Thursday, December 29, 2011

Lose weight and keep it off: Ten ways to weigh less in the New Year

I know this is a running blog and a lot of you do not need this advice, however as someone who has lost more than 90 pounds and has successfully kept it off for ore than a year now, I feel I can offer something for those of you who have been battling and battling weight.  So I'm (kinda) hanging up my sneakers for this one.

My weight loss wasn't immediate or easy. I have dealt with weight issues for most of my 39 years of life. I've lost it, gained it back, lost it again and have made a million mistakes. But here are some things I've learned.

Ten things I've learned about losing (and maintaining) weight loss:

1.  WHY?  First off, it is very important to write and FEEL the reasons why you want to lose weight. Being a smaller size to me was never that important to me. Yes. I hated how I looked and yes, I wanted to wear cute clothes but it just wasn't enough for me to keep going. However, hanging out with a few people who were negatively affected by diabetes and obesity began to motivate me. I saw my future riddled with health issues, physical limitations, depression and decreased quality of life. I had to make a decision that I WAS WORTH making good choices for so I could look forward to a better life.  And when the going gets tough it doesn't hurt to have me imagine the pain I would put my son and loved ones through if my decisions were to cut my life short.

2.  HEALTH VS WEIGHT LOSS.  Never mind the weight loss at first. That's right. Put the weight loss out of your mind for the first few days. Make your first goal to strive to eat as healthfully as possible. Don't immediately get hung up on serving size and calorie restriction because that's a diet and diets don't work. Lifestyle changes work. So, make a commitment to eat healthfully 90% of the time. Have oatmeal or a veggie omelet or yogurt with fruit for breakfast instead of pancakes and bacon.  Choose a blackbean soup and salad for lunch. Think in terms of fuel and feeding your body with great stuff. Make a game of choosing well whenever you can.  Olive oil instead of butter or a banana instead of syrup on a waffle. Once you've got a handle on that, start looking at 'calories in and out.'  Ironically by eating well you may naturally shed some weight without even trying.

3.  EAT.  Stop starving yourself, it's a sure backfire - you're slowing down your metabolism and setting yourself up for failure. Plan on 3 healthy meals and 2 healthy snacks a day. If you've eaten for the day and  are still (truly) hungry then EAT.  Sometimes if you drink some water or tea first you'll find that you weren't really hungry but if you are then turn to another healthy snack - an apple, a serving of veggies, a small fat free yogurt, a low fat string cheese. Deprivation will not serve you.  Better to eat fifty extra calories now than 500 later when you get to the point of "F" it - I'm-so-hungry-I don't-care-and-will-eat-til-I-can't-see.

4.  ONE MEAL AT A TIME.  Do not overwhelm yourself with the big picture.  Tackle your meals one at a time. If two out of three of your meals are solidly healthy then you are doing pretty good. Even if just one meal a day is solid - then you're doing better than nothing. If a meal was too indulgent, you've got another one right around the corner to get back on track.

5. IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS.  Feel like having a burger? Go for it. Skip the cheese, bacon and mayo and save more than 400 calories!! Trade a salad for the fries and save even more. For so long I thought, eh, I'm having a burger anyway, what's the difference if I throw a little cheese on it?  It adds up. Make just a few of these little choices a day and they add up to a lot over time.  What are the little things?  Skim milk instead of full fat, low fat cheese in lieu of regular, mustard instead of mayo, sandwich thins instead of regular bread, lean ground beef instead of regular and so on. Make swaps where you can.

in my case, i might occasionally drink
my calories
6.  FOOD GUILT IS STUPID.  I can relate. You're not stupid for feeling guilty but lighten up. We all love food. We all have issues with food and sometimes a wrong choice happens.  Shake it off and move on. Guilt leads us to loathing and loathing leads to depression and depression often leads to more overeating. So you ate a cupcake (or two) or you ate too much or ordered pizza… Listen. Welcome to the club. I've made a zillion and one of those missteps and still reached my weight loss goals. Dust yourself off and refer to tip number four.  If you want to counter some of the damage, take a walk, drink more water, analyze what went wrong. Guilt does nothing for you.  Instead of guiltily look back at the last meal, look forward to your next to get it better.

7.  SUPPORT.  I know a lot of you feel you can do it on your own but from my perspective, support is the best thing you can have - you just have to figure out what kind of support is best for you and seek it out. Do you need  a drill sergeant type that is gonna bark at you and ride your ass? (NOT ME!) but if it's you, find that. For me, I thrived at Weight Watchers. A solid program of healthy eating + weekly meetings + a weekly weigh in that keeps me connected was what worked for me. Find it, reach out for it and never stop looking until you find the support you need.

8.  MOVE IT and MOMENTUM.  I know that this is no news flash but you've gotta get some exercise in. I'm not saying you have to start running marathons (or even running for that matter) but aim for something. I don't care if your goal is just five minutes a day for a week.  You can do five minutes of lifting soup cans as you watch TV, five minutes of walking around the block, five minutes of jumping jacks or sit-ups… The most important part early on is just getting used to doing something everyday and building that momentum. As you get stronger, add more minutes and intensity. Even I had to stop an "all or nothing" attitude and that's how I came to my "No Mile Left Behind" philosophy. Some days I run 3, 6 or 8 miles and somedays I only run for ten minutes. It all counts.  Keep looking for an activity you enjoy and give it a fair shot. It probably took me a good month or two before I started to enjoy running, it took me longer to begin loving it and now I can't live without it. But, I was once the girl who would've rather have had a root canal than be subjected to run for 12 seconds.

9.  SPECIFIC GOALS + ACTION.  Once you've been eating healthfully and have a little exercise routine, you need to get specific about your goals. This is three fold. It's very abstract to say, "I want to lose weight." It's easy to lose focus on something so willy nilly.  It's better to say I want to lose 20 pounds by April 25th.  Set a date, circle it and look at it every, single, day. Then, break that into smaller goals - I want to lose 8 pounds by February 1st, for example. Then, break those goals into a specific plan. Write out how you'll get there. I will lose 8 pounds by February 1st by: Exercising for a minimum of 20 minutes a day, I will make every monday entirely vegetarian, I will attend Zumba every Friday night.

As runners - we don't just put a marathon on the calendar - we plot out how we intend to get to that goal thru a training plan.  And like running, even if your training plan isn't 100 percent perfect - we can pull off the marathon.  You don't have to be 100% perfect in your weight loss goals to get there either.

10.  FLEXIBILITY and NEVER GIVE UP.  For me, there is no "on and off" a diet. I just strive to do the best I can at any given moment and sometimes my best is oatmeal and fruit and sometimes my (not so) best is Chinese take-out.  Sometimes my best laid plans are foiled when I go to someone's house for dinner, I show up at a restaurant with a limited menu or I can't get my workout in. That's life. Be flexible, roll with the punches and accept that there are no paths or roads in life that are completely bump free. When you hit a bump, that's to be expected. No one is perfect. No one can be 100 percent the model eater and exerciser all the time. Just don't give up. One year of my 90 pound loss, I bumped around and only lost 7 pounds the whole year. OOPS. But I didn't give up and was able to get to the following year which brought me a 50 pound weight loss….  Glad I stuck it out.  And now 2 years later - who cares what year I lost what? Never give up and you'll get there.

DON'T LET THE SCALE DICTATE YOUR SUCCESS OR SELF-WORTH!!!  Sorry for the shouting but it's very, very important.  There are so many things to celebrate in your journey aside from the scale!! Did you choose healthier foods today? You rock. Did you exercise 3 or more days this week? You rock. Did you walk or run just a little further today then yesterday? You rock. Did your blood sugar improve, your risk of heart disease go down, your knees start to feel a little better? ROCK ON. Good decisions make so many good things happen and sometimes the scale doesn't give you the big picture so don't put so much "weight" on it.

Good luck with your goals. Please feel free to ask me any questions, rant, celebrate or anything else at any time!



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