I've struggled with my weight for most of my life. I grew up on a farm and had unlimited access to cookies and milk (whole milk - not skim) while I was growing up. We ate very big meals and even though I was a very active kid, I was always known as 'big guy'. I was also made to believe by my family that my extra fat meant that I was 'big boned' - even though my natural body type is very slim and tall. I have an addictive personality and to this day milk and cookies are what I turn to when I'm having a rough day or week.
Growing up I would hear comments about my weight. I was always jealous of my cousins who were slim and muscular with no big love handles. The comments about my weight hurt and to this day I have body image issues because of comments made to me when I was young. I don't believe people were trying to be mean to me, they just commented on what they saw and made jokes about it. I will never joke with anyone over their weight because I know how much hurt it causes. Many fat people joke about their own weight in order to get the comments 'over and done with' on their own terms. This way they don't have to hear it from other people. If you know someone who regularly jokes about their own weight you know that they have problems with their weight.
When I was in my early 20's I found myself addicted to cigarettes and weighing over 230 lbs. I was 6ft tall with a puffy stomach, no energy and a really bad body image - no confidence at all. I was getting married to a beautifully slim girl who had a lot more self control than me. Finally one day, when I stood on a medical scale and saw the numbers '235' I knew that I had to do something about this problem. I quit smoking (took about 10 tries over 2 years) and because I couldn't bear the thought of gaining even more weight, I started running. I remember driving out of Winnipeg to surrounding dirt roads so that I could run without people I knew commenting on it. I remember being chased by farm dogs down the road too! :)
Over the last 15 years I've continued to struggle with my weight. Only a couple of times have I been completely satisfied with my weight and then most people thought I was way too skinny. They weren't used to me being a healthy weight! My weight continues to fluctuate as I struggle with the same issues you have. This qualifies me to write about what works and doesn't work for me and how I think you can lose weight.
I've been there. I AM there.
Let me state up front that losing weight is harder than quitting smoking. Yeah, I know - motivating isn't it? But it's true. Losing weight and maintaining the loss is one of the hardest things anyone can do. It's harder than quitting most other addictions. Yes, food is an addiction, especially for most people who are over weight.
The problem with a food addiction is that you can never completely stop eating! With smoking, drugs or drinking you can completely stop the activity. With food, you have to force yourself to do less of it while still doing some of it. It's like an alcoholic trying to limit herself to a couple drinks a day, every day, and no more than that! :(
The statistics are also against you. Something like only 5% of people who lose weight, keep it off. My friend, you are in for a long, hard battle but I am going to offer you some advice that can greatly assist you and turn the odds in your favor. Once you feel in control of your weight you will feel in control of your life. This can translate into many other benefits such as exercise, health and confidence.
Unfortunately there is no easy way to lose weight and keep it off. Every single diet or weight loss program will have one thing in common. You have to follow them strictly and they will restrict your calorie intake. You will have to fight tooth and nail for your healthy weight and then you'll have to keep fighting for the rest of your life to keep it where it should be. I could sugarcoat (pun intended) it but that's the facts.
When I first started running I would drive outside the city and run on dirt roads. This was for two reasons. First of all, I grew up in the country and loved the fresh air. Secondly, I didn't want people to stare at me while I ran! I started off running pretty slow and was soon running 2-4 miles.
I've been running regularly for about 16 years now and there are some things I've learned about using running as a weight control mechanism:
There are many barriers to losing weight. Some of them are obvious, some not so obvious. One of the biggest barriers is the people around you. When you turn down that ice cream cone or that piece of birthday cake people around you will not like it. Generally people like to suffer communally and don't want you to lose weight, it's like smokers. When I quite smoking my smoking friends kept telling me that "you'll never last". They felt guilty because I managed to quit and they were still killing themselves with a bad habit. Count on others ridiculing you and trying to make you lose your resolve. Use the negative energy of your friends and family to spur yourself on with even more resolve. You know you're doing something right when the people around you are grumpy about it. It's their problem, not yours, so don't be guilted into falling off the wagon!
Another barrier that may be particular to certain cultures or religious groups has to do with providing meals for the family and eating a communal meal with family or friends. These cultural practices simply have to change. A simple meal of soup or salad and raw veggies can be just as harmonious, cheaper and far healthier for the evening meal.
Other barriers are the very reasons why we eat. Especially in North America, we eat for many reasons other than hunger. As a matter of fact, most of the time we are eating for reasons other than hunger. It's all these other reasons that make us fat including;
It's actually pretty sad that the main reason North Americans (and Europeans) are so fat is because we have too much money and can afford to eat when we don't have to be eating. Someone with very little money can't afford to eat even if they are depressed and craving chocolate.
There are three laws of weight loss and weight management. Until you agree with (and understand how they apply to you) these three laws you will never manage your weight and whether you are slim or fat will be more luck than anything else.
I didn't invent these laws, they are universal laws of living organisms and are true for anything that eats to sustain life, whether it's plants, animals or YOU. Interestingly enough, these laws also apply to your bank account.
Of course a credit is a calorie gained and a debit is a calorie burned in this scenario. You don't have to like these laws but they're true - that's why they're laws. You don't have to like the law of gravity or death either, but both happen on a regular basis.
Everyone credits and debits their calories in different ways and at different rates but the universal truth is that the more you eat and the less you burn, the more you gain. Lately I've read and watched various articles and programs that claim that everyone responds differently to different foods (i.e. Glycemic Index). I read of one case where the author seems to be implying that she gains weight while eating grapes, while her slim friend can eat chocolate and ice cream without gaining a pound. This is pure poppycock. Sure! GI might affect everyone differently for different food groups, but I guarantee that if you eat nothing but grapes for a week, you will lose weight. And if you eat nothing but chocolate and ice cream for a week guess what? You'll gain weight. Sorry - but that's the way it is!
There are a few things you need to do before you can lose weight. The most obvious and hardest thing to do is to admit that you need to lose it in the first place and agree with the three laws as stated above.
While it's true that our society (North American) is far too obsessed with weight and looks, it's also somewhat ironic that we are in the middle of a fat crisis. The reason a slim body is considered fashionable is because it's so hard to obtain and maintain that relatively few people over the age of 35 manage to do it! When something is hard to do and only accomplished by a few it becomes a pinnacle to strive for (think Mount Everest or being very wealthy).
The reason you should want to be thin shouldn't be primarily because it's fashionable, but rather because it's healthy and it feels good. If you're married, your partner will appreciate it too! You can't expect to maintain energy and libido if you're 20, 30 or 50 lbs over-weight.
Here's a list of things you must do in order to lose weight. You will find all kinds of reasons why you don't want to do them or why you shouldn't have to count calories or limit your food intake. I guarantee if you don't do all of the following things you will NOT lose weight or manage a healthy weight. It's up to you how serious you are about this. No one can force you to lose weight. Make up your mind and then dedicate yourself to the following principals:
So what will your new life look like when you've done the impossible and managed to lose weight? Well, you probably don't want to read this but it will look quite a bit different and the hard part has just begun.
If your new life doesn't look different then you will not be able to maintain your healthy weight. If you regularly partake of the following types of food you will not keep your weight down, you WILL GAIN WEIGHT, no matter how much exercise you do.
The following types of food should regularly show up on your diet:
Another habit you should get into is eating smaller meals, more often. Instead of a huge breakfast, where you consume more than half of your daily required intake of calories, eat some oatmeal with coffee and have another snack at coffee time.
Yes you do. You're currently over-weight because you didn't count calories in the first place. Don't make the same mistake again and risk getting very despondent over weight loss efforts that don't produce any results. I know people who regularly exercise but are quite over weight. They are constantly depressed about this situation and wonder aloud why they're not losing any weight even though they're so active. The answer is because they aren't monitoring their calorie intake (or out-take for that matter). They don't realize that even though they're burning a lot of calories once or twice a week, they are consuming way more than they're burning. Therefore they're gaining weight, not losing it.
How are you going to keep a healthy bank account if you never count your money? It's impossible. Can't be done.
The problem with most people is that when we're young we tend to be more physically active. Our young bodies were growing and needed way more calories than our older bodies do, so we're not used to counting calories. We want things to be the same as when we could eat anything and stay slim and healthy. Wanting something to be a certain way doesn't make it so. You're not 18 anymore. C'est la vie my friend, c'est la vie!
Counting calories is not as hard as you probably think. It requires some discipline but becomes as natural as eating once you're used to it. You learn to be a good 'guestimator' of food calories and this is usually enough for most people. Learning that a glass of skim milk is 100 calories is not that hard to remember. Most people gravitate towards the same types of food so eventually you will learn what your favorite foods cost in terms of fat. You will be very surprised how little you actually need to eat to maintain a healthy weight.
For most men who aren't active, 2200 calories a day is more than enough. For most women it's far less, somewhere around 1500 calories a day. Considering that a Tim Horton's breakfast sandwich + coffee with cream is probably around 800 calories or more, 2200 calories is not as much food as you'd think, especially if it's unhealthy food you have a penchant for!
No it doesn't. And it isn't. In our culture we expect to get everything for nothing, but life doesn't usually work that way. You don't get a big bank account without working hard and saving every penny, and you don't get a slim body without sacrificing some pleasure out of eating. Diet companies try to say that you can have it all without sacrificing anything but they're lying to you. The only way you can eat more and lose weight is if the food you're eating has less calories than your body needs for energy.
Just like you have to sacrifice the pleasure of smoking in exchange for a longer life when you quit that habit, you have to sacrifice the pleasure of unhealthy eating in order to live a longer and healthier life. If you can't face the fact that other people will be enjoying a big hunk of chocolate birthday cake and you'll be drinking a glass of water and nibbling on a carrot stick instead, or others will be eating two hamburgers and you'll be only eating one, then you won't lose or maintain your weight.
Nothing comes for free. That includes a healthy body.
Nope. No one 'has' to be anything. But this article is about losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight, whatever that means to you. You may be skinny at the end of this or moderately over weight. It's up to you how far you want to take it.
Yep. It's a strong and surprisingly unpopular way to put it, but technically if your body is eating itself (i.e. losing weight - it doesn't just melt off you know!), you are starving. That's why it's so hard to do. We are surrounding by tantalizing food and cultural situations where we're expected to eat and you have to voluntarily starve yourself amidst all this temptation. That's exactly why most people can't lose and maintain their weight.
So here we are, 1 year later. I thought I'd write an update to this blog entry to let you know how my last year has gone. Hopefully yours is going well and you are on your way to weight loss and a healthy body!
I lost it again this past year.
Isn't it funny? Last year I SWORE up and down that I would never weight over 180lbs again. I would maintain my weight at around 175lbs for GOOD. Yeah well that didn't work out so good.
After taking the summer of 2009 off, I started looking for work in a depressed market in September. By October I still didn't even have an interview! Guess what happened? Yep. I started doing more and more sitting around (after a very active summer of climbing 47 mountains!) and resorted to what I do when I'm bored and depressed. I ate. And ate some more. Many chocolate chip cookies were sacrificed before I finally got a job in late October. The damage had already started and mentally I just didn't have what it took to stop snacking and eating. I kept exercising vigorously through the fall and winter but the eating kept me from maintaining or losing the extra flab. By the end of November 2009 I was back up to 187lbs! GRRRRRRR.
Depressed with my weight situation AGAIN, I decided in January 2010 that something radical had to happen or I was doomed to simply be over weight. After much resolve I decided that starting on February 01 2010 I would stop eating chocolate. This would be a permanent thing, like quitting smoking or drinking. Because chocolate is the one snack that I was really addicted to (whether chocolate milk, cookies, bars, candy - they were all a major problem for me), that was the one food I would never eat again.
Six months later and I'm still chocolate free! The first three months of my withdrawal were very tough because I only lost 2 lbs / month while exercising insane amounts (like 80km / week running & walking)! The reason I didn't lose more weight was because I replaced chocolate with other fats such as chips and cake. Starting in May and June I dedicated myself to eating much less and still exercising quite a bit. I'm now around 170lbs and still losing. Since February I've lost 17lbs.
Did I mention that this is a LIFELONG struggle? :-|
So the new plan is to stay off chocolate forever. This is a sacrifice that I think is worth it. I still crave it like crazy but nothing is free and this is the cost of me staying slim. It's also teaching me self control in other areas of my life which is something I've always struggled with.
The new plan is that I will have to drop to (and try to maintain) a weight of around 165lbs to be slim and healthy. This is much lower than I thought I had to be. I thought 175 was a good weight for me but it's simply too easy for me to balloon over 180lbs from this place. I am going to try for 165lbs this summer and maintain this weight through the winter. It'll be the first time in 15-20 years that I'll be this weight if I manage to pull it off.
Wish me luck!
I'm still off chocolate but due to a major stretch of slight depression I am again over 175lbs (but under 180). Today I read about a guy who lost 27 pounds while eating twinkies! It's all about calories in and calories out.
The battle continues...
Wow! I can't believe it's been over 5 years since I updated this blog. Time flies... Long story short? I'm in the best cardio shape of my life at 40 years old. I'm running between 20 and 40km / week and getting averages of 12,000 to 20,000 steps per day. I climbed more mountains than any other year of my life and had some incredibly long days in the hills this year including a 3,500m height gain day!
So I must be really slim and trim right? WRONG! I must still be done with eating chocolate right? WRONG!!
So why am I still over weight? Good damn question. This is more than frustrating - it's down right depressing some days. :( I'm not super over weight, but definitely still 15-20lbs heavier than I'd like to be and nowhere near as lean as I like. Even though I'm eating much more fruit, veggies and lean meats than ever before, I'm still eating too much sugar. I'm no longer off chocolate which is a major source of caloric intake for me. Over the years I have weaned myself off chocolate occasionally, but keep coming back to it's cocaine-like, dopamine boosting goodness. Goddammit.
I'm still quite bored at work in a Calgary high-rise office building, which encourages eating. I took two weeks off in September and lost almost 10 lbs simply by not sitting around bored all day. I've said this numerous times and I think it's still true - working in an office at a job I find boring and unfulfilling is literally killing me slowly, one day at a time. Oh well. I need to provide for my family and some days I actually enjoy it, so I will soldier on. There are things we all need to do in life that we'd rather not if we didn't have to. I'm delighted with my cardio and exercise, but once again I'm reminded that it's all about EATING. Exercise is merely to help me get up and down mountains and do the activities I enjoy, it does not make me slim and trim physically. Goddammit. (I swear a lot more now, in my 40's because I no longer care what folks think of me... ;))
At the end of the day, if I can't control the calories in, no matter how much I work out each day, they won't go out fast enough to prevent fat build up. Of course, getting older doesn't help either. My body simply loves to store calories and whether I like it or not, most days I seem perfectly content to feed it more than it needs.
All I can say to the many people reading this that might also struggle with their weight, is to KEEP ON, KEEPING ON. I know it's a struggle and a depressing one at that, but you are much more than your weight! Your value as a person and your ability to tackle life with all its wondrous challenges is much more important than a few numbers on a scale or looking how Hollywood says you should.
So here I am, only a few months after the last update. I think blogging about my struggles must have helped motivate me because starting in January 2016 I once again gave up chocolate, snacking and eating (!!) and have lost about 10 lbs in one month. Currently, I'm still going strong but I have a long ways to go.
Something I'm trying this time around, is taking weekly photographs of myself so that I can see the physical changes in my body as I lose the weight. Yesterday was my 5th photo session and I can finally notice a real physical difference in the way my body looks. I will keep going strong for another month and update in March.
Well, I'm still going strong. My previous record for very strict dieting (around 1200-1800 calories intake at most every day, 7 days a week, plus daily 1-2 hours of exercise) was 6 weeks and I'm now approaching 9 full weeks of very intensive dieting - along with lots of exercise of course.
I am in the stage where some days I don't have enough energy to do my usual 10-15km of walking but I have managed to keep hiking and doing easier stuff while I try to maintain dieting long enough to reach my goal weight. I still haven't weighed myself - that's coming on April 1 - but I have stopped wearing certain clothing that doesn't fit anymore and my photos are showing a remarkable physical difference since I started this endeavor in January. I get angry when I look at them because they show how much weight I gained at the end of last year, even with all the exercise I was doing. It doesn't seem fair. :(
This will be a tough month as I seem to have entered the stage of weight loss where every pound is an epic battle of the will versus the body. I'm delighted with my progress but I'm scared of how much longer it'll take to finally lose the amount of weight I need to be satisfied. I'm thinking I will have to continue this current diet for at least the month of April too. Losing weight becomes almost impossible in your 40's - I'm going to have to figure out a way to never gain it back...
Believe it or not, I am still dieting almost 14 full weeks after starting this journey way back in January of this year. I just had an unbelievably rough month in March. :( Even though I managed to continue my strict caloric intake, I am now so depleted that I got majorly ill, not once, but twice! And I mean, MAJORLY! I was so sick this past week that I had a high fever for over 48 hours before it finally broke. I don't think this is directly related to my weight loss, but I'm sure my body has much less energy to fight illness now than a few months ago.
I have now finally lost a significant amount of weight. I bought some pants while on a weekend away with my wife in Banff this past weekend and was surprised that I'm down over 2 inches in my waist now from 13+ weeks ago! Pants that fit me only 4 or 5 weeks ago are now falling off. :) This is VERY ENCOURAGING.
I was going to weigh myself on April 1, but I've decided to wait at least another month before stepping on a scale. I suspect the numbers still won't impress me much at this point, and I'm really, really worried about losing momentum. At all costs, I must continue this effort! I don't have the will or energy to do something like this again any time soon. It's hard to explain to folks who've never struggled with their weight or who have never lost significant weight, but doing what I'm doing takes an incredible toll on both the body and mind. I am still shocked to look at photos from January and realize how f'ing over weight I somehow got again at the end of last year, despite all the exercise I was doing. This bothers me a great deal and worries me for the future. How can I prevent this from happening again? I don't think I can handle this type of weight loss effort again in my life. It's simply too hard and takes too much out of me. :(
Every single day for almost 100 days now, I've struggled with eating enough food to function and keep from falling over, but only that much and not much more. Every day I worry about whether or not today is the day I "fall off the wagon". Every single damn day is a fight against my body (which is getting weak from all the dieting) and my mind (which tells me to simply "give up"). I am reminded every single day that truly losing weight is so much harder than the pretty lady on TV promises. She tells me that I don't have to give up anything in order to "have it all". To go from so-called "normal" North American eating patterns which involves at least 3 full meals plus snacks and drinks every day to my current regimen of 1.5 meals and maybe a couple of granola bars and an apple a day, has been extremely difficult for me.
Here's what a normal day used to look like compared to what I try to eat nowadays;
|Breakfast||Coffee with muffin or breakfast sandwich||Coffee with home made banana bread or fibre 1 bar|
|Snack||Something unhealthy like candy from coworkers||Apple|
|Lunch||Something unhealthy with a coffee||Coffee with high fiber chicken sandwich and an apple|
|After Work||Couple of cookies with milk||N/A|
|Dinner||1-3 helpings of home cooked meal or frozen pizza with milk, bread, cheese etc.||1/2 helping of dinner, no milk, no bread|
|Evening||Couple of cookies (or more) with milk, crackers, chips or whatever is around to eat||N/A|
Run or walk every day, climb, ski, hike, bike on weekends and holidays
Eat as needed to cover energy needs will exercising on weekends
Run or walk every day (at least 10-15,000 steps). Climb, ski, hike, bike on weekends and holidays
Eat as needed to cover energy needs will exercising on weekends
As you can see, this is a pretty significant change! As I move forward in life and slowly transition from a weight loss model to a weight maintenance one, I am probably only adding another 0.5 to my evening meal or something like that. It is very shocking to me how little food the human adult over 40 years old needs! I was reminded of this in Banff this past weekend. My wife and I did a lot of people watching and of course we went out for dinner a few times. Firstly, we noticed that (most) people are ALWAYS EATING. Most folks are also significantly overweight - including a disturbing number of younger people (i.e. teenagers). From beavertails to ice cream cones to fudge snacks to bars, restaurants and coffee shops - folks seem to be eating from sun up until sun down. I certainly hope these people aren't shocked that they're over weight! I'm surprised that most of them aren't MORE overweight, to be perfectly honest!
Another thing we noticed, is that serving sizes are way too big. We only had a light breakfast, barely any lunch and then dinner, and we both ended up over or very close to over our needed caloric intake for the day. This is without drinking, eating or snacking AT ALL during the day. I didn't want to finish my dinner because I could feel myself overeating as my plate emptied. I know what some of you might be thinking; "can't I just enjoy life and eat freely on holiday"? Yep. You can. But you'll gain weight doing it! Your choice I guess. ;)
As I continue to transition (very slowly and carefully) off a strict diet and onto a more sustainable eating pattern, I'm realizing that my eating life is going to look very different in the future than it did in the past. Essentially, my eating patterns going forward need to more closely resemble a strict caloric deficient diet than a 'normal' one. I don't get to eat "normally" anymore because I can't handle it when I do. "Normal eating", for me, doesn't exist. I am either eating too much or not enough - there isn't an easy middle ground ahead. This isn't an easy pill for me to swallow - remember I've been this way for over 40 years now! Changing fundamental life habits at 40 isn't easy. But I'll continue to try...