about where your health should be and your marriage will be better for it. It also helps keep you off the couch when laziness and frustration strike, not wanting to let your partner down or them getting you back in line and motivated is a great asset in the war against your waist.
5. Adjust your diet appropriately. You don’t have to eat sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower 24/7 to eat healthy. You don't have to become a vegetarian or give up pizza or steak. There are tons of low fat, low salt, high protein, high vitamin, incredibly tasty and good for you recipes out there. There are loads of them online. Do the research, your body will thank you. Cook at home often. Plan your meals ahead of time and even prepare your food ahead of time as much as possible. Then you will not be tempted to eat out when you are tired after a hard day of work. Also don’t deny yourself. If you’re at a party and you want a piece of birthday cake, eat it. Don’t be rude by not having at least as small piece, but don’t go back and eat another piece followed by two or three more. You can still have a steak or a slice or two of pizza, you just need to look at those foods as treats instead of staples of your diet. Take a break once in a while and hit your favorite restaurant for a good sit down meal. Divide your plate in half or split it with someone. Save the leftovers for lunch or dinner the following day. This keeps your portion control correct but allows you to really enjoy something you might have been craving.
6. Reduce your sugar intake. Switching your drinks to water is the best bet, but you can also switch from regular to diet sodas, just don't drink them in excess. If you prefer tea or coffee try using less sugar, and give yourself time to adjust. Also realize that alcohol, (beer, wine, whiskey) is full of sugars or empty calories even though you may not be able to taste it.
7. Understand that getting in shape and getting healthy takes time. It can take you a year or more to get in shape and get healthy, depending on your goal and your current condition. Stay focused, stay motivated and seek support when you feel down.
8. Set realistic goals and count every pound, every mile, and every lap as a victory. Focus on the positive, look at what you accomplished today, not what the scale says you haven’t accomplished YET. Also if you’re having a down moment remember that if you are off the couch and moving you’re doing way more than you would be if you were sitting still.
9. Eat a snack. I tend to pack a snack for in the morning and late afternoon. I will munch on a handful of almonds, an apple, a cheese stick, something healthy between breakfast and lunch then again between lunch and dinner. This helps me not feel like I need to eat as much at the next major meal, it also keeps my energy up.
10. This last one is a controversial one. I canceled my satellite TV service. I grew tired of having over 200 channels and flipping through to find only something numbing to watch as I veg’d out and fell asleep each night. I was truly disappointed with the offerings on TV during prime time, either disgusted by the things I saw or unimpressed at the lack of imagination in it. I’m not a huge sports fan either so many nights there was little on that I actually wanted to watch. So I cancelled my service, subscribed to Netflix and now I watch about an hour of TV a day and the local news before work and before bed. Some days more TV some days less, but I don’t have it pulling at me to come watch something that I might miss, or DVR 100 hours to catch up on over the weekend instead of exercise. With Netflix it’ll still be there when I get back home.
I'm pretty sure I could keep going but this blog is already long enough.
|Old pants (navy size 44) and new pants (khaki size 32)|
Heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, heart attack, coronary artery disease, arteriosclerosis, atherosclerosis, are all scary terms. I can’t promise you that by doing what I’ve done that you will not at some point in your life face one or more of these dreadful ailments. What I can tell you is that even if you do, if you are healthier your chances of coping with those conditions and improving your health are much better.
I started out at 267 lbs, maybe more since I didn't weigh myself for about 2 weeks at the beginning; I was in a size XXL shirt and a 44 waist in my dress pants. I weighed myself on the first and third weekends of the month for the entire year as I progressed. When I started out my elbow, my shoulder and my knees would pop and creak as I got out of bed every day. Seldom do I have a problem like that any longer. I can keep up with my young nieces and nephews when I get together with them; I’m able to play whatever game they’re into at that time. Today I wear a medium in most shirts, a large in some but that’s usually due to my shoulders not my stomach or waist. My dress pants are a 32 and that's at my belly button not hanging below, I weigh 182 lbs, I'm the size I was when I walked across the stage at my high school graduation.
|Old shirt XXL, New Shirt M|
Recently I had to do some work on my roof at my house, I noticed my balance had dramatically improved from the last time I was up there a little over a year and half ago. I also recently helped my brother move into a new house, again not being out of breath at every step when I was helping with something heavy was a great. It's also nice to not run out of breath playing tag or any type of ball game with my nieces and nephews.
The last thing I will say is this. We only get one life, one chance to be here on this planet. I want to be with the ones I love for as long as I possibly can, hopefully exercising and making healthy choices will lead me in that direction. Chances are your loved ones want you around too; there is no excuse outside of being limited by a medical condition that you can give me or them that is a good enough reason to not make an effort at being healthier. Even if you don’t get to live that longer life, you will at least be able to say when your time is up that you did everything to get the most time possible from a health standpoint. Too often we look to mediocrity as the standard or the acceptable achievement in our society, accepting it as ok. What we should be looking towards is excelling, especially in the area of our health.
This blog contains the author's experiences with weight loss. The author is not a health care professional or fitness instructor. This information is presented as an example of how two people lost a significant amount of weight. If you are planning to undertake a weight loss, diet or fitness program you are strongly encouraged to seek professional and medical advice. The author assumes no responsibility for anything good or bad that results from your use of the information contained herein.