And It’s Still Easy and Free
Weight Loss vs Fitness
First, I want to cut to the end of that article and discuss the whole weighing thing and the weight loss label. Often, I see people getting hung up in the process and losing sight of the goal. One example is productivity. People get so bogged down in the productivity system, they forget to actually be productive.
How can an article about weight loss not be about losing weight? Well, it is, but weight is just one metric of how we measure our success. The actual, underlying goal is to be healthier, right? To be fit and feel better. Maybe to look better, but that’s an entirely subjective view of how others view us. We can’t control that. What’s important is how we feel to and about ourselves.
So, don’t ignore the scale, but don’t give it more weight, pun intended, than it deserves. Depending on the type and quantity of exercise you choose to add to your program, you may not lose weight for a while. It’s not unusual to actually gain a few pounds. But one day, you suddenly notice your pants are a bit looser. Is there any better feeling than that? Forget the scales; when I sit down and my pants don’t feel like they’re cutting me in half? That’s a win.
At the very end of that article, I discussed the fact that what you are embarking on is not a diet, but a lifestyle change. I know you want to jump into the ‘diet plan’ and get started, but you would be better served to slow down for a minute and think about your long-term goals. If you are looking to drop two sizes before that wedding or reunion next weekend, you can stop reading now. This isn’t that. This is about changing your life for the long run.
And that’s the reason I talked in that article with advice about taking a careful look at what you are doing now. Several of you balked at the record-keeping aspect of my plan. If you are the type that can do all of this in your head, more power to you. But to make a meaningful and long-term change, you have to know what you are changing. I know — I’ve been there. It’s easy to think you’re eating healthy, but if you take a careful look, maybe not so much.
In the scheme of a lifelong plan, a week isn’t much to ask. So that’s what I want you to do. Spend a week thinking about where you are and where you want to be. For this to work, you have to change your lifestyle. But from what? That’s why I suggested keeping the diary. And to start, change nothing.
Instead of trying to change a lot of things at once, all I am asking is to change one thing. Keep a faithful diary of everything you eat and any exercise you get. When we aren’t paying attention, we really don’t understand what we are putting in our mouths. This diary serves two purposes. One, it gives us a baseline from which to begin our change. Two, it serves as a wakeup call. A Coke and a small bag of Fritos? That’s 300 calories for a snack. 300 calories should be a light meal, not a bunch of empty calories that will leave you hungry in half an hour.
But there is a third purpose in that initial week that I didn’t mention in the other article, and that is a sense of accomplishment. The problem with diets is they are very slow to get started. You put in all the effort and hard work and step on the scales at the end of the week. What? Nothing?
What’s the point?
By keeping that initial diary, you can get some positive reinforcement just from looking at the numbers. Last week, I averaged 4,000 calories a day and this week it was less than 2,000. That is huge. And it’s not as difficult as you might think. You just have to sit down at the end of that first week and carefully evaluate that diary.
Get rid of the sugary drinks, and yes, that includes fruit drinks. You don’t drink enough water anyway, so switch to water as often as possible. I’m guilty of it too, but there is a lot of controversy regarding diet sodas, so take that under advisement. The treat I replaced all my sodas with is flavored soda water, the kind with no sugar or artificial sweetener. Zero calories. And make sure you get one with zero sodium also.
Look at everything on that first week and figure out where small changes will make a big difference. Condiments and salad dressings are another waste of calories. Learn how to make your own or find those with low fat and sugar content. It will take some experimenting to find one that actually tastes good, but trust me, they are out there.
Don’t get rid of snacks, just replace them. Find a vegetable you like and can snack on. Carrots are pretty high in sugar, but are full of fiber and make great snacks. I used to hate broccoli, but I can almost feel myself getting healthier when I eat it. Drizzle some light Italian dressing and a touch of parmesan cheese on it, and I can snack on it all day. Do you remember that 300 calories we snacked on earlier? That would be a glass of lime LaCroix and three quarts of broccoli. (Trust me, you don’t want to eat three quarts of broccoli.)
Yeah, I saved this one for last. But if the word makes you cringe, just change the word to something else. If you are the type that loves to get up early and put in an hour of strenuous exercise, more power to you. But for the rest of us, keep thinking about lifestyle changes. I don’t want you training for a marathon, I just want you to get moving.
I’m not a big fan of those fitness things that track your steps. Like the scale, they become an end in themselves rather than the means. If you’ve ever thought, I can’t walk right now because my Fitbit is on the charger, that’s a problem. But they are useful just to see how much we are moving. And that’s what it’s all about; get moving and keep moving.
I have a timer on my laptop that is always running. I get up every twenty minutes for at least one minute. I’ve stopped three times while I wrote this article. At a minimum, I rest my eyes and do some stretching. In the last break, I went downstairs and came back up. Big deal? A single flight of stairs can raise your heart rate and metabolism. Just a bit. Just for a little while. But it’s a change.
Are you watching a video or reading something on the computer? Stand up and do it. Do some stretching at the same time. Get moving. I’m not a fan of those stand-up desks. I have a bad back and standing for a long time aggravates it. But moving doesn’t. Walking doesn’t. Climbing stairs doesn’t.
And that’s another subject, quit with the excuses. I’m 65 years old. I have a bad back, two bad knees, and my hips like to complain also. But I keep moving. I can’t run like I used to. I can’t run at all. If it’s raining and people are running to their cars, I just get wet. But I can walk. As soon as I finish this article, I’m heading out for a 40-minute walk. And I’ll put in at least another 30–40 minutes for the day.
I can’t say enough good things about walking. It’s low stress and good exercise. All you need is comfortable clothes and a good pair of shoes. Forget those expensive exercise machines and gym memberships, just head out the door. Put on some tunes or an audiobook and go. Keep moving.
I hope this has answered some of the questions I got from that first article. And I hope it has touched and inspired some new readers. I am still humbled and overwhelmed that 13,000 of you found value in that first piece. If this touches half that many, I will be more than pleased.
Now if you will excuse me, I’m going to grab a bottle of water and head out the door.