Given the recent publicity of my story, I have gotten a lot of questions regarding the weight loss. “How did you do it” always comes up, so I wanted to put together a list of the “Top 10 things I’ve learned” during my weight loss process. It has turned into 12 because I tried to cram too much into the original 10.
This is what worked for me, and it’s the way I look at things. I am putting all this out there with the best of intentions, feel free to pick and choose from everything as you see fit and I hope some of it works for you and helps in any small way. Maybe you’ll like all of it, maybe none of it. But my hope is that you can at the very least pull a few nuggets out of this that are of actual value to you.
As always if you have any further specific questions, please let me know and I will be happy to do whatever I can to help out.
So without any further delay:
Top 12 Weight loss tips from a 125-pound loser…
1. Get your head right
Accept that you are what you are…for now. This is probably the hardest part of the entire process for most people because it involves a lot of pride swallowing and acceptance of facts that are less than pleasant. And it can be a tough pill to swallow. As a matter of fact, it downright sucks.
But even though it may suck, the fact remains that: yes, you are overweight, heavier than you want to be, and that is not going to change unless you do something about it. There’s no sense beating yourself up about it too much. What’s done is done and after all, you recognize the fact that where you’re at now isn’t where you want to be and you’re doing something about it. The simple fact that you recognize this is substantial, and insanely beneficial. You’re not ignoring anything or just hoping things will change, you’re stepping up and taking action.
So, “it is what it is” for now, but not forever. Everybody has to start somewhere. Where you are right now is your starting line, the place that you move forward from.
2. Be honest
This is another thing that sounds simple but is really hard to do. This is especially true when you have less than stellar eating habits the way I did. “Less than stellar” in this instance really means that I would stuff my face with pretty much anything I could get my hands on. I would eat a lot, and I would eat often.
Since the only person you’re really answering to is yourself, it does take a little bit of … scratch that: it takes a ton of dedication and honesty to accept and log that you had a whole slice of pizza instead of a half to make the calories look better (or ate two slices and not just logging one, etc.) In the end, if you’re not being honest, then you’re lying. And the only person that you’re really lying to is yourself. And really, what good comes of that? If you’re going to do this, you may as well do it. Otherwise you are wasting time and nothing will change.
If you’re lying to yourself, it may work for a while and you actually might lose some weight in the beginning. But even if you do lose some, odds are that without making any real changes, you will retain your old poor eating habits, and with the poor habits still in place, the weight will come back. So don’t be a liar. You’re better than that.
3. Be driven
I’ll be the first to admit, this entire process is kind of a tough pill to swallow. It is so, SO much easier to sit on the couch than to go and run outside or on the treadmill. It takes you having something in it to keep you on point and get you moving. I can tell you first hand, temptation (and laziness, and sickness, and unforeseen problems, and real life, etc.) is absolutely everywhere. It’s just waiting there for you to open the door just a little so it can creep in and derail you. It’s happened to me and it will most likely happen to you too. It really is all about having the chutzpah to keep pushing, stay focused and not lose sight of the end goal. I can tell you first hand it IS worth it.
4. Be accountable
This ties in with being honest and being driven (actually, most of these points tie in to one another) but for me, the act of putting myself out there for everybody to see was absolutely key to the process- hence the blog you are reading today.
At first, my reasoning was that I had started to lose weight dozens, literally dozens of times ‘in secret’ (didn’t want to say anything or put it out there because I was embarrassed about what people might say or think; didn’t want to fail and then have to face everybody and explain what happened, etc.), but without anyone or anything to be accountable to, it was way too easy to give up.
Happened every time. So my original reason for telling all friends and family what I was doing and how I was planning on doing it was essentially to force myself to keep going, even when I hit the inevitable wall. That, and plus I wanted to have a written record of everything once I was done.
The unforeseen benefit of being so publicly accountable is the overwhelming outpouring of love and support that came (and continues to come) from everyone on a daily basis. Putting it all out there is a risk for sure, you can’t hide behind anything and the possibility of coming out of this failing and looking like a fool is always there, but the fact to not lose sight of is that people out there, especially your friends and family, want nothing more than to see you succeed.
One more unexpected benefit that I honesty never saw coming is that I have been inspiring others to do the same as me now. I definitely get it, and how do you think I got the idea to lose weight and do it with running in the first place? I saw someone else’s blog on the Internet one day while I was searching for some inspiration, and consequently, was inspired. The guy who first inspired me and planted the seed for me to do this the way I did was Ben of www.bendoeslife.com, really good blog and - obviously - very inspirational story.
But like I said, I never initially set out to inspire others, I really was just sick and tired of being so fat and unhealthy and knew I had to do something about it. But unforeseen or not, I have been talking to more and more people who have told me that my story has inspired them and looking for more info about what I did and how I did it (thus prompting me to create this list) I have to admit, it feels fantastic.
I haven’t felt this good about something that I’ve done and how it affected others in a really long time. I was sincerely motivated so much by all the support that came to me as I was pushing to lose that it doesn’t make any sense to me to not put that support back out there for everybody else. I say it all the time, but we’re all in this together.
All that being said, you don’t have to go as far as I did and start a blog in order to be accountable. Putting things on facebook, or just talking to those who you really care about accomplishes the same thing.
5. Write it down/Log it
In my opinion, if you are looking to lose weight, this is one of the single most powerful things you can do. It only works if you are honest with yourself, of course. If you eat half a pizza and log 2 slices, you’re not doing anybody any good and just lying to yourself. (See “Be Honest” above)
Nobody is judging you (except you), so just write it down. If you have never done this before, I can guarantee you will be surprised to see what goes into your mouth over the course of a day or a week.
You can learn a lot, I know I did. I learned a lot about food, about calories, (and what foods are higher/ lower in calories than you may have thought)- and in turn, what foods are “worth it” and which aren’t.
I also learned a lot about myself and my eating habits. All very essential pieces of information if you are looking to change habits and adopt a healthier eating lifestyle. If you don’t know where you are starting from, how are you going to change?
To clarify, what I mean by “I learned a lot” means that I learned about what foods I was eating that were really (surprisingly) high in calories, which were good lower-calorie substitutes, and just as important as calories is portion size (one thing you will realize is that the portion sizes that we are all accustomed to are pretty much all jacked up). When you see what “one serving” of chicken or rice or mashed potatoes really is, you are going to think that you are going to wither away to nothing -although that is a very loose interpretation of what we are trying to do here, right?
The other thing I wanted to mention - because I’ve been down this road too many times - is not only write it down/log your food, but do it now. I mean immediately. As it’s going into your mouth. As you’re making/ ordering it if possible. Seriously, don’t wait until after you have dished out the plate and eaten everything to go back after the fact and be like “well, it was about a half a cup of mashed potatoes I think,” because you will be wrong.
I know for a fact I messed it up every time I did that. So just do it. Yes it’s a pain to weigh and measure your food. It takes the “sexy” out everything to pull out a little food scale or a measuring cup and dish out your delicious dinner in measured, sensible portions. But you learn what 4 or 6 or 8 ounces of chicken is.
You learn how to recognize what a cup of rice looks like. And let’s face it, if you knew this stuff already, you probably would not be reading this blog post in the first place, (just like if I knew this stuff before, I would not be writing any of this either) … and even if it does take the “sexy” out it now, I can guarantee you that when you are fitting into clothes that are multiple sizes smaller than the ones you are wearing now, you will realize where that “sexy” went to.
6. Establish routines
I look at this one two ways, because I had to establish routines of both when I ate, as well as what I ate.
For the “when,” I decided after a lot of research that things needed to change. I HAD to eat breakfast every day (which I never did before), and I also wanted to incorporate some snacks into my routine. It’s been said that this maximizes the chances of success, and God knows I needed all the help I could get. So I started eating breakfast every day. (I’ll talk about what in a second) and I scheduled in a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack. It has helped to keep me full and satisfied all day and has worked out well for me thus far, so I’m sticking to it.
And as for the “what,” well, I am self-admitted creature of habit. Especially in situations like this where I am making changes and trying to achieve specific goals while eating. I find a few solutions that accomplish what I am trying to do and ride them out as long as I can.
For a specific example: I knew I had to eat breakfast. I am not, however a big fan of getting any less sleep than I already do, so it had to be quick and easy, and preferably able to be eaten in the car as I drive to work. Say what you want, this is real life, folks. I needed it to be as low-impact, time-wise as humanly possible.
Allow me to introduce the smoothie. It's quick to make and allows for variations in flavors, but the basic concept is always the same: some milk, some yogurt, ice and a whole lot of fruit. They are fast, taste really good, and best of all, I can hold it in one hand.
I have also gotten addicted to Clif Bars. They are an energy bar that is made from soy and oats, are organic and taste a whole heck of a lot better than that description would ever make you think it would. Plus, it’s an energy bar, so it gives you a little kick in the rear, too. So the breakfast for me is a Clif Bar and a smoothie. Every day. And you know what? I love it. Not just saying that, for real. I don’t want to wax poetic here about the mundane details of all my new eating habits, I just wanted to give a real life example. If you DO have any questions about what/when/how I am eating now, feel free to ask and I can go on at length about it.
If you really want to get serious and see results faster, you’re going to have to move that body. I am not saying you cannot lose weight through diet alone. I have a friend who has done some pretty amazing things through changing his eating habits; but that being said the amount of calories you can burn through exercise can give you a great boost on the scale, not to mention the impact it has on your fitness level.
For me it’s great stress relief and gives me a chance to just “unplug” for a little bit. It has really helped me in a number of ways. I burned a ton of calories, it helped me on the scale, and I generally felt better about myself. Especially when I started to see some actual progress in my body and overall fitness level. It made me feel like I was doing good things and making actual forward motion. It’s amazingly motivating to know that all the sweat and pain are going towards some real tangible benefits.
I know that I have used running, so that’s where I always fall back to, but what works for me may not be what’s best for you. The running is not the point, per se. If you can’t run, or don’t like to run, or whatever, then don’t run. Do the elliptical, ride a bike, walk, go swimming…whatever. Just get yourself active and go burn some calories. Build up your cardiovascular and you’ll feel better about yourself and what you can do. Again, it is great for you on a couple different levels, and insanely motivating once you start making some gradual progress.
8. Have a plan, and then re-assess as needed
This one could also be titled “Don’t be too proud to change.”
I am a huge proponent of setting out a plan. It’s the way I work best, gives me a goal to work towards, and makes commitments I need to live up to. It gives everything a more formal feeling and forces me to do enough research to actually formulate the plan in the first place. It requires me to think ahead and I feel like it keeps me on track. So here’s where my advice gets contradictory. I’m sitting here telling you to set a plan and stick to it. Be dedicated and don’t waver.
I am now also going to tell you to not be so proud or set in your ways that you can’t change the plan once it’s set. Things are going to happen. It’s just the way it is. The best laid plans are completely doomed to be blown into bits, for any number of reasons.
Perfect example: in my original plan, I was all set to run a 10K in mid-May, 2012. In theory, it was perfect. I had enough time to follow the running plan and work my way into that distance. I got sick for a few weeks in February and my running suffered because of it. A couple of weeks before the race, I realized that there was absolutely no way I was going to be able to do it. I just was not even close to the distance.
So I had to take my pride and put it on the shelf, re-assess and change up the schedule. Not only that, but real life has a tendency to get in the way as well. The 5K that I was looking forward to the most I had to cancel on the day of because my daughter came down really sick the night before. I really wanted to be there, but that little girl is the most important thing (and the reason I am running in the first place), so what can you do? It happens. The best we can do is deal with it, remember the end goal and keep on moving.
So be structured, stick to it, but don’t be so structured that you can’t mix it up.
9. Eat more often
This sounds counter-productive. I should clarify. Plan your meals to include some small, responsible snacks to help get you through.
I touched on this before but it’s important enough to bear repeating. Some people can go “all in” and split things up evenly so they are eating 6 equal, smaller meals a day. I tried it once or twice, but I am more of a “breakfast, lunch, and dinner” kind of guy. Just feels more normal to me.
I’ll eat breakfast on the way into work (6:30 to 6:45-ish), then around 10 I’ll have an apple or orange or something like that, just to hold me over until lunch. Around noon/12:30-ish I’ll do lunch, and then another piece of fruit or a handful of nuts like Pistachios and some cheese around 3 p.m.
Again, nothing crazy, just something to hold me over until dinner. Dinner in the evening and then some sort of dessert at night. It may not seem like a huge difference, but the extra snacks in the day that may take a little away from the size of the “big” meals go a long way in terms keeping you full. That, and it makes you think ahead. I really believe the more you are thinking ahead, the more planning you are doing (whether you want to or not), and the better your chances of success.
10. Drink a lot of water
A lot. I mean a ton of water. I’m sure there are studies out there that can cite the specific reasons why it’s so good for you, but I have always just been a big water drinker because I like it. Once I heard all the reports telling me to drink 8 glasses a day, I was already on board that train; no need to justify why I was doing it to be honest with you.
I am not familiar with all the specific reasons why it’s so good, but I loosely know that I feel like it keeps things moving in my system, I stay hydrated, and it helps me to feel full. If I am ever feeling like I want to eat a little something, often times I can knock back a bottle of water and next thing you know I’m feeling full again. I’m not suggesting that you go chugging water for breakfast, lunch and dinner, not telling you this alone is a full-time weight loss strategy.
But, as a part of a reasonably planned daily regiment, it's good and it worked for me. There are many studies out there, however, that verify that this is a very important step in the weight loss process. So do it. If you really need me to, I’ll look up the reasons why it’s so good for you and report back later, but for now, just do it. Get those 8 glasses in. Yes, you’ll be running to the restroom a lot; but I’ll take the trade off of increased potty breaks for losing pounds and inches any day.
11. Celebrate the victories
(Not with food, you’re not a dog*)
* I wish I made that up myself, but I read it a long time ago on a motivational Web site called http://www.believe-toachieve.tumblr.com, and have been holding onto it waiting for the perfect time to break it out…this was that perfect time.
The road you are heading down is a big deal. You are going to be working hard at it and it’s not one of those things where you can work on for a couple of hours a day and then forget about it. Oh no, this is a 24/7 effort you are going to be putting forth, please remember to reward yourself when you hit the milestones. It’s important.
But, don’t do it with food. One of my hurdles that I learned to overcome was that the way we celebrated anything and everything was with food. A dinner date with my wife, the family all together at a restaurant, friends over to watch the game, it all revolved around food. When I hit 100 pounds, I got myself a new pair of running sneakers. I wasn’t technically at the mileage to justify a new pair quite yet, but as a way to pat myself on the back, I ordered them up anyway.
You do the same for yourself, it will help to keep you going when times get tough, make you appreciate the milestones a little more, and also give you a tangible reminder to the milestone itself. (My blue running shoes that I love so much are my “100-pound shoes”).
12. Prepare. It’s all about preparation.
So here’s the deal. Eating crappy foods is easy, and it’s cheap. But it’s also what put the fat on my body in the first place. I like to think that this is the universe’s cruel trick. I’m not sure why it is so much more labor intensive and expensive to eat healthy choices, but that is the way it is and I don’t make the rules. I just find ways to make the best of the situation at hand. I would rather pay more for good, healthy food and have to make it myself than get the cheap unhealthy stuff that can come in volume. For example, who really needs a container of cheese puffs as big as a bongo drum?
With all this purchased, healthy food, you have to take the time to prep it all. But again, doing this is making you plan things out, and be cognizant of what you are putting in your mouth. Now I’m a planner by nature but it’s really good to know the “what” and “when” I am going to be eating so I can take a calculated approach and plan out my day accordingly.
I am all about making things easier on myself, because the more I plan it out and then get it prepped, the less time I have to think about it when it’s time to go and the more likely I am to stay on track. It’s a way to stay in control and focused. If you are preparing things in advance, both mentally with a plan and physically with the actual food itself, you are taking control of things and leaving less up to chance. The less you leave up to chance, the more unknown variables you can cut out, then the better off you will be and the less likely you will be to go off track. I can generally tell you on any given night what I will have for breakfast and lunch (and often dinner as well) the following day. It’s the stuff like that that keeps me on track.
Now I know all this represents a major change in both mindset and day-to-day actions. Do I think that if you need to drop 10 pounds you need to adopt all of this and make radical changes to your lifestyle? No. But, bear in mind all I can do is convey the experiences that I went through and I’m coming from the perspective of someone who had to drop more than 100 pounds.
For me, it was a scenario of drastic times calling for drastic measures. I knew I had to change things up, because continuing to do what I had always done was not an option, since doing that is what got me fat in the first place.
I am not claiming to be an expert, a doctor, a nutritionist, or anything else (see below), other than a guy who has been through the process and wants to share my story and help others as they try to do the same thing.
(Disclaimer: I want to say that I am in no way a professional, expert, or any other form of authority on the matters of food, exercise, and weight loss. I can only relay my experiences and opinions. I know -and stress- that these are my personal opinions and experiences and realize that in all likelihood they are unique to me and me alone. Since everyone is different, everyone can and probably will have a different experience and have success using what works for their unique circumstance. Do not take my words as a replacement for a doctor’s opinion)
I hope any or all of this helps, in any way possible.
This is the high level stuff. I will have some (shorter) posts with more specific details regarding some of the things I've done and learned to accomplish my own weight loss in the not too distant future...
Until next time, Take it easy.
To read more from Andy Aubin, check out his blog, BigAndysRunning.