As we get up in years, it seems like adding extra pounds is a lot easier than it used to be. Maybe we are getting less exercise but eating at least as much. Maybe we are eating out more. Maybe it is that evil culprit metabolism. Whatever the cause, doing something about it is going to take some genuine effort, and some “suffering” is going to be involved.
Before I get into specifics I must point out that just wanting to lose weight is not enough. You need to make a commitment to lose weight. And this commitment must be long term because even if you lose the weight, you will just gain it all back (and probably more) if you return to the same old eating habits after losing weight. In the last 25 years, I have seriously tried to lose weight twice. The first time I lost 40 pounds, but then returned to my old eating habits and gained it all (and more) back. The second time is current and as of today I am 25 pounds down from my high (I have another 30-35 to go). On other occasions, I have “tried” to lose weight by making very minor tweaks in my eating habits. Nothing much happens. I call such a weight loss plan the “hope” plan – I need to lose weight and I hope I lose it. It isn’t going to work! You need a real weight loss plan and you need to stick to it.
I know there are a lot of diet “plans” running around with many, many books on the subject. But there is only one diet that is guaranteed to produce results. And that is the “eat less” diet plan. By itself, substituting some foods for others can have an effect, but without the “less” part, the results are unlikely to be significant.
Note that if you are weighing yourself daily, there is going to be “noise” in your weight data. No matter what, you are going to go through stretches where you don’t lose or gain a little back, even when you’ve adhered strictly to your plan. This is typical, so don’t let it discourage you. On the other hand, it you start to gain weight back and you know you have been slacking in your plan, get back on it!
OK, here is Tom C’s “eat less” weight loss plan. There is no need to write an entire book on it. I have two categories of tips: eating habits and other habits.
Drink less soda. This includes diet soda. Studies show that substituting diet soda for regular soda appears to have a slight negative effect. I am limiting myself to an average of no more than one soda per day.
If you drink less soda, you need to drink something else instead. Water is fine. I am a big fan of V8, which has about half the calories of a soda and lots of nutritional value. I spice it up with tobasco and Worcestershire since I am too cheap to pay extra for the spicy V8. Find yourself a good substitute for soda and stock up on it. Even Hawaiian Punch has lots less calories and some nutritional value. Sports drinks (well, some of them) as well. Find something you like!
Coffee or tea? If you use a lot of sugar or cream, try to acquire a taste for less. I used to be a two packet a cup man, but now a single packet can get me though 3 or 4 cups. I no longer even like the sweeter stuff. Changing acquired tastes takes time, but it can be done.
Stop (or reduce) snacking. Or at least substitute healthy, low calorie snacks for high calorie ones. I am doing a combination – eating far fewer snacks, and when I do snack, go for the healthier ones. To be successful at this, you need to have fewer high calorie snacks available and more healthy ones on hand. But don’t let the occasional foray into potato chips get you down – just don’t make a habit of it. Also note that I am defining “dessert” to be a snack!
Relating to snacking: just because you are hungry doesn’t mean you need a snack. Old habits die hard, and I often head for the fridge or the pantry any time I feel hungry. But now, even as I am reaching for something, I ask “Do I really need this?” Sometimes the answer is “Yes, yes, yes.” But most of the time the answer is “No!” Obey the “No.”
Start off with less food on your plate and minimize having seconds. I was raised to always clean my plate. If you are like me, then starting with a less full plate reduces the damage. Another one of my bad habits, from a weight loss perspective, is finishing off a leftover after a meal because it is easier to eat than pack it up and put it in the fridge.
Avoid the “starving kids in Africa” syndrome. If you throw away some food, you are not harming kids in Africa. If the choice is between eating it and throwing it away, toss it (or pack it into the fridge). If you find you are discarding too much food, then you need to start cooking less.
Eat out less. Speaking for myself, when I eat out I want to eat something I like, not something that is “good for me.” Limit eating out if you really want to lose weight.
Eat nothing but celery. Celery has fewer calories than the calories required to digest it. OK, I’m kidding. But as a rule, vegetables have lots less calories than other foods. Larger servings of veggies, and smaller servings of other food, can make a significant difference. Outside of sodas and snacks, this is the only food specific advise I’m including, except for the next item.
Eat Mor Chikin. Chicken really does have a lot fewer calories than beef, and there are a lot of great chicken recipes.
Do not starve yourself! Even if it helps you lose, you cannot maintain it. If you find yourself tiring out too easily or getting light-headed when getting exercise, you are probably eating too little.
Weigh yourself daily and record it (there are lots of apps, or you can just write it down). Since weight can easily vary a couple of pounds during the day, I always weigh myself first thing in the morning to be consistent. I know that when I don’t feel I have been doing well on my plan, I really don’t want to step on the scale. But the scale is the great motivator and you must not avoid it!
Exercise is good. But unless you are an athlete, you will never lose weight on exercise alone.
Be accountable. Up to a point, I can be accountable to myself and my weight tracking app. But what if, in my weakness, I decide I don’t want to keep up the effort? Who is going to help me get back on track? No one unless there are other people I am accountable to. Hence, the UnShackled Weight Loss Accountability Group (see below). Such a group has other benefits such as personal testimonies on what works and doesn’t work, encouragement, and (dare I say it) giving a nudge to that competitive instinct that we all have.
Look in the mirror. The mirror is a great motivator, whether negative (I had no idea I looked so bad) or positive (looking better, looking better).
Will-power. This probably should be the number one item when it comes to weight loss. And it has been referenced above – the ability to tell yourself “No!” Good intentions are not enough. You must follow through. The good news is that early success breeds future success. Once you know you can do because you have done it, you can keep doing it.
Once you have achieved your target weight, with care you can ease up on some of the habits. But you must keep weighing yourself daily and go back to all the habits if you have slippage. Ultimately, you will find the appropriate balance where you can maintain your desired weight. I am setting for myself a “bounce” weight. Once I meet my target, if I ever exceed my “bounce” weight, I’ll go back to all the habits until I am back down to my target. I haven’t actually done this yet since I haven’t made my target, but that is my plan.
Learn to cook. If you eat out less, you must eat in more. Being able to prepare good meals makes this a lot more tolerable – and saves you money. If you are already a good cook, great. If not, I have some simple rules to follow. Note that in theory, anyone can follow a recipe. But following these rules make it much less likely that you will make a mistake.
Find recipes that you think you would like. Google is your friend. The web is full of recipes, and most are rated. But don’t believe the preparation times. Double them, at least.
Do not start a recipe until you know you have all the ingredients. Experts can substitute. You are not an expert. And go ahead and get all those ingredients out before starting. Why not go ahead and measure them out like they do on all the cooking shows? If anything needs pre-preparation (like being chopped), go ahead and do it. Be careful in your measurements – do NOT read tsp as tbsp!
Get out all the pots and pans and bowls you need. This means reading through the recipe, not just the ingredients list, at least once before starting.
Follow the instructions carefully. Be confident, be bold. At some point, you will find yourself confident enough to start tweaking your recipes to make them tastier and / or easier and / or less caloric (for example, I often find that one can get by on much less butter than some recipes call for). Successful tweaks should be noted on the recipe.
Unless you take a timer with you, do not wander from the kitchen and get distracted while things are on the stove or in the oven!!!
If you want to join the UnShackled Weight Loss Accountability Group, send your email address to topcat6973 at yahoo.com. Here is what I have planned.
Info will be posted on the web, the url of which will be given only to members of the group (bookmark it so you don’t forget it!). This will be a multi-page affair, since there will be too much stuff for a single page. While part of the UnShackled website, it will not be accessible via the normal menu.
On the web pages, people will be identified by their initials. Of course, UnShackled Life Group members will have no problem identifying other UnShackled members, but others should feel free to join, if they wish.
Info will include starting weights, target weights, and periodic weights (possibly just monthly, though participants should be tracking daily). If anyone is reluctant to provide actual weights, we’ll just record in terms of weight loss (e.g. starting weight of 0, target of 50 pounds to lose, and weights being pounds lost to that point). You will be expected to report in on a regular basis, probably the first of each month (I will nag you via email). Even after achieving your target weight, you may wish to continue just to help maintain your target.
This post will always be available from our accountability page.
We will have a least one discussion thread where people can post comments. Perhaps we will have separate discussion threads on various specific topics.
Who knows what else? We will learn as we go along.