My Essential Weight Loss Strategies - Part One
Sunday, July 17, 2016
A person I know lost about 80 pounds a couple of years ago by doing a medically supervised liquid diet program offered through a local university. Not surprisingly (to me), my friend has re-gained nearly all the weight she lost. To say she's disappointed would be an understatement.
The same friend recently noticed my own weight loss and commented, "What are you doing? Because it sure seems to work."
I'm by no means an expert, but it's true what I do "works." Over the course of 2007 I lost 30 pounds, and I have kept it off for nearly 9 years now. My weight has not fluctuated by more than 10 pounds during that time period. Right now I'm working on losing an additional 10 pounds on my doctor's advice because it seems as my age has crept up (I'm 55), so have my cholesterol numbers.
My initial weight loss success came from applying simple principles I already knew (like calorie restriction) and adopting other principles I read about at places like SparkPeople. So, in the interest of paying it forward, I thought I'd share the strategies that work for me in hopes they will help - or at least inspire - someone else to get fit for life.
Strategy #1: Start with the Right Attitude
I'm often surprised by how many people seem to be astonished to learn that losing weight requires effort. Well, anything worth achieving requires effort. Actually, achieving a healthy lifestyle requires three key ingredients: time, effort and patience. You need to fully commit to those principles before you even begin.
A lot of people like to excuse their behavior by saying things like, "I just don't have any self-discipline." Or, "I know I could lose weight if I only had some willpower. I just wasn't born with it."
If that sounds like you, I have good news: You can develop mental toughness. It is not an inherent gift bestowed upon you at birth. Just as you train your muscles to become stronger, you likewise can train yourself to be mentally determined. Trying Googling "how to develop mental toughness" for starters. And maybe check out the book "Grit."
Now that we've established you can, in fact, "do this," let's move on to the practical strategies I use for weight loss.
Strategy #2: Weigh and measure all your food - at first
My little kitchen scale is one of the best investments I ever made. I think it was $10.
In the beginning, you are going to have to weigh and measure all of your food because, trust me, you are not a good judge of portion sizes yet. Eventually you will be able to eyeball a bowl of Cheerios and say, "Yeah, that's about one cup." But developing that skill takes (you guessed it!): time, effort and patience.
Many, many people complain to me about the need to measure their food. "It takes so much time!" they whine. Well, actually, it doesn't. It takes less than 30 seconds for me to turn my scale on, plop a piece of bread on it, read the weight, and log it in my tracker. I daresay it takes less than 15 seconds, to be honest.
So stop whining and just do it. You can't possibly achieve calorie restriction (the only surefire way to lose weight) if you honestly have no idea how much food you're consuming each day.
Strategy #3: Log everything you eat...EVERYTHING
Do not cheat. It may make you feel less ashamed in the moment not to log that pint of Ben & Jerry's, but it will undermine you over the long term. (And weight loss is a long-term proposition.)
Again, many people complain about the time this takes. First, it doesn't take anywhere near as much time as you think it does. Second, consider it an investment in your good health. You deserve it.
Strategy #4: Eat boringly
This strategy will really help you if you can't get over your consternation about the time commitment for food logging.
Every day for breakfast I eat one cup of Cheerios with half a cup of milk. Every day for lunch, I eat a ham sandwich and 1 ounce of potato chips. (I know, right?? How unhealthy is that?? I'm just being honest here.) Before the ham sandwich mania, I typically ate 3 scrambled egg whites with sauteed vegetables and 1/4 cup of lowfat cheese, plus whole wheat toast. At various times, my lunch has consisted of a salad with some protein, or soup and only soup.
My point is if you settle on a meal that meets your calorie requirements, you can make your life easier by eating it every single day. At least for awhile. At least until you've lost that first 2 or 5 pounds and start to feel some momentum. That momentum will act as positive reinforcement to keep your morale up.
Personally, I save my culinary creativity for dinner. I love to cook, so I invest in planning delicious dinners that fit my calorie needs. I can tolerate my boring, old breakfast and lunch by knowing there's something exciting coming later in the day.
Strategy #4: Pack only the calories you need for the day
When I lost all that weight in 2007, this was my #1 strategy. I was in nursing school for nearly 12 hours a day, and I always carried 100% of my food for the day. I would only pack the amount of food required to total 1300 calories. I also carried a small portion of fresh veggies (carrot sticks were a favorite) or fruit (apple) for those days (hey, we all have them) when I was seriously stressed or whatever and was in danger of approaching a vending machine. Going 90 calories over budget by eating an apple is far superior to going 90 calories over by eating part of a Snickers. (And let's face it: Who ever eats only part of a Snickers?)
Today, you can buy entire food storage systems that are based on portion control. This makes it even easier to deploy this particular strategy.
Strategy #5: Aim low
I've known a great many people who get fired up about "going on a diet," and they set a goal of losing 2 (or even 5!) pounds a week. Not surprisingly, they burn out within a couple of weeks.
Don't do that.
Here's a better idea: Aim for a very modest half-pound per week of weight loss. Yes, it will take you longer to lose that 20 pounds (or 100), but there are huge upsides to being patient.
First, if your goal is just one half-pound per week, you'll feel thrilled every time you exceed it instead of disappointed you fell short. Second, the calorie restriction required for weight loss of a half-pound per week isn't very much. It's highly doable, especially as compared to the calorie deficit required to lose two or more pounds per week.
Remember, losing weight requires time, effort and PATIENCE. But slow and steady wins this race, my friends.
That's all for today. I will share my workout strategies in a subsequent post. I hope you are able to take something away that will help you!