“How hard can it be to lose five pounds?”
That’s how it started.
For a very long time, I never gave much thought to managing my weight. Bit by bit over the years there was more of me, but I gained weight so gradually, and I carried it well enough, that it rarely bothered me how the pounds were adding up (although I didn’t like that my older clothes stopped fitting after a while). This spring though, I stopped liking what I saw in the mirror. I din’t like it one bit, in fact.
So right after I got back from visiting NY for Passover in April, I decided it was finally time to make some changes.
I don’t want to call it a diet. I’m skeptical of the entire concept, frankly. Especially the big branded ones. Too many of them seem designed to part the dieter with their cash (books, special food, memberships, supplements, and more) than with their extra weight. There’s too much junk science and too many claims I find hard to believe. And too many dieters seem to gain all the weight back once they end the diet. I wanted to do something a little more sustainable.
Instead, I based my plan on two guiding principles:
1) Don’t make sacrifices that you can’t live with over the long haul.
Example: I refuse to give up putting sugar in my coffee. I hate the taste of all the sugar substitutes, and I don’t see the point of putting a bunch of chemicals into your body that trick you into thinking you just ate something sweet. Might as well just make room for the calories and have the real thing.
2) Simple is always better.
I found a great Android app that made tracking my food intake and exercise simple: Noom. What I most like about it is that it tracks your intake in a way that works both at home and while eating out, and doesn’t take a lot of time. For example, if I have a salad for lunch, Noom doesn’t ask me to enter each type of vegetable separately or figure out how many ounces of chicken I put on top. I’d record it as “heaping handful of vegetables, half a handful of chicken, tablespoon of salad dressing”. Done. Yes, it’s not pinpoint accurate, but it’s close enough. And it worked.
So how did I lose the weight? I tracked everything I ate and kept to the daily calorie allocation Noom assigned me.
How? I dropped a lot of the carbs from my diet (although not all) and became much more aware of portion sizes. I ate a lot more beans and salad, and cut down the snacks and sweets. And on the days when I said “the hell with it” and ate steak frites for lunch because I couldn’t bear to eat another salad, I didn’t beat myself up or feel like a failure. I just started again the next day back on the plan.
And it worked. Four months later, I am 16 pounds lighter. That’s roughly a pound a week lost, and I did it during a time period when I took 2 vacations (including a cruise with a LOT of good food and wine). My BMI is nicely in the normal range for my height now, and I’ve lost a full dress size. I was afraid losing weight was going to be a titanic struggle, but aside from the occasional pasta craving, it wasn’t as bad as I expected. And once the scale started showing real results, sticking with the plan got even easier, because I knew it was working.
Oh yeah and that report about women needing to work out at least an hour a day to avoid gaining weight? It’s crap, at least for me. I exercised three times a week in May and June, but I’ve slacked off the exercise more recently (ok, I admit it, I haven’t worked out since mid-July). And I still lost weight in that time.
Maybe I got lucky? I don’t know. I do know lots of people struggle greatly with their weight and that my experience isn’t universal. Still, what I did worked for me, and that’s what matters.
To sum it all up: I lost a bunch of weight. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. And now I need to buy some pants that fit.