Recently I’ve started to look and feel better than I have in a long time. That’s because over the course of four short months, I’ve lost nearly forty pounds.
When I graduated high school ten years ago, I wrestled at the 171 pound weight class for the Pembroke Hill Raiders; during the off-season I probably hovered at a healthy 180. Sometime in the last year or so, I hit an all time high of about 230. It was well time to act.
Since the new year, I’ve done exactly that, and met with success. I’ve had a number of people notice (which is always nice), and I know I’m also not the only one who has wanted to slim down in order to look and feel better. So, I’ve decided to share with you a few tips I picked up along the way that really made a difference for me, and perhaps could for you, too. Here goes:
- There are all kinds of programs out there, from fad diets to elaborate workout schemes. In the end, remember that it’s pretty simple. It’s all about diet and exercise. If you’re just getting started, you really don’t need to think about a whole lot more than those two simple words.
- Invert your daily meal-size pyramid. I don’t mean your food groups, but the actual volume of food you eat at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Many people grab a tiny breakfast (if they eat anything at all), a decent sized lunch and then chow down on a big dinner. That’s all wrong. Start eating a big breakfast, a decent sized lunch, and a relatively modest dinner. You’ll feel great in the mornings, with the energy you need to focus and feel good, and your appetite won’t attack you throughout the day. Then, just keep things in check at lunch and dinner.
- Eat real food. Think natural. Minimally processed. Fresh. Preferably organic and local. When I say “real food” I mean an orange that grew on a tree and that you can hold in your hand. As opposed to a glass of Tang. You get the idea. Or a cut of steak to throw on the grill, as opposed to a fast burger that probably has pieces of hundreds of different cows and who knows what else, plus a gooey coating of processed cheese. Ick.
- Think variety. Try new fruits and veggies (I bet there’s a lot out there you haven’t even heard of). Try cooking new dishes at home. Variety is the spice of life, and it will keep you interested in your food. It also means that you’ll be well on your way to getting the balanced mix of nutrients you need to thrive.
- Eat smaller meals, and a healthy snack here and there. This means smaller meals in general – stick with a big breakfast relative to your lunch and dinner. You may even want to start using smaller plates and smaller silverware (use the smaller fork if you have two kinds, and ditto with the regular spoon over the soup spoon) – this will help with portion control, and keeping things in perspective. Americans tend to eat a lot, and that’s been reflected (and aided by) dishes that have grown in size over the last several decades. The last time I got a dish at a chain-style sit-down restaurant, I swore it was a platter large enough to feed a small family. We don’t need that.
- Drink water. ‘Nuff said.
- Don’t be legalistic. Enjoy your favorite treat once in a while. I ate a candy bar last night, and I didn’t feel guilty about it (okay, well I mean I only felt very slightly guilty about it, and only because I ate the whole thing instead of the half I was planning on!).
- Everything in moderation. Your portions, your everything. Oscar Wilde once said “everything in moderation – including moderation.” That’s quite true. And the quote of course applies to the rule right above. You can’t take this stuff overboard or you’ll crash and burn.
- Coffee is a great pick me up. (You knew that). But did you know it only has between 2-5 calories per cup? That’s only if it’s the real stuff and nothing else. So drink it black, or with a shot of skim milk if you must. And again, in moderation. With coffee, you’ve got to use it, not abuse it.
- Stop drinking soda. Period, end of sentence. For a fizzy substitute, try Izze. Or mix some fresh orange juice with club soda or tonic water. If you must have a soda at some point, have a small one, and very rarely, and savor it when you do. Because at some point you’ll give it up. Also, drink it through a straw (and it’s probably better to drink the diet versions). It’s better for your teeth, you’ll drink slower (and thus perhaps less), and you’ll look more civilized in the process (plus it’s safer if you’re driving, because you won’t tilt your head back for the last several sips).
- Get in touch with your body, whether through yoga, pilates, therapeutic massage, meditation, or some other mind-body activity. No, I haven’t gone all New Age on you. But you need to get a sense of connectedness between these two elements of your existence.
- Start stretching more. A variety of stretching poses, held for longer periods of time, and done more often. Stretch in the morning and at night. Stretch before AND after workouts. Stretch whenever else you feel like it.
- Stop eating fast food. Again, this pretty much says it all, and if you’re serious about wanting to lose weight for any reason, then you shouldn’t argue with this one. There are very few redeeming choices at fast food restaurants. Much of it is high-fat, high-calorie garbage that will drain you in ways you don’t even know. I won’t say that I’ve had zero fast food in 2010, but I will say that I have dramatically reduced my fast food intake.
- Get good sleep. Your body needs it to run smoothly (and I presume to keep your metabolism up). Plus, every hour you’re sleeping is an hour you’re not eating:)
- Get active. Work out at least several times a week. You can follow a program like “Body for Life,” but you don’t have to. To make it fun, join a recreational sports league, find a pick-up game at the gym, or a partner to work out with.
These are my tips. They are yours for free.
Much of what I said is tried and true wisdom that you probably knew. “Diet and Exercise,” for example. Additionally, I have learned a few things from the movie Food, Inc. (which is not to say I endorse its every political and economic premise) and also from a short and lively book by the title of Food Rules, by Michael Pollan. Somewhere in my list there are probably embedded some kernels of truth that I was pointed to by these works, though I have not made any conscious effort to directly incorporate their ideas here.
There is obviously so much more I have yet to learn, but this is what I know at the moment, which I believe makes sense and could be productive for just about anyone. If you are wishing to lose weight, or just become healthier and more energetic, I bid you the best, and don’t hesitate to contact me for advice or to kick around a new idea.