Late last year I made some changes to my eating and exercise habits that resulted in going from 230 pounds and a 38" waist to 160 pounds and a 30" waist. When people hear this, they are curious how I did it.
Part of the success stems from having such terrible diet and exercise habits prior to making any changes. I paid little to no attention to what I ate or portion sizes, justifying the approach by saying the lack of stress caused by not caring more than makes up for the benefits of worrying about such things. A typical day would not include breakfast, a good sized lunch and either takeout or some kind of microwave meal for dinner - along with a beer or two. Regular exercise was non-existent. Living this way, my weight held at about 220 for a year or two, but seemed to start climbing again last summer.
The next key thing was having some form of motivation to make a change. For me, there were a couple of things that triggered the desire to do something. I went for a bike ride sometime in July and although I completed the ride, I felt extremely out of shape - especially on the hills. I was at my brothers house when my belly appeared from beneath my shirt - he took the opportunity to rub it and point out how large it had gotten. I attempted to play tennis and could not move well on the court and tired extremely easily. My 38" jeans were starting to feel tight and there was a psychological barrier crossing into the 40's. My reflection in the mirror was difficult to look at - was I starting to grow breasts?
So, in early August I decided to make some changes. On 8/8 I bought one of those scales that can measure body fat. I wish I wrote down the initial reading - I think it was something like 25 or 26% (definitely in the "fat" category). Even so, my initial goal was modest - just avoid the need to buy the 40" pants. The initial changes to my life were also modest - when I came home from work, I spent about 30-45 minutes on the stationary exercise bike rather than having a beer or two. In fact, I vowed not to have any beer during the week. On the weekends, I also made an effort to get out in the kayak or go for a bike ride.
Fairly quickly my weight stabilized and started to go down a bit so I stayed with it. After a week or two, I added some strength exercises using one of those inclined ramp and pulley systems that Chuck Norris was selling a few years back. The weight continued to drop and I started to notice my pants feeling a bit looser.
At this point, luck probably played a role as Shaws had a sale on yogurt and instant oatmeal. The lid of the yogurt happened to include information on how diets that included dairy products (such as yogurt) would help burn fat and reduce your waistline. The oatmeal touted all the health benefits that it offered. Intrigued, I did some digging on the Internet and found similar information - as well as tidbits such as never skip breakfast. So, breakfast of yogurt or oatmeal became part of my daily routine after being absent for many, many years. Somewhere along the way I also came across something touting the benefits of green tea, so I switched from drinking coffee in the mornings and at work, to drinking green tea.
After a few more weeks, I was surprised to find that my 38" pants no longer fit. Good thing I still had some of the 36" pants I had outgrown a few years earlier. I also extended the exercise a bit more to include sit-ups and even started running for the first time in something like 20 years. I signed up for a 4 mile run on Thanksgiving morning, so I had a goal to train to.
A few more weeks and I had to dig deeper through my old clothes to find some 34" pants. The success continued to inspire me to learn more about how to eat properly as well as take much more care when purchasing foods. I primarily shopped for foods with the lowest calories from fat. I also started buying fruits (primarily bananas and grapes) for snacking. Yogurt had now fully replaced ice-cream for my after dinner craving for something sweet. I found that adding different cereals to the yogurt gave it some texture and crunch and made it more fun to eat. Although I really like some of the GoLean cereals, my body doesn't do well with the soy proteins so I pretty much stick to adding Cheerio's now.
A few more weeks (late Oct/early Nov) and my 34" pants don't fit. So what started as a modest effort to avoid buying new clothes resulted in the need to buy new clothes anyway. Though, I didn't feel as bad buying the smaller sizes - first 32" and finally 30". My X-Large shirts also no longer fit - medium and even small were now much more appropriate. Around this time, my weight also stabilized at 160 and I started to receive some comments along the lines of "is everything alright?", "are you dying?", "you could stand to gain some weight".
Now came the part I feared. Having lost some weight in the past only to have gained it back (and then some), I was (and still am) extremely nervous about maintaining my weight. However, a big difference this time is that I'm not skipping meals and the meals I'm having are both enjoyable and filling. I'm also continuing to learn more about what types of foods to eat and how to enhance/improve my diet even further. And, so far, I'm continuing to get exercise on a regular basis. The good news is that after 2 trips to Europe where food, beer and wine was plentiful, I returned each time at the same weight at which I left!
Summary of what worked for me:
- its easier to lose a lot of weight when you have a lot to lose
- motivation or some kind of trigger was key for me
- eliminate beer during the week, light beer only on weekends (I now drink regular beer on occasion as well)
- change from coffee to green tea (I now drink some coffee again)
- yogurt instead of ice-cream or other sweets for desert
- snack on fresh fruit
- don't skip breakfast, oatmeal is my standard now
- look for foods lower in fat calories when shopping
- exercise - a mix of cardio and strength is best