I’ve never seriously considered losing weight, even though over the years my weight slowly increased by a pound a year and my waist size was up 2 inches from where it used to be. At 5’10” with 213 lbs at age 42, I thought I was okay. Hey, I exercised 5 days a week (including intense martial arts, running and tennis), ate decently and was overall pretty healthy. So my weight was probably due to muscles, right?
Beginning the Journey
- Cut out the morning OJ to reduce sugar/carbs.
- No more Gatorade after my workouts – I found a sugar-free substitute (Sqwincher Qik Stiks).
- Generally reduce the carbs, even whole wheat variants
- Watch portion size even more than I already had.
- Switch to a uber-healthy and low-calorie 9 PM snacks
Getting on Auto-Pilot
- Identify critical moments where I am most likely to go off track and figure out how to avoid falling off the wagon. In my case that was free food catered for meetings at work. So I learned to either walk away (not always easy, especially with free pizza in the lunch room) or reduce the portion size and fill up mostly with salad and just have a little bit of the “bad stuff”.
- Visit your “default future”, which means envisioning myself and what I would look and feel like if I didn’t do anything about my weight. Not always a pleasant thought. Reversely, I started liking to envision myself “ripped” and with a noticeable 6-pack.
My weight over time
Here are some of the changes and learnings:
- Fill up with low-calorie vegetables and salads with vinaigrette dressing before hitting the main course. It’s easier to control portion size of “dangerous” items when you almost feel full already.
- I try to “skip” one meal a day by replacing it with a liquid meal (e.g. avocado/soy milk shake or Glucerna drink) augmented with carrots, hummus etc. for extra volume and satiation. Something in these nutritional / meal-replacement drinks miraculously keeps you full longer too.
- Not having a steaming meal waiting for me when I come home from work helps. An empty table is far less tempting and helps just reach for a shake and carrots/fruits.
- Fruits are good, but know they do contain a decent amount of sugar, so don’t overdo it.
- I don’t skip breakfast and usually have a light lunch. Instead I tend to “skip” dinner and go with a very light 9 PM snack. The body burns calories earlier in the day and not having much for dinner prevents calories turning into fat over-night. On the contrary, going to bed slightly hungry isn’t fun, but you don’t know you’re hungry when you’re sleeping.
- After a light breakfast, I found out that mixing some whey protein powder into a glass of soy milk keeps me feeling full longer.
- I snack on unsalted peanuts during the day. I eat way less if they’re unsalted and don’t have to drink as much. I also like Corazonas bars. Snacking on good stuff helps me not feel hungry throughout the day.
- If you fill up with plenty of liquids, including water, you will feel less hungry.
- Eating protein in the morning, e.g. egg whites, keep you full longer than carbs or insoluble fiber.
- My family and I eat out on Friday and Saturday night and I drink lots of Diet Pepsi. I learned that it’s okay if my weight seems to go up over the weekend. Come Monday, I’ll be okay again and continue my slide down.
- Since we go out for dinner Friday and Saturday night, I switch things on these days and try to skip lunch on those days (read shake). A grande, unsweetened Starbucks iced coffee with soy milk will help me feel full after lunch (and it’s a little reward).
- I weigh myself at the same time every day to compare “apples to apples”, i.e. right before going to bed.
- If you want to skip lunch, leave the office and go somewhere, walk around etc. It’ll distract you from the fact that you’re not eating.
- Nuts and seats are your friend. As a matter of fact, you can turn chia seeds with a few oat flakes, raisins and soy milk into a cereal/snack.
- Cheese sticks and turkey jerky make good filler snacks. Did I mention carrots yet?
- Hummus is full of good stuff and low in calories.
- (Greek) yoghurt is good for you, but watch the sugar.
- Skip the rice, pasta and other starchy sides and just go for lean meat and vegetables.
- Watch for rich sauces and dressings or mayo.
- A little dark chocolate is good for you.
- When watching TV, I started doing push-ups, sit-ups, crunches, planks, leg lifts, etc. Your body weight is sufficient to build strengths for most of your body – no fancy equipment is needed. (Only exception: biceps. Haven’t figured that part out yet.)
- I just got a set of resistant bands and am experimenting with different arm and shoulder exercises – also while watching TV. A massage roller can also be a good way to change things up.
- The more weight I lost, the easier the strength training goes and the longer I can run, which in turn helps burn more calories. This is a self-enforcing cycle in a way.
- Running in the morning right after getting out of bed is tough on your body. Have a shake or yoghurt before you head out and start slow. My joints tend to ache a little until I stop to stretch 5 minutes into the run. After I start to feel better and my body has finally figured out that the warm bed is now history.
- I’ve always had knee issues since I was a teenager, but switching to a mid-foot strike instead of heel strike running style paired with light, more minimalist shoes (<= 4 mm heel-to-toe drop, e.g. Brooks PureConnect or Altra “The One”) have helped me run longer and pretty much eliminated my knee issues.
- Do different workouts and mix it up, so no one part of your body get consistently fatigued. While one part is recovering/rebuilding, the other is getting a workout. I do martials arts, run and play tennis every week. Where possible, I add hiking and swimming. Don’t slack off when you’re traveling.
- I’d love to use a fitness tracker (Nike FuelBand, Jawbone Up, etc.), but since I can’t wear it during Tae Kwon Do, I’d always be missing out on my main workouts. For running, I like my iPod nano since running with music is more fun and it tracks time and distance. (I tried a heart rate monitor too, but hated the chest strap.)
- Your weight will fluctuate based on meals, times of eating, how much liquid you’ve had post workout, and other factors. Expect little ups and downs of up to 1 lbs a day even if you “do everything right”. Week over week is a better for comparison purposes and gauging success than day over day.
- This isn’t a sprint (despite early successes). This is a lifestyle change.
- Read about working out and nutrition.
- Get rid of clothes that are now too loose and baggy. It can be fun to get a new wardrobe and you’ll never need those big clothes again, right? If you toss them, you’ve mentally eliminating the “way back”. This should be a one-way street.