The first part of this post can be found here.
I ended the last post with a short note to those readers who are currently on, or wanting to start a weight loss journey. What I am writing here is what has worked for me. Everyone is different and you will need to find those tricks that work for you. I am lucky enough that the weight has come off and is staying off, but if you are having a difficult time, please goes see your physician to find out if there is something medical standing in your way. There is no shame in owning your own body and wanting the best for yourself.
OK. Now that we have most of the preamble out-of-the-way, we can get into the nuts and bolts of my weight loss journey. I’ve decided to break this into two sections that I think are equally important in terms of losing pounds, fitness and diet, and then we’ll wrap things up with some tips and tricks I have learned along the way.
It’s been said that every journey begins with a first step and, in my case, that can be taken quite literally. My weight loss began with walking around Wascana Lake in Regina with my then girlfriend, Megan. To be honest, at first I hated it. It didn’t take much for me to work up a sweat then and I was really self-conscious of appearing as this big sweaty fat guy lumbering around what felt like hundreds of fit people. That said, Megan loved to walk and I loved Megan, so I walked. This activity has been the one consistent factor in my entire journey. I now walk (almost) every morning with my dog Sully. I have found that I love walking. It gives me the chance to collect my thoughts and to reflect on my life.
I have gone through different periods of increased exercise which helped to kick my losing into high gear. This included going to the gym every morning, running on the treadmill every night and playing soccer again. While these are all good (and needed… I should be doing more of this), some of my attempts were simply not sustainable. I would be ‘good’ for a few months and then fall off the wagon and do nothing. Something I have been able to maintain is my daily walks. It takes only about an hour a day and makes me feel hundreds of times better. I think it’s important to note that if you want the weight you have lost to stay off, you need to have an exercise routine that you can commit to… forever. And that’s it. I have been lucky enough that my weight is able to be controlled with moderate exercise and diet. That said, I still have a way to go and actually plan on doing P90X… at a later date (famous last words).
The biggest changes I have made in my life are in regards to diet. As mentioned in the last post, my diet consisted of mostly unhealthy food. This was because the only factor in my choice of what food to eat was whether or not it tasted good. In order to change my eating habits, I needed to become educated in what I was putting in my mouth and how it was being absorbed in my body. Three key terms will need a brief explanation before we can go any further (keep in mind, I am not a nutrition expert and that these are just the definitions as I understand them. If you see something that is off, please point it out. We learn better when we learn together):
Carbs: or carbohydrates, are used by the body for energy. They are found in a lot of different foods, most notably sugar. This means that candy, bread, milk, fruit, wraps, chips, potatoes, rice and more all contain a high number of carbs.
Fiber: some carbs are also fiber. Fiber is good because it helps get things moving in our digestive track. Fiber usually comes from grains and vegetables.
Fat: the wiki article linked here pretty well explains this one. Basically, it’s another source of energy that can be stored by our bodies for later use. Fat can be found in meat, nuts, and dairy.
Protein: can be used as energy for the body, but also help in the rebuilding of torn muscle tissue. Protein is usually found in meat, but is also abundant in some grains.
Most of the food had been eating was both high in carbs and high in fat. The first move I did was to cut out all the sugar I was getting from soda. This meant no slurpee’s or pop (the former of which had been my main source of liquid). I think it started as a competition with Megan (my wife) about who could go longer without their vice (mine being slurpee’s and hers coffee). I don’t remember who won, but the important thing is I ended my addiction to soda and have never looked back. Instead, I now drink diet soda, which contains no sugar (I’m not going to get into an argument over aspartame at this time… so don’t bother). Making this simple (at the time it wasn’t simple, but now I couldn’t even imagine getting a regular soda or a slurpee) change combined with my walking helped me to lose 30lbs in about 4 months. Now 250lbs and starting to feel amazing.
Next, I decided to try the Atkins diet. In short, Atkins is a diet that focuses on eliminating, at first, and eventually controlling the amount of carbs that a person consumes. In thought is that the body will always burn carbs for energy before burning fat. In order to get rid of the fat in the body (i.e. have the body use it as energy) you need to starve your body of carbs. I actually believe (and who knows if this is true or not) that by not eating carbs, I was training my body to use the fat that I had stored for energy. I think that this ended up teaching my metabolism how to work correctly. I don’t know all the technical jumbo on how this happened, but I do know that I have an easier time maintaining my weight. I also become very familiar with which foods contain high carbs and which do not. On Atkins I lost another 30lbs, bringing me down to 220lbs. I didn’t continue on this diet, however, because I found it completely unsustainable. While I was losing weight, I also found that I was “cheating” more often than I had before and that when I “cheated” I REALLY “cheated” (I can remember one time eating half of an ice cream cake… tasted amazing at the time but I paid for it later). I had decided that Atkins was not the diet for me, but the lessons I had learned about carbs stuck with me and have benefited the rest of my journey.
The remainder of my weight was lost by following the diet that I have now. What do I eat, you ask? Everyone morning I have either a small bowl of cereal with very little milk (1%) or 2 eggs fried in a small amount of low-fat margarine. For lunch, I usually have soup that contains chicken pieces, chickpeas, lentils, or other high protein or high fiber grains or a salad containing chopped peppers, onions, mushrooms, cheese (just a little bit), and a protein (usually chicken). Supper’s usually consist of a protein with vegetables. Staple proteins in our house include chicken, fish, deer meat, and occasionally steak (in the summer). Snacks usually include a small portion of nacho chips (usually no cheese) with salsa, veggies and dip, diet soda, and the occasional hot sauce and crackers. Sounds too simple right? Well… it is and that’s why it’s sustainable.
Tips and Tricks
Throughout this journey, I have found many tricks that I feel have allowed me to sustain my weight loss and I am more than happy to share them with fellow travelers.
1. Don’t go at it alone. I think this is why programs like Weight Watchers are so effective; they encourage you to find a person or group of people who you can travel with. This adds accountability and encouragement and you will more likely stick with it if you know someone else is depending on you.
2. Know what you can eat/drink as much as you want of. I can’t even explain how important this is. I would have failed many times already if I had not learnt this. I know I can eat as much as I want of 5 things without ever compromising my weight loss. I can eat/drink as much black coffee, diet soda, hot sauce, vegetables and garlic as I want. When I feel like splurging on some potentially unhealthy snacks, I grab a sweet diet soda and feel the craving. Works wonders.
3. Learn how to cook. When cooked the right way, ANY food can be tasty. I usually start whatever I’m cooking with a base of 1tbsp of olive oil, an onion, a pinch of salt and a few cloves of garlic. I have taught myself to LOVE the taste of savory food, instead of relying on fat or sugar to make something delicious.
4. Try everything twice. This tip comes with a little story. When I was younger, I went to Africa on a missions trips. What I saw there was extreme poverty and people eating whatever they could find that would fill their stomachs. We are SO picky here. After seeing these people who would eat anything, no matter how bland or flavourless it was me, I decided that I needed to try more foods (one’s that I had previously decided “weren’t for me”). Trying every food twice gives you a chance to really know if you like it or not (firsts can be weird at times). I can’t imagine not being able to eat sushi, Indian food, onions, and salads. I would be missing on so much. If you are someone who “doesn’t like” healthy foods, I recommend giving them another chance. At the very least, just think of how these foods will benefit your body as a whole.
5. Buy some “goal” clothes. I have hanging in my closet right now a shirt that is still too tight for me to wear in public. It the third “goal” shirt I have had since starting my journey. Periodical, I would try on my goal shirt to see if it would now fit. My first “goal” shirt was an XL, second an L, and third a tight M. There is something super encouraging and satisfactory about wearing clothes that you know you could not have fit before.
6. Treat yourself. Now this one needs to be done sparingly… otherwise it wouldn’t be a treat. For me, this is pizza. I LOVE pizza, but it’s not good for me. Instead of swearing off of it for my entire life, I only allow it at certain occasions.
7. Don’t worry about failing. If you stop your exercise or go off start eating unhealthy food again, do not be despaired. Look at what has led you to this, learn from your experience and try again.
Bonus Tip: Where to ‘eat out’. There are times when you either can’t or don’t want to cook for yourself. Many people cite this as a reason that they eat at fast food restaurant chains. Well, there are good options out there that offer quite the tasty little meal. My favourite are Pita Pit/Extreme Pita and Subway. Healthy choices at these establishments are easy to make. Subway offers salads that you can build yourself… I usually pick chicken with no cheese and add hot sauce and a little bit of BBQ sauce. At pita places, the same thing goes; chicken, hot sauce, BBQ sauce. I would try to avoid any sauces with too much sugar, or the high fat proteins they offer; you don’t really taste it anyways with all those veggies in there.
There you have it. I hope that you can feel encouraged through this and if you have any questions, please feel free to ask either on twitter (@ddubs08) or by commenting on this post. I really want to help you if I can. It has been a long process and I still have more to learn. All I know is that I feel better than I ever have before and know that my life is changed for good. There are times when I am still tempted to just eat whatever I want (and there are times that I still do) but I don’t let these times set me back.
Have a great day and happy trails!