Don’t let being discouraged knock you off course

The first couple weeks of any new weight loss program are generally the easiest.  Your body’s initial shock from whatever change you’ve instituted equates into an easy loss, generally.  It’s the next few weeks that determine whether you stay the course, as your body adjusts to the new norm and shedding pounds gets more and more difficult.  That’s when it’s easy to become discouraged, and I challenge you not to let yourself get knocked off the course over a few bad weigh-ins.

The difference for me last year than when I’ve tried to lose weight in the past is that getting discouraged motivated me to work harder rather than give up.  And I think that is part of the key to my success.  There will be incredible highs as you lose weigh, but there will also be plenty of bad weigh-ins and not-so-good moments.  There are ups and downs to every journey, and the measure of your success will be how you handle the lows.  If you keep working and putting in the effort, you will get results.  It just might take time.

The other important part of this is not let being discouraged give you reason to “take the day off.”  There’s a lot of temptation when you’re having a down day to just continue down the bad path and start over the next day.  That’s the easiest way to get knocked off your plan.  Once you start down the path of “giving up” it’s hard to course correct back onto the plan.  I know that once I’ve had one slice of pizza it’s real easy to just keep going until the box is gone, but I force myself to stop.  That’s not to say that you can’t treat yourself every now and then, but there’s a big difference between treating yourself and taking the day off.

What’s worked for me

In the next few weeks lots of people will set out new weight loss goals.  Some just because they always do this time of year, and others, like me last year, who have realized that something has to change or they can kiss their health goodbye.  And to my own surprise (and delight!), there are even some people that I am aware of that have been inspired by my transformation to begin lifestyle changes in their own lives.  That is just amazing to me.

Whatever you’re reasons or motivations, I thought I’d try to distill what has worked for me into one simple post to give people ideas on how they might undergo a similar change in their life.  I’ve done a lot of thinking the last few months on what I’ve done differently this time around, and while I still haven’t quite figured out how I finally put the “mental” pieces into place, I think I can boil the rest down into three things: accountability, healthy eating, regular exercise.

1) Accountability: I knew getting into this that my worst enemy was my own thoughts.  The “Oh, I can get away with eating that,” or the “Well, yeah I gained but I’ll just take the rest of the day off and start over tomorrow!”  I needed a way to hold myself accountable for my loss, so I came up with the idea of posting my weight once a week publicly online.  I got the idea from Weightwatchers because I had noticed that when I was on the program before I would always work towards each weigh-in.  Each weigh-in was a battle.  I thought that was a good mentality to have.  I wanted to do it publicly because I needed the thought that other people cared about each weigh-in as much as I did, or else I would just give up like I’d given up Weightwatchers numerous times.  Even if no one read the blog, just the fact that any random stranger could come across it and see my weight was enough motivation to make sure I did good each week.

2) Healthy Eating: Surprisingly, this was actually the easiest one to do.  I already had a good idea of what good portion sizes were from being on Weightwatchers before, so it was just a matter of applying those principles.  I recommend joining Weightwatchers to help out with this aspect, but it can be spendy.  I cut out snacking, eating out, and fast food.  I already drank diet soda, so it was just a matter of getting more water and other healthier drinks.  I also tried to drink less alcohol.  I’ve been successful at this for the most part, but I still enjoy having drinks with friends and I love me some red wine.  For the most part, I think most people know the things that they eat that are bad, and it is just a matter of eliminating the bad stuff, portioning out the not-so-bad stuff, and finding good, healthy meals that you like.  I am ever the bachelor, so I eat lots of quick, easy meals.  Once a week I try to cook myself a nice, healthy dinner.  Sometimes I succeed.  Sometimes I don’t.  C’est la vie.

3) Regular exercise: This one took me awhile to get started on, but once I did this has definitely been the most rewarding aspect of my weight loss so far.  I love walking.  I try to walk every day.  I love being around people, but I need my “me time” to get my juices going.  Getting a walk in the morning generally means it is going to be a good day.  The secret to getting regular exercise is finding something you enjoy and making a habit of it.  Walking is what worked for me, but it may not be everyone’s cup of tea.  Some people like running (I personally hate running!), some people like golfing, and other like other things.  Find your cup of tea and drink it every day!

One more thing: realize that what you’re doing is a lifestyle change.  I used to hate that phrase because people always use it for weird diets.  Fad (weird) diets will help you lose weight, but they won’t change you’re life.  Whatever you do has to be with the rest of your life in mind, because otherwise you will just fall back into old habits and gain the weight back.

If you are setting out to transform yourself like I did this time last year, then I have one final thing to say: GOOD LUCK!

Incentives Revisited

One of my earliest blog posts was on incentives, and recently I reached one of those goals I talked about so I can now buy this.  I haven’t done so yet only because I’m waiting until I return to Eugene.

I recently bought two XL shirts which has become a new motivator or incentive for me.  I can actually fit into them; it’s just a little tight.  One of them actually fits real good when I’m standing and walking around, but as soon as I sit down the buttons struggle to pop out.  The other one is a little tighter, but I can get into it.

I bought them because I was looking for some shirts to wear to a couple things I was doing where I wanted to dress up a little nicer than normal.  I had the intention of buying 2XL, which is the size I am currently comfortable in (which is a somewhat recent development as of a couple weeks or so).  But when I got to the store the 2XLs I was trying on fit a little bit looser than I wanted, so I went down a step.  When I got home I realized I wasn’t really comfortable wearing the XLs yet, so I ended up wearing shirts I already owned to the events I was going to.  But I kept the shirts, because I knew eventually they would fit.

That last sentence seems innocuous, but it’s huge.  A little over a year ago I finally got rid of a bunch of clothes that no longer fit me that I was “saving” for a day they would fit again.  When I was on the other side of this equation, gaining weight, I used to buy clothes with a little room to grow.  Even though I didn’t want to get bigger, I knew that was the direction I was going.  I would sometimes buy something a little tighter thinking it would motivate me to lose weight, but instead I would just end up never wearing it.  And to say that was a little depressing would be an understatement.

I might be beating a dead horse here each time I mention my surprise at my changing attitude.  But I can’t help myself.  It is huge.  Without giving it too much thought, I just figured it would fit fine in 2-3 months.  Maybe less.  An XL shirt.  That’s probably a big size for most people, but I haven’t regularly worn XL in probably 3-4 years, maybe even 5.  Being comfortable wearing XL again will be a huge milestone for me.  One that even my tendency to downplay what I’ve accomplished so far won’t be able to explain away.  I sometimes talk about this whole process feeling real to me.  I’ve reached the point where I’ve started to get inklings of it all feeling real.  Hitting XL will undeniably make it real.  I look forward to that day.

The things people say

The other day at The Journey of a Fat Man, weight loss blogger John Bonk talked about things he’s noticed since losing a bunch of weight.  Now, he’s lost about 100 lbs. in his weight loss journey, so he’s a little further along than I am.  At about 292 lbs., even though I’ve lost roughly 35 lbs., I’m still a big guy, but some of the things he said resonated with me.  Particularly the last point about people being more willing to discuss weight issues around you.

When you’re fat, people tend to tiptoe around the subject of weight.  I used to joke about my weight a lot which made people a little bit more comfortable, but generally people didn’t say anything unless I said something first.  Now that I’ve lost some weight, people are more likely to say something about it.  Some people are still hesitant, though.  I think it’s kind of like asking a girl if she’s pregnant.  You don’t want to be the idiot who asked the question and it turns out the girl isn’t pregnant, or in the case of weight loss, the person didn’t lose any weight.

The other side of it is that everyone seems to have some comment about it.  Lots of people have advice.  Some of the advice I appreciate a lot.  For instance, many of my friends have good tips about working out and recipes to try.  Keep that kind of advice coming my way!  However, lots of people have fad diets or tips/tricks they heard about on the radio or something they want me to try.  I appreciate the sentiment behind this advice, but fad diets aren’t really what I’m looking for.  Part of what I’m doing here is trying to live a healthier lifestyle that I can sustain for the rest of my life.  I don’t want to lose a bunch of weight and then gain it right back, and fad diets are more at risk for that type of behavior than a diet like Weight Watchers that promotes a healthier lifestyle.

The coolest thing about starting this blog and being open about my weight loss is hearing other people’s stories.  I used to think that weight issues were only for fat people and those with eating disorders, but I’ve come to learn that everyone deals with weight in some way.  It’s a universal concern that I think everyone understands to some extent.  Hearing stories from friends and acquaintances about their struggles with weight gives me strength to persevere.  Knowing that I’m not alone in the way I think and deal with my weight helps me to keep losing.  I’ve given up more diets then I can remember because it’s hard to keep with it.  It’s hard not to eat that extra slice of pizza, and it’s hard to motivate myself to get off my butt and exercise.  And hearing other people’s stories and knowing that I’m not alone lessens the difficulty a little bit, and I’ll take every lessening of difficulty that I can.

Incentives to lose weight

I discovered the ABC Lost store today, which almost saw me emptying my wallet for some Lost gear (to those who don’t know me, Lost is my all-time favorite TV show).  Which led me to another thought I’ve been having lately, motivation.  100 lbs. is a long way to go, and even though I’ve broken it up into weekly chunks, it’s hard to think about it that way.  So I’ve been thinking about ways to motivate myself along the way.

One thing I know some people do when they diet is to treat themselves when they reach some sort of goal.  A lot of times this ends up being something they’ve given up as a result of their diet, such as pizza or ice cream (or some other “bad” meal).  I thought about doing this, but despite my diet, I’m not shy about eating these things when I want to (within reason, of course).  Weight Watchers gives me enough daily points that I can indulge myself every now and then without too much problem.  Which is one of the reasons I like Weight Watchers, because it’s unrealistic to completely give up bad foods and any diet predicated on this notion is doomed to failure in my opinion.  But that’s somewhat tangential to what I want to discuss now.

I’ve been flirting with the 20 lbs. mark lately, hovering within spitting distance a week or so ago before I started regressing.  But more importantly I’m almost to under 300 lbs., which is huge for me because I haven’t been under 300 lbs. since I started law school.  Even though I’ve lost quite a bit since I’ve started and in a short time period, on my end the going feels rather slow.  It’s been hard for me to accept the weight loss as real, if that makes any sense.  Getting back to my pre-law school weight would help me pass this mental hurdle (at least I hope so!).

So I’ve decided to treat myself, but not with food (you can probably see where this is going…).  Once I reach a weigh-in of under 300 lbs., I’m going to treat my self to a Lost t-shirt.  I’m leaning towards this one or this oneThis one’s also a possibility.  The dharma logo ones are also pretty cool.

I also really wanted to get a print.  I’ve been really wanting to get some Lost-style painting ever since the show ended.  So once I hit the half-way mark to my goal, 277 lbs., I’m going to purchase a print from the store.  I have my eye on this one.