I have experienced exceptional weight loss since 2017 and it’s been a life changing experience. “So how are you doing it!!??” I get asked this question fairly frequently. The answer is astonishingly simple: diet and exercise. My weight loss system is based around eating well and being active.
I know that is not the answer for which most people are looking. I am certain that many want to hear I had a bypass and that just magically solved everything. Or I am taking some kind of appetite suppressant, or some kind of magic fat-burning pill. C’mon folks …that’s like a carpetbagger selling amazing elixirs that will not only clean stains out of your clothes, but also strip paint, cure the common cold and is mighty good when mixed with tonic water and a wedge of lime. It’s just not realistic. However, there is much more that goes into such a simple answer.
Understanding the Problem:
The solution I came up with is not 100% just diet and exercise. There is more to it – but to understand the solution it helps to examine the problem that it’s targeted to address. How did I get to the point where I needed to lose hundreds of pounds? The short answer is lifestyle. Let me give you examples:
Working in a highly under-served community, with an under-capitalized organization, my position was particularly stressful. I was constantly worried about the health of the company, the employees, and was exposed to violence and crime. I was skipping meals, then eating a late dinner and eating the wrong things. Also, I was getting no exercise. Combined, all of these things led to a slow weight gain that persisted for many years. It had become a lifestyle and it needed to change.
Whatever solution I came up with had to be sustainable for someone with a busy work life. I know myself well enough to know that the possibility of getting that busy again is quite real. Therefore, if the solution is not sustainable through life and career changes, it’s not going to work long term. That’s an important point. I knew that to lose weight and become healthy, this needed to be a change to the way I live my life. It needed to become a sincere evolution of how I conduct myself on a daily basis. That’s not a small thing and it’s not easy.
- My day often started with me getting up and preparing for work right away, rushing to beat traffic and get into the office early. I would skip breakfast in an effort to be in early so I could do some work before staff arrived and the doors opened.
- Often I would skip lunch and work right through the day with nothing more than a few cups of coffee.
- Many days I would work late, then drive home and either stop at a restaurant, order a pizza or eat whatever I could find at home.
The Diet Part:
The first question I needed to answer was “how do I control what I eat?” I needed to put myself in a position where I wasn’t hungry and wasn’t tempted. That meant eating breakfast and lunch and removing the temptation to cheat. I removed that temptation by physically removing those items from my house that caused me to cheat. The first couple of months are the most difficult when you change your diet, so removing the bad foods was essential.
The next part was making sure I eat breakfast and lunch. That’s not easy either. If you are busy, you may not be able to take time to cook, and don’t always have time to go get something for lunch – provided you even have access to healthy foods. I knew that I wouldn’t take the time to make breakfast in the morning and make up a bag lunch everyday.
The answer to that dilemma was protein shakes and meal replacement bars. My friends Linnea and Ingrid introduced me to a company that makes a whole system of health related products and they convinced me to give it a try. As it turns out the products are very good and that filled the bill for me. I checked with my doctor to make sure the products were as healthy as they appeared, and he agreed they were. So breakfast and lunch became low-maintenance and could even be taken with me on-the-go. That was a perfect solution. You will learn more about that in a separate article.
Also, I changed what I drink. I used to be a diet coke fiend. But recognizing that the aspartame and salt in the Diet Coke was making me retain a lot of water, I resolved to find an alternative. So I switched to water and Sodastream. Sodastream is essentially a company that makes a carbonated water device and manufactures flavorings that are much, much healthier for you than traditional diet pop. Overall I am drinking between two and three liters of water per day. My goal is, at least, three liters per day.
Lastly, and perhaps the most difficult part of eating right, is coming up with dinner. Thanks to my friend Lani, I knew the basics of eating healthy, balanced meals. She worked hard to educate me and I am eternally grateful. So I established a plan for developing quick, easy and delicious dinners. (See details on this here). My dinners are healthy, balanced and work into my plan by being 600 calories or less.
- Intake should be 1400-1500 calories per day.
- I eat a protein shake or meal replacement bar for breakfast and lunch (240-250 calories each)
- I have one to two low calorie snacks of vegetables and hummus or similar throughout the day. (total of 300 calories)
- I prepare a knife-and-fork meal for dinner not to exceed 600 calories.
- Drink 3 liters of water per day.
Eating Right is Only Half the Battle:
So now that eating is taken care of, the next step is exercising. I started slowly on an elliptical machine because more aggressive exercise came with a price tag. Walking was too high-impact for me initially. I needed to build up stamina, strength and drop a few pounds to lessen the impact on my joints and reduce the chance of injury.
I started at 5 minutes on the elliptical. Yep, I know that’s a ridiculously low amount of time. Remember, I am aiming for sustainability and I had not been exercising at all previous to this. So I did 5 minutes the first day, then I added 30 secs to my time every day, if I felt I could handle it. Before long I was at 30 minutes. 30 minutes of cardio exercise was my goal initially. If I can maintain 30 min per day, whether I am walking or on the elliptical, then I have a good sustainable system.
I fit my exercise in at the beginning of the day. Its best if I do this because then my metabolism gets going early and burns all day long. So recognize that right here – the exercise part – is where I had to make some sincere changes to my daily routine. I needed to carve out 45 minutes to account for getting ready and hopping on the elliptical. That means getting up earlier, giving myself some wake-up time and then exercising before my day truly starts.
Variety – Keep It Fresh:
As I started losing weight I knew I needed to fit in time for toning exercises. Building muscle burns fat, and it helps to bring your body into a toned shape. As I encounter plateaus, it is very helpful to be doing some kind of mild toning work – the variety of exercises also helps to keep me motivated. Often I will do two 30-45 minute free weight sessions per week. As summer has progressed I have also added bike riding to my regimen. It’s a great outdoor option and is also low impact. Currently I am doing 10-15 mile rides several days a week. That does take more time (for me, at least!) so budget your time accordingly. It’s a great way to capitalize on summer and it helps to keep the routine fresh, especially when winter limits our opportunities here in Minnesota.
The combination of various types of cardio, and free weights, as well as just pushing myself to be more physically active around the house, has made a huge difference in my health and outlook. It’s been a pivotal partner to my healthy eating regimen. Working those two systems together has taken me to my current weight loss and has been a sustainable system for the year and a half I have been on this journey.