There are THREE KEYS to losing weight.
- Make up Your Mind -- It is all in your mind, not your stomach.
- Eating Well and Correctly, plus "cheats".
- Exercise and Activity
Make up your Mind
First thing is "It is all in your mind." If you only "wish" you could lose weight and keep it off, you won't. You must make up your mind to lose weight. Losing weight and keeping it off is a lifetime journey. It really is mind over matter. It took me 18 months with a semi-active life to truly decide to lose weight.
My first step in this ordeal was August 28, 2015. That day, I bought the first scale I have ever owned. I weighed 248.6 pounds. I was 70 years old and had shrunk from 5'-9" to 5'-7". I was totally obese and totally out-of-shape. I joked with my buddy that "round" is a shape. But I did not feel good, my doctor did not like me, and I had no energy and slept terribly. So I finally made up my mind to change.
Change is NOT easy. My motorcycle riding buddies take between four and six three- to five-day motorcycle trips each year. First highlight is finding new curvy roads to ride. The second highlight is EATING GOOD FOOD at fancy local restaurants. It takes a LOT of will power to order a spinach salad instead of that Pizza Supreme. I was the brunt of jokes about my eating. But after losing about 20 pounds, the jokes stopped. And praising began. After about 40 pounds, the general manager at the motorcycle shop said: "Hey, look at this way, you GAINED 6 horsepower," explaining that each additional 7 pounds is about equivalent to one horsepower lost.
I weighed myself everyday when I was home. When the weight went up, that spurred me on to do better. When the weight went down, I got an “attaboy.” Many people recommend weighing yourself only once per week. That did not give me the motivation and instant recognition I needed. Do what you think is best for you. For me, daily weigh-in gave me the motivation to continue. Dieting works. Here is a graph of my weigh loss. Notice it increased about 4 pounds over the Christmas Holiday, but I’m working on getting back to 155 pounds.
Eating Well AND Correctly
You cannot exercise your way out of over eating. Exercise helps, but a nutritious diet is the key. Experts say 80% of weight loss is diet. In my opinion, diet is 90% of weight loss.
Twenty-three years ago, during my first mid-life crisis, I decided to get back into shape. I joined the Y and started swimming. Then I added a round of Nautilus machines and finally added free weights. I was exercising 1.5 hours every morning before work. But the key was losing weight. At that time, I did not diet, but I ate sensibly; salad with minimal dressing for lunch and only ONE helping with no deserts for dinner. Performing the “Push away” from the dinner table works wonders.
This time, being older and perhaps a little wiser, I started a food diary. I already knew what foods were good for me and what foods to eliminate. Eat unprocessed foods and lots of vegetables and fruit. I limited my intake of fatty meats and carbohydrates. Meats are primarily chicken, seafood, and pork loin. Vegetables were mostly fresh, like squash, peppers, radishes, onion, broccoli and green beans. Fruit was primarily berries. Typical meals are:
- Breakfast: ½ cup Oatmeal (5 minute cook time, not instant, too much sugar) with ½ cup blueberries, 1 piece dry whole wheat toast, boiled egg, decaf coffee
- Lunch: about 4 oz. of meat with 3 vegetables
- Dinner: same as lunch
- Desert: 1 cup of berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries) with ¼ cup yogurt.
- Snacks: generally ½ cup of berries or ¼ cup of nuts
There are variations of course and I mix things up. I would buy small to medium sweet potatoes, cook them and have ½ of a sweet potato. I tried new recipes, like Butternut Squash soup, Green Bean Fries, and Chicken Sausage. I found I liked raw, fresh vegetables without any dressing.
Over time, I found I could eat 1,200 to 1,400 calories per day, on average, and lose 1 to 2 pounds per week. There were times, typically two to three weeks long, where I would be on a plateau; i.e. staying the same weight. But I stayed the course and started losing again.
You do not have to be hungry to diet. The key is substitution of foods that are good for you in place of those that are not so good. Nutritionist Karen Moss, RD, LD gave a seminar at the YMCA and had some very good ideas and tips:
- Food Diary with calories, protein, carbs, fat, sugar, salt, and fiber
The first substitution is to COOK your own food instead of eating out. Most restaurant food is highly processed and contains a lot of sugar and salt. A lot of times it is cooked too long destroying many nutrients. Cook you own food so you know what you are putting in your body. This does not have to be time-consuming. I cook twice per week. Example: bake or grill 6 or 8 chicken thighs, boil or steam fresh green beans or broccoli, cut up a veggie combo (broccoli, yellow squash, zucchini, red, green, yellow peppers, radishes, and onion) into a large bowl. Then put a chicken thigh and green beans on a plate and into the microwave for 90 seconds. Grab a handful of veggie combo, add some tomato slices and some spinach or kale. The result is a great, healthy, filling meal in 2 minutes.
Here is an example of dinner and a dessert of raspberries with a 1/4 cup of non-fat Greek yogurt.
- Cook instead of eating out.
- Whole wheat bread instead of white bread. Ditto for pasta.
- Chicken and fish instead of fatty meats.
- Water instead of soda or sweet tea.
- Unsalted Nuts instead of potato chips.
- Olive Oil instead of butter.
From Karen Moss, Nutritionist, here are some links explaining in more detail about food substitutions:
I created a spreadsheet for my food diary but there are apps to keep track of everything you eat. The key is to utilize your tool and keep it updated. I used www.CalorieCounter.com to lookup portion size, calories, protein, carbohydrates, fat, fiber, salt and sugar. Some other methods of keeping a food diary are:
- MyFitnessPal app
- Calorie Counter and Food Diary app
- Calorie Counter & Diet Tracker app
- Lose It! app
- Notebook (pen and pencil)
Once per week, our motorcycle group goes to breakfast before a ride. That is my primary cheat. Eggs, grits, bacon (LOVE bacon), dry wheat toast (substitution). Perhaps once per month, I might order a western omelet. On our out-of-state motorcycle trips I paid the price by gaining 5 to 8 pounds, but took it off within 2 weeks. Do not take too many “cheats”; one per week is enough.
Exercise and Activity
Just like dieting, exercising takes commitment. Remember, you must make up your mind. Also, you need to decide on a goal. My goal was to get back to my college weight and to get back into shape so I could do things without huffing and puffing like the big bad wolf. I also wanted to build up some strength. For exercise, I joined the YMCA. The Y has a program called “Wellness Works”. David White, Senior Wellness Director at the Eastside YMCA summarizes Wellness Works as "a personalized wellness program where you work one on one with a Wellness Works coach who creates a custom fitness plan tailored to your goals." The program consists of several parts:
- Make an appointment with a Wellness Works coach to test your current abilities, weight, balance, BMI, and your goals.
- Perform a weight test.
- Review your eating habits
- Create your personalized workout program using their ActivTrax program. ActivTrax is a computer program that gives you the exercise instructions, weight to use, number of repetitions and number of sets to perform. You can record your data for each exercise on a printout and then enter into a computer. Or you can use your smartphone to enter the data.
- Every six weeks, you review your progress with a Wellness Coach and see how much you have progressed by performing the initial testing again. You will see how much you have progressed toward your goals.
In my case, I knew I needed to get active; here was my plan:
- When I decided to diet, I also started walking. My first walk went two houses down the road and back. Then each day I tried to go one house further. Later I started going down into our development. Finally, after about 6 months I was walking 5 miles in 1 hour 15 minutes.
- At a doctor visit in April 2016, my doctor said to get my average heart rate up to 120. Walking alone didn’t do that. So started jogging (1st time in my life!). At first it was short jog, long walk. Then ¼ jog, ¾ walk. Now it is ¾ jog, ¼ walk. That is the only way I can get my AVERAGE heart rate up to or above 120. The calculation for your target average heart rate is 220 minus your age times 80%.
- In December 2015, I joined the YMCA and signed up for their Wellness Works program. A Wellness Coach setup my exercise program where the computer tells you what machine, weight, reps, and sets to do. After a year and several review sessions, I can tell a big difference in my stamina, weight lifting, and breath control.
- The result now is I am maintaining my goal weight and eating 1,800 to 2,000 calories per day. I sleep better, feel great, have much more energy, and can do things I wouldn’t have attempted prior to August 2015.
- Health Result: I totally got rid of one high dosage blood pressure medicine and am now taking one-quarter the dosage of the other.
All this is because I made up my mind to lose weight and get into shape. Food diary, counting calories, and exercise regimen for cardio and strength training help.
When will you make up YOUR mind?
Lee Zeis is a member at the Eastside Family YMCA