That’s me over time. In June 2006, I weighed 300 and God-knows-what pounds, because I was too terrified to step on a scale. When I eventually did swallow my pride/suck in my gut in December 2010, I weighed 305 lbs. – and I know that was after losing weight after cutting out my daily regimen of pizza and fried chicken!
I had horrible health; and worse, almost no muscle strength. Exercise of any kind was out of the equation until I could drop the excess weight. So I started eating lean, but only with foods that satisfied my junk-saturated palette. Once I got comfortable moving in my body, I started a long-term, low impact exercise program.
After two years of hard exercise, I worked my way down to about 220 lbs. But one injury later, and without good eating habits to fall back on, I shot up to the 270 lbs. on display in January 2013.
I moved to Australia in April, where I weighed in at 120 kg (264 lbs. – damned metric!). In the quest to make new friends, I joined a fitness group; and in the quest to save money until I had a stable income, I was smart about what I ate (i.e., cooking for myself with fresh ingredients as often as possible!). Once I got a job, I got a gym membership and a bike. Later, at the start of this year, I went on the paleo diet.
Last week, following a trip to New Zealand (where the March 2014 photo was taken), I weighed in at a cool 95 kg (209 lbs.). When I do my next weigh-in at the top of the month, I expect to have fallen further.
My exercise routine is nothing fancy: move some weight around three days a week, light cardio (e.g., running or biking) for the rest of the week. The diet is nothing scary. “Paleo diet,” to me, is just a gussied-up phrase for “eat healthy food that you cook for yourself” (purists, feel free to jump on me for that!) which is advice everyone should be taking!
Here’s the thing: The best way to lose weight is to be good to your body, both in terms of what you put into it and what you do with it. You can eat right, and that will definitely help you shed pounds very frustratingly slowly. You can exercise all you’d like; but if you push yourself too far and don’t have good habits to fall back on, well; enjoy watching all that hard work disappear in a heartbeat!
I won’t pretend that my very ongoing weight loss journey has made me an expert on health or nutrition, but I have definitely learned a lot along the way; and it’s all surprisingly simple. Here are my tips:
Know where your body’s at!
You can’t fix what you don’t know isn’t broken. Knowing you’re overweight? By how much? You need to get a scale, use it, and use it often – at least once a week when you’re starting out. Stepping on a scale and seeing the damage can be a shock – I understand that – but it’s necessary. You have to be able to track if your diet and exercise plans are working at the pace you want them to; and if you start to slip, you need to intervene fast to stop from backsliding.
I also recommend scale that measures body fat, because weight loss doesn’t mean much if you’re rocking 25% B.F. or more.
You also need to do some basic exercises to know where your biggest weaknesses are: push-ups, running, biking, squats, etc. Nothing fancy, but you have to learn where it hurts now so you can take care not to hurt yourself permanently.
Keep it simple and sustainable!
The easiest way to fall off a weight loss plan is to shoot for the moon. I know there are plenty of fitness gurus who’ll be more than happy for you to pay them to shout at you to push harder! Take the pain! Don’t wuss out on me! And as soon as you’ve hit your targets and the shouting has stopped, you’re screwed, because you’re not going to have someone still yelling at you.
Don’t make resolutions like, “I want to run a marathon by the end of the year!” or “I’m giving up chocolate forever!” Sure, they’re fine goals; but if you slip even once, you’re going to feel like a failure and give up completely.
So you want to lose weight? Set goals like:
- “I’d like to lose one pound a week, but any weight loss would be great!”
- “This week, I’m going to cook four meals that don’t use any processed foods.”
- “I want to do one unassisted pull-up.”
I’m sure there will be plenty of people who read that and scream, “Those are pathetic goals!” And maybe for them (or even for you) they are, so amp it up. The point is to do things that you know you can do or want to do on your own, because that’s how you’re going to build good habits. But here are two goals that you should always do, regardless of your fitness level:
- Celebrate any progress, no matter how small.
- Whatever you did the week before, improve on it by the end of the next week.
So revisiting that first list, let’s say you only lost half a pound. Congratulate yourself! That’s a half pound on your way! Do it again – or better next week. In a year’s time, that’s at least 26 lbs. gone. Managed to cook four clean meals for yourself? Awesome! Now cook six next week. Before you know it, your pantry and your body will be transformed.
Trust your body!
If doing a certain exercise hurts, and not in the “burning energy” kind of way, stop doing it for a while. If a certain food leaves you feeling like crap after you eat it, cut it out of your diet. Need to sleep? Go to sleep!
Now, granted, there will be growing (thinning?) pains, but you’re going to know the difference between necessary and unnecessary pain. The reason why it’s important to pick up and listen to these signals is that your brain is wired to protect you from yourself; and the more you keep beating yourself up for no good reason, eventually your brain will rescue you by shutting down your desire to keep up with the program. Then you’re hosed.
There are no tricks!
Despite what a vast industry is trying to convince you of, you actually don’t need help being led to healthy habits. You know instinctively what good food is and what isn’t, and what activities promote lean bodies and what doesn’t.
Sure, professional athletes and fitness gurus build on those instincts to create refined programs that CAN build muscle and burn fat faster than average – they can help you count every calorie and work every muscle group – but if you don’t feel that you can commit to those kinds of program, save your pride and money.
Again, all I’m doing now is staying away from processed junk and making sure I get my heart rate up for at least 45 minutes a day, and the weight and body fat have been peeling off non-stop. I can still treat myself to a night out with friends and not feel guilty, because I can come back to sustainable habits. And on those weeks when I miss my loss or lifting targets, I can still give myself a pat on the back because I’m still better off than I was a week ago; and way better off than a week before that!
- Eat clean, fresh foods
- Keep yourself moving
- Know your strengths and weaknesses
- Set simple, but progressive goals
I promise you’ll lose weight.