When I stepped off the scale and logged my weight into MyFitnessPal yesterday morning, I got a nice surprise. In a popup message surrounded by confetti, the app let me know that I’ve lost 35 pounds since my high weight of 241.4 pounds 20 months ago.
It was a great feeling that only got better when I showed the alert to my 14-year-old son.
“Great job man!” Connor said. “I’m so proud of you.”
My next book, scheduled for release this fall, is all about resolutions: How to set them, how to plan them, and how to keep them. As part of the research process, I’ve set three goals for myself: To lose weight, to stick to my writing schedule, and to built the habit of applying sunblock every day.
Most of the 35 pounds were lost before I set this resolution, but I was starting to put the pounds back on early this Spring.
My weight loss resolution is to get my weight under 205 pounds by Aug. 3, down from a weight of over 216 on May 18. When I weighed myself this morning, I clocked in at 206.2 pounds. With just a pound to go, I’m feeling pretty good about hitting my goal!
My first inclination was to increase my target, and maybe try to lose an additional 5 pounds by Aug. 3. But as I’ll explain in the book, the better strategy is to mark the goal complete and celebrate it.
Then, if I want to lose more weight, I can take the time to properly set and plan another weight loss resolution.
My Weight Loss Strategies
Here are some of the things I’ve done to achieve my goal:
Focus on food. I’ve done a pretty good job of getting exercise since my transplant, party through running and going to the gym, but mostly just from walking a lot. Despite this, my weight was still going up early this spring. I knew that if I was going to be successful, I had to focus on the calories going in.
Be healthy. Remember Garfield – the orange comic strip cat who loves lasagna but hates Mondays? When I was a kid, I had a poster in my room in which Garfield was lying flat on the floor with his teeth clenched around his red food bowl. Garfield wore a pained, exhausted expression and held a lettuce leaf in his left hand. The caption read: “Diet is ‘die’ with a ‘t.’” The notion that diets must be painful is pervasive, but I don’t buy it for one minute. Sorry Garfield.
If I was going to be successful, I had to make sure I didn’t get hungry. So I settled on a few simple guidelines. I would eat smaller portions and stop eating before I felt full. Where possible, I would make healthier choices, like ordering salmon and veggies at a restaurant instead of steak frities. I would generally avoid eating eating deserts and salty snacks, but doing so once in a while was okay, as long as I was conscious about choosing those foods. My basic rule was this: It’s okay to eat what you want, as long as you’re sure you want what you eat.
Focus on 500. As a general benchmark, 3,500 calories equals one pound. If you run a marathon, you’ll burn somewhere around 3,500 calories and lose one pound. My focus was on losing one pound per week, mostly through diet, so I set myself a daily goal of consuming 500 fewer calories than I burned.
Measure inputs. For the first two weeks, I kept meticulous track of every calorie I consumed and burned. The Fitbit my wife got me for my birthday was helpful with this. The good news was that I was burning more calories each day than I expected: somewhere around 3,500. According to my Fitbit, I burn 2,000 calories a day just by living, without doing any exercise. While I do cardio or weights two or three times a week, most of the rest of the calories actually come from walking. I work from home, and having an energetic puppy who needs walking certainly helps with my 10,000 steps.
Tracking the calories going in taught me even more about how many calories were in different kind of foods. It also helped me to be more mindful about my choices. Instead of grabbing the bag of almonds when I got hungry in the afternoon, I would leave the bag in the cupboard and eat five (35 calories) at a time. The night I calculated that a dinner out on a weekend away (a personal pizza and a pint of beer) contained 1,800 calories was especially enlightening.
Track results. I wanted to avoid getting overly obsessed with minor fluctuations in my weight so I decided I wouldn’t weigh myself too often. I figured it was more important to believe in the process and stick too it. In fact, I didn’t even weigh myself on the day I set my resolution. All I know is that my last recorded weight was 216 pounds one month prior and I could feel myself getting heavier. My original plan was to only weigh myself three times during the 12-week resolution timeframe. A few weeks into the plan, however, I decided I needed a little more feedback on my progress so I began weighing myself each Monday. (I weighed myself an extra time yesterday ahead of writing this post).
Manage my environment. By keeping the things that tempt me out of the house (mostly chips and ice cream), I’m less likely to eat them. Since I do most of the grocery shopping, this technique is mostly working. I skip the snacks aisle and the ice cream aisle, much to Laura’s displeasure. This technique has been helpful.
The other night when we were watching TV, I wanted to dig into some salty snacks so bad that I turned to Laura and longingly said: “Imagine if we had a bag of chips right now?” I was bummed that we didn’t have any, but it was a good thing. We had been enjoying some sparkling wine and I know that my willpower would have been weak. If there had been Doritos in the house, I would have eaten too many and missed my 500. But we didn’t have chips, so I munched on carrot sticks and humus instead.
What about you? What big goals or resolutions are you trying to achieve for yourself? Scroll down and let me know in the comments!
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