My weight-loss experience – Part 3: Making dieting a fun adventure! 😊

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.

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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.

Exercise

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.

Monitor

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.

Support

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.

Rewards

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!

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Is gluttony a sin? What does the Bible say about overeating?
https://www.gotquestions.org/gluttony-sin.html

How should a Christian view weight loss? What does the Bible say about obesity and weight loss?
https://www.gotquestions.org/Christian-weight-loss.html

http://www.salsbirdland.com/

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Above: This sign beckons commuters to dine at the Sal’s Birdland located at 400 Airpark Dr. off of Scottsville Rd. near the Rochester airport. Passersby ignore the sign at their own loss.
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Above: Sal’s Birdland at 400 Airpark Dr., one of two Sal’s locations in Rochester.
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Above: The unpretentious interior of Sal’s Birdland at 400 Airpark Dr. in Rochester. Who needs ambiance when you serve the best food in town?
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Above: Bringing home the goods after 16 weeks of dieting! A Sal’s Birdland half-chicken dinner: a fried half-chicken served on white bread and smothered in Sal’s Sassy Sauce complemented by collard greens and mac salad.
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Above: Rochesterians are able to buy bottles of Sal’s Sassy Sauce ( a mustard-based hot and sweet sauce) at several local grocery outlets. You can also order Sal’s products via their website. Caution: Order the MILD version of Sal’s Sassy Sauce. I like spicy food but the HOT version is inedible.
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Above: An 8×10 photo of my Sal’s cap and t-shirt sitting atop an updated pounds/week graph guarding the fridge motivated me to reach my goal.

 

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My weight-loss experience – Part 2: Walking for exercise: You CAN do it!

Last March, I embarked on a “mission” to lose thirty pounds, and after 16 weeks I finally hit my goal this past Tuesday. Tomorrow, I’ll be publishing a post about the overall experience, but for this particular post, I wanted to elaborate a bit on just one very important aspect of my weight-loss adventure – exercise.

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As we all know, one of the main keys to losing weight, besides eating less and eating healthier, is burning calories. Some type of calorie-burning, aerobic exercise is essential for successfully losing weight. For myself, I chose to vigorously walk every day. The great thing about walking is you don’t need a lot of expensive sports equipment or a gym membership to begin, just a good, supportive pair of walking shoes or sneakers. It’s also VERY helpful to have some type of device to record your steps. My iPhone health app records my daily steps, but others use Fit Bits or other such accessories. Health experts recommend 10,000 steps (5 miles) per day as part of a comprehensive weight-loss program. That may sound like a lot, but you can build up to that goal gradually. My daily average when I started in March was 6389 steps per day (SPD) and I gradually increased my daily average to 10,025 SPD by June.

Where to walk? Walkers can get creative. I used to work in a building with very long hallways, which was ideal for power walking during inclement weather and hot spells. However, my company relocated to a new building last summer, which is much less conducive to walking. As an aside, our new building is located at Rochester Tech Park (RTP), which was originally the mammoth Kodak Elmgrove manufacturing plant where I started my career at Kodak forty-three years ago. What remains of Kodak now leases a few small areas at RTP. Unlike the old days when a person could walk the entire plant without going outdoors, some of the 11 huge buildings have been cordoned off, like our present building. We are located on the second floor of Bldg. 5 and I found I could walk outside to Bldg. 2, traverse through that very long building, and exit out of Bldg. 1 for the short walk outside back to Bldg. 5. If it’s raining, it’s only a short walk outside to Bldg. 1 and I can do most of my walking inside, down the long hallways of Bldgs. 1 and 2. If I take two walks at work, and walk the dog when I get home, I generally have the 10,000 steps I need by the end of the day.

You might be thinking that walking is pretty boring. It’s actually a peaceful time to clear my head and commune with the Lord in prayer. Initially, it was also very enjoyable to once again walk through Bldgs. 1 and 2. I worked in those two buildings from 1976 until 1988. Kodak Elmgrove started out with six massive buildings (the number would eventually climb to 12) and the other five buildings all supported Bldg. 2 (358,000 sq. ft.) where thousands of employees assembled various models of Kodak cameras and projectors day and night. The central aisle of Bldg. 2, coined “the strip,” was always FULL of people busily walking to and fro. It was so busy, that as a 19-year-old stock clerk, I was initially so afraid I was going to run over a pedestrian with my fork-truck. Now, the building is mostly empty and I usually walk that same aisle (240 steps/200 yards long from north to south) without seeing one soul. So many memories (see photos below).

A short time ago, it occurred to me that I could use the walking time even more productively by listening to podcasts. I began by holding my iPhone, but soon tired of that. I needed to join the 21st century and get some wireless earbuds! I took a drive to one of the local Best Buy stores and the clerk helped me pick out a pair of inexpensive wireless earbuds. Ah, the best! Now I can take my long walking jaunts every day while listening hands-free to sermons from John MacArthur, our church’s pastor, and others.

The checklist for setting up a daily walking regimen is pretty basic:

  • Good walking shoes
  • Some kind of device to record steps and progress over time, i.e., Fit-Bit or smart phone health app.
  • A safe route. Caution is important! My sister’s mother-in-law was a daily walker until the day she was struck by a USPS mail truck and suffered debilitating injuries.
  • Optional entertainment such as listening to podcasts, music, audiobooks, etc. via a smartphone and earbuds. Obviously, walking with earbuds requires great caution if you’re near traffic.

Get started with your daily walking or other aerobic exercise regimen today and get healthier!

Postscript: As part of my overall exercise plan, I also incorporated short, 15-minute weightlifting workouts on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at home using dumbbells. I drew upon my knowledge and experience of lifting weights several decades ago to craft these short sessions for muscle toning rather than for bulking up. I would recommend that most people on a weight-loss campaign just stick with aerobic exercise like walking, cycling, stepping, or swimming (jogging is REAL hard on the joints). That’s where you’re going to get the most calorie-burn for your efforts. But a little anaerobic weight lifting (you’ll definitely need expert instruction if you’re new to the activity) will also have your muscles burning extra calories.

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The mammoth parking lot in front of Bldg. 2 of the Rochester Technology Park (formerly Kodak Elmgrove Plant) is now largely empty.
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The long aisleway that runs down the center of Bldg. 2 was known as “the strip” forty-years ago, two-hundred yards long and once filled with Kodak employees. Mainline camera assembly departments were on the left and sub-assembly departments were on the right.
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Just a small portion of the former Kodak camera production area in Bldg. 2. Thousands of Kodak employees once churned out multiple models of cameras and projectors on numerous piecework assembly lines here. Administrative offices were on the right.
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Welcome to the 21st century, Tom!

 

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For me, the iPhone Health App was indispensable for recording daily steps and weight.

My weight-loss experience – Part 1: After wiping the egg off my face, trying again

Yesterday, I reached my weight-loss goal (Woo-hoo!) and I’ll be posting about the experience today and the next two days in the hopes of maybe providing a little motivation for someone else.

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Way back on May 1, 2017, I announced to the WordPress virtual community with quite a bit of fanfare that I had embarked on a diet and exercise regimen, with the goal of shedding 33 lbs. and dropping from 213 lbs. to 180 lbs. I had already lost 7 lbs. at that point and was quite confident in my final success. After all, I bragged, my “Sal’s Birdland Diet Plan” was absolutely fool-proof (ahem!) and fail-safe!

Two months later, on June 28, 2017, I posted a diet update. At that point, I had dropped a total of 16 pounds in eleven weeks and I acknowledged that I had hit a bit of a plateau, but that I was pressing forward to victory!

[crickets]

Well, there were no more diet updates after that one. Like the vast majority of dieters, I had also fizzled out. I stopped the regimen and eventually put ALL of the weight back on, returning to the 213 lbs. and then some. I felt a bit defeated.

However, my wife and doctor kept nagging me to lose weight. I’m 5’11” tall and the ideal weight-range for a male my height is between 155 and 189 lbs. My family has a history of diabetes and heart trouble and my doctor kept warning me that I was probably headed for problems very soon at the rate I was going. The Lord wants us to be good stewards of all of the things He has gifted us with, and I knew I wasn’t being a good steward of my earthly tent.

This past winter, with my yearly physical approaching, I toyed with the idea of going on a diet and exercise regimen once again to lose weight. I was at a critical juncture. My 38-inch waist-size pants were getting uncomfortably tight. My XL t-shirts were also starting to feel a little snug. I was either going to have to go up to the next size or lose weight. So, on March 10, I began another diet and exercise marathon with a goal of losing 30 lbs., but this time there would be no WordPress posts blustering about my success while I was still twenty-miles from the finish line. I had eaten enough crow last time.

Well, folks, yesterday morning I finally hit my goal of losing 30 lbs. after 16 weeks of some serious dieting and exercise, while even having a little fun with the experience (more about the fun part on Friday). It wasn’t always easy. I had a few (minor) setbacks and plateaus. Of course, it’s essential that I now maintain my new weight by continuing with a good diet and regular exercise. I’ll be submitting additional posts tomorrow and Friday about some of the details of my weight-loss experience for anyone who might be considering a similar program for themselves.