Are you thinking about trying to lose some weight, but consider dieting and exercise to be pure torture? This is the last installment about my recent weight-loss experience and I’m going to show how shedding some pounds can be, yes, even enjoyable! One of the keys to losing weight for me was by making it fun! What? Fun?!?!?! How could something tortuous like dieting be fun? Well, I made my dieting experience enjoyably challenging by coming up with a fun and slightly-frivolous dieting concept that actually worked for me. I didn’t need a fancy commercial diet plan or an expensive gym membership either. I called my weight-loss program the “Sal’s Birdland 30 lb. Challenge.” Why Sal’s Birdland? I’ll get to that fun part at the end, but first things first.
Doctors define “obesity” as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or over. Calculate your own BMI here. Researchers tell us 36% of Americans are obese, so this is a real problem in our country. We eat way too much bad food and get way too little exercise. When I visited my doctor last November, my BMI for my height (5’11”) and weight (214 lbs.) was 29.8, right on the border of obese. Because of my weight, I was at a seriously increased risk for many illnesses. Heading into the stretch before retirement, I knew I needed to be at a healthier weight, so around mid-March, with my yearly physical coming up, I decided it was time for me to get serious about losing some pounds.
My goal was to lose 30 lbs. and get down to 184 lbs. and a BMI of 25.7. That’s still classified as slightly “overweight,” but it would be a huge improvement. Health experts say shedding 1 to 2 lbs. a week is a healthy rate of weight loss, so I was aiming at losing 30 lbs. in 15 weeks. Well, it actually took me a little over 16 weeks to lose the weight, but close enough. Take note: Losing more than 2 lbs./week by “binge dieting” can be dangerous to your health.
Losing weight is not rocket science although companies make billions off of overweight people every year with complicated and expensive diet and fitness plans. The simple equation is (exercise)+(eat less)+(monitor)+(rewards) = weight-loss goal. Let’s take it step by step.
Our miraculous bodies like to hang onto those undesirable fat cells as preferred fuel for a “rainy day,” so we have to “trick” them into releasing those fat cells as fuel by revving up our metabolism with aerobic exercise. I chose brisk walking as my aerobic exercise of choice, which I elaborated about yesterday. See here.
Eat less and better
No need to get too complicated. Some dieters like to count every calorie, but “simple” worked just fine for me. I cut back on the size of my portions and tried to eat more healthy stuff (fresh vegetables and fruits) and generally stayed away from fat, sugar, salt, and carbs. No junk food. Limited processed foods. Small meals spread throughout the day. I also drank lots of water daily. My doctor gave me a great tip: little changes add up over time. Forgo the teaspoon of sugar and learn to take your coffee black. Eat a 110 calories-per-serving cereal in the morning (like Whole Grain Cheerios) instead of the 212 calories variety, etc. Drink unsweetened ice tea instead of sweetened. I normally visit our local grocery store 3-4 times a week and I had a very bad habit of stopping at the prepared foods buffet each time and grabbing three chicken wings as a “snack” for the drive home. That’s a total 270 calories and 18 grams of fat for each “small snack.” I changed my go-to shopping snack to a couple of handfuls of fresh cherries from the produce section; delicious and only about 40 calories and 0.25 grams of fat.
Throughout this weight-loss experience, I viewed the scale as my bluntly honest friend. To stay on track, I weighed myself daily and recorded my weight and walking steps on my iPhone health app. Some people advise not to weigh-in daily because of the inevitable ups and downs, but it worked for me. I also plotted my weekly weight, taken every Sunday morning, on an Excel spreadsheet graph (see far above), which I posted on my refrigerator. Goofy? Nope. Few things reinforce positive eating and exercise behaviors like a very visible downward trend line on a pounds/week graph.
Our oldest son also happened to be dieting at the same time and we gave each other tons of mutual support via smartphone texts (he lost a total of 60 lbs. in 18 months). Losing weight together with a family member or friend can be very encouraging, but it’s not required. Speaking of support, allow me to prepare you a little bit. Your family and friends may NOT be as encouraging about your weight-loss endeavor as you might expect. Two reasons: 1) they may need to lose some weight themselves and resent your success and 2) they may not appreciate the changeover to healthier meals. On the flip side, constantly expounding on the details of your diet to your family and friends gets old pretty quickly for them. But your weight-loss may have solid side benefits for your family. Your example may inspire them to shed some pounds, also. My wife was supportive throughout my diet and she’s lost about ten pounds herself in the last two months. Going forward, our son and I have agreed to a monthly “weigh-in” as a motivator to keep the weight off. We’ve yet to decide the penalty for putting lbs. back on.
Losing thirty pounds was a substantial goal, so I needed to to motivate myself over the long haul. Here comes the fun part. I broke the diet up into doable increments of 10 lbs. Each time I dropped 10 lbs., I treated myself to a very unhealthy chicken dinner at one of my favorite local restaurants in town called Sal’s Birdland. The dinner is comprised of a small half-chicken, coated in a thin batter and fried in oil until crispy, served on sliced white bread, and smothered in Sal’s signature “Sassy Sauce” with a choice of two sides. My choices? Mac salad and a side of collard greens, of course, and some blue cheese dressing for dipping. Hence the name, “Sal’s Birdland 30 lb. Challenge.” What could be more fun than that? If a Sal’s chicken dinner doesn’t get you motivated, NOTHING will! What’s that you say? You live too far from the two Sal’s Birdlands locations here in Rochester, N.Y.? That’s a real shame, but it’s not an insurmountable problem. Just substitute your favorite guilt-laden fun meal every time you hit a 10-lbs. increment. Worried about the calories? Do what I did and eat half of the dinner one night and the rest the following night. It may set your diet back a few days, but it’s GREAT motivation over the long haul.
As another motivator in reaching my goal, I also bought a Sal’s t-shirt and cap and posted a photo of them on my fridge to keep me focused. Corny? Sure, but the key for me was having a little fun with this diet and that was an excellent motivator. Achievement has its rewards. I thoroughly enjoyed my Sal’s Birdland victory dinner Tuesday and Wednesday after reaching my goal of 184 lbs.!
Reality check: While losing weight can be turned into a “fun” challenge as I did, we needn’t be completely pollyannish about it. There’s times during your diet when you’re going to have some uncomfortable hunger pains and not have a lot of energy as your body reacts to the weight-loss. Frequent, small meals will minimize some of that, but I also learned to embrace those hunger pains as a positive reinforcement, a sign that I was making real progress. If you’re feeling washed-out on a particular day during your diet, it would probably be a good idea to reschedule digging holes for the new fence posts to another day. Bottom line: cut yourself some slack while on a weight-loss campaign. And if you don’t succeed the first time, do like me and try again! One more important note: Everyone should check in with their doctor before attempting an ambitious weight-loss plan.
If you’re considering losing some weight, I hope you found some inspiration in these posts. You can do it!
Is gluttony a sin? What does the Bible say about overeating?
How should a Christian view weight loss? What does the Bible say about obesity and weight loss?