Recently I reconnected with a friend from college. Amidst long days and nights at USC’s architecture school, we often did two free weight workouts a day. Having not seen each other for almost two decades, I was gratified by his remarking how good I looked. You see, when last we got together I tipped the scale at nearly 195 lbs., close to obese for my 5’-8” height. “How did you lose weight?” he asked.
During most of my adult life, a typical dinner was half a dozen sourdough rolls (often with sweet cream butter), a small salad, a pint of Haagen-Dazs ice cream (coffee or vanilla fudge) washed down with a liter or so of caffeine-free Coke. Breakfast and lunch were no better. Would you like to know the sad thing? As I write this I'm salivating at the thought of such a meal.
Shortly after Melanie and I got married (still weighing in the low 190s) I realized it was time to lose weight. I had a heart-to-heart talk with myself. It went something like this:
Responsible Kevin: Well, you have a wife now, and soon probably children.
Childish Kevin: Yeah, so what?
Responsible Kevin: Do you want to be around to celebrate your golden wedding anniversary and bounce grandkids on your knees?
Childish Kevin: Isn’t that the point of getting married?
Responsible Kevin: Don’t be a smart-aleck. You think you’ll make it toting around an extra 30+ lbs?
Childish Kevin: I run three mornings a week!
Responsible Kevin: And you haven’t dropped an ounce.
Childish Kevin: Well, what do you suggest?
Responsible Kevin: How about restricting your caloric intake to an appropriate level?
Childish Kevin: And what would that be?
Responsible Kevin: 1500 calories a day.
Childish Kevin: You must be joking. A pint of Haagen-Dazs has got 1000 calories.
Responsible Kevin: Exactly. Are you getting on board or are you going to be obese for the rest of your life?
Childish Kevin: No need to nag. You’re right. I’ll get with the program, 1500 calories a day it is, except for the Sabbath.
Responsible Kevin: Deal!
And so for the next three months I ate a breakfast of two pieces of fruit and high-fiber cereal with skim milk. Lunch was usually cottage cheese, salsa, and chips. Dinner was a salad with oil and vinegar dressing. Such was my fare six days a week. Sabbath meals were elaborate and more caloric but not outrageous. Each day I gave myself a treat of some kind of chocolate, about 150 calories worth.
Nothing happened for the first week. Then, the pounds started to fall off, about two per week. Three months later I was down to the low 160s. At that point, I started an exercise program that eventually allowed me to up my daily caloric intake to 2400. That’s where it stands today. Meals still consist primarily of fruit, vegetables, high-fiber grain products, and low-calorie protein.
can commit to losing weight for its own sake. I could not. It took my duty to my family to stir within me the self-discipline necessary to permanently change my eating habits.
What will motivate you to lose weight and keep it off?
Is it longevity, the image of the body you have pasted to your bathroom mirror, or desire to be there for your family? While you think about your answer to the first question ask yourself:
If the former, it is unlikely you will find sufficient motivation to change since food is too important a part of your identity. An attitude shift to the latter philosophy will undergird your motivation. You can still enjoy eating without making it central to your life.
So here is the thing you must do to lose weight:
Determine your proper caloric intake and don’t eat more.
Here's a website that will help you. You cannot exercise your way to weight loss. Exercising three to five times a week will give you less than a 30% caloric bump over what you can eat if you live a sedentary life.
Exercising is crucial for cardiac health and obtaining and maintaining strength and muscle tone. But trying to adopt both a better diet and exercise routine will overtask your self-discipline. You increase your chances of success if you tackle them one at a time.
Do not wait until after the holidays, START NOW! Telling yourself you will succumb to the temptations of the season undermines the self-control you intend to develop in a few weeks. Give yourself a bigger win by making a plan that allows a small indulgence as part of your new lifestyle of healthy eating.
What do you think is your biggest hurdle to a healthier diet?
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