Sunday, November 24, 2013

Habits of People Who Lost Weight

The two questions I am asked most about my weight loss are, "How did you do it?" and "How do you keep it off?"  Often before I can provide my standard answer of "eat right, exercise, and get plenty of rest" the person asking says they started some kind of plan but just can't seem to lose the weight.  They will tell me they are exercising, and feel better, but the weight is not coming off.  Or they say that they have cut back on their food intake, but when I ask if they are also getting regular exercise, they hang their head as they say, "not as much as I would like."

If knowing how to lose weight is easy, what is required to actually do it and successfully keep it off? Weight loss success will be different for you, but here are the lessons I have learned these last three years.

Set Realistic Goals

Start by asking yourself why you want to lose weight. It's not wrong to want to look good at your friend's wedding, or to impress your old classmates at the reunion, or to fit in that old swimsuit by next summer. Each of those will help you set a time frame to reach a specific weight. Goals do need to be time-bound. They need to be specific.  Each of the above goals are almost SMART - specific, measurable, relevant, and time-bound.  But they may not be attainable. For me, these were secondary reasons for losing weight.  My primary motivation was twofold - to once again be attractive for my beautiful wife, and to be able to live to see my grandson graduate from high school. As you can tell from the above picture, I was obviously overweight. Walking even short distances was difficult and left me short of breath. I simply did not want to look like that anymore. I wanted to look like I did when my younger daughter was a baby. Knowing that it had taken years to add the weight, I knew it was going to take while to get where I wanted.  My first goal was simply to lose 100 pounds by the end of the following year. Fifteen months meant I needed to lose about 7 pounds a month.

It was not until I was about 60 days into my change of lifestyle that I asked the second question that you should also ask yourself.  What should I weigh?  I am not saying you should wait that long to set some interim goals. But, it occurred to me that I needed some tiny goals, so I established that I would try to average 2 pounds per week. My first goal was to get under 300 pounds by the four month mark. And then to get to 250 by my birthday. I calculated it out - it would work if I kept at it. I now had two SMART weight loss goals.

Measure Everything

Okay, you don't have to measure everything. Getting on the scale regularly - for me, the same day each week - is critical. And write it down. Track it.  I created a spreadsheet on GoogleDocs and logged the weekly weight faithfully.  I could see progress. It encouraged me. Then about the time the rate slowed down I read Tim Ferris' book, The Four-Hour Body, and he talked about some other measurements I should  be recording.  You will be more successful if you measure more than just your weight. I remembered reading once that each pound you lose equates to a loss of one inch, so each week I also started measuring shoulder, neck, wrists, forearms, biceps, calves, thighs, waist, and more.  I created a formula for total inches that was the sum of biceps, waist, hips and thighs.  I could now "see" how my body was changing. Eventually I added body fat and muscle mass with the help of a fancy new set of scales.  You might also want to take some before and after photos, and take regular photos along the way.

Eat Breakfast

Your mother was right. It is the most important meal of the day. WebMD reports that this is one of the habits of people who are successful at losing and keeping weight off. Doesn't have to be fancy. In fact, mine is almost the same every day. Scrambled eggs, turkey sausage, two small waffles with sugar free strawberry jam. Yours might be a bowl of oatmeal, or some Greek yogurt, or whatever will give you energy for the day.

Be Consistent with Your Diet

Be as consistent as you can, while recognizing that life sometimes gets in the way of your best laid plans. Get into a pattern. Eat about the same time very day. Every day means Saturday and Sunday and Holidays, too. 

Be Physically Active

Exercise every day, even if it's just moving around. Walking is easy, doesn't require any special equipment, and can be worked into your daily activities. Be ready to improvise. Two days after my post on September 3, my work responsibilities changed drastically. Suddenly my daily routine was difficult to maintain. Because of travel, both personal and professional, combined with a temporary increase in work responsibilities, I was not able to do my usual cycling and trips to the gym.  No problem.  I did more swimming and walking and learned some new kettle-bell routines. I stayed active.

Be Patient

If you have a lot of weight to lose, at first it will come off fast.  The closer you are to your goal, the slower it will be. Stick with it.  Do not be discouraged by the three or four pounds of fluctuation from one week to the next. Let that be extra motivation to hit it again tomorrow.  And a two pound difference each day is not uncommon, which is why I don't get on the scale every day.

Tell Others and Help Others

Share your goals with friends and co-workers. Ask them to hold you accountable by asking how you are doing. Look for opportunities to talk about what you are doing; some people may not be interested, but others will be encouraged as you share your struggles and your successes.

Commit to a Lifestyle Change

Don't go on a program. Don't start a "diet".  Instead, decide to change your life. Your goal might start as losing a certain number of pounds; you will be more successful keeping it off year after year if your goal is to be healthy. After you lose the weight, your goal needs to change to maintaining that weight and improving your overall physical condition.

What Do You Think?

Now that you have heard from me, what can you share with the rest of us? What would your list of successful habits look like? What has worked for you? What has not worked for you?

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