Today I’m privileged to share with you some reflections from one of my co-challengers in the One-Pound-Challege. A long-time yo-yo dieter, Jesse shares some tips that have been working for him during the One-Pound-Challenge. Hopefully you’ll be inspired by his successes and find some inspiration and useful help in what he’s learning along the way.
I joined the One-Pound Challenge with a bad attitude. I still hadn’t lost the five pounds I’d put on TWO winters ago (on top of already being 15 pounds overweight). Then, I was pretty sure I’d put on another 10 lbs. this past winter (which turned out to be true). I was avoiding the scale because I knew it would bring bad news. I finally weighed myself after several days into the Challenge.
What appealed to me about this Challenge is the emphasis on slow weight loss through baby steps that I’m adopting as permanent habits and lifestyle changes. Over the past 15 years, I’ve spent countless Spring seasons trying to lose 10-40 pounds before summer, at which point I would then get back to my “normal” habits. This time, I want to be sure I lose my extra weight permanently, even it takes me six months, one year, or even longer to lose it all.
So far I weigh myself nearly every day, and mark the weight on a bodyweight chart (this PDF is a good one).
In looking at my progress on the chart, I focus on the lowest weight I achieve during the week, always hoping to hit a “new low” that is a pound less than my previous low. I have lost 9.5 pounds in 10 weeks! However, this monitoring method occasionally de-motivates me, as I have sometimes gone well beyond a full week without reaching a new low.
I feel like I am making permanent progress toward a healthy weight, since my lifestyle feels very sustainable. It’s very cool to have lost this weight during a 10-week period that included Easter, a two-week family vacation, several falls off the bandwagon, and some great meals and desserts every week.
What’s Working For Me the best is the One-Pound-Challenge suggestion to make small, permanent changes to my eating habits that I can live with forever, which will eventually bring me to my ideal weight. Here are the keys that have been helpful to me so far:
Pleasure: I’m trying really hard to enjoy each aspect of life, including each bite of food. I don’t want to deprive myself of sleep, simple pleasures, and great food (in small doses). The first few bites of food taste the best, and after that, it’s just calories. When it’s junk food I don’t truly enjoy I usually skip it; I’d rather save the calories for something that will really give me pleasure. I try to really appreciate the delight in garden-fresh fruits and tomatoes, and savor all the food I eat. I’ve learned that just a few bites of some treat are sometimes enough to satisfy me.
Herbal tea first thing in the morning. I don’t know why, but this is key for me. As a food-lover, the thought of breakfast is usually what motivates me to get out of bed. However, I’m an early bird, and if I eat breakfast at 6am, I will usually be hungry again by 9am. Now I remind myself to first re-hydrate with herbal tea, and before I know it, I’m sucked into my work for the day, and suddenly it’s 9am and time for a real breakfast that will hold me until lunch. This new habit has two advantages for me: 1) seems to help my weight loss when I start the day off well-hydrated, and 2) I’ve eliminated 200-500 calories by discontinuing what the hobbits in Lord of the Rings called “second breakfast.”
New workout plan. For the past few years, I’ve focused on moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, especially running — usually I ran 25-30 miles a week. However, I eventually discovered that it was no longer helping manage my weight … I still gained weight over the holidays and couldn’t lose it. After reading Run for Life by Roy Wallack, I changed my approach. Now I shoot for 3-2-1 each week … three 20-minute sessions of high-intensity intervals (these are painfully hard, but thankfully very short), two 45-60 minute strength-training sessions without rests (mix of hard and fun), and one long-distance session (slow enough to be endorphin-producing fun). Right now, this variety of intensity, strength, and endurance is bringing me results.
Avoiding mindless eating. I used to have five habits that led to lots of extra calories: Eating while watching a movie or DVD (now I just let myself get sucked into the film), eating while driving long distances (now I use sugar-free gum and/or decaf coffee to avoid drowsiness), eating extra helpings at a meal (now I pay full attention and savor the first helping), eating while working late (now I save any extra work for early mornings), and eating while reading (I still do this sometimes, though I’m gradually switching my oral-fix-while-reading to really good coffee or tea).
Avoiding calories after 7pm. I try to stick to this guideline because 1) it’s too easy for me to snack mindlessly in the evenings, 2) going to bed on a full stomach always gives me a rotten night of sleep and low energy in the morning, and 3) night-time eating seems to really pack on the weight for me, unless I skip breakfast the next day. It was really hard for me to develop this habit, and any time I break it, an appetite for nightly snacks plagues me the next few evenings.
Being careful with caloric beverages. Even “healthy” alternatives will have 100 calories per serving. I decided not to totally deprive myself, but to only have one or two caloric drinks a few times a week, and generally to stick with roughly 100-calorie servings.
Recovering from splurges. I don’t beat myself up when I go backwards a little, such as a late meal, a party, or an all-day holiday like Easter. With a goal of only a pound per week, I’ve learned that splurges don’t help … but they certainly don’t stop me from meeting my weekly goal. However, they do present the risk of prolonging into falls-off-the-bandwagon that last for days at a time; I’ve had two or three episodes like this during the past 10 weeks, and the sooner I “get back to basics” and start re-incorporating my baby steps, the sooner I start feeling better.
Having some events on the calendar. Even with all the above, it’s still easy for me to get discouraged or lose motivation. So I try to have some event on the calendar at least every two months that makes me want to be my best. For me, it’s triathlons and half-marathons — I enjoy them and want to be lighter, stronger, and faster at every subsequent event … but it’s not an event like a class reunion where the pressure tempts me to “diet.” The athletic events I need to be in shape for are great motivators for me to make long-term changes right now.
All in all, I’m really pleased with my progress so far and look forward to a future of continuing with my current lifestyle. I’ve found that having the goal of losing one pound per week is great for me because:
- It’s very achievable
- It’s motivating to think of losing a large amount of weight in the foreseeable future (for example — in 6 months, you’ll be so glad to have lost 26 pounds)
- You can “blow” it occasionally and still meet your weekly goals
- It’s a challenging enough goal that if you splurge, you have to get back on the bandwagon quickly to avoid missing your weekly goal.