Help yourself lose weight and keep it off

Losing weight seems like a daunting task. Once you have gained weight, it becomes a habit to eat what you want, when you want and how you want. Clothes have to be upsized little by little and in the end you start to dislike the way you look. You're not happy with the mirror and pictures are not your friends. Well, I have good news for you, you can keep eating some of the food you love and still lose weight. I know because that's what I did.

I found there are 3 'secrets' to weight loss: getting motivated, creating exercise habits, and counting calories.

Getting Motivated

To begin, you need some motivation for your weight loss project. Motivation will move mountains! Some people find themselves in the unfortunate situation of getting externally motivated. Such was the case of my best friend, who got palpitations and anxiety in a business trip in Vegas at the (not so tender) age of 36. He was alone in a hotel room, away from family and friends and got an anxiety attack. "I thought I was going to die" - he confessed later - "...away from my wife and kids, never to see them again...". He immediately went to his doctor when he got back, and got the tests, probes and questions to find out what was wrong. His doctor told him "lose 40 pounds or you'll only get worse, and will have heart problems by 40". His wake up call had an immediate effect on me. I thought "Wow, I'm 4 years his elder and in much worse shape". This strong experience moved me to find out what I could do to lose the extra weight I had gained during the last 10 years. So that's step number one, get motivated. Look for a reason to lose weight. Find a constant reminder of what you have to lose if you don't get your health back.

Creating Exercise Habits

Believe it or not, this is the easiest part of losing weight. I was at 212 pounds on a 5'7 frame when I started (172 now and still 5'7 ). I decided to walk on the treadmill one day and see how long I could go. After 15 minutes and half a mile I was panting, and sweating, but I liked it and was watching 1/3 of an episode of Dexter on my Ipad. I decided it was good enough for me. I started walking just 3 times a week for 15 minutes (seemed like a long time at first so don't get discouraged if you are able to do very little at first). Not a huge commitment, but it got me started.

You will need to make just 3 decisions about your exercise regimen:

  1. Decide how many times per week you can work out (I recommend 3 or 4 at most) so that you keep your commitment, and how long to work out (15 - 20 minutes are ok to start). In a couple of months, your body will ask for more and your schedule and the length of your regimen can change for the better.
  2. Decide what exercise you will engage in (Dig deep for this one, since it needs to become 'something you do' rather than 'something you have to do'). I suggest walking since it comes naturally and you can watch TV or an Ipad (Netflix is highly recommended) at the same time on a well placed treadmill. You can gradually add different exercises.
  3. Make a schedule you can keep. I recommend the morning for 2 reasons:
    1. My willpower has not been used up by my work, traffic or anything else.
    2. After a while, you get less hungry for breakfast and can have a small one.

So in summary, you need a little workout a few times a week to start. As long as you keep on keeping on you will succeed.

Counting Calories

This one seems a little crazy at first, but read on and you'll find you don't need to actually do the math, just put up with the annoyance for a few weeks initially and then you'll have a good grasp of high carb foods and how to avoid them.

You will need a little help for this one. You can use a free web application to track your meals (there are plenty of free membership sites that will allow you to count calories). It's easy to do but it will take a little time to learn. Don't get super detailed because it will take a long time to find the exact food item. You can generally get away with choosing the generic for each food item. For example, Famous Amos cookies are the same as any other chocolate chip cookie in terms of calories. Getting super specific won't make any difference. 

Do keep track of your diet for a week, then start doing this analysis:

  1. What am I eating that has the most calories from carbohydrates? Look for something you eat often. For some it's rice, for others bread, or soft drinks.
  2. Once you see how many calories they have, switch for something else that is high in protein instead. You can have the same calories, just in protein form.

That's it. Just do the two steps above for one food the first two months. In my case, I started with the soft drinks during lunch. I switched to water, and replaced with bigger meat or poultry portions for the first couple of months. Then, after my habit was ingrained to replace soft drinks with protein foods and water, I looked for something else to replace. This time it was rice. You will need to continue switching high carb 'garbage foods' for healthy foods using the web site for a while, but people only eat the same 30-50 foods regularly (look at your record after a week). You will quickly develop a feel for what is high carb and what is not. You won't need the site to count the calories eventually and will be able to make the switches with no outside help and without giving it much thought. I do recommend the site or a spreadsheet to help you keep the weight off. Get on a scale once a week on the same day and track the weight in the application or a worksheet. This will help you get yourself back on track if you are not making progress (it will happen), since you can always go back to counting calories to help you get with the plan again. Once you do this 2-3 times, you will see huge differences. 

It sounds too easy, but I guarantee you will start getting results in the first two weeks. Expect to lose about 2 pounds a week on good weeks and 1 on bad ones. 

My biggest problem now is that I'm out of clothes, literally down to 6 pairs of pants to wear, with huge belts that need extra holes and shirts that look like circus tents on me. I hope you'll be in the same place in the next 6-10 months.