Since September 2011, I have lost about 30 pounds, a little over a sixth of my starting weight. (The arithmetically inclined can now calculate my peak and current weights. Go ahead, I don’t care.) Occasionally friends and colleagues ask me
What’s your secret? so I think it’s worth writing down my take on weight loss.
I don’t have a secret. No one does. The brutal truth that everyone knows, is that dieting is wretched and awful. Burning fat means eating fewer calories than you burn, and eating less is painful (mentally and physically) and so agonizingly slow to produce results!
My basic strategy is calorie counting, with MyFitnessPal to help me keep track. I don’t always remember to enter my calories every day, but I’ve done it enough over the last year that I pretty much know how much food is in 1200 calories. One cup of whole milk for breakfast and about 400 calories of frozen pre-pack for lunch, leaving about 600 calories for a moderate dinner. Some days it kinda feels like enough. Other days, the constant not-quite-hunger (or actual hunger) gets to me, and I wish I could feel really full again.
One nice thing about MyFitnessPal is its exercise incentive. For instance, biking to work allows me nearly 600 extra calories! If I want to eat more, all I have to do is get off my butt.
MyFitnessPal is great, but meeting fitness goals is still hard, especially because it requires changing ingrained habits. With Jeff I fell into the habit of eating my
fair share of our meals (inevitably resulting in my eating too much), and once I got a full-time desk job, the picture of an expanding Inno-ass was complete. Ditching habits of over-eating and over-sitting has been difficult, and I’d be lying if I said I could stick to it 100%. Here the key for me is keeping expectations reasonable. I’ve learned to accept that I’m going to fall off the bandwagon for a couple of weeks (or months). I just have to get back on again (and not beat myself up about it, because that doesn’t help).
Another aspect of my
reasonable expectations is a relaxed exercise standard: Do Something. If I set out to run around Lake Merritt and end up walking half of it, I still win because I got out there. Even little steps matter, and recognizing that helps me to stay motivated.
I started my weight-loss project because after several years in a desk job, I looked at my slowly expanding and sagging body, and it sunk in that I am not 18 any more. I’m not even 25 any more! Growing up, I was always super thin, so that’s how I thought about my physical self. I felt like a thin person, but my body was straying away from what I identified as being me.
Also, quite honestly I was out of shape. A few years ago on a company ski trip, a group of us went out snowshoeing, and I found it really hard to keep up. I eventually had to turn back, alone, and frankly it was a little humiliating. That is totally changed! I’m not a super athlete by any measure, but I can bike 5+ miles each way to work every day, even when I didn’t get quite enough sleep, and still make it up the long hill at the end on two wheels. I might drop to a nice low gear, but I’ll make it the whole way. That alone is an amazing reward for my hard work.
You see, I have no secret. But if I have any advice, it’s to love yourself, set high but achievable goals, and value your achievements even if they aren’t exactly what you intended.