Rob’s Story: How He’s Lost Almost 50 Pounds in 6 Months
Thank you for this wonderful guest post, Rob (greatbigdragon in the forums):
When I moved to North Dakota, three years ago, I was still fit. Somewhere along the way, however, I lost the focus on my health. Part of it could be the spartan diet I existed on when I lived in Detroit. I moved to North Dakota and met the love of my life, so I decided to be more normal(ish.) Meals became about convenience: fast food, pizza. . . anything that was quick and easy was fair game.
Another reason is the long winter. It’s cold for about seven months of the year; which, coupled with life in a small apartment, means that there’s little exercise to be had without buying a gym membership. I ran for a little while when I moved here, and then winter came. It’s arguably too cold to exercise outside for at least five months, but I’m not a winter runner – yet.
No matter what I choose to blame it on, the fact is that I had gained nearly fifty pounds; so when it came time to make a resolution for 2011, rather than focusing on just losing weight, I decided to focus on my habits in order to change my problems with fitness, weight, and any general dissatisfaction I had with life in general. I wrote it down: “2011 will be the year of accomplishment.” Nearly six months in, I’ve lost nearly fifty of the sixty pounds I want to have lost by the end of the year; I feel great, I look great, and I still have half the year to work on the last ten pounds – I’m certain that I will reach my goal.
My strategy focuses on two areas: diet and exercise. I knew that I didn’t want to diet, so I choose to refer to it as an “eating lifestyle” (my wife is in this with me, which helps a lot.) I wanted to revolutionize my eating habits, with a focus on content and caloric restriction. For the area of exercise, I wanted to establish and maintain not only a regular habit of activities intended to be exercise, but I also wanted to cut out activity (or lack thereof) that ran counter to the idea of exercise.
Diet: a.k.a. your “eating lifestyle”
Thinking about your “eating lifestyle” can be complex. Do you eat meals five times a day or just once? Do you snack? What do you eat on a regular basis? I had to simplify the mental load in order to do this by making the following rules for myself:
1.No more fast food or sugary soda, period. You know all the hype about fast food companies making their food healthier to appeal to the increasing health consciousness? It’s a red herring. What they’re not telling you is that they can easily fool around with the fat so that they can make a health claim while leaving in all the additives, preservatives, and added sugar that makes it so delicious and addictive.
2.Cut out as much sugar as possible. This includes fruit and juice. Fruit, while being healthy in general, tends to fall into the medium range on the glycemic index (GI), which means it contains ample sugar and so shouldn’t be a dietary staple. Juice is worse, even without added sugar. However, there are fruits that are low GI, if one wanted to choose them. The basic list of high, medium, and low GI foods that’s posted at http://www.the-gi-diet.org/lowgifoods/ is one that I refer to from time to time to keep myself on track. Remember: sugar is technically a controlled substance.
3.Cut out any food that has more than 30% of its calories in fats, within reason. Simple, right? Just read the label, and use good judgement. There are lot of notable exceptions built into this rule: nuts, seeds, olive oil, whole eggs, avocados, olives, fish, and peanuts – which are beans, not nuts – are some of them. A great article on good and bad fats is available at http://www.helpguide.org/life/healthy_diet_fats.htm. I refer to this from time to time.
4.Make as much of my food as possible from scratch. The rule of thumb is that the easier it is to put it on the table, the more mystery ingredients they had to put into that food in order to make it that easy for me. Read the label, google the ingredients if necessary. I tend to choose foods containing fewer ingredients, foods that have a shorter shelf life (because they’re fresher and contain fewer preservatives, if any) and foods that encourage my wife and me make meals from scratch.
5.Make sure to eat as many vegetables as possible. Guess what? Most veggies are low fat, low GI, low starch, high fiber, and loaded with nutrients – vitamins, minerals, flavonoids, antioxidants, et al. My wife and I have salad at every dinner and a zero fat raspberry vinaigrette that adds just 25 calories per serving – spinach, romaine, broccoli slaw mix (now that’s convenient,) sliced almonds and chow mein noodles, with four or five grape tomatoes. Also, eat main dishes that feature vegetables, and remember: the more colors of veggies on the plate, the better.
6.Restrict my caloric intake. Not to be confused with starvation, of which I have been seriously accused in the recent past. The trick is in keeping my total Calorie intake lower than the amount I need to maintain my weight; this can come from several strategic habits, such as:
·cutting out fat and incorporating lots of veggies, as previously mentioned;
·using certain foods in moderation – salad dressings, olive oil, etc;
·don’t drink up Calories – no juice, soda, or sweetened milk-type beverages
·find an online calculator for caloric requirements and don’t factor in exercise
·watch how many calories go into what I’m eating and then figure out how to cut down on them.
I eat about 300 Calories for breakfast, 200 for lunch, and 1200-1500 for dinner. This is what works for me, and is in fact backward from many recommended strategies because I have narcolepsy, which affects how my metabolism works. It was tough for me to cut down on eating at first, because I often felt like I was hungry. Eventually, though, I stopped missing all the extra food I ate; I have a lot more energy throughout the day now, and I always look forward to that salad before dinner.
7.Disregard the naysaysers. I’ve had people tell me that I’m losing weight too quickly, but I lose an average of 1.5 pounds a week, which is fine. I’ve lost weight before, and it’s the same old story: people see you lose weight, and they freak out. It’s like they see you one day, and you suddenly look like Chuck Norris, and they think you have cancer. It happens! Eventually, they get over it. Another naysayer is your own body; remember that changing habits means a withdrawal process – i.e., a struggle of willpower vs. those factors that are more or less resistant to change. Make up your mind, and persuade your body to follow suit.
8.Obey the “ban list”. The following things should be banned from anyone’s eating lifestyle:
·Trans-fats and hydrogenated oils
·High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
·Soy – any soy-based ingredients with the exception of fermented products (soy sauce, tempeh, miso, and natto.) The reason for this is that soy has been found to contain anti-nutritive compounds that have a toxic effect on the body’s enzymes, hormones, and nutrient uptake. The other exception is soy lecithin, a binder used in small amounts that is very hard to avoid consuming, and so is my only concession to unfermented soy.
The ban list is a place for foods that I never, ever want to eat again. If I add something to it, I’m dead serious about it.
By following these rules, I have effectively changed my eating lifestyle without actually going on a diet, and this has translated to weight loss.
Exercise: Just Move
That’s the best advice when it comes to exercise: just move. I grew up as a big kid. They called me fat, and I always hated it. I thought I was trapped, until I realized I had to lose weight in order to join the Army when I was 20. That was the first time I started to manage my eating lifestyle, and the first time I started running, which is my exercise vice. I got down to 165 pounds for the first time since the sixth grade, and I got into the Army without having to fill out a waiver that said they could starve me. Of course, I soon realized that they‘ll starve anyone who can’t fill their gullet in less than fifteen minutes. I still tell people that I learned to eat in the Army!
What I took away from the month I spent in the military – before I learned that my inability to stay awake when I sit down and turn off was really a textbook case of relatively mild narcolepsy that got me medically discharged – was the phrase “just move.” After the initial week of in-processing and the move to the barracks, they didn’t let us stop to do anything but sleep (on their schedule, so my narco didn’t count.) We never sat down except to eat. We were walking, jogging, running, training, cleaning, polishing, marching. . . something. This is a valuable habit to develop.
My exercise comes from running five or six days a week, biking to work, and just moving. I don’t have a sit-down job, so that helps. I’m considering switching to a regimen of running four days and practicing yoga three days, which means exercise every day, but alternating so that I get a break from running three days a week. I’m researching that. I have watched the pounds melt away – not as slowly as I might like, but a loss of forty-six pounds in six months is not too shabby, and just knowing that I’ve gone from a waist size of 38/40 to a 32 is a wonderful thing. The only real drawback to this incredible change is having to pay the credit card bill, since I had to replace my entire wardrobe; but I’m more than happy to let that one go.
I (Rob Ross) live in Bismarck, North Dakota with my wife of two years, our cats Nikolai and Lola, and our dog Alexei. I work part-time at a regional band and orchestra retailer while attending college to earn my Bachelor degree in secondary English education. Feel free to stop by my blog at http://robssurfreport.wordpress.com or my Etsy shop (DragonGear Books) at http://www.etsy.com/shop/greatbigdragon.