I’m a 34-year-old male, 6 feet tall, and these are the few simple steps I took to lose about 25 pounds in less than a month to go from 206 to 181 pounds.
The reasons why I did it were pretty obvious. Every time I donned a t-shirt at the beach or felt embarrassed mowing the yard with no shirt on as the neighbors gawked, I wondered: “How did it come to this?” I didn’t used to be overweight. Over the winter, I had let exercise go completely. Dealing with a new and stressful job, I had gained nearly 15 pounds in just three months. Making matters worse, I worked a job where I spent most of the day in the car driving, which didn’t allow me to exercise for more than a half hour each day at work, and that involved mostly short walks to and from the car and getting in and out of it.
When I decided it was time to lose weight, it was really impossible for me to exercise in the winter. When I got home, it was dark. Temperatures already were below zero and there was always enough take-home work from my job to do for hours until I was exhausted, that I just laid in front of the TV for an hour before bed to unwind.
Eating fast food each day for lunch — and sometimes breakfast, too — wasn’t helping my weight. At the end of the week, I could fill an entire trash bag with wrappers and bags from fast-food places. One day, I checked my blood pressure and it was off the charts. Just a year earlier it had been normal.
First of all, I decided that being out of shape and getting heavy wasn’t who I was. I was going to respect my body and treat it well. I knew I would have to allow for some indulgences, but the first change I made was a mental one. I simply said “From this day forward I am going to treat my body well.”
That thought process led me to rethink lunch time. I thought about each meal in this way: “Is what I’m putting into my body nourishing me, or poisoning me?” Then, that led me to start packing a lunch each day. Instead of burgers, fries and sodas, I brought water from home, yogurt, mixed nuts, and sandwiches. I still had cheese and mayo, and I still bought the regular (non-fat free) yogurt. The difference is that I tried to incorporate things I perceived to be healthy. I never calculated it out until long after, but by packing a lunch I was actually shaving off about 300-400 calories a day without really sacrificing anything.
On the same idea of nourishing or poisoning my body, I still drank a dark beer or too whenever I wanted. I would drink one but then think about the second for a bit. One may be healthy, but two probably was not. And, well, so went my thought process on from there…
The first change alone seemed to boost my energy level a lot. Having a higher energy level meant I was up and moving around more after supper instead of lying on the couch. I didn’t plan the second change; it just happened. I think eating healthier gave me more sustained energy. It didn’t seem like much to be up and moving for an extra 45 minutes to an hour a day, but I would be willing to bet that just by being up and moving I burned more than 80-100 extra calories. Over the course of a week, that’s an extra meal.
I knew I was still going to be tempted so, knowing that, I gave myself some leeway. I allowed for one fast food trip per week and, once I had used it, I couldn’t go anymore. Eventually, I got to the point where I reached the end of the week without using it. Instead of splurging, I chose to indulge in a healthy snack at the end of the day like frozen yogurt. When I did this, I read the serving sizes on the packages of snack foods and did my best to stay within one serving of junk each day. That meant I could have one soda, or one donut, or one mocha coffee, but that it had to be limited to just one less than healthy food serving per day.
Personally, I’ve never believed in diet products or artificially-sweetened products. I did use more Stevia which is a natural herbal sweetener when baking. Stevia also claims it can help regulate blood sugar. If this is true, that can leave you feeling full for longer after eating sweets that use this natural herb.
The last thing I wanted to do was to make my body work for me, even when it was resting. I knew if I could gain just one pound of muscle, my body would work even harder – even when I was sleeping to burn calories. Muscles constantly require energy, and the more muscle you have the more calories you burn even when resting. So I started with push-ups. At first, I could only do 10 or so, which was embarrassing as after high school I could easily have done 100 in a single clip. Still, I knew I was essentially starting over. I also bought the heaviest weights I could lift with my arms while still maintaining perfect form (which is important to avoid injury and to maximize your gains) and did slow controlled reps four days a week. I chose four, because that always gave me one day to allow my muscles to recover in between. I won’t get into specifics on what reps and how I did them, but with two sets of weights that cost me under $25, I devised 10 different exercises with them.
Mornings for me were, and remain, the most critical step to losing weight. I think it’s important to eat a big breakfast. You might say, wait – hold on – I thought this is about losing weight? Let me explain. Breakfast is important, because it sets the tone for the day. If you’re going to have self-control at lunch, it begins with eating breakfast. It’s also the easiest meal to burn off. I ate whatever I wanted for breakfast: eggs, and pancakes; in essence whatever I wanted. Because I ate breakfast, I wasn’t starving at lunch, and didn’t throw away my sack lunch for an all-you-can-eat buffet. I made supper the smallest meal of the day, because I would go to bed about 3 and a half hours after it. So, I wanted my sleep more devoted to restoration than digestion. I also moved supper up a half hour earlier, from 6:30 to 6 p.m., as I am told a late supper leads to a fat waist. As proof, I need only cite sumo wrestlers. Sumo wrestlers eat huge meals and then immediately nap afterwards so their metabolism slows and converts food sugars into fat stores on their bodies. I didn’t want to have the body of a Sumo wrestler…
The last step came with respecting my body. It wasn’t just about making healthy food choices. I knew I needed to take time away from work. The stress from work followed me home, and I think that the higher cortisol stress hormone actually exacerbated my weight gain. I also knew I was more likely to eat when my stress was high. I set limits and told myself: “When I get home, I will only work one hour from home. After that time, I’m going to walk to the wall and punch an imaginary time clock and punch out.” I know that sounds silly, but I think it was a critical step.
I’m now a healthy weight for my height and feel good too. I hope that if you take one thing from this, it would be to respect your body. It’s a gift from God, and we need to take care of it.