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Where I offer unsolicited weight-loss advice

by John on April 15th, 2013

The weight-loss challenge is over. And, unless something truly unforeseen happens between now & Wednesday, the scale is going to read some number less than my goal weight when I log in on Wednesday morning. While it’s difficult for me to admit, sometimes I actually like the reflection in the mirror. I still have work to do, that’s for sure, but I feel like I’m well on the way to leading a healthier lifestyle.

And, if I don’t lose a single pound from this point forward, I can be quite happy, as long as I maintain my current regimen. So, here’s how I did it & what I plan to keep doing:

  • Log every bite. You need to be honest with yourself. When you’re making yourself a meal, weigh and/or measure every ingredient. Know, precisely, what you’re putting in your body. It’s only natural to want to come in “under” your target calorie intake at the end of the day, but resist the urge to cheat — you’re only hurting yourself when you do it.
  • When you go over, do so proudly and don’t be ashamed. My biggest issue, previously, when trying to lose weight, was that, if I gave in to temptation during the day, I gave the day away as “wasted” and stopped thinking about what I was eating for the rest of the day, with the promise that “I’d be better tomorrow.” Now, I’ll go over — but I’ll know how far I went over, and that forces me to remain true to what I’m eating, even on days that I blow my target calorie intake by several thousand calories (e.g. Super Bowl Sunday).
  • There is not a magical machine at the gym for burning more calories. The cycle isn’t better than the elliptical isn’t better than the Arc trainer isn’t better than the treadmill isn’t better than the rowing machine1. Simply, the harder you work, the more calories you’ll burn. Ignore that stupid “fat burn zone.”2 Go as hard as you can, for as long as you can. At the gym, I typically work in one-minute segments . . . when I’m “on,” I’m nonstop motion, pushing myself. Then I rest. Then I start right back up again.
  • The exception to the prior bullet point is when I head out to run/cycle — there, I always head out with a specific distance in mind, and I aim for consistency in my splits — based on how far I’m going, I really try to gauge how much I have “in the tank” to head out at a maximum pace that I’d be able to maintain throughout the entire event. At the end of a run, or when I get off of the cycle, I want to barely be able to walk. Alas, it’s a trail & error approach to getting to this point.
  • Be skeptical about “calories burned” readouts. There is science behind them, but, unless you’re hooked up to a machine that is actually determining the amount of oxygen that you’re consuming, it’s all just a big guess. There are some machines that I typically trust, and some where I completely ignore the number. Remember, the harder you work, the more calories you burn — stick with the activities that you enjoy.
  • Always focus on form – be it while lifting weights or sitting in your chair.
  • Teach your body to be hungry. It’s easy to fall into a rut of eating you’re bored. I’m not saying that you should starve yourself, but choose random days where you can, and deprive yourself of food – learn what “hungry” means — because, well, in our world, it’s too easy to just reach for food when you can.
  • Do not focus entirely on cardio at the gym. Every time I’ve lost weight, I got stuck up on this. The composition of your body matters. A lot. The more muscle you have, the more calories you need to simply maintain your current state. When you add muscle, you’ll find fat loss to be much easier to achieve. If you don’t have a gym, do push-ups.
  • Take before pics. There will be days that you get discouraged. When they happen, look at the pictures that you took before & realize the progress you’ve made.

1 That’s only if you have weight-loss in mind. If you’re training for a marathon, you’ll likely find that the treadmill is the better choice for you.
2 I can talk about the science of weight loss until I’m blue in the face – but, yes, working out in that “fat burn zone” burns a greater percentage of calories from fat stores than from other energy stores in the body – but that’s only during the time you’re working out. At the end of the day, the more calories burned, the better.
8 Comments
  1. I’m a career weight loss kid. Thirteen years ago, I started Weight Watchers at New Years to combat college and post-college (read: booze) weight. I lost 72 pounds over two years. I met my husband, my favorite enabler, and promptly put it all back on, plus another large number of marriage weight, baby weight, and depression weight.

    I started back up this year, as you know, on My Fitness Pal, because yay! Free! and I concur with all of your points.

    Accountability and exercise.

    I’ve knocked off 10 pounds so far and a couple of inches in crucial areas, and I like the way I feel.

    There’s another bullet point: consider the way you feel when you’re a little bit hungry, a little bit good-post-workout sore, and well hydrated. It’s kind of electric. Makes you think about how we as a culture kind of medicate with food.

    I’m 30 days into my own 90 day challenge, and hoping to have something impressive to show off in another 60. Thanks for being an inspiration this go ’round 😉

    • Can’t wait to hear about the challenge in the end — and, you’re right, that “just a little bit hungry,” and “just a little bit sore,” and “peeing a whole lot” feeling works wonders.

  2. Kim permalink

    I apparently won the weight-loss challenge. Not the most pounds, but the highest percentage body weight lost. I hit my weight loss goal last week – 30lbs.

    I, too am a career weight loss participant. I have been a LifeTime member of Weight Watchers for 20+ years.

    I can only emphasise one point that you brushed over. Don’t beat yourself up when you go over. Remind yourself to make good choices, every day. And that each day is a new day.

    And… stay hungry. Not only physically, but metaphorically. Whenever I have hit a weight-loss goal in the past, I have lost focus. Kind of a “ok, did it… now what?” This time, as I neared my weight-loss goal, I changed focus. I set a new goal. In 2 weeks, I run my first 5k. Because it is in the “challenge”, the “quest”, that I succeeded and will succeed… not in the result. When I complete my first 5k, I will set another goal.

    Thanks, John. It’s been fun!

    • It’s a shame that you don’t have a blog, because I totally would have pointed “here is the winner!”

      And, yeah – metaphorically hungry is important . . . hearing that you’ve signed up for 5k’s puts a smile on my face. Right now, an Iron Man is out of the question (it’s still in my sights, but requires far too much training over far too long a time for it to be an effective motivator), but running the 1000 miles and running a sub-4-hour marathon are doing well for me.

      Well, and seeing my abs. I’d really like to see my abs some day….

  3. Laura permalink

    My goal is to be able to expose my bare midriff in public. I have amazingly strong abs, they just still have a layer of belly fat over them! But it is slowly melting away!

    • You know, I know it’s horribly vain of me, but I actually think my goal is to be able to head out running without a top on without thinking that I’m flabby. I’m getting closer 🙂

  4. I have been lucky in that except for two extended periods in my life (i.e. pregnancy), I don’t eat for comfort or boredom, I just eat when hungry. This has allowed me to maintain a decent body weigh most of my life, paired with my active lifestyle of dance classes and waiting tables.

    College did mean more weight as thanks to food service, I had to eat when they were open if I was hungry or not and I felt pressured to eat all I could because it was “free”. Luckily I was still fairly active and it didn’t get out of control.

    It wasn’t until I found myself needing to lose baby weight that I found myself in the place of having to eat less than I was burning and it was HARD. I didn’t diet, but tried to eat a bit healthier, eat smaller portions, and worked out almost every day. That way I could still eat the occasional brownies I craved.

    It was slow, but I lost weight and actually went below my pre-baby weight after both kids.

    I still workout 3-4 times a week doing group fitness classes at my gym (a blend of strength training and cardio), but no long everyday. My weight has gone up since I spent a month in Iowa dealing with family stuff and no gym access. I lost my habit Paired with this congestion I’ve had lately, I haven’t been able to workout to my full potential, plus for weeks my sense of smell has been so bad, if the food isn’t loaded with salt/sugar, I can’t taste anything.

    Most my jeans are too snug after washing them (as the only jeans I’ve bought in the last 6 years were during low weight points) and I need to lost 5-8 lbs. And it is HARD. I’m still struggling to do so and probably need to workout more.

    Still, I’m trying. My husband is as well.

    Now if I could get my kids to eat the healthier food and not just want mac ‘n cheese, hot dogs, and pizza…

    Good luck! I’m proud of you!

    • I, personally, think the trick with the kids is to just have them watch me eating healthy foods — they’re always interested in what I’m eating (whether or not they eat what I’m eating is a different story), but they show interest. In time, they’ll make the same choices as I am making. I hope.

      And I’m hoping you’re finally over the congestion!

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