When I first moved to the US about 10 years ago, the most drastic change in my lifestyle was that I was no longer able to bicycle to work. In Toronto I used to live on Lakeshore Road (Sixth Street in Etobicoke if you’re familiar with the area) and it was a great 9 mile cycle into work along that road and the Martin Goodman trail that borders Lake Ontario. A quick 1+ mile dash through the city in rush hour traffic was the only really challenging part.
With that big part of my daily fitness dropped from my life, but my eating habits intact, I put on 10 pounds within the first year in Georgia. Over the intervening 9 years I’ve continued to grow at a fairly steady rate. When I hit 189 pounds I decided that that was enough. In spite of a fairly sedentary job, I work with computers administering and programming enhancements in my company’s Lotus Notes / Domino system, I do work out regularly. So I needed to change my eating habits.
On November first of this past year I determined to do just that. So I simply cut out my snacking – I’m a fiend for chocolate chip cookies (the best, easily available store-bought ones are Keebler’s Chocolate Lover’s chips deluxe), I could go through 1 – 3 bags of those a week. On top of having Coke (which I also *really* enjoy) pretty much every day for lunch and then myriad little snacks throughout the day.
My base diet has always been pretty good, I usually have yogurt and plain oatmeal for breakfast and bring an apple with me as a mid-morning snack at work. If eating on my own I often have something simple for lunch such as a small chili from Wendy’s. The problem with my main meals was always the ridiculously sized entrees that you get whenever you eat in a restaurant. I’ve often eaten appetizers instead since the volume of food is more reasonable. Now I order what I want and just waste (rather than waist) the rest. Having paid for it doesn’t necessarily mean I have to eat it. If I can take home a doggie bag I do, but that’s not often an option (mmm… cold fries..).
The result has been a steady and encouraging decline in my weight. As I sit typing this a little over 2 months after beginning that food approach my weight is at 171 lbs and still going down at a reasonable pace. This is no sacrifice diet. Once I resolved to stop snacking I simply did not have the urge any longer. If I occasionally feel like having cookies, coke or anything else, I do. I simply don’t make a meal of them any more. And the urge to have such has decreased dramatically. They are assuming their proper place as a treat now and then rather than as an entrÃ©e.
Of paramount importance was maintaining my exercise regime while my body adjusted itself to the new energy sources. The caloric equation is simple, more out than in will result in weight loss, but my body was habituated to having an awful lot of its energy readily available from the empty calories provided by my snacking and much less so from the more complex sources that now are providing the bulk of my diet.
Also, it seems to take a lot more effort to burn those longer-term energy stores which left me feeling sometimes less energetic at times. Ironically, not having the sugar high / crash cycle was making me feel more energetic overall. But there were definitely accommodations that were being made.
I have recently (for the past year or so) been exercising on a 4 day cycle. I cycle one day, do weights the next, run the next and then take a day off. Every exercise day has a warm-up consisting of:
- Yoga Salute to the sun
- 50 push-ups
- Hamstring and quad stretches
- 50 crunches / 10 sit-ups
- 15 Curls w/30 lb dumbbells
Then I do that day’s workout, the cycle is between 24 and 48 minutes long on an indoor trainer. I’m working back up to a 3 mile run on the treadmill, I’m currently doing 2.5 miles. When I hit 169 lbs I’ll move to 3 miles and stay there.
Typically I’m burning 350+ calories per workout according to the Cycle and Treadmill.
The weight workout was interesting – This is where I first noticed my body’s adjustments taking place. My usual workout started becoming more challenging. I found the number of reps I was able to complete – especially in the bench press – decreased for a while.
I also found that my cycle dipped and that the same workout that I had been doing before was taking more effort. This has since corrected itself but it was telling that I was either initially losing some muscle mass or that my existing muscles were having trouble acquiring the energy that they needed to complete the workout.
Things have stabilized in both venues as I continue to head for my target weight. I figure about 164 lbs will be reasonable for someone my age and size. I believe the recommended “Healthy weight” for someone with my stats is a bit lower than that, but I have (despite outward appearances) a substantial amount of muscle mass that I believe throws that stuff out the window.
About 20 years ago when I first got married I weighed about 144 lbs – a weight which I’d maintained for *years*. I did Olympic distance Triathlons fairly regularly back then but my wife tells me that I actually looked pretty skinny. Besides I suspect going for my post-college weight is probably not a practical or reasonable goal with my more mature metabolism.
We’ll see how things go. When I reach 164 lbs. I’ll decide if it’s reasonable to continue to lose or if that’s where to put my stake in the sand.
I’m posting this just to let other folks know that it’s possible to make this kind of pretty radical change, but you have to finally just decide for yourself to do so and there are no tricks or gimmicks for it. The equation is simple – calories in must be less than calories out – and you must be physically active, how active determines how fast things go and how you want to feel about yourself. If you’re fed up with how you look or feel, there is no simpler remedy than… change it.