This post was written by my husband.
I should start this off by saying that I am not a doctor, a personal trainer, a weight loss expert, or anything similar. What I am is corporate attorney who, about a year ago, got tired of seeing not-so-good numbers come back at the company’s health screen. I was in denial at that time, thinking that the numbers must have been wrong and that I really wasn’t in as bad of shape as it would seem, and that I really didn’t need to lose weight.
Eventually I had to admit that my weight (191 pounds) was too high for my height (5’8″ – ish..). My BMI listed me as just under obese, which was definitely an exaggeration, but still, I did not feel good and I really wanted to get into better shape and lose weight. Looking back, what I really needed was a little bit of motivation.
Lucky for me, that motivation came at my company’s annual kickoff meeting in January. My company always invites a few employees to come up with speeches on different, non work-related topics.
The first topic that lit a fire within me was a speech that was given by one of the company’s managers. The main theme of his talk was about setting attainable fitness goals and doing everything that you can do reach them. He started out by showing a picture of himself at the NFL combine. He was clearly overweight and I honestly would not have recognized it as being him if he hadn’t told us. He told us how that was a low point from a fitness perspective in his life, and soon thereafter he decided to change and to lose weight. He started out by setting intermediate goals and working as hard as he could to meet them before moving on to a new goal. He said that by creating this routine, he was able to shed fat, lose weight, and build muscle. He ended his talk by showing a current picture in which he was in very good shape and almost completely unrecognizable from the first picture he showed. This helped me realize that I too could set fitness goals and work hard to attain them.
The second topic got me excited about fitness was given by another employee who was already in great shape. The topic of his talk was about running. He started by telling everyone that he had not always been a runner. In fact, he said that he used to dislike running with a passion. He then went on to tell us about a book, called “Born To Run,” that completely changed his life. After reading the book he learned to love to run and eventually ran a 50 mile race – yes 50 miles! During the rest of his talk he talked about his preparation for that run and his experience running and finishing it.
After hearing both of these talks, I had the motivation that I needed to begin to lose weight. I admit that I had my doubts about whether I could make the necessary changes in my life to become more healthy – particularly I was very doubtful that I could ever learn to love to run. Nevertheless, I decided that there was no better time than the present to take the plunge to see if it could help me lose weight.
It has now been a little bit over a year since that meeting, and I am happy to say that I have lost 26 pounds and am now down to 165 pounds – which is about what I weighed when I was a year out of high school.
So how did I do it? Really there are two main steps that I took to lose weight and keep it off, and that is what I want to share today.
Before I start, I just want to say that I know that this two step plan may not be right for everyone. I know that everyone has different circumstances in life and different struggles. I know that there are many other plans that may be just as, or more, effective than what I have to say today. With all of that out of the way, I will say that this is what has helped me lose weight, and I am much happier now than I was a year ago.
STEP 1 – LEARN TO LOVE TO RUN
For some of you, this might sound psychotic – love to run? Are you kidding me? I know this, because that was me for first 28 years of my life. In fact, before March of last year I had not run more than a mile at one time since I was playing baseball in high school. Even thinking about running made me cringe. Even in the earlier occasions where I was working hard to lose weight, I almost never would run, and if I did, it was only for a half a mile at the most.
That all changed when, at the recommendation of the co-worker mentioned above, I began to read “Born to Run” written by Christopher McDougall. Now you may be asking how one single book could change me from someone that hated running, to someone that loves it. To be honest, I am not even sure how it happened. I started listening to the Audible version on my long commute to and from work shortly after that company meeting. At first it seemed a little bit slow and I was wondering what all the hype was about. However, after about week of listening to it I started to “get” it. I don’t want to go into too much detail about the book, because it is something that you really have to experience for yourself. To be brief, I will just say that it takes you through the story of the author as he tried to figure out what he needed to do to be able to run and how he could learn to love it. He takes you with him down to Mexico to experience the life of the Tarahumara – a group of people that truly believe that they were “born to run” (and they are very good at it). If you want to learn to love to run, this is the book to read. It won’t necessarily show you how to run, but it will convince you that you can – and should.
Of course in learning to love to run, it is implied that you actually will be running, right? Like I said, the book won’t teach you everything about how to run, so you may still have to do some research. I am no expert on running, but these are some things that helped me learn to love it, and in turn have helped me to lose weight.
Run Outside Whenever Possible
I finished reading “Born to Run” right near the end of February, 2015. If you know anything about Colorado, you know that February isn’t the best time to be running outside. Colorado has very “bi-polar” weather. In the span of one day it can be rainy, sunny, and snowy. That said, I didn’t have access to an indoor track or treadmill, so I decided to bundle up and brave the cold. The first time that I got out and ran, I admit that it was very cold – but it was also an amazing experience. We have a trail in our neighborhood that goes on for miles and is surrounded by trees and for the most part is out of the way of the roads in our town. There was something so peaceful about being out in nature, running along a trail and breathing in fresh air (and trust me, I was breathing in a lot of it that first time!). Its always great to see the deer and other wildlife stop and stare as I run along the path. I know that sometimes it is more practical to run indoors, but I truly believe that the outdoor aspect of running is one of the best parts. If you do prefer to run indoors, you can get your first month free at 24 Hour Fitness by clicking on the image below.
Make Sure You Have The Right Attire
Running outside meant that for the first few months, I had to wear thermal pants, a warm hat, gloves, and a warm, long sleeved shirt for running. I thought that this would take away from my ability to run effectively, but I found that the opposite was true. Whenever I went out under dressed for the weather, I could not go very far, and I almost always had to stop running earlier because of the cold. I found most of my clothes at Target, but you can find them online too.
You will also need a good pair of shoes. I know that some people will tell you that you have to have a specific type of shoe, and maybe that is true. However, I found this nice pair of running shoes (as you can see, there is nothing fancy about them) and they have lasted me well over a year without breaking and without causing any adverse effects. I was tempted to splurge and spend a couple hundred bucks on shoes, but looking back, I am glad that I didn’t. That isn’t to say that those more expensive shoes aren’t good – I just didn’t have a need for them.
Take Along Some Music
I find it much easier to run when I have some music to listen to. It helps me to stay focused and to keep going. It can really be anything. I am a huge fan of country music, so I take that along with me and it keeps me going. I know country music isn’t really what people think of when they think of running music, but it works for me, so I am confident that whatever music you choose will be right for you too. Now running with headphone cords can be kind of frustrating, so I would suggest getting some good bluetooth earbuds or headphones like these. It is also a good idea to get an armband to hold your phone so that you don’t have to keep it in your pocket or in your hand while you run.
Track Your Progress
This really made the difference for me. Being able to track my progress and actually see progress helped to keep me motivated. With all of the technology that we have now, there are many ways to track your running progress. If you search your app store for “running tracker apps” you will see many. I am sure that almost any of them will do the job, but the one that I chose is called Runmeter, and I couldn’t be more satisfied. The user interface is clean and easy to navigate and it has tons of great options. I started out with the free version, but quickly upgraded to elite for only $4.99 per year. It tracks your speed, your ascent and descent, your split times, and more. One thing that I really love about it is that it has voice announcements, so as I am running it will tell me how far I have gone at set intervals, what my current pace is, and what my total time is as well. You can then look back at your history and see how your speed and distance has increased. You can even download it to your computer if it is easier for you to track it there.
Work Your Way Up Slowly
The first time that I got out to run, I was really motivated and thought that I could get out and run a mile with no problem. At about the 1/4 mile mark I was already gassed and ready to say goodbye to running. I decided to turn around and run back to my car for a total of 1/2 mile. I was happy that I didn’t stop running, but I was disappointed that I didn’t go further. Instead of giving up, I kept going out every day and every day I went a little bit further until within 2 weeks I was able to run 2 miles without stopping. From there it just got easier and easier until I ran 8 miles just 3 months in. Most of the time I can’t go further because I run in the morning and have a limited window of time before I have to get to work. On those days when I can’t go further, I focus on going faster and that helped me to continue to improve. If you had told me that first day that I started running, that a few months later I would be able to run 8+ miles I would have told you that you were crazy. Nevertheless it happened, and I was loving it.
Push Yourself to Get Better
If you don’t keep looking for ways to get better, it can be easy to fall into the same routine. One technique that has worked for me is to park my car, and then run a set distance, knowing that I have to get back to my car by a specific time in order to make it to work in time. This forces me to run all the way back without stopping, because if I do start walking, then I know that I am going to be late to work. The first few times that I did this, I almost gave up and started walking, but instead I kept going and each time I am able to catch a “second wind” and finish my run.
Trust me, learning to love to run is not easy, but if you can achieve it, I am confident that you will be able to meet your weight loss goals. However, it isn’t enough just to get out and run. You have to make other changes in your life as well. Which leads me to Step 2 of this 2 step plan to lose weight and keep it off.
STEP 2 – PERMANENTLY CHANGE YOUR EATING HABITS
I love to eat. I always have and I probably always will. As you can see here on my wife’s blog, there is no shortage of delicious food to eat around here. I was actually a pretty picky eater growing up, but over the years I have learned to eat just about anything.
This love for food is what got me in trouble with my weight in the first place. It wasn’t so much that I loved eating, it was that I was unable to control my portions. If something was delicious, I just wanted to keep going back for more. If I saw a cookie, I had to find where the rest were hidden and eat 5. When we went out to eat, I couldn’t eat only part of my meal – I had to eat the whole, ridiculously over sized portion. When I was younger and had better metabolism this wasn’t such an issue. I could eat and eat and didn’t see any noticeable difference in how much I weighed. However, after I got married I realized very quickly that I couldn’t keep eating the same way, or that if I did, I wouldn’t be in good shape for long.
Unfortunately my desire to eat trumped my desire to be in good shape and lose weight for the first few years of our marriage. I quickly went from size small, to size medium, and finally to size large. I knew that I was getting bigger, but it never really registered until I saw some pictures of me that were almost unrecognizable. Another breaking point came when we were visiting Mexico a couple of years ago. About a year (and 10-15 pounds) earlier we had visited my wife’s family in Mexico, and when we were at church a sweet little girl told my wife that when she grew up she wanted to have a “Ken” doll like my wife’s (she was talking about me). I took that as a compliment and it actually made me feel good about myself. The next year when we went back, the same little girl told my wife that I wasn’t her “Ken” doll anymore, because I was fat. It was kind of funny at the time, but it made me realize that I was going down a path that I didn’t want to.
Fast forward to last year after our company meeting. After seeing the change that the first speaker made in his life and all the weight that he lost, I realized that I had to do something different in order to lose weight too. Running was the first step in order for me to get the exercise in, but the second step was figuring out a way to eat better. I knew myself and knew that I was never going to be someone that could eat only vegetables, salads, and smoothies. I love food way too much for that. However, I did decide that there were some changes that I could make, and as I did I noticed a huge difference in my life. So here are a couple of things that I did that made all the difference and helped me lose weight.
The first change that I made was to start managing my portions. Before I made this change, it was normal for me to eat 2, 3 or even 4 portions of dinner. The food was always so good, that I figured I had to keep eating it. I decided to force myself to only have one portion of dinner every night. At first I served myself a pretty large portion, but I stuck to it. Within a few weeks my average portion size began to shrink and to my surprise I wasn’t as hungry as I thought I was. The good thing about this technique is that I could still eat pretty much anything, but it was just in smaller portions. This made probably the biggest difference in my weight loss journey.
I used to eat snacks all the time – donuts, chips, and cookies were the most common culprits. What I realized later was that I was not snacking smartly. So how do you snack smartly? For me it meant replacing those sugary, high-fat snacks with things like almonds, fruit, and vegetables. I also started having more snacks rather than less. I found that when I ate 3-5 small, healthy snacks per day, I was not as hungry at mealtime and that helped me with my portion control. Now I won’t say that I cut out those other snacks completely – I still love sweets – but I did cut back on them and I find now that I don’t crave them as much.
One thing that helped me out a lot was making healthy replacements. This doesn’t mean that I replaced a bad meal with a good one necessarily. Rather, it mean that I replaced bad ingredients with good ingredients. Instead of using a lot of canola or vegetable oil, we used more olive oil and coconut oils. Instead of eating tons of white bread, we started using more whole grains. Instead of frying certain foods, we decided to bake them when possible. By making these small changes, my wife and I both noticed that we felt better most of the time and we were feeling in much better shape.
Track Your Progress and Hold Yourself Accountable
Just as it was important to track my progress when running, it was equally important for me to track my progress and hold myself accountable. I used a couple of different fitness and calorie trackers to do this. Whenever I had a bad day of eating, I would make a note of how I felt and that motivated me to do better the next day. As I met my goals and was able to stay under my calorie benchmarks for the day, I started to really realize that I could do this and that I would.
This second step was as or more important than first. The good thing about the steps I mentioned above is that they are things that you can do on a permanent basis. I had tried other diets in the past where I had to pretty much give up everything that I loved. While they did work at first, I was never able to keep up with it and I always ended up worse off. Now that I have been applying these principles in my life for over a year, I can say that while it hasn’t always been easy, it has been worth it.
FINAL THOUGHTS – WEIGHT LOSS RESULTS
So there you have it! A two step plan to lose weight and keep it off. I never said that those two steps would be easy, but I can say with confidence that they have been worth it. I am now in better shape than I have been in in years, and I feel better both mentally and physically. It feels great to be able to purchase size small clothes again. It feels great to be able to fit into size 32 (and sometimes 31) pants again instead of 34+. It feels good to look at myself in pictures and feel good about myself again. In total, I have lost about 26 pounds – so I am down from 191 to 165. I never took an actual “before” photo, but this first one pretty much sums up how I looked off and on for years after getting married (although I did choose about as unflattering a picture as I could). The after picture was taken right after I ran my first official 5k a couple of months ago, and I’m happy to report that I have been able to maintain the weight I have lost even through the holiday season which is always the hardest time for me to stay strong!
My final words are these – if you think you can’t lose weight – stop! You can do it! If I could do it (and continue doing it), then you can do it too. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below on what has worked for you too!