Real Weight Loss Tips
Weight loss is a sticky subject, but since it is Thanksgiving and food is all over I wanted to focus on it a little bit. For those of you who have met me in real life, I’m not a skinny guy. I used to be far bigger – in 2006, I hit my peak weight of 325 lbs. About a year ago I hit my low of 180 lbs. I am currently hovering around 190 lbs. I am healthy, and do my best to keep it that way. I’d rather be fit and a touch overweight than skinny and unhealthy. That’s a combination that, amazingly enough, appears to be far more common than you’d think.
So who am I to talk about weight loss tips? Well, first off I have lost more weight than most people who attempt to lose weight will lose. 325-180=135 lbs. I did it the old fashioned way – eating healthfully, and exercising. So if you’re expecting “eat 800 grapefruit and you’ll be a stud,” you won’t find it here. In fact, that brings me to our first tip.
- Diets don’t work. They don’t. Period. And its not just because they’re absurd nutritionally – they’re impossible. Think about what people say when they start to pursue a diet – “I’m going on a diet.” Just like “I’m going on a vacation” or “I’m going to the park.” They view it as a temporary thing that they will stop – in most cases people actually have a time planned out to revert back to their old ways. “I’m going on a diet to lost 20 pounds.” And then what? They already have envisioned a clear end time when they can stop eating the special crap pitched by the diet and go back to eating what they’re currently eating. They see it as temporary. So yes, the diet may work, but when people revert to their old habits, they gain back everything, and usually more. Ban the word “diet” from your vocabulary, it will only hamper your efforts. This is a mental game more than anything, and words are powerful. Permanent change requires permanent behavior change.
- Weight loss requires behavior change. If you want to know how to lose weight, the hardest part to master is how to change your behavior. This truly is a mental game. The cool thing about learning to change your behavior is that you can apply it anywhere – not just to weight loss. The best advice I can offer for learning to change your behavior? Set small, simple goals that require you to do things repetitiously. Then reward yourself liberally when you accomplish the goal. The repetition makes it into a habit, and people love doing things for rewards. Plus every time you achieve a goal you’ve built your confidence up just a little bit about. Suppose for example you don’t eat breakfast. You’d set yourself a goal to eat breakfast every day for one month. At the end of the month, treat yourself to a great night out with your SO, or to a new DVD. Whatever would be a good reward. Do this over and over again. Achieving goals you set empowers you to achieve more, and empowerment is something most people who want to lose weight really need.
- You are beautiful just as you are. No, you may not be a waif-like supermodel, and you may not have a body like the Rock. Who cares. Take some time and start at yourself naked in the mirror. For some of you, you will immediately be repulsed by what you see. Suck it up, and keep looking. Find 3 things you like about yourself, and your body. Write them down. Whenever you start to feel down or depressed, focus on these guys. Go over them time and time again. Keep finding new ones – and they don’t just have to be about your body. You are a beautiful, amazing person. You are the result of 4 billion years of evolutionary success. You are awesome.
- Have a piece of cake. One of the things that always hurts to hear is when people who are trying to lose weight start depriving themselves of things they love. If cake really gets your motor going, do you expect to last for any length of time on a diet where cake is forbidden? What is more likely to happen is in a time of stress, you’re going to look at that cake and suddenly find that you’ve eaten the entire thing. This will bring on a ton of shame, self repulsion, guilt, and other negative emotions. Save yourself the risk – eat a piece of cake when you want it. The goal is for this to be livable behavior change. Depriving yourself of things you really enjoy simply doesn’t end well.
- Find exercise you enjoy. I run, I bike, I hike, I walk, and I do calisthenics. Out of all of these things, biking and hiking are by far my favorites. Jen on the other hand loves running. I can run, and I’ve run a half marathon before, but honestly I find it to be boring, mentally stressful, and flat out uncomfortable. So, while I do occasionally run, I try to steer more towards hiking and biking. Just because some type of exercise is “the best for you” doesn’t mean you’ll be able to get yourself to do it regularly. Find things that you enjoy doing. Besides, exercise isn’t what will really win this battle.
- Exercise is less important than food. The equation for weight loss is simple – eat fewer Calories than you burn. Your body is an organic machine, and food is its fuel. The most brilliant sports car on earth will still die if you pour a ton of sugar into its gas tank. Your body is the same way.
- Understand your body. The human body is a brilliant machine, engineered over billions of years into something that will do its absolute best to keep you alive. Like all machines, it requires fuel to run, constantly. It is built to go through times of plenty and times of famine. When you eat, fats, sugars, starches, almost everything can be broken down into sugar (or as your body calls it, fuel). This sugar enters the bloodstream, and fuels the body. But, that same fuel can hurt you too – just ask anyone with diabetes. Normally, if your body sees excess fuel in your bloodstream, it releases insulin to keep the level down to a point that won’t hurt you. The excess sugars get stored as fat for a time when you may not have access to food. Its a brilliant process to keep you alive. If you eat too much at one time, and you eat too much that causes your blood sugar to spike, you will build body fat.
- Drink ice water. You can literally lose weight drinking water. First, it makes you feel full because it fills your belly. Second, have you ever peed ice cold water? Most likely not. Your body has to burn energy to warm up the ice water to your body temperature. How much does it burn? If you drank a gallon of ice water a day, your body would burn about 200 calories just trying to heat it up.
- Don’t beat yourself up. No one is perfect. You may eat too much one night. Don’t beat yourself up over it, just acknowledge you ate too much and then move on. Making yourself feel worse and worse will do nothing except shatter your confidence. So long as the majority of your days are good you’re still ultimately going to lose weight.
- Take your time. Most people didin’t gain a bunch of excess body fat overnight. So why would you think that you could get rid of it all overnight? This is a slow process. Set realistic, achievable goals – even half a pound a week lost is still progress.
- Get social support. Having people to work with on acheiving your goals is motivating. This case is no exception. There are a ton of forums out there to help you pursue your goal. Weight watchers can also really help too. Anything that provides a community and people who can help pick you up on days when you are feeling low. A significant other is another great resource, if you commit to lose weight together.
- Fight with tools. There are tons of great free tools out there to help you lose weight. Use them. Love them. MyFitnessPal is a great community with a bunch of tools to help you get started. Plus they offer a number of support groups that can really help. FitDay is a good tracker for calories and exercise. Lastly, the Spark Recipe calculator is what I use for almost every recipe I make to calculate the nutritional information. The more information you have about your body, the better. You may also want to look into getting a body composition test – this will tell you what your body fat percentage is, what your basal metabolic rate is (the number of calories your particular body burns in a day, your blood pressure, and more). A heart rate monitor is another fantastic tool. Leverage the awesome technology that has been developed to keep yourself healthy. Another great tool if you don’t mind spending the cash for it is Weight Watchers. It’s not free, but it is a good, realistic system.