Cutting the Fat

November 20, 2015
“Lose weight while you sleep!” “Miracle drug peels way the pounds!” “Eat your way to weight loss!” Like most of us, I’ve seen these headlines for years, but never really paid attention until one morning a couple of years ago I woke up to discover what I suspect others had known for years –– I’d grown fat. It was a slow, steady process. I had been putting on about two pounds a year since I was married. The problem (with the weight, not the marriage) was that I had been married for 35 years, so I was up 70 pounds over my “fighting weight.” Fighting weight is a phrase some people use, though I don’t know why, since most of us have rarely, if ever, been in a professional fight that has required us to weigh in for the competition. Anyway, I figured enough was enough –– literally and figuratively. I decided it was time to lose weight. I had watched friends struggle with weight and weight loss, and I recognized a pattern: hard dieting over a short period of time. While this method leads to quick weight loss, it also leads to an equally quick return of old habits and the almost inevitable regaining of the weight. For those looking for the easy way out, we are inundated with promises of tremendous return for little to no investment of time or effort. I’m dumb enough to have put on the weight, but not so dumb as to believe I can lose “Two pounds a night with no effort!” So, I decided to try a different route. I figured I would give my self four years to lose 48 pounds. A friend commented, “Four years? You’ll be 60 by the time you lose the weight!” and I responded by asking how old I would be in four years if I didn’t lose the weight? My point was that I spent 35 years growing into a lifestyle that had me progressively getting larger. I wanted to allow myself some time to lose the weight and change my lifestyle along the way. Losing one pound a month for years seemed like a pretty achievable and healthy goal, with a really positive outcome. I did not “diet” in the traditional sense. Candidly, I enjoy food (particularly sweets) too much to quit cold turkey. Pretending that a quick diet would have worked was a recipe for failure. Instead, I decided to make a series of minor lifestyle modifications. I gave up sodas. Except, about once a month I head to a great BBQ joint with my staff where I order a pulled pork sandwich and drink a very large glass (or two) of root beer. I quit automatically buying a large tub of popcorn every time I went to the movies. However, I do allow myself to succumb to the smell every so often and enjoy a medium-sized tub, no butter. I gave up beer –– with the exception of band rehearsals where I will drink a couple without apology or guilt. I dramatically modified my intake of sweets. Sometimes, I swear them off completely for a month or two. Other times, I allow myself one great dessert a week –– usually a good-sized bowl of ice cream with a little chocolate sauce on top. It’s the little things that seem to add up to a lot, like skipping the pre-meal bread that shows up at almost every restaurant or cutting back on portions. I still eat all the foods I enjoy; I simply eat a little less. And it doesn’t take long before the ‘smaller” portions seem normal. I also skip an occasional meal. I get it, “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” or “you have to keep your metabolism going,” but sometimes, I’m just not hungry and it feels good to let a meal go if I don’t need it. I try not to eat anything after 7 p.m. –– again, it’s not hard and fast, but I think this effort helps. And I exercise more. My wife bought me a Fitbit, which works great for me. I’m conscious of walking more. I even park at the far end of the parking lot on purpose. We live two miles from the local theatre, so we walk to the movies –– working up a hunger for the occasional popcorn! A hundred different ways to add a few steps every day, but they add up quickly. I watch less television. Almost anything else you do besides watching TV will be healthier for you. Bottom line: I eat better, I eat a little less, I eat a little less frequently, I exercise a bit more and I’m conscious of the choices I’m making. I don’t feel deprived in any way. I don’t feel hunger, cravings or tremendously sore. I’ve simply made a series of small adjustments over a period of time which has resulted in my activity increasing and my food intake (particular junk food and desserts) decreasing. As a result, I feel great and I’ve dropped 35 pounds in “only” 31 months. I have every confidence that I will drop the last few pounds and keep it off. I have 13 more pounds to go and about seventeen month to loose them. Oh, for those doing the math and have figured out that I gained 70 pounds, but only plan to lose 48? I’m not in my 20’s anymore. I’ll give myself the extra 22 pounds as a gift and a nod to turning 60.