Eleven weeks ago, I set three resolutions for myself: To lose weight, to make a habit of applying sunscreen every day, and to finish the first draft of my next book. The deadline for all three resolutions is today. So how did I do?
You might expect me to say that everything went perfectly. After all, I set these resolutions as part of the research my next book, which is all about how to set resolutions that stick. The book is scheduled to come out this November and it will outline dozens of strategies for ensuring that you can finally realize the major life changes you’ve always dreamed about. You can read more about my resolutions experiment here and here.
The short answer is that while I’m happy with where I’m at with the three resolutions, none went perfectly. As a result, the exercise provided some amazing learning opportunities that I’m excited to share with you as you pursue your biggest goals and wildest dreams.
Resolution #1: Get my weight down to 205 pounds
About a month after setting my weight loss resolution, I stepped on the scale and got some good news. My weight was 206.2 pounds — down at least 10 pounds from when I set my resolution. I couldn’t contain my excitement. “With just a pound to go, I’m feeling pretty good about hitting my goal!” I wrote in a blog post. I even mused in the post about increasing my weight loss target, but I concluded that instead, it would be better to celebrate the victory and mark it complete, before planning and setting my next weight loss resolution.
When I weighed myself four days later, I was sure I would have lost the last 1.2 pounds and hit my target. Unfortunately, things didn’t quite work out that way. When I stepped on the scale for my Monday morning weigh-in, my weight was back up to 208 pounds.
It didn’t feel good. My first thought was: What could I do to get myself back on track? Did I need to cut some more calories out of my diet? Exercise more? Then I remembered my conversation with Brian Tao, a portrait photographer I interviewed for my book. Brian weighed himself several times each day during his weight loss resolution. He told me that his weight could fluctuate by several pounds within during the course of a day, depending on how recently he had eaten and how recently he had gone to the bathroom.
This helped me remember to trust the process. I had set a good plan of targeting a 500-calorie deficit each day. And just two days earlier, the plan was so far ahead of schedule that I was bragging about it in social media.
I began following Brian’s plan and weighing myself more often; not several times a day like Brian did, but once every couple of days. For the next couple weeks, my weight fluctuated around my 205-pound target. One Friday morning, I weighed in at 203 pounds. Resolution kept! Two mornings later, I weighed 206 pounds. Resolution fail.
I refined my goal even further, and decided that in order to be able to say that I had kept my weight-loss resolution, my weight would have to be consistently below 205 pounds in the days before my final weigh-in. Yesterday morning, I was especially nervous about stepping onto the scale. On Wednesday night, I went out with friends for an unhealthy dinner of beer, brisket, fried chicken, ribs and fries. I held my breath as I stepped on the scale and waited for the results. 204.2 pounds! I exhaled.
I weighed in again this morning at 204.2 pounds. Over the past few days, my weight had been as high as 202.4 and as low as 204.2. Resolution accomplished!
What I learned along the way
Losing weight was easier than I thought. Over the course of 11 weeks, I was able to lose more than 12 pounds without any real suffering. My plan going in was to do this without ever feeling hungry, so I made sure to eat three good meals a day, plus healthy snacks. For the most part, I stayed away from sugar and unhealthy fats. While I avoided almost all sugary drinks, I often had a glass of wine or beer. I allowed myself treats such as ice cream, French Fries, and pizza, just not as often, and in smaller portions than in the past.
Track calories in for the win. Around the time I turned 40, I was in pretty good shape. I was running more than 50 kilometers each week, and competing in half marathons. I looked fit, but my weight remained constant at around 218 pounds. This time around, I put the emphasis on what I ate. By getting a good handle on how to maximize nutrients while minimizing calories, I was able to beat my goal.
Hitting versus crushing a goal. I took my foot off the gas a little once I knew that I was getting close to my target weight. When I kicked off the resolution, I was doing my best to keep track of every calorie in and out, and I was routinely burning around 3,500 calories, while eating 2,000. This is why the pounds came off so quickly in the first couple of weeks. Once my weight was close to my target, however, I stopped keeping detailed track of calories and was probably much closer to my target deficit of 500 calories per day. The perfectionist in me feels like I could have lost even more weight if I’d been as disciplined throughout the challenge. The realist acknowledges that I stuck to my plan, beat my target, and established a healthier eating pattern I will maintain even after the resolution is complete.
The other resolutions
And what about the other two goals, related to sunblock and finishing the first draft of my resolutions book? I’ll share more details over the few couple of days. But for now, let me just say that these resolutions were more challenging, and therefore provided even more learning opportunities.
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