Hello, Gentle Readers. As anyone who’s ever looked at my profile picture will tell you, I’m a heavy guy. While the cosmetic aspect of that hasn’t bothered me in years, the health aspect of it has plagued me in various ways. Sore backs, hospitalization for cellulitis, getting exhausted while just trying to walk around Walt Disney World… I’ve tried to lose weight before, sometimes with great success, but usually only losing a small amount of weight and then regaining it.
This past March, I put my foot down, and I started to lose weight. I’ve done things differently this time, and, in a “so far so good” scenario, I’ve lost 35 lbs since then. I feel better, I have fewer backaches, I don’t get tired as I used to when I’m walking long-distances, and so on. I know I have a long way to go, but I feel like I really have the tools to get there now.
Now I *know* that many of fellow geeks are heavier than they likely want to be; I’ve been to conventions, I’ve gamed with them, I’ve seen them at gaming & comic book stores. As I was pondering what to write about this week, I thought that my story might help others to do what I’m doing. Sadly, I can’t go into the intimate details of my specific weight-loss plan (I’m doing Weight Watchers…if you want to know those, do the online tools they offer…it’s only $14,95 a month and it has great recipes along with everything else.) I can, however, teach you some of the tricks that have made this such a successful endeavor for me.
Do It for the Right Reasons
Before I started, I really thought about why I wanted to lose weight. Did I want to look thinner? Have more energy? Feel more sexy? Was I losing weight for me? For my husband? My family?
Ultimately, I decided that I wanted to lose weight for my health. Despite zillions of warning from my doctors over the years about possible heart attacks, diabetes, and other health complications, nothing has ever come of it. Over the past couple of years, however, I developed hypertension. It doesn’t make me feel any different, but it’s a palpable reminder, whenever I take my medication, that something has changed about me. Taking one pill once a day is a far cry from insulin shots, but it’s enough to remind me that I don’t want any more health issues.
I also decided I was losing weight for me, for something slightly superficial but fundamentally important to me. I’ve never been much of a clothes horse, but I like wearing things that’re bright and fun. It’s shocking how hard it is to find bright, fun, colorful clothing in big men’s sizes. As a goofy example, the underwear I’ve been able to find in my size comes in black, gray, and white, or for an amazing splash of color, rust or navy. I mean, seriously, what a muted palate to work with. I feel like an old man when I wear them.
Even the losses I’ve made so far have allowed me to do some shopping at American Eagle Outfitters. I now have red, orange, aqua, and, yes, pink boxer briefs. They’re young, fun, and playful. As my sizes go down, my options for underwear will expand. Silly, I know, but even that little thing makes me ridiculously happy.
Okay, so now you know why you’re going to lose weight (be it health or underwear). The next thing to do, which has been a fundamental miss for me in previous attempts, is to let everyone else know what’s going on.
In my previous attempts, I’ve often not made a big deal about losing weight. Partly, it was simple embarrassment, or a reluctance to admit to other that I needed to lose weight. Silly, I know, but that’s pride for you.
Modern technology has some wonderful tools to spread the word. I have a social mailing list with my friends, and I drafted an email to it about why I was doing it and asking for everyone’s help, even giving advice on how they could help me. I’ve also joined a Facebook group with several of my friends who’re also losing weight, and we let each other know about how we’re doing, restaurants we’ve had good success at, tricks we’ve learned, and so on.
In a way, this article is an extension of this concept, offering you all my implied support in your possible current or future endeavors. And, of course, there’s the +5 CHA group attached to this website. However you get your support, it’s crucial that you do. Going it alone in the past has always meant that friends and family have been unaware of my intensions and have therefore unintentionally sabotaged me by taking me out to dinner, bringing me food, and so on.
Identify Your Difficulties
If you’ve ever tried to lose weight before, then you probably have some kind of awareness of what difficulties you experience when doing so. Some people don’t want to exercise (me, for one), some people don’t like what they think of as diet foods. Some may just feel that they’re weak-willed.
One of the difficulties I’ve realized over the years is a little odd, but I knew that, if I were going to be successful, I had to let my family and friends know about it. I don’t like being told “Don’t eat that; you’re trying to lose weight.” I know what I want to eat, and, when I’m trying to lose weight, I have the will to eat what I should and avoid what I shouldn’t. Being told not to eat something I want to eat annoys me and makes me want to eat it more. So I’ve let people know not to say that to me.
Indulge Now and Then
It’s just not possible to eat healthy 100% of the time. The human body craves things like fat and salt, and my taste buds crave things like chocolate, burgers, and cheese sauces. The trick is to keep the good behavior as the norm and make the bad behavior the exception.
It has become a tradition around my house to eat out on the weekend. I do my weigh-in on Friday, and then have a nice dinner Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. This gives me a chance to eat the foods I crave but not to excess. As a result, I don’t feel like I’m being deprived, which is probably one of the top reasons I end up failing at losing weight.
If you end up going to a restaurant at a normal time of the weight, rather than during your crave meal, there are tricks to not going crazy. Skip the appetizers and dessert, r share one rather than having your own. And you can share an entrée as well. If you don’t want to share, at least ask for a doggie bag right at the start of your meal. Your server may look at you funny, but ignore that. Portion off half of the meal, put that in the doggie bag, then eat the half that’s still on your plate. American restaurant portions are ridonculous, which is one reason we have so much obesity. This is a neat trick to countering this situation. You get all the flavor, you’ll still feel fed, and you won’t be overindulging.
Keep It Up
Sticking with it is probably the hardest thing. The human body naturally hits plateaus, gains weight when it’s humid, gets heavier as it gains muscle vs. fat, retains fluid at times, and a million other things that will frustrate you and make you feel like you’re not succeeding. At times like this, all you can do is put your head down and push forward.
When you’re trying to lose, you haven’t done anything differently, and still gain weight, it’s hard to stay motivated. Really hard. Fall back on your support groups at these times. They can be absolutely invaluable. The encouragement they offer can be all you need to press forward.
If you have done something differently, examine what you did, and make corrections. Did you go to a special once ever event and eat something you shouldn’t have? Don’t beat yourself up. Just be good in the next week. Are gaming night snacks getting to you? Skip the Doritos, or bring Diet Mountain Dew next time.
Set Goals and Reward Yourself When You Succeed
It’s important to have your long term goal in mind, the ideal weight you want to get to (even if it’s not the ideal weight that a doctor will give you). It’s equally important, however, to have short term goals.
My weight gain took years to “achieve” and my ultimate weight loss is likely to take years as well. In the meantime, however, I have smaller goals. My first one was to lose 5% of what I weighed when I started. I succeeded at that, and I’m now gearing towards 10%. When I hit 10%, I’ll buy myself something fun as a reward. It’s a sort of positive reinforcement. It’s surprisingly effective if you say “I will buy myself that board game, or that movie, or whatever when I hit goal X.” It gives you an achievable goal and a palpable reward.
Do these all seem like common sense? In a way, they are, but they can be surprisingly difficult to do subconsciously. Maybe that’s the most important advice of all – be conscious of what you’re doing. I have sometimes had my hand on some piece of food at a grocery store, then steeled myself and said, either mentally or aloud, “No,” and walked away. It’s vital to stay conscious of your goals, your processes, and your reasons. And trust me, it doesn’t take long for you to start seeing the changes. Only 2 months into my work, I was at a work party and saw someone I hadn’t seen for a while. She told me she liked my haircut, and she was baffled when I told her I hadn’t had one since I’d last seen her. She paused, looking me over, then exclaimed, “Are you losing weight? You look great!” It was a big boost to my confidence. If I needed any reason to continue, that was a good one.
Are you trying to lose weight? Do you have any advice of your own? Or is there a weakness that I or another reader might be able to help you overcome? Let us all know.